Saturday, May 27, 2006

Interesting PA Political News

May 27, 2006
Voter outrage may be only a sometime thing''I would love to think they punished them because they were on the wrong side of every issue.''

An electorate that finds itself more interested in voting for the ''American Idol'' on Fox TV has finally encountered an issue that has shaken it out of its complacency. The Pennsylvania Legislature has been a disgrace for decades, yet no one has ever really cared. No one bothered to examine the transgressions of this substandard legislative body. Legislators were re-elected year after year, notwithstanding abysmal voting records. Gov. Huey Long (the ''Kingfish'') of Louisiana, was reputed to have made the comment in the 1920s that in order to get voted out of office, he would have to be found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy. Long's comment was a not-so-veiled slap against an electorate that just didn't care what he did, or, at the very least, tacitly approved of everything he did. The Kingfish, arguably until this May's Primary election, would have admired the accommodating and accepting voters of Pennsylvania.The legislators eventually became so contemptuous of the people who kept voting them into office that they gave themselves an outrageous pay hike last year. They assumed no one would care. After all, this pay hike was merely one of a series of outrageous votes, and no one ever seemed to notice anything they did.

The Legislature had become a safe one-party body, run in recent years by Republican bosses.

But the pay hike backfired, and as a result, there has been a bloodletting. Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer, Senate Majority Leader David Brightbill, and Rep. Paul Semmel of Lehigh County are among the most notable victims of the voter backlash and booted out of office.

Many incumbent legislators still have to worry about what is going to happen in the November General Election.What happened in Pennsylvania was written about in The New York Times on May 18. It said this ''revolt'' among Pennsylvania conservatives gained national attention after challengers toppled at least 12 state lawmakers they ''deemed insufficiently committed to small government and fiscal restraint.''

The Times article characterized the Pennsylvania Primary Election as a development that does not augur well for the Republican Party nationally. Conservatives still demand fiscal restraint from Republican elected officials. They feel they have not been getting that from their party of late.

According to The Times, this resentment among Pennsylvania conservatives began last summer when the Republican-controlled Legislature approved pay increases of up to 54 percent for elected officials in all three branches of government.Although President Bush and the new brand of evangelical conservatives he leads may find it hard to realize, old-fashioned Republicans in the hinterlands still see themselves primarily as fiscal conservatives.

Although I am overjoyed about this voter revolt in Pennsylvania, it perplexes me nonetheless. With the exception of this one particular pay raise issue, voters remain almost entirely apathetic, and find it difficult to get up out of their easy chairs and go to vote in the typical primary election or general election.

There is something fickle about the pay raise revolt that is disturbing. It merits a much closer look into what happened. Perhaps the question can be posed from a different angle: What if, let's suppose, we had excellent legislators?...,0,1080858.column?coll=all-opiniontop-hed

Diven appears to have won GOP write-in for House race
Friday, May 26, 2006By James O'Toole, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Setting the stage for another act in a protracted political melodrama, state Rep. Michael Diven, R-Brookline, appears to have succeeded in a write-in campaign to win the GOP nomination for another term in his South Hills district...

Ruffing's charity began at home
Lawmaker admits 'donating' raise to son
Saturday, May 27, 2006By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

During a hard-fought primary battle, state Rep. Ken Ruffing insisted that he donated a controversial pay raise to an autism organization he would not identify. Now the legislator says he actually used the money for his son, who is autistic.

The West Mifflin Democrat, who lost his re-election bid to a political newcomer campaigning in part against the pay raise, said two weeks ago that he gave the money, approximately $4,000 in all, to an autism organization. But he refused to identify it despite claiming to have documentation.

In interviews Thursday, Mr. Ruffing, a four-term incumbent, acknowledged that was not the case.

"I gave it to my son Alec. I have to send him to a special school with special needs. And that's where I spent the money. And that's the truth," he told KDKA-TV.

In a separate interview with the McKeesport Daily News, the legislator said the money went to pay his son's tuition. According to the newspaper, Alec currently is enrolled at St. Colman Catholic School in Turtle Creek.

While acknowledging to the Daily News that he should have "come clean" earlier about the actual use of the pay raise, he insisted he "did not lie to the public about this." In the KDKA interview, Mr. Ruffing also justified his earlier statements by saying that "the autism society is Alec Ruffing."

Repeated attempts to reach Mr. Ruffing yesterday were unsuccessful. At his home in West Mifflin, a woman said from a window that the legislator wasn't there and ordered a reporter off the property.

In the primary election, Mr. Ruffing was defeated by political newcomer William C. Kortz II, who was affiliated with PA CleanSweep, the nonpartisan group formed to oust General Assembly incumbents who accepted the late-night pay raise, which was later repealed...

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