Saturday, June 10, 2006

Only 20 percent voter backlash turnout in Primary

OK already. There was backlash at the polls on May 16. Republican backlash over Republican incumbents who veered from Republican principles. Geesh. The media would love for that to be spun into some great widespread call for revolution across the state. Truth is, the Democrats weren't buying it, no matter how hard the media pressed.

There was also, despite the media fueling the furor over the payraise, only a 20 percent turnout across the state, according to some accounts.

Put it all in perspective. The media is bloodthirsty for change in Harrisburg. Come November, let's watch how many people turn out to vote, and how many new voters register to vote.

Media credited with fueling backlash over pay raises

By David M. BrownTRIBUNE-REVIEWThursday, May 18, 2006

When Jennifer Hill Ertmer, 61, of Grassflat, Clearfield County, first heard that the Legislature had voted itself a hefty pay raise last year, she was fuming mad.

"I stewed for a good month," Ertmer said, adding that not many of her neighbors in the tiny coal mining village seemed as perturbed at the time. She figured the issue would blow over without much of a public fuss.

But Ertmer -- an avid reader of on-line newspapers -- soon realized that many other Pennsylvanians also were upset over the late-night salary hike. A member of PACleanSweep, the anti-incumbent group, Ertmer says the media deserves "mega credit" for the voter backlash that toppled two top Senate leaders and 15 other incumbents in Tuesday's primary election, according to unofficial results.

"The media put it all into perspective," Ertmer said Wednesday.

Experts agree.

The news media had the most significant role it's played in modern state history, because, in both electronic and print, there was no let-up," said Jerry Shuster, a political communications professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

"The media provided an outlet for voters to get involved and stay informed," he said.

Al Neri, editor of The Insider, a statewide political newspaper, said the anti-pay raise movement also was fueled by activity on the Internet, which created "an outlet for people to vent themselves."

"It was a convergence of old media and new media, all focused on the one topic for a prolonged period," Neri said.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has received a number of awards for reporting on the pay raise issue, including first place in the state Associated Press Managing Editors Awards for investigative reporting and public service, and the state Society of Professional Journalists' Spotlight Award.

The last time Pennsylvanians experienced such intense media scrutiny of state government centered on scandals during the second term of Gov. Milton Shapp in the late 1970s.

"That was another prolonged spotlight on Harrisburg that took a toll on incumbents," Neri said.
The high number of incumbent legislators defeated -- about a dozen in 1978 and 14 in 1980 -- wasn't tied to backlashes to pay raise votes per se. The races in 1978 did involve the issue of creating a compensation commission. But by and large, both cycles were a reaction by voters to widespread corruption in the Shapp administration, analysts say.

Indictments and convictions at the time mostly involved executive branch employees. But the perception that corruption was rampant in government spilled over to legislators.

No comments: