MERCER COUNTY —
The campaign trail has been a quiet path here in Mercer County recently.
The results of last month’s primary had no effect on the dynamics of the only “local” race we’re following in November, since incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly and his Democratic challenger Missa Eaton ran unopposed for their party’s nominations for the 3rd District seat.
While both campaigns are surely hard at work, they haven’t made much noise in public lately.
In that activity void, the only political event of note locally in the next week is the grand opening Tuesday of the Obama campaign HQ at 79 E. State St. in Sharon. The kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and features refreshments and remarks by former Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper, who represented the Mercer County area for the first two years of the Obama era.
While the Obama campaign is up and running in Mercer County the Romney campaign has barely gotten off the ground locally. The expectation is that Romeny’s local operation will be coordinated out of the county Republican HQ in Mercer, but no local organization is apparent.
The conventional wisdom is that Romney has the advantage in Mercer County, based on John McCain’s victory here in 2008 and the clear preference for Republican candidates in 2010, when Kelly enjoyed a nearly 20-point lead over Dahlkemper and GOP candidates for governor and U.S. Senate outpolled the Democrats but almost 10 points.
But those numbers also indicate that turnout could be the key. In 2008, McCain took the county by just 154 votes out of about 53,000 cast. In 2010, about 36,000 people voted in the federal races. In theory, there are about 17,000 voters out there who stayed home for the lower profile congressional election. The question is whether they’ll come back this time around.
Some Pennsylvania lawmakers who belong to the American Legislative Exchange Council, which brings together lawmakers and lobbyists to craft draft legislation for its members to advance in their states, are distancing themselves from the group in the wake of bad publicity churned up by the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida and protests against voter ID laws.
At least 14 and as many as 30 state lawmakers have severed ties to the group in recent weeks, PoliticsPA reported this week.
ALEC keeps its political membership rolls secret but numerous reports identify local legislators Sen. Bob Robbins and Rep. Dick Stevenson as ALEC members. Robbins’ website confirms that and notes that the state house veteran was awarded an “Outstanding Legislative Leader” award from ALEC. The website’s report doesn’t identify either as recent ALEC defectors, nor does another report on the situation by left-leaning Media Matters, which also included a blistering critique of Pennsylvania newspapers’ failure to report ALEC’s influence on the legislature.
ALEC was the source of legislative language used to draft Pennsylvania’s Castle Doctrine, which is similar to the Stand Your Ground law that has become controversial after the killing in March of the teenage Martin by a neighborhood watch captain who says he shot the unarmed boy in self-defense. ALEC pushed that legislation and the voter ID law that has been adopted in Pennsylvania and other states.
Since the group was linked to those laws, organized protests have driven a number of the ALEC’s corporate members to cancel their memberships. Lawmakers pay a nominal fee for membership, but corporations pay tens of thousands of dollars to belong.
ALEC and its supporters say the group works to promote free market policies through its draft legislation. Critics say the group is a tool used by big business to subvert the public good in favor of corporate profit.
Tim Ryan, Zen master
Representing Ohio’s 17th Congressional District can’t be easy work. The district, which includes Brookfield and much of Trumbull County, has been leaking residents and political clout for decades as the region has been mired in the economic doldrums.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, the Democrat who took over the seat once held by the infamous Jim Traficant, has found a way to make the job if not a little easier, at least less stressful.
Ryan has turned to the ancient practice of meditation to deal with the pressures of political life, spending a part of each day focusing on nothing but his breathing.
“It’s very simple but very difficult. It’s easy to learn and difficult to do,” Ryan, sounding every bit like a Zen master, told Politico in a piece published online this week.
He has written a book extolling the virtues of meditation: “A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s Just Politics is a new feature that will run periodically in The Herald’s print and online editions focusing on the area’s state and federal lawmakers, candidates, campaigns and issues of concern to our readership. It includes original reporting, news culled from a variety of print and online publications, and some commentary.
To submit tips or suggest subjects for coverage, contact Vox Politicus via email at firstname.lastname@example.org (please include “Just Politics” in the subject line); by mail at 52 S. Dock St., Sharon PA 16146; or leave a voicemail message at 724-981-6100 Ext. 259 before 3 p.m. on weekdays.
MERCER COUNTY —
The campaign trail has been a quiet path here in Mercer County recently.
Obama, victims’ families overcome by gun owners
WASHINGTON — Four months ago, President Barack Obama promised a grieving nation he would do everything in his power to change gun laws after 26 students and staff were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Turns out his power and the impassioned pleas of devastated families were no match for the force of gun rights advocates in Congress and across the nation.
Rep. Kelly calls canceling of tours ‘Obama drama’
The White House announced Tuesday it was canceling tours of the executive mansion because of budget cuts, a move that Mercer County’s congressman called more “Obama drama.”
Lawmakers weigh in on drilling tax, state funding
Mercer County’s state lawmakers offered up their opinions Friday on everything from what ought to be done to improve funding for public education, to how to get the most tax revenue from the soon-to-be booming oil and gas drilling industry, to changing the way the state counts electoral votes.
Kelly wins re-election
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly looks like the winner in the Third District House race. With 83 percent of the vote in, Kelly, the incumbent Republican, was leading his Democratic challenger Missa Eaton, of Sharon, by 11 percent, or about 30,000 votes. Independent candidate Steven Porter garnered about 4 percent of the vote.
Three for the third
The race for Pennsylvania’s Third District congressional seat pits incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly against Democrat Missa Eaton and independent candidate Steven Porter, three candidates who offer voters a stark choice on Tuesday.
Eaton sees a role for government
Missa Eaton says she wants to be an advocate for the Third District and a voice of moderation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
As the Sharon Democrat sees it, that’s what the people of northwestern Pennsylvania need and haven’t been getting from the man she hopes to defeat at the polls Tuesday, Republican incumbent Mike Kelly.
Kelly wants voters to send him back
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly likens his re-election campaign to selling cars, the business he’s been in his entire adult life.
“The first time you sell somebody a car, it’s usually on price. The next time they come back to see you it’s if you serviced them in the right way,” Kelly said in a recent interview.
Porter’s campaign isn’t about winning
Steven Porter has no illusions about his chances in Tuesday’s election.
“I’m not a long shot. I’m a zero. I have no chance of winning because the public has no chance of hearing me or absorbing me,” Porter said in a recent interview.
Nonvoters are trying to tell us something
There's one electoral bloc that both parties can vilify at their leisure: those U.S. citizens who refuse to vote.
Congressional candidates debate jobs, other issues
The three candidates vying for the Third District seat in Congress met Wednesday in Erie for the only debate of the campaign.
All night long: Biden, Ryan at each other on everything
At odds early and often, Joe Biden and Republican Paul Ryan squabbled over the economy, taxes, Medicare and more Thursday night in a contentious, interruption-filled debate. "That is a bunch of malarkey," the vice president retorted after a particularly tough Ryan attack on the administration's foreign policy.
Thousands watch vice presidential debate on KY college campus
Despite temperatures dropping into the mid 40s, and the non-stop shouts of an abortion protestor who scaled a tree before the debate began, the crowd on Centre College's campus stayed engaged, attentively watching the lively debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Republican congressman Paul Ryan.
Spin predictable following veep debate
An aggressive, self-assured Democratic Vice President Joe Biden responded to last week’s poor debate performance by President Barack Obama by repeatedly challenging Republican challenger Paul Ryan on taxes, plans to cut entitlement and on foreign policy.
VIDEO: Biden to Ryan: 'That's a bunch of malarkey'
Republican Paul Ryan says the attack in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stephens shows the U.S. is projecting weakness abroad. Vice President Joe Biden responded that's 'a bunch of malarkey.'
Report: Official action, personal benefits
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly is one of 73 federal lawmakers who have sponsored or co-sponsored legislation that could directly financially benefit themselves or their families, according to a report by the Washington Post.
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