By Nick HIldebrand
Herald News Editor/Weekends
Dr. Steven Porter, the Erie County academic who was the Democratic nominee for the Third District Congressional seat in 2004 and 2006, has filed nominating papers to run this year as an independent.
Porter’s name on the ballot makes the race a three-way affair, joining Democrat Missa Eaton in challenging incumbent Republican Mike Kelly.
Porter says he walked 1,000 miles to collect signatures for his nomination papers and gathered more than enough, just in case legal “vultures” and partisan “hacks” challenge his bid to get on the ballot, according to a news release issued by his campaign.
“I’m sure they will gather gleefully to throw me off the ballot,” Porter said.
In his previous races, Porter was known for his candor and contrarian approach to the traditional niceties of the campaign. He mocked then-incumbent Phil English with a stuffed animal and complained loudly about the lack of support, financial and otherwise, for his efforts from the Democratic party.
English had some success criticizing Porter because of a philosophical tract he penned that presented arguments in favor of sterilization, prostitution and other taboo - at least for western Pennsylvania - subjects.
Judging from his press release, Porter remains an iconoclast. He said he faced “anger” and a “barrage of distrust and suspicion” from disgruntled voters as he gathered signatures. “At times it was directed at me personally, even though the people spewing their hatred didn’t know me,” Porter said.
He said the voters he talked to “have no idea how corrupt the major parties have become or how the nation has been damaged by the greed and dishonesty we find in all three branches of government. But when our schools fail to educate us, our media fails to inform us, and our elected officials fail to serve us, I really shouldn’t be surprised by the level of ignorance and anger.”
Porter challenged the major party candidates to debate him and the media to cover “a race where a third party candidate is trying to give voters a real choice.”
Eaton picked up a big endorsement last week with the announcement that her campaign has the seal of approval of former Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell.
“There is no one better suited to be the advocate for the people of the 3rd District in Washington. She is strong in her convictions and willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure the people of the 3rd District are represented in Congress,” Rendell said.
Eaton said the endorsement is further evidence that her campaign is gaining ground and a validation of her approach to the race.
“When Governor Rendell takes the time to learn more about you and endorse you, you know you’re doing it right,” Eaton said.
Rendell’s is the highest profile endorsement Eaton has picked up so far. While she’s also scored the backing of the Women’s Campaign Fund and a few labor unions, she was denied the crown jewel of union endorsement when the AFL-CIO decided recently not to endorse a candidate in the Third District race.
While the national media buzzes over the question of whether or not Mitt Romney will release years worth of tax returns, we’re still waiting for word on the personal finances of both Kelly and Eaton.
As a member of Congress, Kelly’s financial disclosures were due to be released last month but the Republican, who was pegged last year as one of the richest members of Congress with a net worth of at least $12 million, has filed for an extension so he can make sure all the T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted, according to his D.C. office.
Kelly’s report last year was released in August.
Kelly’s disclosure is likely to reflect his sale of his family’s stake in a natural gas company founded by his wife’s family that drew fire last year from liberal rabble-rouser Rev. Al Sharpton and a sharp defense from Kelly.
As a candidate for Congress, Eaton was required to file similar financial disclosure forms. We’re working through the bureaucracy to get that information and as soon as we have both candidate’s disclosures we’ll report the details.