The ReThink Blog

Starting from scratch in politics and science


The Pennsylvania Ballot 2010

Pennsylvania Flag
Before I started, I didn't even know what our flag looked like...

Two years ago, I attempted to take a fair look at the candidates for president in the 2008 general election. It was a success, because even those who disagree with my politics agreed that my information was accurate and my approach was balanced (indeed, my predictions for President Obama--both positive and negative--have proven to be largely accurate). This year, I'd like to try the same strategy concerning the upcoming election, only this time I will focus my energies on the Pennsylvania ballot, as nobody but the president and Sarah Palin appear to be running for president this time around (and neither will be on the ballot, strangely enough). Though I will be focusing mainly on the governor and U.S. Senate races, I will devote some time to the races specific to my voting districts, including a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and one in the State Senate. I will also take some time to examine Pennsylvania's sole ballot initiative this year, which is a call for a constitutional convention.

Before I start, though, I'd like to restate my principles. Like last time, I will work under the insane assumption that each candidate is actually telling the truth and believes that he or she is working with the best of intentions at heart, regardless of party affiliation. I will take the candidates at their word, and I will work hard not to get mired in talking points, mudslinging, satire, ridiculous political ads, or pointless speculation. When discussing the various options, I will endeavor to present facts and not personal opinion. However, I will be clear about my own bias when talking about where I personally stand on the candidates and issues. I do not ask you to agree with me when I tell you how I plan to vote, because my ultimate goal today is to inform, not persuade.

Additionally, please note that I do not have the room to be as detailed about each candidate as I was with McCain and Obama two years ago. Instead of getting nitty-gritty into all the major issues, I will try to stay centered on the ones that are the most important for voters in Pennsylvania today, which according to most polls are healthcare, the economy and job market, education, taxes, and government spending.

U.S. Senate

Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey
Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey

Representative Joe Sestak voted for the healthcare law and explains on his website that there is "a shared duty between society and government" to ensure that all Americans have affordable healthcare. He supported the "public option," and has publicly stated that the recently passed law does not go far enough. He also voted for the stimulus (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009), and supports letting the Bush tax cuts expire while extending tax cuts for the middle class. Additionally, he voted for cap and trade legislation (American Clean Energy and Security Act) and has called for a federal ban on all assault weapons, which he has made a highlight of his campaign. He believes that the best way to curb government spending is by expanding healthcare reform, enforcing "pay-as-you-go" rules, and taxing "the top 1%," while he simultaneously supports additional stimulus plans, comprehensive housing reform, stronger implementation of TARP, and providing "liquidity to markets through effective Federal Reserve action."

Pat Toomey, meanwhile, wants to lower taxes and decrease government regulation in order to make it "less expensive and easier for businesses to hire people." Indeed, during his three-term tenure in the House, he consistently voted to lower taxes and increase tax credits. He opposed the stimulus package and supported a federal balanced budget amendment. In his second and third term, he filed no earmark requests and fought to eliminate them entirely. He supports school choice and charter schools. He opposed the healthcare law, supports its repeal, and has several alternative healthcare reform ideas on his website, including tax benefits for individuals that is equal to the benefits offered to companies that buy health insurance, opening up competition along state lines, enacting comprehensive tort reform, and encouraging renewable health plans for people with pre-existing conditions.

I'm trying to be fair here, but I can't in good conscience vote for anybody who believes in "a shared duty between society and government," as Representative Sestak does. I also find his support of the stimulus packages both past and future, cap-and-trade, TARP, the healthcare law, and "effective Federal Reserve action" downright abhorrent to my political beliefs. Still, while I have several reasons to vote against Joe Sestak, none of that speaks to reasons to vote for Pat Toomey. Luckily, I have plenty. While I disagree with Toomey's hardline Republican stance on domestic issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, his position on healthcare and the economy are, I believe, what we currently need in Washington. Since healthcare and the economy are far more important right now than abortion and same-sex marriage, I'm going to vote for Toomey.

House of Representatives (District 15)

John Callahan and Charlie Dent
John Callahan and Charlie Dent

John Callahan, who is currently the mayor of Bethlehem, PA, has touted his "5-point plan" for dealing with unemployment. He plans to eliminate tax loopholes for corporations that outsource jobs oversees, provide tax credits for small businesses that hire new employees, make college more affordable, cut wasteful spending, and cut the red tape that "holds back small businesses." Key in this plan is number four, on which Callahan elaborates that he opposes bailouts, supports freezing "non-defense/non-entitlement" spending, and supports strengthening pay-as-you-go rules and rewarding government workers who come up with ways to deal with waste and fraud. However, he supports the new healthcare law, opposes social security or medicare reform, and seeks to increase education spending by leaps and bounds.

Incumbent Representative Charlie Dent also believes in large tax breaks for small businesses, making education more affordable, and cutting the red tape. In addition, he supports opening up foreign trade, supports suspending the Capital Gains tax and ending the death tax, and opposes many aspects of the new healthcare law. He also opposes "cap and trade" and the "card check" bill, and he also opposed both stimulus bills. On his website, he talks about how he plans to "foster the entrepreneurial spirit," and he offers several methods to cut government spending by requiring a balanced federal budget, ending TARP and pouring the remaining funds into paying off the national debt, and supporting bills that offer tough fiscal rules on Congress. When talking about alternatives to the healthcare law, he brings up many of the same ideas proposed by fellow Senatorial candidate Pat Toomey.

There is a third option in Jake Towne, but despite my promises to give a fair hearing to each and every candidate and despite the fact that Jake Towne appears to be mostly Libertarian in his positions, I can't help but think this guy is not all there as I peruse his website. Besides, recent polls only give him a single percentage point of likely votes, so at this time, it is probably wise to ignore him. Maybe next time, Jake.

So that leaves Mayor Callahan and Representative Dent. Callahan has a lot going for him, even with my inclinations, and I support all five of his points for dealing with unemployment. I even have no problem with increasing spending on education (it's one of the few places where I do support increased spending, since the privitization of education is never going to happen). However, his opposition toward entitlement reform is disconcerting, making his other fiscally responsible ideas feel like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I strongly believe that social security, medicare, and other entitlement programs are the single greatest threat to this country's fiscal future, and I have a hard time supporting anybody who refuses to acknowledge that. On the other hand, Charlie Dent believes in addressing many of the same problems as Callahan and more. His goal of tackling the national debt is admirable, and I support the plans he outlines. In the end, though, a lot depends on the healthcare law, and with Callahan supporting it and Dent opposing it, it makes my choice easier: I will vote for Charlie Dent.

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-e. magill 10/26/2010

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