The ReThink Blog

Starting from scratch in politics and science


The Pennsylvania Ballot 2012

I will return to my series on the 2012 presidential candidates next week, but this week, I'd like to spend a little bit of time on the other choices on my ballot. Though the following races aren't nearly as publicized or politicized as the presidential election, they are no less important or deserving of careful analysis. I will approach these the same way I approach the race for president: by taking each candidate at his or her word while not being afraid to examine the records of incumbents. I will also look into all the names on the ballot, in the order they appear, including those belonging to third parties. After all, as a registered Libertarian, I have an abiding respect for those who refuse to be pinned down by the two-party system. I don't pretend to be unbiased, nor do I pretend to be fully informed in every detail and every nuance of each candidate, but I promise that I am approaching this with as open a mind as I can, with no preconceived notions about what I will ultimately decide.

Tom SmithBob CaseyRayburn Douglas Smith

Businessman Tom Smith is hoping to take Bob Casey's place in the U.S. Senate, restoring failed presidential nominee Rick Santorum's seat to Republican control. He outlines a very conservative economic platform on his website, seeking to simplify the tax code through a flat tax, reduce annual federal spending to 20% of GDP, end "oppresive" regulations, protect Pennsylvania energy production, trust the free market to develop alternative energy, repeal and replace Obamacare, increase choice for both healthcare and Social Security, and reform Medicare. However, he says nothing on his website about where he stands on social issues, though he has gone on record opposing abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.

Incumbent Bob Casey cosponsored the wildly unpopular PIPA, is an ardent defender of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and opposes school voucher programs. However, like his Republican opponent, he identifies as pro-life and supports overturning Roe v. Wade, though he has drawn fire from right-wing pro-life organizations who question his dedication to the cause (as though identifying as a pro-life Democrat isn't proof enough of his conviction). He voted for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," supports civil unions for same-sex couples, supports the HHS contraception mandate, is a strong opponent of attempts to reform Medicare and Social Security, voted for both major stimulus packages, and vehemently resists any attempts to decriminalize or legalize drugs.

I'm not going to spend much time on the Libertarian candidate, Rayburn Douglas Smith, as his only listed website is his Facebook page (with a whopping 43 likes) and his posts strike me as completely loony ("I want everybody to get into gardening & beautification...just in case we do have a Second Greater Depression"). Therefore, I am left with the choice between Tom Smith and Bob Casey. I am repelled by Casey's voting record, especially his support of Obamacare and his cosponsorship of PIPA, and find his resistence to entitlement reform to be suicidal. The few places where Casey is more politically conservative--being pro-life and not being willing to entertain drug decriminalization--are among the places where I am not, and thus, I find almost nothing upon which he and I agree. So, while I worry about Tom Smith's social views, I will vote for him with enthusiasm, because his five-point plan to fix the floundering economy is a definite step in the right direction.

David FreedKathleen KaneMarakay Rogers

As the chief law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth, the Attorney General is an incredibly important role in prosecuting organized crime and public corruption, as well as ensuring consumer protection and defending the Commonwealth in all lawsuits brought against it. The previous AG, Tom Corbett, was elected Governor in 2010 and replaced by Linda Kelly, who is not seeking election this year.

The Republican candidate is Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed. As DA, he is known for re-opening and prosecuting "cold case" files using DNA evidence, closing "Megan's Law" loopholes, and running grand jury investigations, as well as defending insurance companies. He likes to focus on preventing elder abuse, taking down child pornographers with a heavy emphasis on how to prosecute cyber crime, and putting drug dealers behind bars. Freed wants to be Attorney General so that he can create a Synthetic Drug Task Force to "wage war" on new synthetic drugs, increase the size and scope of the Elder Abuse Unit, and fight against "overreaching power grabs by the federal government."

Kathleen Kane, the Democratic candidate, describes her career on his website: "As an Assistant District Attorney for Lackawanna County, Kathleen began in the child abuse/sexual assault unit spending several years prosecuting gruesome cases of physical and sexual abuse of children and adults. Simultaneous to the duties of this unit, Kathleen specialized in cases involving elder abuse, prosecuted white-collar criminals, and exposed abuses in Orphans’ Court. Due to her distinguished service, she was selected as the Deputy to head the county’s first Insurance Fraud Task Force. In addition, she has contributed to pioneering law enforcement programs, like Lackawanna County’s Mental Health Court, in order to solve problems through other effective and collaborative methods of law enforcement, not just prosecution." She lists her priorities as a potential Attorney General as "protecting senior citizens," "protecting PA from violent crime," "preserving the environment," "standing up for consumers," and "ensuring equal protection under the law." She also wants to implement programs to "raise community awareness and prevent future crime," as well as being tough on public corruption, "regardless of political party."

Lacking her own website, Libertarian Marakay Rogers doesn't have nearly as high a profile as either of her opponents. She was the Libertarian candidate for governor in 2010 and holds no relevant experience aside from being an attorney with her own practice since 2001. Her twitter feed (@MJRinYork) describes her as a "York PA resident, attorney, cat lover, vegetarian foodie, Le Droit Humain member, Jewish lgbt Libertarian, tea drinker." The only priorities I can seem to find for her campaign are an opposition to the death penalty and a desire to decriminalize marijuana. Still, she has a record of fighting for LGBT issues and being a vocal Libertarian on a wide range of issues.

I'm going to vote for Rogers mostly by default, since I don't like either of the other two. Freed's heavy focus on drugs is a tired trope of the right that I have no desire to contribute to, and Kane's devotion to various left-leaning causes like using legal means to "protect" the environment and using government programs to "raise community awareness" don't fill me with confidence in how she would handle the job of Attorney General. Miss Rogers doesn't have as impressive a professional record, but the fact that she is a genuine Libertarian who doesn't appear eager to buckle to the pet causes of the right or the left makes her the only candidate I can comfortably vote for. Besides, when it comes to law enforcement, I want the most ardent defender of constitutional freedom in the top seat, and thus, the only logical vote for me is a Libertarian one.

John MaherEugene DePasqualeElizabeth Summers

The Auditor General is Pennsylvania's fiscal monitor, the man or woman who is charged with independently ensuring the efficiency of the Commonwealth's spending. With current Auditor General Jack Wagner stepping down, the election this year has no incumbent.

State House Representative John Maher is the Republican candidate. A practicing CPA for over 20 years, founder of the Maher Duessel firm, and a former member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, his fifteen years in the State House have been marked by tough fiscal reform. He authored legislation that "criminalized material deceptions committed in connection with a CPA's attestation report intended for public use," wrote Pennsylvania's Prudent Investor Standards, and worked on the Commonwealth's Open Records Law. He has earned multiple awards in praise of his leadership, his support for freedom of information, his work advocating against animal cruelty, and his championing of "Good Government." Though he is a conservative in his politics, he does not use his website to parade various political causes, insisting that his only job as Auditor General would be to manage the budget.

Fellow State House Representative Eugene DePasquale, the Democratic candidate, on the other hand, makes it clear on his website that--though he is interested in tightening the budget by removing waste, fraud, and abuse--he also wants to utilize his position as Auditor General to push for investments in transportation, education, health care, senior services, the environment, public safety, and green energy. Though he hasn't been in office as long as his Republican opponent, DePasquale is an equally popular official with a record of regulatory streamlining as Director of Economic Development in the City of York and the Deputy Secretary for Community Revitalization and Local Government Support of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. He is most notable in the State House of Representatives for posting all of his official expenses on his website and returning everything he doesn't use directly to the treasury, as well as being heavily involved in the wildly successful state ban on texting while driving.

The Libertarians also have a candidate for Auditor General this year, Elizabeth "Betsy" Summers. Her record isn't nearly as sterling as either of her opponents, though she has been extremely active in her community, known throughout the town of Wilkes-Barre for her annual tax day protests and other grassroots work. She is a sales representative for Midwest Veterinary Supply, an independent broker for Market America, and a member of the Wyoming Valley Chapter of the American Business Women's Association. On her website, she outlines how she will use her position as Auditor General to eliminate school property taxes, eliminate pensions for all elected officials, and advocate term limits. She has also signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge from Americans for Tax Reform, which is her promise to oppose "any and all efforts to increase taxes."

Though I really like Betsy Summers, I'm going to vote for John Maher, simply because he has plenty of specific experience that fits perfectly with the position of Auditor General. I also find refreshing his refusal to pander to various interests or seek out the office while drawing plans to achieve political goals that have little to do with fiscal responsibility. If you're looking for an advocate for spending efficiency, I doubt you can do better than a highly decorated CPA who has a successful record in the state government.

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-e. magill 10/16/2012


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