I'm not talking about the person who'd like to remain in office as Lehigh County Executive for the next four years, but his dad. The Cunningham and Panella families have been close for years.
Why do I mention this? Because that's one of the chief reasons for two contributions that Don Cunningham the Exec made to the Pennsylvania Democratic party on October 5 ($22,000) and October 9 ($50,000), totalling $72,000.00. As Don explained in a conversation yesterday, it was never his intention to see that vast sum spent on two Commissioner candidates. And it's not what happened, either. In fact, only about half that sum is funding those local races.
Some of the remaining funds went to Don's own campaign, and the rest is intended to help the Lehigh Valley's Jack Panella, who is in a very tight Supreme Court race against Judge Joan Orie Melvin. A recent poll shows they are in a dead heat.
"I'd love to see a Supreme Court justice from the Lehigh Valley," Cunningham told me, but is very concerned. Melvin is a western Pennsylvania native, and is expected to win big there. Ordinarily, that would be offset by the huge Democratic edge in Philadelphia, but not this year. The City of Brotherly Love is expected to have a very low turnout. "There are no hot races, no mayor's race, and everyone there will be talking about the World Series," Cunningham noted. So if Panella hopes to become one of the Supremes, he needs a big win in the Lehigh Valley. He needs both a huge margin and a big turn out.
"I'll be honest, I intend to donate even more money to the state Democratic party." Even if some of the money goes to local candidates here or elsewhere, that will ultimately help Panella, Cunningham reasons. It makes sense. This is not so much about seizing control of the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners. That would be nice, but Cunningham's primary focus is electing Judge Panella to the Supreme Court.
Using the state party also gives him the biggest bang for his buck. In addition to cheaper mailing rates, they can "do things in bulk, and that enables you to do more for less."