Monday, February 22, 2016
Winner of Democratic AG Debate? Republicans
The three Democrats seeking their party's nomination are Northampton County DA John Morganelli, Allegheny County DA Steve Zappala and Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro.
Republicans seeking the nod of their party are Montgomery State Senator John Rafferty and former federal prosecutor Joe Peters. They declined to attend a debate at which their presence was obviously unwelcome and joked about by moderator Mike Morrill.
The only candidate with no experience as a prosecutor, or in trying any cases, for that matter, is Josh Shapiro. So naturally, he would be the favorite in a straw poll of 65% of the so-called progressives at this oh-so-important gathering. The crowd seemed to be limited to people from southeastern Pa. and the Harrisburg area. Shapiro's inexperience was blasted again and again by Morganelli, and to a lesser extent, by Zappala.
Noting his 24 years of experience as Northampton County DA, Morganelli argued he is the state's most senior DA, and one who has personally tried 25 first degree murder cases. Zappala has 18 years of experience in Allegheny County, but tries no cases. In a county his size, which prosecutes more cases every year than the entire population of Northampton County, he explained that it's more important to be an administrator.
In contrast to two veteran prosecutors, Morganelli called Shapiro a "self-described politician." When Shapiro touted his chairmanship of the Pa. Commission on Crime and Delinquency, Morganelli derided it as a "MAC machine" that hands out federal funds to municipalities. "It has nothing to do with crime fighting," he complained, noting that Shapiro has only held this particular title for a few months.
"He has titles but no experience," Morganelli observed. "How do you fix something you know nothing about?"
Shapiro eventually countered that he would be an "activist" Attorney General who would stand up for the constitutional right to a thorough education as well as clean air and water. He portrayed himself as a "reformer" who as a state representative stood up for "Democratic" values against the "status quo." Shapiro later added he was not running to be the state's 68th District Attorney.
After Shapiro stressed this constitutional right to a through education, Morganelli noted that Shapiro accepted $25,000 from Students First PAC, which advocates for charter schools.
Moderator Morrill failed to pose a single question about two 800-lbs gorillas in the room - Kathleen Kane and rampant political corruption in Pennsylvania. He instead focused in issues that mean little to everyday Pennsylvanians, like the LGBT movement and "structural racism."
From time to time, the issues came up. Zappala conceded that Pennsylvania is the "most corrupt state" in the country, and Shapiro blasted the "mess" in the AG's office. Though Morganelli has previously called for an overhaul of that office, he actually defended Kane at the debate, admitting only that "she made mistakes."
All candidates pledged to support the eventual nominee.
On points, Morganelli scored an easy victory. If you want to see a vivisection, watch the debate.
You could say Zappala won, too. Morganelli was a pit bull with Shapiro. As underdog, he needed to be tough. But he probably hurt himself as well. Zappala was able to just sit there and watch.
But the real winners weren't there. The Republicans won. If this debate establishes anything, it's that the Republican nominee, most likely John Rafferty, will be the next Attorney General.
Democrats have already ruined any hope they have of retaining this important office with their abysmal failure to address the real issues confronting every day citizens. It's not, like Kathleen Kane thinks, a group of old farts in black robes who sometimes send naughty emails to their pals. Nor is it, as Michael Morrill seems to think, "structural racism," although that sounds very liberal. Nor is it the LGBT movement, which is oh-so-passe.
People don't give a shit about a transgender's right to tinkle in a public ladies' room. What bothers ordinary people are street gangs, fatal drug overdoses, random violence and ripoffs by predatory lenders and other shady businesses. In addition, there's no public confidence in a government so gridlocked it's unable to even agree on a budget. Legislators engage in rampant pay-to-play, ghost voting and violate campaign finance laws as a matter of routine in Harrisburg, where Shapiro claimed to be a reformer.
In the urban communities, crony capitalists have taken over, leading to federal investigations in Harrisburg, Reading, Allentown and Philadelphia. The state's top prosecutor is herself facing perjury charges and her law license is suspended. The party's top Democrat, Marcel Groen, may yet be caught up in the federal investigation in Allentown.
Republicans have long had the power to remove Kathleen Kane from office. But they've allowed her to remain. They know she is a constant reminder to ordinary citizens, including me, that we made a big mistake four years ago when we chose a pretty face over someone who was actually qualified.
In this climate, people will turn to the Daddy party - the Republicans. This debate also establishes that so-called progressive Democrats are out-of-touch. One of the hosts bragged about being at the Hilton without a tux, but he was still at the Hilton. Maybe Governor Wolf should take another trip in his Jeep Wrangler and pretend he's poor.
Blogger's Note: I am compelled to note that I personally support and have contributed $100 to John Morganelli's campaign. In my view, he would be an outstanding Attorney General who would ovehaul that office and restore confidence, but his fellow Democrats have already lost this race.
Updated 9:15 am: In an earlier version of this story, I got one of the Republicans wrong. I have corrected this error and apologize.