||One of the nation's top political analysts, Stuart Rothenberg, dissects politics at the congressional and statewide levels.|
An Opening For the Democrats In Pennsylvania
GOP has a shot at California seat
By Stuart Rothenberg
Pennsylvania Democrats smell blood.
For years, they've thought they should hold northeast Pennsylvania's 10th C.D., but they have been unable to come close to knocking off veteran Cong. Joe McDade (D), even when he was under an ethics cloud.
| 1998 Gubernatorial Ratings|
But now McDade is retiring, creating an open seat that even Republicans acknowledge won't be easy to hold.
Both parties have primaries, but the Democratic race looks much easier to handicap than the Republican contest.
Joe Cullen, a 40-year-old attorney and the 1996 Democratic nominee against McDade, is back again and believes that the generally good reviews of his last campaign earned him another shot at Congress, even though he won only 36 percent of the vote in what was advertised as a good Democratic year.
But national and most local Democrats are rallying behind the candidacy of Patrick Casey, 32, a political neophyte whose major claims to fame are his father -- former governor Bob Casey -- and his brother -- state Auditor Bob Casey, Jr.
Local Democrats say Patrick Casey's name and family ties, ability to raise money and expected endorsements from party insiders make him a solid favorite for his party's nomination. And they say he also starts off well positioned for November. National Democratic political operatives are talking up his candidacy to political action committees as if he were already the party's nominee. Pennsylvania's primary is May 19.
Part of the reason for the Democrats' optimism is the GOP's problems in recruiting an established political name. Former lieutenant governor Bill Scranton III and Lackawanna County District Attorney Michael Barrasse passed on the race, as did Lycoming County DA Tom Marino.
That leaves the Republicans with a field that includes wealthy car dealer Don Sherwood, Scranton mayor James Connors, former Democratic Scranton city councilman Jerry Donahue, who just switched parties, and '96 nominee Erroll Flynn. Flynn almost upset McDade in the 1996 GOP primary, but, according to insiders, that showing was more a reflection of McDade's legal problems at that time than of Flynn's appeal.
At first glance, Connors would seem to be an ideal candidate. He comes from the district's biggest city (Scranton) in the most populous county (Lackawanna) and is widely regarded as likable. But the city's financial condition isn't good, and he may have trouble with the more Republican non-Lackawanna portion of the district in a GOP primary.
The 10th C.D., which takes in all of seven counties and parts of two others, is located in the northeastern corner of the state. It went narrowly for George Bush in 1992 and equally narrowly for Bill Clinton four years later. And that's why both parties know this seat is very competitive, and while they'll each make a major effort to win it. But for the GOP to hold the seat, they'll have to figure out some reason for district voters to vote against someone named Casey.
GOP has a shot at California seat
Jane Harman's decision to run for governor of California has given the GOP an excellent change to pick up her House seat. But as elsewhere, the Republicans face a potentially divisive ideological primary, and then a Democrat with a well-known political name.
Three Republicans are in the race: 1994 and 1996 nominee Susan Brooks, state Assemblyman Steve Kuykendal and Los Angeles City Councilman Rudy Svornich.
Brooks, who came within an eyelash of beating Harman in 1994 but was less impressive in her challenge two years later, is a former Rancho Palos Verdes mayor and city council member, and an outspoken conservative. She portrays herself as the only conservative in the primary contest.
Kuykendal is a former mortgage banker who emphasizes his fiscal conservatism but is more moderate on social issues. He portrays himself as far more electable than Brooks.
Svornich, who knocked off a GOP incumbent L.A. city council member, is dismissed by both Brooks and Kuykendal. They note he represents only a tiny portion of the congressional district and was reprimanded by the Los Angeles County Republican Party for endorsing two Democrats for Congress in 1996.
Brooks and Kuykendal are likely to fight it out for their party's nomination, and the winner will face Democrat Janice Hahn, who holds a seat on the Los Angeles City Charter Revision Commission. What makes Hahn potentially credible, however, are her political bloodlines. Her brother, James, is the Los Angeles city attorney, and her late father, Kenny, was on the Los Angeles County board of supervisors for 40 years, from 1952 to 1992.
California's 36th, which stretches from Catalina Island and San Pedro in the south all the way north past Los Angeles International Airport to Marina Del Rey and Venice, looks politically marginal. And that makes it an important contest for both parties.