Thursday, January 26, 2006

Racist Undercurrent Explodes to the Surface in Scranton's Failing Campaign NewsFlash - Bill Scranton fires manager for calling Swann 'rich white guy': "Bill Scranton fires manager for calling Swann 'rich white guy'
1/26/2006, 4:49 p.m. ET
The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Scranton fired his campaign manager for saying his opponent Lynn Swann is "the rich white guy in this campaign."

Swann, the former Pittsburgh Steelers star, is seeking to become Pennsylvania's first black governor.

Scranton fired James Seif, an old friend who was a member of former Gov. Tom Ridge's cabinet, shortly after Seif made the comment on a televised call-in show Wednesday night. He said Seif's remarks "in no way whatsoever reflect my views or those of my campaign."

Scranton, who is white, comes from the wealthy family that gave its name to the state's sixth largest city. He served two terms as lieutenant governor in former Gov. Dick Thornburgh's administration and his father was governor from 1963 to 1967.

In a brief statement Swann said he was "disappointed" by Seif's comment.

"It is important this campaign be waged on a higher level of dignity and character," Swann said. "We will continue to move forward with our positive message for Pennsylvania."

Seif made the comment while trying to portray Scranton as the outsider in the race and Swann, a sports celebrity with no experience in public service, as the choice of the GOP establishment.

The one-hour show on the Pennsylvania Cable Network also featured Ray Zaborney, a top official in the Swann campaign. Zaborney interrupted Seif and called the remark "ridiculous and insulting."

"Last night, I attempted to reach Lynn Swann to apologize to him, his family and supporters and PCN viewers for inappropriate and irresponsible comments made by my campaign manager, Jim Seif," Scranton said Thursday at a news conference on another subject in Erie on Thursday.

Seif commended Scranton for acting "quickly, decisively and correctly," and said "that's one of the reasons he'll be a great governor."

Scranton declined to be interviewed and his campaign aides refused to elaborate on his statement.

In recent weeks, both candidates had been vying for support among the more than 350 members of the Republican State Committee, whose endorsement can be a crucial stepping stone toward the nomination.

Swann, a pro football Hall of Famer, has built momentum in informal voting among some state committee members, and Swann's aides say they expect he will win the endorsement.

"Scranton didn't need this kind of flap," said Thomas Baldino, a political science professor at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre.

On Monday, Scranton said he would stay in the campaign through the primary election on May 16, regardless of who wins the Republican State Committee endorsement. He called on the state committee to endorse an open primary.

Scranton seized the offensive after Swann made it clear that he would not debate Scranton and a third candidate, Jim Panyard, until after the endorsement vote.

Seif, who also held key positions in Thornburgh's administration, quit his job as a vice president of Allentown-based PPL Corp. to lead Scranton's campaign. He served as the state's environmental protection secretary under Ridge.

Wednesday night's exchange was ignited by a caller who asked whether Scranton has "any principles that don't eventually give way to his own political expediency."

Seif said Scranton has "as much integrity as any person I've ever known." Scranton decided to call for an open primary because he was angry that party leaders had directed Swann "into pretending he had the victory sewn up and pretending that he was the outsider," Seif said.

"In fact, the rich white guy in this campaign is Lynn Swann," Seif said.

Zaborney cut him off.

"That's one of the most ridiculous and insulting things that I think I've heard in politics," Zaborney said. "Lynn Swann is the outsider, and Bill Scranton's the guy who's been in Harrisburg before, who's been around the trouble before."

Panyard, the retired head of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association, said the incident is an indication that Swann will capture the party endorsement and that "the wheels are coming off the Scranton campaign wagon."

Panyard, who said he was not invited to participate in the PCN program, said he has never heard either Seif or Scranton say anything that was "even remotely racist in nature," but that Seif's comment was "stunningly ill-advised."


On the Net:

Scranton 2006:

Lynn Swann for Gov.:


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