Mcall.com: Capitol Ideas with John L. Micek : Dateline: Altoona.: "March 31, 2006
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Categories: Current Affairs
We're Just Back ...
... from two days of campaign travel in the wilds of Western Pennsylvania. It's always good to get out of the office for a while to find out what actual people who actually work for a living think about the goings-on here in the seat of power.
The only downside to leaving is the towering pile of paperwork and the dozen or so phone messages we had to wade through when we arrived at Capitol Ideas World Headquarters this morning
There's more on our trip after the jump.
We Started Our Swing ...
... in scenic Pittsburgh on Wednesday, where we attended the annual conference of the National Society of Black Engineers.
The group bills itself as the largest student-run organization of its kind in the country, and is specifically designed to encourage more black students to pursue careers in math and science.
To drop the cynical facade for a moment, it was pretty inspiring to see all these kids (from all over the country, no less) so jazzed up. That's doubly true when you consider that all this excitement was over math and science.
We have enough trouble balancing our checkbooks. Can't even imagine spending a week debating the finer points on the structural integrity of bridges and stuff..
But in the midst of all this hoopla, Gov. Ed had his own little Bush43/NAACP moment.
Either by accident or design, the Rendellies decided to give the conference's opening ceremonies a pass.
Carl Mack, NSBE's executive director (and a very tall man who we wouldn't want to have mad at us) wasted little time ripping the current occupant of the governor's office.
"For the governor of the state not to have an interest in 10,000 African-American students (in Pittsburgh) ... don't give me rhetoric about education reform. For him to skip was an insult."
This is also the place where we point out that Rendell's Republican rival, Lynn Swann, did manage to find his way over to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, where NSBE held its conclave.
Bad move, Gov. We've seen your poll numbers out West.
Thursday Found Us ...
... in Altoona, where we (along with Capitolwire's Pete DeCoursey) spent the day tagging along with state Senate President Pro Tempore Robert C. Jubelirer, R-Blair.
We spent the best part of the day in Hollidaysburg, Blair County, where Jubelirer spent about two hours knocking on doors in his first spring primary since 1974.
For those of you not in the know, Jubelirer faces a particularly tough primary challenge from Blair County Commissioner John Eichelberger, who is kind of the Joker/Riddler/Penguin to Jubelirer's Batman. There's not a lot in the way of lost love between these two guys.
Anyway, the reaction from voters was fairly genial, except for the one guy who decided to rip Jubelirer's face off over last year's legislative pay raise.
The guy wasn't much interested in explanations -- not even when Jubelirer tried to tell him that he'd voted to repeal the hated raises.
On Thursday night, former Gov. Tom Ridge swung in for a fund-raiser at a baquet hall in the shadows of the Altoona Curve's ballpark.
There, the former Commissar for Homeland Security offered his unqualified endorsement for his "good friend, Bob Jubelirer."
We've got to hand it to Ridge. He was looking about as tanned and rested as we've ever seen him,
Then again, if the biggest security threat you had to think about these days was how to handle a particularly difficult Par 4 at the Lake Shore Country Club in Erie, you'd probably look that good, too.
During a press conference before the fund-raiser, Ridge initially tripped over a question on whether he intended to offer an equally enthusiastic endorsement for another Senate GOP leader who's having some trouble these days: Senate Majority Leader David J.Brightbill, R-Lebanon.
"I haven't talked to Sen. Brightbill yet," Ridge said. "I'm here for Bob Jubelirer."
Later that evening, Ridge, at the urging of Senate GOP campaign czar/Brightbill brother-in-law Mike Long, clarified his remarks:
"I'll work with Chip, if I'm asked," Ridge said, likely to the relief of Long, who was no doubt contemplating six months worth of awkward Sunday dinners if he failed to deliver the former Guv for Brightbill.
"We just had so much trouble scheduling this. The people who helped me, I'm obligated to support. And he's one of them," Ridge concluded, thus also saving Long from the kids table at Thanksgiving.
One More Note On That Ridge Press Conference ...
After dealing with stunned silence from the local press when he asked if there were any questions, Ridge fielded one or two queries about his feelings on the ... er ... immigration reform fever that's sweeping Washington these days.
In short, he's not a fan.
"Right now, the decibel level is not conducive to a thoughtful approach," he said. "We have every right to defend our borders ... But the notion that you can send 11 million people back, these legislators have got to get a grip."
Instead, Ridge advocated a more sensible guest worker program to help accomodate the Mexicans and Central Americans who want to "lay asphalt in Phoenix in 120-degree weather," and do other jobs that most Gringos try hard (and shouldn't) to avoid.
And when he was asked about the lightly armed couch potatoes who now consider it their patriotic duty to play cop along the border, Ridge said, "I appreciate their interest, but if they really want to help, they can volunteer to do clerical and back office work so that customs and immigrations officers can do the enforcement."
Of Course, There Was Other Stuff ...
... going on whilst we were gallivanting across the state. Here's a quick look at what's left:
We Wish We Knew This Yesterday Dept.
The Tribune Review's Brad Bumsted and Deb Erdley hit one out of the park this morning, revealing that a political action committee controlled by the famously anti-gambling Jubelirer, and run by aide Long, was largely financed by a leading contender for a slots license in Scranton.
State Rep. Mike Diven, R-Pittsburgh ...
... has spoken out on the forged signatures that forced him to withdraw fromf the spring ballot this week.
Diven said he didn't circulate the bad petition, and that "we believe someone sat down and wrote (the petition) out from a street list."
Diven won't say who in his camp ciruclated the document. He also apologized for including dead people on his petitions.
We used to live in Chicago.
Just because they're dead doesn't mean they can't vote, Mike.
Hordes of Young Conservatives ...
... descend on a Hilton in suburban Harrisburg this afternoon for the annual Pennsylvania Leadership Conference.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann gets things started at 2 p.m. Our Rick is the dinner speaker at 6 p.m. MSNBC screeching head Joe Scarborough is also slated to speak.
In The Blogosphere:
Keystone Politics on the red-hot 6th Congressional District race; GrassrootsPA is all over that Jubelirer/PAC story; Young Philly Politics reminds readers that the state House is slated to vote next week on the gay marriage amendment; A Smoke-Filled Room has a daily media round-up; Above Average Jane has some things to do; What is the sound of one mouth talking? Bill Bostic interviews Gene Stilp; Tony Phyrillas says Berks County is scraping the bottom of the legislative barrel; PennPatriot isn't a big fan of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board; If you look hard enough for media bias, you'll find it anywhere (sigh), and we wrap up with Wonkette's daily briefing.
On The Capitol Ideas iPod This Morning:
To help combat the lingering fatigue we're feeling from all that PA Turnpike travel, we've got The Replacements' messy, but still tons of fun, 1982 EP Stink blasting at a paralyzingly loud volume right now.
Friday's Final Gratuitous Soccer Link:
In which we close out the week with The Guardian confirming what the rest of the world knows already: the comically behind-schedule Wembley Stadium will not open until 2007.
And more good news for fans in the Bernabeu, David Beckham has decided he wants to stay at Real Madrid.
That's it for this week. See you all on Monday."