After 27 years as a registered Republican, I decided to join the Dark Side.
I hope this doesn't go any further than it has to, but I've been keeping a secret for the past few weeks. I feel the need to tell someone.
I'm a Democrat.
I never thought I'd utter those words. But it's true. Says so on my voter registration card. As of April 12, 2006, I have been a registered Democrat.
Before you start thinking that I've gone off the deep end, I haven't turned completely to the Dark Side. I can assure you I will not be voting for any of these presidential hopefuls in 2008: Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards or Al Gore.
But I do have a burning desire to raise taxes, blame George W. Bush for something and spend a lot of other people's money. I guess it comes with the territory.
I've written more than 40 columns in the past year asking voters to oust the political aristocracy that has sacked and pillaged the state of Pennsylvania.
I've argued that it doesn't matter if you're Republican or Democrat — both parties have let Pennsylvania taxpayers down. The leaders of both parties must be removed. That starts with Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and Republican House Speaker John Perzel.
What kind of political commentator would I be if I didn't practice what I preach? I switched my party affiliation so I can do my part to get rid of a career politician who has accomplished nothing for his constituents.
Prior to April 12, I was a registered Republican for 27 years. Despite being a lifelong Republican voter (and this is where I differ from the Kool-Aid drinking liberals who will defend Ed Rendell to the end), I can state categorically that Pennsylvania would be much better off without the following GOP leaders: Speaker Perzel, Senate Majority Leader Chip Brightbill, Senate Pro Tempore Robert Jubilerer, House Majority Leader Sam Smith and House Majority Whip David Argall. Can we exile this motley crew to Delaware?
They may be registered as Republican, but every one of those people has betrayed Republican principles of fiscal responsibility, limited government interference and accountability to the people. All should be voted out of office this year.
Same goes for the Democrats, including Ed Rendell, House Minority Leader Bill DeWeese, Senate Minority Leader Robert Mellow, Senate Minority Whip Mike O’Pake and House Minority Whip Mike Veon.
I live in a legislative district that is predominantly Democratic. Registered Democrats have a 2-1 edge over Republicans in Pennsylvania's 126th House District. It's one of the "safe districts" that the Republican-controlled legislature carved up for the minority party so it can call in favors from Democratic cronies when needed. The July 2005 pay raise would not have passed unless Democrats joined the Republicans to push it through both houses of the legislature.
If I want to have a say on ousting my state legislator, who is a Democrat, I needed to switch my party registration in order to vote in the Democratic primary. That's how strongly I feel about removing the self-serving politician in my district.
On May 16, I will vote for someone other than Rep. Dante Santoni Jr., a hanger-on who does what he's told by the party bosses. In 14 years in Harrisburg, Santoni has made as much an impact on state politics as a potted plant. He's sponsored zero bills, chaired no committees and brought back a few thousand dollars for projects in his district while collecting more than $1 million in salary and perks from taxpayers. Voters in the 126th District could find a better legislator than Santoni by closing their eyes and pointing to a name in the phone book.
Fortunately, there are two good candidates running against Santoni this year. I've decided to support Irv Livingood, a mechanic who is running under the PaCleanSweep banner. I've met Livingood several times in recent months. I like the guy. His campaign theme is straightforward: "A common man with common sense for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."
I've never met Santoni. In fact, I've never seen this guy in person in the 13 years I've lived in his district. Santoni's campaign theme is "Working for us." I'm not sure who "us" includes. I know he hasn't done a thing for me in 13 years.
The worst-case scenario in the 126th District would be Livingood and the other Democratic challenger, John DelCollo, splitting the anti-incumbent vote, thus allowing Santoni to win the nomination on May 16.
If that happens, I will get another shot at ousting Santoni in November because there are also two Republican candidates on the primary ballot. One of them will be the GOP nominee in the November general election.
Another reason I decided to become a Democrat is the opportunity to vote for Gene Stilp, the Harrisburg-area activist running for lieutenant governor. Stilp was the first person in Pennsylvania to stand up to the Harrisburg Hogs, filing a lawsuit against the long-forgotten pay raise legislators gave themselves in 1995. Stilp filed another lawsuit when the larcenous legislators pulled off another heist in July 2005.
A vote for Stilp is a vote against the corrupt Harrisburg political machine.
While I'm in the voting booth, I plan to have a little fun with the ballot. I will cast a vote for Chuck Pennacchio over Silent Bob Casey, the Forrest Gump of Pennsylvania politics. And I'll be voting for Mike Leibowitz over Lois Murphy, an Ed Rendell protégé and darling of the far left.
If you're still upset about my turning to the political Dark Side, I promise that I will change my registration the day after the primary election.
Tony Phyrillas is a leading conservative political columnist and blogger based in Pennsylvania. He is a veteran journalist with 25 years experience as a reporter, editor and columnist for several newspapers. Phyrillas received recognition for column writing in 2010 from the Associated Press Managing Editors, in 2007 from Suburban Newspapers of America and in 2006 from the Society of Professional Journalists, Keystone Chapter. A graduate of Penn State University, Phyrillas is the city editor and political columnist for The Mercury, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning daily newspaper in Pottstown, Pa. In addition to The Mercury website (www.pottsmerc.com), his columns are featured on more than a dozen political websites and blogs. Phyrillas is a frequent guest (and occasional host) on talk radio and has been a panelist on the "Journalists Roundtable" public affairs TV program on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN). Phyrillas was named one of the '10 Leading Greek-American Bloggers in the World' in 2007 by Odyssey: The World of Greece magazine. BlogNetNews.com ranked Phyrillas the Most Influential Political Blogger in Pennsylvania for three consecutive years (2007-2010). You can follow Phyrillas on Twitter @TonyPhyrillas