Payback: Pennsylvania voters fire incumbent legislators
Led by organizations like Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania (YCOP) and the Club for Growth, the state's conservatives took out the trash by sending two top GOP Senate leaders to their political graveyards.
The incumbents had the money. They had the name recognition. They had the party machine behind them. They had all the advantages. But they still lost.
Pennsylvania voters punished the pay-jacking Pennsylvania Legislature in the May 16 primary election, firing the state Senate's top two Republicans, who collectively spent more than $1 million to defend their seats against unknown opponents.
A dozen other incumbents were voted out of office in Tuesday's primary. And it's only the beginning.
Only 61 of the 228 Legislators whose terms expire in 2006 faced primary challengers.
There's another 50 candidates waiting to take on incumbents in the November general election. Independent and third-party candidates still have until Aug. 1 to gather enough signatures to get their names on the ballot.
Incumbents are not out of the woods yet.
The pundits kept saying that a low-voter turnout would help the incumbents, but they were wrong. The people who went to the polls Tuesday had a specific goal in mind: punishing incumbents. Send a message to the worst state legislature in the United States.
The experts kept saying that the anti-incumbent movement was regional, confined to the central and western parts of Pennsylvania. That wasn't the case, either.
In southeastern Pennsylvania, Berks County voters did their part in helping punish the pay-jacking legislators on Tuesday.
The big catch, of course, was Sen. Chip Brightbill, who paid for his arrogance and his willingness to work with Gov. Ed Rendell to push through massive tax hikes and increases in state spending.
Despite spending more than $800,000 to buy back his Senate seat, Brightbill lost to tire salesman Mike Folmer by a landslide.
The unsung heroes that helped Folmer and other challengers defeat the entrenched incumbents were the state's conservatives.
Led by grassroots organizations like Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania (YCOP) and its new Political Action Committee and the Club for Growth, the state's conservatives took out the trash by sending Brightbill and Senate Pro Tempore Robert Jubilerer to their political graveyards.
Democrats failed to clean up their side of the aisle by re-electing Rep. Bill DeWeese and Rep. Mike Veon, two Democratic leaders of the July 2005 pay-jacking.
In Berks County, voters ousted two veteran GOP House members, Dennis Leh and Paul Semmel. Both voted for the pay raise and took the money early as unvouchered expenses. Despite more than 35 years of service in Harrisburg, Leh and Semmel paid the price for betraying their constituents.
The lone Democrat in Berks facing a primary challenge, Dante Santoni Jr., survived with just 45 percent of the vote because his two challengers (John DelCollo and Irv Livingood) split the anti-Santoni vote. The challengers received a total of 2,600 votes compared to 2,103 for Santoni, who has failed to distinguish himself in 13 years in Harrisburg.
The previously smug Santoni faces the prospect of seeking re-election in November with 55 percent of Democratic voters having rejected him. His return to the Legislature is far from assured. The Republican challenger is Hal Baker, a political newcomer who beat out two other GOP candidates.
The fifth Berks County legislator facing opposition, Rep. Bob Allen, lost to challenger Gary Hornberger.
It appears that 4 out of 5 incumbents who represent parts of Berks County were ousted by the voters. So much for voters in the southestern part of the state not being as upset with the pay raise or the lack of action on property tax relief.
The revolution is on. The people of Pennsylvania won another major victory Tuesday. The Nov. 7 general election cannot come soon enough.
If you're looking for more analysis on Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary results, tune in to the Pennsylvania Cable Network's "Journalist Roundtable" show Thursday at 8 p.m. One of the guests on the show will be yours truly making his television debut. PCN will repeat the show Sunday at 11 p.m.
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