Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Pennsylvania Primary (bumped)

Today is the Pennsylvania primary and I'm going to be hella busy once my shift starts. I may try to do some semblance of a live-blog, but it depends on whether my boss is looking over my shoulder or not. Otherwise, don't expect much out of me in the next 24. RIM will be here, though.

I've never seen a race like this one -- there really are races in most of the GOP state legislative seats areound here, which is as astonishing as the fall of the Berlin Wall, The anti-incumbency is at a fever pitch and men who have coasted in every election since the Ford Administration are now fighting for their political lives.

Of course, never having had to do this before, they respond by fighting dirty. Here's a taste of what it's been like. So far the race has featured inflatable pigs and dead kittens, among other critters.

4:20 p.m. Primary Election day work shift begins, more or less. Meaning this is the time I chose to wander in to the office, knowing nothing of importance will happen till the polls close at 8.

Until then, I'll be putting together the Back Page (people column; weather maps; a couple of light, fluffy news stories) and setting up the template of the front page (making sure the date and issue number are right, etc.).

I voted before I came in. Have I mentioned I like my polling place? It's in an old technical school, in a room under a big oil painting of Thaddeus Stevens. It's run on election days by old church ladies from the AME church around the corner. So I go sign in with Miss Darlene or Miss Rosa and go to the booth while the conversation kicks back and forth about Lana Turner movies or whatever.

We have new voting machines this year: computer models. In place of the heavy old metal lever machines. Being conservative, I miss the old machines. The computer models don't have a keyboard; you have to spin a dial through an alphabet screen, which makes write-in votes a much more laborious task.

In the midst of a hot state primary, my voting district actually presents me with few races this time. About the only contested race was for a committee seat. Santorum, Swann unopposed in the GOP primary. My state senator isn't up this year (lucky for him).

Turnout was light; fewer than 100 when I voted. It's a heavily Democratic district, but it's black Democratic, not likely to get all exercised over the Pennacchio challenge. But I wouldn't be surprised if Pennacchio does well in this area and maybe even carries the county. Democrats around here are few, but they're fringy.

One of the most interesting races is happening a few townships away from here. Two GOP veterans of local government are vying for the nomination to a vacant state House seat. One, annointed by the party, is a dull but decent party functionary who holds all the approved positions, but none so passionately that he wouldn't compromise it for the sake of a deal arranged by the leadership.

The other is an ideologue who brought in Alan Keyes for an endorsement and whose great claim is that she never, ever voted for anything that involved spending public money. Which means even when her township had a chance to get the state to contribute to fixing a dangerous intersection/railroad crossing, by first putting up some of their own money, she was against it. As though her constituents were taxpayers and only taxpayers, never, say, commuters.

She attacks the other candidate because he, in his capacity as a borough council member, once voted to raise taxes. In 1989. By about $20 per household. To hire a police force after a public survey showed the public wanted it.

That's how it goes around here. You get party hacks as dull as dishwater vs. scary ideologues in the GOP primary. The Democrats haul some hapless substitute teacher/conspiracy theorist out of the woods to take the hit in November. And life goes on.