The LuLac Edition #611, Oct. 23rd, 2008
PHOTO INDEX: STATE REPRESENTATIVE FRANK ANDREWS SHIMKUS AND STATE REPRESENTATIVE KAREN BOBACK, OF THE 113TH AND 117TH RESPECIVELY.
CARPE PER DIEM
Seize the day, hey seize the money. That’s apparently what State Representative Frank Andrews Shimkus has done in the time he has been in office. In a story written in the Scranton Times by a reporter I have long admired, R.B. Swift, the Times Harrisburg Bureau Chief, Shimkus is unapologetic in his taking of the dough. The worst part though politically is that he has either matched or outspent his defeated rival in the 113th Fred Belardi in dollars spent. Shimkus has spent 27 Sundays on the public dole saying he had to get to the Capitol for morning meetings. Now the House is in session at 1pm and in my days dealing with State Legislators, let’s just say 8AM meetings were as scarce as hen's teeth. These boys don’t break a sweat and getting up at the crack of dawn is not in their game plan. Shimkus has given his opponent Kevin Murphy, a Democrat running on the Democratic ballot much more ammo to fire in the upcoming debate on Tuesday night on WNEP TV. Murphy already has a few advantages. First, he’s on the Democratic ballot in a heavily Dem district. Second, he has the counsel of political wise men and women of the D’s who want him to win this seat. Third, he has no personal baggage. He has the wife and kids he started out with and in this area, that’s a plus. (Again, no judgments on my part here especially from me on second marriages or May to December relationships.) but this is an area where people look at that. Fourth, Murphy has to have the support of every Democrat connected to the city. And running as a Dem turned GOPer and saying he will serve as a Democrat, do you think a Gene Peters or A.J. Munchak Republican is going to go with Shimkus? (I had the great pleasure of being on WYOU TV the other night with Joe Peters and we got to discussing his father’s role as Mayor. Would the current generation of Republicans support Shimkus’ bid or would they maybe sit out the election knowing if he won, he just used the GOP banner to plant himself on the ballot.) On the travel on Sundays, let’s get real, Harrisburg is 120 miles away. On her numerous trips to the Capitol, Mrs. LuLac in a 1997 Mystique makes it to the city in an hour and 23 minutes. So this overnight stay the day before a session is something I don’t get. One has to wonder why Shimkus ran up the per diems. Anyone who got in office in 2006 under the reform banner was wise to stick to the reform plan. No less authorities or loud mouths (take your pick) Gene Stilip and Eric Epstein have come out screaming against Shimkus. Being a newsman, I thought there’d be a modicum of “news sense” in not having these guys against you. Who is running the Shimkus campaign and what is their motivation? Was Mr. Shimkus arrogant or was he just assuming that people would vote his persona in another time disregarding the details? The race, in my estimation is Murphy’s to lose. And the debate Tuesday night will give us a real indication as to the barometer of this race.
When a long time Republican who had State aspirations changes from Republican to Democrat, you’d think there’d be some noise. But the race for the 117th pitting incumbent Karen Boback and Russ Bigus is very quiet. I can almost see Karen Boback coming out of the Grotto one night, looking up and down the Lake, putting her fingers to her lips saying, “Shush, no Democratic opponent here”. I mean Bigus’ campaign makes the pundits nostalgic for James May although I think Representsative Boback would disagree with that. Boback has made all the right moves in this race, touting her service to constituents, holding informational forums on issues like child safety and meeting and greeting the folks. Save for a few signs, no hide nor hair of Bigus. And that gets us to wondering if Bigus was welcomed with open arms by the Luzerne County Democratic party. The Dems, admittedly distracted with a coalition county government, a few Judges under fire and layoffs looming for county employees might not have had the desire or the firepower to even deal with Bigus. Boback’s foe is a charismatic, intelligent guy who in any other district might have made this a race. But I see Boback in a walk for this year.