The LuLac Edition #791, Apr. 23rd, 2009
PHOTO INDEX: CONGRESSMAN PAUL KANJORSKI, LACKAWANNA COUNTY COMMISSIONER COREY O'BRIEN AND OUR "BUZZ" LOGO.
Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O’Brien is creating a buzz this week with his willingness to speculate about his role in the 2010 elections. Fellow blogger Gort 42 broke the story last weekend about a possible O’Brien run against long time incumbent Paul Kanjorski. If Gort laid the cement for the story, the Scranton Times Tribune etched it in stone the next day. Clearly O’Brien has not confirmed or denied this piece of news. But it is an intriguing possibility. Here are my reasons for thinking that:
1. While one might think most voters are tired of hearing the word “change”, you just have to take a closer look at the mindset of the average citizen. The word “rebellion” comes to mind. People are at the boiling point with bailouts to big companies while the average guy is facing unemployment. The blowback on this emotion is not touching Barack Obama yet but it is certainly hitting the Congress.
2.The attitude toward Congress does not bode well for any incumbent running in 2010. Arlen Specter’s Senate tenure of three decades is being lost on many members of his party who are saying that Presidents come and go for 4 to 8 years. However members of Congress can go on forever if the voters let them. Clearly, the mood in 2010 is that we, as a country, might not allow the incumbents to linger.
3. Add Paul Kanjorski’s last run against Lou Barletta in 2008 and you see a pattern developing. Kanjorski won a close race by winning the counties of Lackawanna and Monroe. The logic was that with Obama almost a sure winner, why send a conservative Republican to D.C. when everyone knew he’d be outnumbered. All that stated, Lou Barletta came very close to a win. Even with Kanjorski reciting chapter and verse what he brought home to the district, his race was difficult. My contention has always been that Mr. Kanjorski has never articulated his Achilles heel which is that 9 million dollars given to his family to start up a business. True, the Congressman tells you that no one else was qualified to do the work but the fact of the matter is the business tanked. To explain that to a voter one step away from losing a job is tough. Fair or not, all they hear are the words, “9 million”, “family”, and “bankrupt” regarding this issue. Despite the ’08 victory by the Congressman, this problem has not gone away.
4. A new dynamic in 2010 is going to be the scandals in both Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties. It is true that the conduct of the Judges, the School Directors and the Chuck Castanzo’s of the world have nothing directly to do with a Congressional race. But politics sometimes is all about the undercurrent. It would not be a stretch for a candidate to connect the dots from a county scandal to an old issue that has stuck to the current incumbent. People seem willing to throw out everybody. Even Judge Tom Burke, who has nothing to do with any of the Luzerne County courthouse corruption will get his share of no votes on retention because the mood of the people is downright angry and irrational. Any incumbent will be in danger in 2010. Chris Carney found that out when he made what he thought were going to be some benign visits to his constituents this week.
5. Say Kanjorski has a challenge in the Democratic primary. Most people will give you a gut reaction and comment like my friend Frank out of Scrantonwho said, “O’Brien will get hammered by Kanjorski!” Even Gort on the Sue Henry Show earlier in the week called taking on Kanjo "a suicide mission”. On the surface that is true. But 2010 will not be just any year. The ramifications of the scandals in LuLac land will carry over to any race because even the old and familiar like Kanjorski and Specter represent the way things used to be. With the success of Barack Obama, any long term incumbent will be seen as part of the past. Obama’s success broke all the old tried and true political rules. His election, especially his triumph during the Democratic nominating process makes anything, even taking on a 13 term Congressman in a primary possible if not probable. Add the attitude of the people toward the bailouts, the debit cards, the trips to a Playboy mansion, the selling of jobs and kids for financial and political advancement to the mix, well let’s just say there’s trouble in River City.
6. People need a reason to vote for someone. Or an excuse not to pull the lever for the same candidate. Kanjorski’s tenure might be reason enough to vote for a new face. The more politically entrenched might need justification or an excuse to vote against him in 2010. I know a few Democrats who left the Congressional ballot blank in a few of Kanjorski’s races because they just didn’t feel the passion for him as a candidate. But being good Democrats, they voted for him when he had opposition. Having rejected change from a Lou Barletta in 2008 might give some voters permission to support another candidate in a primary thinking that backing a Dem, even one with less experience still keeps them in their own party’s tent.
7. And all of my previous points bring me to the major issue in the 2010 race: change. If a Corey O’Brien runs, he’ll represent the new wing of the Democratic Party. Mr. Kanjorski through no fault of his own would not. Mr. O’Brien could lay claim to the Obama legacy which represents a disregard to the old ways of governing and electability. It’s as simple as Old Vs. New. “Back To the Future” Vs. “The Way We Were” if I can use a movie analogy. Right now it seems insane for a one term local official to run against a political icon. Just as crazy as a one term State Senator with a few months in the U.S. Senate being President. The new rules say they are no rules anymore! It all becomes the politics of possibility. When I was in college, I had a Government professor who said that when the world ended, he’d want to be in Wilkes Barre/Scranton because it would take 2 years for us to realize it. The same might hold true for the 2010 election. Radical, crazy, overhauling, political life altering change will come, it’ll just come on our unique political timetable.