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On “Caution” in Supporting Democrats

I’ve responded in general terms to critics who say I should be “cautious” supporting Pennsylvania Democrats who are pro-gun. But since there’s a pile on from red states that implies I’m only looking out for gun rights at the expense of other limited government issues by supporting Democrats, I’m going dive into specifics and ask that said critics respond with the best way to handle each of these races.

First, I do think it’s important to note that this criticism comes from red states. Why? Because Pennsylvania isn’t one. Now, on the other hand, it isn’t Massachusetts, either. In that state, if you can find a more moderate Democrat, it’s important to support them in most districts simply because only a Democrat can get to the negotiating table to beat back gun control in the first place. Realizing that Pennsylvania is far more politically diverse, we have a luxury at looking at political decisions by district. And that’s what any good political analysis will do – consider the realities of the district and the actual candidates on the ballot.

Senate District 22
This seat is an open race due to the retirement of A+ rated Sen. Bob Mellow.

The Candidates
Here are your choices of candidates: Joseph Corcoran (D), Charles Volpe (D), Jim Wansacz (D), John Blake (D), Chris Doherty (D), Christopher Phillips (D), Frank Scavo (R). We’re supporting Rep. Wansacz as our featured candidate because he is an A rated candidate. In fact, he’s actually become even more pro-gun since he was initially elected. Meanwhile, Volpe has never held elected office before, Corcoran is a former county commissioner for the major county in the district, Phillips is a school director for the district’s largest city, Blake is a former bureaucrat, and Doherty is mayor of the largest city in the District. None of these candidates have a background that would give them a rating or voting history. However, we do have video of Doherty going on the record to end preemption and limit how many guns we could buy, something that could only be effectively instituted by creating a formal registry of gun owners. On the GOP side, Scavo is a former school director in one of the smaller towns of the district. He did previously run for this seat in 2002 and received a grade of A-, a hair lower than one of the Democratic candidates running now.

The Voting History
As the local paper put it when the Senator’s retirement was announced, this seat was never competitive. They said, “the only speculation was whether the Republican Party would make it a contested race.” In other words, the local GOP doesn’t even make an effort for this seat. Looking at the electoral history, it makes sense. Wikipedia has information dating back to the 1960s when the seat was held by a Democrat from 1963-1968. It was then held by a Republican for less than two years (not a full Senate term, not even a full House term!) from January 1969 to November 1970. Since 1971, it has been held by the same Democrat.

The Summary of Facts
So here’s what we know: There’s a competitive Democratic primary that has one good guy and one bad guy with four unknowns. Gun owners have the opportunity to sway to primary so that the pro-gun guy can win. There is no primary on the GOP side, so no one needs to worry about him until after the May primary. The last time the GOP put up a candidate, it was the same guy and he pulled in a whopping 31% of the vote – beat by more than two to one.

The Risks
If gun owners are crazy and flippant about politics like me, they have the chance to get involved in the Democratic primary and set it up so that they have a choice between candidates rated A and A-. If they are cautious and sit out of the game because it’s the evil Democratic primary, they are likely looking at a choice in the fall of F and A- with a strong likelihood that the F will win. And, like that, they will have just flipped an A+ seat into F overnight.

The Questions
So, critics, do you still encourage caution in this race? If you would sit out as a gun owner, why? What about the electoral makeup of this district or quality of the candidates would bring you to a different conclusion?

I have more examples below the fold that I would like our critics to analyze as well. Just indulge me in the game of politics. If you’re a critic of getting into bed with Democrats, I think it’s important to see a few different examples of when I would encourage people to get involved and when I think they should sit it out.

Senate District 14
Since I’ll be promoting a Democrat in this race shortly, let’s take a look at it to preemptively hit on the topics that critics may bring up. The seat is another open seat – one of only three open Senate seats this year – due to the retirement of A rated Sen. Ray Musto.

The Candidates
This seat has three choices: John Yudichak (D), Tom Leighton (D), and Stephen Urban (R). We’re supporting Rep. Yudichak for this promotion to the Senate because he is an A rated candidate, and again, one who has actually voted with us even more as he spends more time in office (rising from an A-). His opponent in the Democratic primary is mayor of the district’s largest city, and a strong ally of Bloomberg’s group, MAIG. On the GOP side, you have a county commissioner, Stephen Urban, who can’t even make up his mind for what seat he really wants – he’s running for Senate and for Lt. Governor at the same time. Neither Urban nor Leighton have NRA grades. Though, as mentioned, Leighton has endorsed gun control measures with his alliance to Bloomberg’s gun control organization.

The Voting History
Wikipedia has history going back to the 1960’s when this seat was held by a Democrat until 1982. Since 1982, it has been held by the incumbent Democrat. At no point since 1969 has a Republican ever held this district.

The Summary of Facts
So here’s what we know: There’s a competitive Democratic primary that has one good guy and one bad guy. There is no primary on the GOP side, so no one needs to worry about him until after the May primary. I cannot provide election results for the last GOP candidate because it’s been more than a decade since the local Republicans even tried to run anyone. They party has no experience running candidates for this district, and the only GOP candidate is trying to run for a different office, so he’s not even building a local infrastructure at this point.

The Risks
If gun owners are crazy and flippant about politics like me, they have the chance to get involved in the Democratic primary and set it up so that they have a choice between an A rated candidate and an unknown. If they are cautious and sit out of the game because it’s the evil Democratic primary, they are likely looking at a choice in the fall of F and an unknown with a strong possibility that the F will win. And, like that, they will have just flipped an A seat into F overnight.

The Questions
Do the critics still encourage caution in this race? If you would sit out as a gun owner, why? What about the electoral makeup of this district or quality of the candidates would bring you to a different conclusion? And how do you see the local GOP making up at least a decade of lost ground in this district with no candidates? Does the fact that the only GOP on the list isn’t even seriously running for this seat give you any pause?

Congressional District 11
This is a seat held by an incumbent who just squeaked out a win in 2008. My lack of “caution” aside, I am not going to encourage gun owners to get involved with this race based on guns. Looking at the analysis, you might find you agree.

The Candidates
There are currently four candidates on the ballot: Brian Kelly (D), Corey O’Brien (D), Paul Kanjorski (D), and Lou Barletta (R). Rep. Kanjorski is the incumbent with an A rating. O’Brien is challenging him from the left, and Brian Kelly is running a populist campaign that is refusing all donations (aka, not a campaign). The only GOP challenger left on the ballot is A rated Barletta after Chris Paige dropped out recently.

The Voting History
Since the 1950s, this seat has been overwhelmingly Democratic with only one term represented by Republican. Looking at the list of officials representing this seat, it would initially come off as a loser for the GOP. However, diving in a little deeper, we find that the potential of a Kanjorski-Barletta rematch would be a repeat of 2008. In 2008, Kanjorski scrapped by with only a 4 point win even though other Democrats easily carried the district.

The Summary of Facts
So here’s what we know: There’s a Democratic primary where the young upstart from the left has run an attention-getting campaign, but I haven’t seen any numbers on the traction he’s getting. I see that he’s racking up some serious endorsements though. I would suggest that any gun owners who are already Democrats should probably vote for Kanjorski in the primary, but that is the extent of my support. With Kanjorski’s popularity on the decline, there is a good chance that Barletta can unseat him in a year of anti-incumbency waves sweeping the country. Cook is downgrading the race, and local political reporters are also saying that PA-11 is the most likely to flip.

The Risks
With the rising stock of A rated Barletta, it doesn’t seem like there is much to worry about, regardless of the outcome of the primary. However, it would generally be safe for Democratic gun owners to turn up and vote for Kanjorski so we can ensure a race between A rated candidates on both sides of the aisle. But, I wouldn’t put much energy out there or any real resources up for defending Kanjorski because I suspect his district will send him home for retirement. Not to mention, we still end up with an A rated winner if that happens. Either way, gun owners win.

The Questions
I suspect there are none since the critics will like that I’m not endorsing the Democrat. However, if they disagree with me on my analysis of this race, let me know.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not actually on the ground in any of these districts. My analysis is based on internet searches and compulsive Pennsylvania political blog reading. If there are errors in my analysis of the actual districts and races, I’d be happy to discuss them. This isn’t an “evil party” vs. “stupid party” debate, this is serious election strategy based on the reality of voting habits and the candidates who have stepped up.

9 Responses to “On “Caution” in Supporting Democrats”

  1. Bitter says:

    I should also add that some have criticized getting involved with any Democrats because of “leadership” concerns. I would ask what concerns those might be for the two Senate races I profiled. Our Senate is controlled 3-2 in favor of the Republicans. Unless damn near every Republican lost this year (possibly all, I’d need to do the math based on the seats up), that is not at risk. Not to mention, the Democratic leader in the Senate has been A+ rated.

    UPDATE: I did the math. If every single Republican Senator on the ballot lost to a Democrat (15) and every Democrat on the ballot held their seat (7), along with every Democratic retirement being replaced with a Democrat (3), then the balance of power would switch. I even have to concede, it would be pretty damn overwhelming. Democrats would have 35 of 50 votes.

    However, there’s a bit of a problem with this criticism. First, I wasn’t endorsing all Democrats. I am pushing 2 to replace 2 open seats vacated by retirements. That would maintain the status quo. Perhaps more importantly to the argument that we’ll turn over the Senate to Dems, there aren’t even Democrats running in all of the races on the ballot this year. Even when the Democrats put a name on the ballot in some districts, they aren’t serious candidates. They have no campaign plan, volunteers, funding, or infrastructure. So clearly, it just ain’t gonna happen. The math and facts of the campaign trail just don’t add up.

    UPDATE II: I also had someone suggest that judicial appointments would be at risk. We don’t appoint judges in Pennsylvania. They are directly elected.

  2. Mike w. says:

    It seems to me that the idea is to get the best “pro-gun” candidate in office. If that person happens to have a (D) after their name then so be it.

    If the race in question is one where a Republican doesn’t have a snowflake’s chance in hell of winning but you have a pro-gun Democrat who could actually win why bother wasting your time and resources on the Republican candidate?

  3. JoeMerchant says:

    Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska is pretty good on guns. He’s from my pretty darn red state.

    Look where he got us.

    • Bitter says:

      And that’s a state that can elect Republicans to that “district.” You seem to be missing the point that you have to analyze the district and the contenders. A strong Republican could overtake him. That’s been established. And yes, Sen. Nelson is good on guns. Which is why I would find it very cool as a gun owner to have my choice of a pro-gun Democrat and a pro-gun Republican on the ballot.

      I’ve already addressed the broad generalizations. Look at the races above and tell me what about those candidates and those districts you find so terrible in supporting the pro-gun Democrat over the anti-gun Democrat. In the final case, I made the point that gun owners will find really a good vote whether the Democrat wins or the Republican wins, so I suggested no particular action on this issue. To the degree I suggested voting for Kanjorski, it was only a suggestion for already registered Democrats who can choose him over an unknown in the primary.

  4. James Nelson says:

    I see no problem with trying to end up with two pro gun candidates in the fall elections. You can then choose between them on secondary issues. The next time some anti-gunner thinks about running in that district, they may think twice about how anti-gun they want to be.

  5. There’s no harm in voting in the primary. I generally prefer to vote in whichever primary actually matters, myself, even if I plan on voting the other way in the general election. You can either vote for someone who is less unacceptable to you, or you can vote for someone you think is absolutely unelectable (but then may be stuck with them).

    Either way there’s nothing to lose.

  6. thebastidge says:

    For those of us who don’t feel tribal loyalty to either Dems or Repubs (tho I do tend to vote Republican simply because other options usually don’t have that snowball’s chance of winning) this makes perfect sense.

    Lesser of two weevils, and all that.

  7. divemedic says:

    I reject the permise that the Republicans are some fabulous champions of all that is good and free. The Patriot Act happened on a Republican’s Watch. The import ban on rifles that have “no sporting purpose” was enacted as an executive order by George HW Bush.

    George W Bush supported a ban on full auto, supported the NICS, trigger locks, his father’s import ban, a ban on “high capacity” magazines, minimum age 18 for long gun possession, 21 for handguns, and a ban on all firearm possession within 300 yards of a school. He also said that he would have signed the AWB renewal if Congress had passed it.

  8. Christian says:

    I concur that there is much to be wary of in support of certain Democratic Candidates. Sometimes it is not what they say but rather what they fail to say. I am a registered Democrat in the Congressional District 11 Kanjorski/Obrien primary who is extremely Pro Gun (carry every day). I have supported Kanjorski for years based primarily on his Pro 2nd stance and have not been disappointed for the most part. Obrien in a feeble attempt to compete with Kanjorski for the gun vote has a statement on his website that merely reiterates the 2nd Amendment, which was much like Obama did who we know is anti 2nd. Obrien fails to clarify his position further and to me this is a clear indication of his masquerading as a pro gun Democrat.
    In every other election by a pro 2nd Candidate they tend to include information such as their personal involvement in hunting, shooting or support of an invividuals right to carry arms on their person. Obrien fails to do this and is thus quite telling of his stance.
    However should Obrien win the primary he will be VERY competive. Since Barletta would not be a shoe in for the seat, it IS important to campaign for Kanjorski NOW to guarantee two “A rated” candidates in the general election!

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