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LIVE BLOG: After defeats, GOP leaders look towards the next cycle

By   /   November 6, 2012  /   No Comments

By PA Independent Staff

(Eric Boehm is in Harrisburg with the Republicans; Melissa Daniels is in Scranton with the Democrats.)

HARRISBURG – Ironically, the live band was playing “Don’t Stop Believing” as the anchors on the big screen televisions across the room were calling Ohio for President Barack Obama.

In Pennsylvania, Republican leaders faced a tough night of electoral losses with a brave face and promised that their party would “dust itself off and come back fighting” for the next cycle two years from now.

On a night when Democrats won all five statewide elections and picked up three formerly Republican seats in the state Senate, Gov. Tom Corbett and Rob Gleason, chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, pointed to the fact that the GOP still controls the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the state General Assembly.

“We made a great effort and it was much closer than four years ago, but close is only good in horseshoes,” Gleason said of the presidential race.

If there is a silver lining for the GOP, it is the fact that they added another congressman. Keith Rothfus knocked off U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, D-Pa., in the 12th district to give Republicans 13 of the Keystone State’s 18 congressional seats.

“Thank you for all the hard work you did,” Corbett told supporters at the Hilton Harrisburg hotel. “Starting tomorrow, on to the next cycle.”

This is an update from 12:15 a.m.

Kane first woman elected attorney general as Dems sweep PA row offices

SCRANTON – Kathleen Kane, a former assistant district attorney from Lackawanna County, will be Pennsylvania’s next attorney general.

The party is championing the victory, alongside its other wins tonight, as Kane is the first woman – and first Democrat, ever elected to the position.

Kane won the race over GOP opponent David Freed with 56.8 percent of the vote, compared to 40.9 percent, with around 93 percent of districts reporting.

“She is going to do remarkable things,” said Jim Burn, chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party to PA Independent, “she will follow the evidence wherever it takes her, anyone who needs to be held accountable will be held accountable.”

Throughout the campaign, Kane asserted she would thoroughly investigate how the attorney general’s office handled the investigation of Jerry Sandusky under the leadership of Gov. Tom Corbett, who then held the seat.

Kane’s win was one of three Democrats swept in the state row offices.

Burn called it  “an unprecedented night.”

Rob McCord won a second term as Pennsylvania’s treasurer by defeating Republican challenger Diana Irey Vaughn.  McCord had 53 percent of the vote compared to Vaughn’s 43 percent with 92 percent of the state reported.

Democrats held the post of auditor general as state Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-York, collected 50 percent of the vote.  His Republican opponent, state Rep. John Maher, R-Allegheny, received 46 percent of the vote with 92 percent of precincts reporting.

They were battling to replace Jack Wagner, who is finishing his second term in office and was barred from seeking re-election.

This is an update from 11:55 p.m.

Casey celebrates second term, promises to get nation’s fiscal house in order

SCRANTON – U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said the job of putting the country back to work isn’t done it.

When he heads back to Washington to serve his second term in Congress, the newly re-elected Senator Casey said he’ll be thinking of struggling families in northeast Pennsylvania region, which has the highest unemployment rate in the state.

“We’ve got to make sure that as we begin a new Congress, as we begin to the deal with issues of the economy, of job creation, getting our fiscal house in order, whatever it is, we’ve got to remember those families,” Casey said.

With around 87 percent of Pennsylvania voting districts reporting, Casey won the race with 54.7 percent of the vote, and 43.6 percent going to Tom Smith, his Republican opponent.

Casey, standing beside by his wife, four daughters, mother, and other family members, spoke to a crowd of more than 100 supporters and party officials and 10 television news crews a little over an hour after the Associated Press called the race in his favor.

Casey said he received a phone call from Smith after the race was called, saying it “was a very gracious phone call.” They wished each other’s families well, he said.

In a statement, Smith said that while he and Casey disagreed on many things, they agreed on one thing – they both believe America’s best days lie ahead.

“My family and I are humbled and grateful for the support of millions of Pennsylvanians,” Smith’s statement continued. “And though we fell short tonight, we will continue to advocate for the principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility and individual liberty.”

In closing his victory speech, Casey said that tonight, America is wrapping up “a very tough election year.”

But once the votes are counted, it’s time to come together to create jobs, fix the economy, secure national defense, and move forward as a country, he said.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I have no doubt, and I have total confidence in our ability to that in both parties,” Casey said.

This is an update from 11:25 p.m.

Somebody’s watching me….

HARRISBURG – If you feel like someone is watching you….well, you might be at the Republican’s election night party in Pennsylvania.

The disembodied head of Mitt Romney greets guests at the Harrisburg Hilton on Tuesday

At the Republicans Party of Pennsylvania’s victory-party-turned-funeral-durge in Harrisburg on Tuesday night, the larger-than-lifesize heads of presidential nominee Mitt Romney and vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan stared out at the crowd from the doors to the Harrisburg Hilton’s grand ballroom.

It was – well, odd-looking is a good place to start.

Those who have attended other Pennsylvania GOP events are used to the oversized cardstock photos of the party’s state leaders and top elected officials that always decorate the lobby of whatever hotel the party graces with it’s presence.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan is watching you.

But the importance of Tuesday’s election required the party planners to kick it up a notch – on the creepiness scale, it seems.

As if the disembodied heads in less-than-ideal poses (Ryan’s was literally looking directly out from the door, though Romney’s was a little better in quarter-profile) were not strange enough, they must have been at least three, no, four times larger than in real life.

“That’s a little strange,” one guest was heard to remark.

Perhaps they were leftover from Democratic Party chairman Jim Burn’s Halloween haunted house?



This is an update from 10:40 p.m.

Band keeps playing, but Republicans’ hopes sinking on election night

HARRISBURG – The live band continues to play, but the Republicans’ party in Harrisburg is starting to feel more like a sinking ship.

The party in Harrisburg might be over before it begins.

Before the clock even struck ten, the two most high-profile races in the state – ones where the GOP was holding out hope for an unexpected upset – were called for the Democratic candidates as President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey were called to carry the state.

Even Fox News has called the race in favor of Obama in the Keystone State and the 20 electoral votes that go with it.

Valerie Caras, spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, said it was too early to determine the outcomes.

Fewer than half the seats in the ballroom at the Hilton Harrisburg were filled and there was little for excitement as the party leaders consulted in private down the hall and guests at the celebration scanned television screens and their cell phones for up-to-date results and whispered to each other.

Democrats also lead in the races for all three statewide row offices – attorney general, auditor general and treasurer – with more than 52 percent reporting in those races.

This is an update from 10:00 p.m.

Casey holds off Smith, wins re-election

SCRANTON – U.S. Sen. Bob Casey will get a second term in Washington.

Just after 9 p.m., news networks began calling the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race in favor of Bob Casey.

The first was MSNBC.

The room broke into applause, the DJ put on “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” Folks hugged, and took group pictures as their eyes turned to the large television where MSNBC had just shown Casey’s headshot beside a check mark.

Supporters were still heading into the party. The presidential race was not yet called, and supporters continued to scan news tickers looking for vote totals from Pennsylvania.

Casey is set to speak at the Hilton sometime this evening.

Casey held off a spirited run from Tom Smith, the Republican nominee who rose from relative obscurity to win the party’s nomination.  Polls indicated Smith was within a few points of Casey in the final weeks of the campaign after waging an advertising war that cost Smith more than $16 million of his personal fortune.

With 22 percent of the state reporting, Casey has 61 percent of the vote compared to 37 percent for Smith.

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Republican Party spokeswoman Valerie Caras said it was too early to concede the race.

This is an update from 9:30 p.m.

Bustling atmosphere in Scranton as Casey awaits results

SCRANTON – The party has just begun.

Around 60 Bob Caseysupporters have so far joined the reporters, camera crews and campaign officials inside the Hilton Scranton for Sen. Casey’s election watch party.

The view inside Sen. Bob Casey’s election night party in Scranton

They peeled off their winter coats coming in from a brisk 32-degree night. Underneath, many supporters sported round, blue Bob Casey campaign stickers on their shirts.

The atmosphere is casual, but bustling. A bartender served beer in stemmed glasses, as well as wine, while servers carried trays of h’or derves like chicken cordon bleu bites.

A handful of men in attendance donned suits for the occasion, others opted for sweaters and blazers. Women sported high heels, or tall fashion boots and business casual dresses. Others donned sweaters and scarves.

At the far end of the ballroom, next to a podium where Casey will address the crowd after the results, MSNBC played on 80-inch television screen in the corner of the ballroom.

Around 40 minutes after the polls had closed in Pennsylvania, seven out of 9,257 precincts had reported. That’s less than one percent.

During a commercial break, a DJ cut in with the upbeat 60s track, The Four Seasons’ “Working My Way Back To You, Babe,” which elicited some dance moves from supporters.

This is an update from 9:00 p.m.

Six in 10 say economy was number one issue of campaign, fiscal cliff looms

 SCRANTON – It’s the economy, stupid

An exit poll of Pennsylvania voters showed that six in 10 cited the economy as their No. 1 issue in this campaign, as conducted by the Associated Press.

Six in 10 voters say the economy is the top issue.

That was the same issue on voters’ minds four years ago, according to the survey. And it will be the focus of a lame duck Congress after the election.

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey acknowledged the economic concerns, citing bipartisan support to reform the tax code as a way to spur business.

Whether he wins or loses this race, Casey said Congress has work to do in the next two months to avoid the so called “fiscal cliff,” a set of automatic federal budget cuts and tax increases totaling $600 billion.

It will take compromise, he said.

“In every election, win or lose, I think we have to do our best to bring folks together after an election, mostly on issues that relate to the economy and jobs,” he said.

This is an update from 8:15 p.m.

Could Minority Leader Frank Dermody get upset?

HARRISBURG – It’s not a race that many in the state were talking about this week, but some Republican strategists believe they have a chance to unseat House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, on Tuesday night.

The race is a rematch of 2008, with Republican Gerry Vaerewyck challenging Dermody, who has held the seat since 1991.

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody

Dermody won in 2008 by 8 percent – despite a Republican wave in that year.  Convention wisdom would hold that this year, without a wave in his favor, Vaerewyck would have a hard time doing better than that.

But Republicans say the district – which backed John McCain by more than 60 percent in 2008 – could be ripe for an upset with high turnout numbers in a presidential election year.  Various groups have put more than $30,000 into the race to support Vaerewyck.

If he can pull off the upset, it would be the second election cycle in a row that saw the Democratic floor leader go down – following then-House Majority Leader Todd Eachus’ upset loss to state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Luzerne, in 2010.

It may turn out to be nothing, but it’s one to watch as the returns roll in tonight.

Click here for a more detailed breakdown of state House races.

This is an update from 7:20 p.m.

How does the math work for Romney in PA?

Can Mitt Romney turn Pennsylvania red for the first time since 1988?

HARRISBURG – Three weeks ago it seemed impossible that Mitt Romney’s final campaign stop on his 12 month odyssey to the White House would be in Pennsylvania.

But it was – Romney briefly campaigned in Pittsburgh today before returning to his home in Boston to watch the results tonight.  It was part of a last-minute push by the Republican nominee to win the Keystone State.

Pennsylvania has not put its electoral votes in the Republicans’ column since 1988, but if Romney is going to win the state, turnout will be the key.

Nathan Benefield, research director at the Commonwealth Foundation, a free market think tank, has a useful breakdown of the math for Romney (and GOP U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith) on his personal blog.

It goes like this:  Obama won Philadelphia County by almost 500,000 votes in 2008, paving his way to a 10-point victory statewide.  John Kerry won Philadelphia by 310,000 in 2004 and he won the state by about 4 points.

On the other hand, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, won statewide in 2010 while losing Philadelphia by 290,000.

Put it all together and the magic number seems to be somewhere in the 300,000 range.  If Obama wins Philadelphia by significantly more than that amount, he’s in the driver’s seat for the rest of the state.

If the margin is close to 300,000 in Philadelphia, Romney should be able to make up the difference in the conservative heart of the state.

He will be helped by Obama’s expected poor performance in western Pennsylvania, where he may struggle to win over the more conservative breed of Democrat in those parts.

Earlier today on CNN, Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s Deputy Campaign Manager, said she expected “massive turnout” in Philadelphia that would exceed 2008 levels.

This is an update from 6:15 p.m.

Sen. Casey – “You always assume it’ll be a tight race.”

SCRANTON – As a close race comes down to the final hours, Sen. Bob Casey will watch tonight’s election results roll in with his family beside him from his home in the hills of Scranton.

“I am cautiously optimistic and I’m trying to think more about the optimistic part of that phrase,” Casey said.

Casey spoke with media Tuesday afternoon, at an election watch party at the Hilton in downtown Scranton where he’ll make an address after the results are in.

Pennsylvania’s US Senate race – Bob Casey, left, versus Tom Smith, right.

The race for Casey’s U.S. Senate seat ramped up in late summer. Republican candidate Tom Smith took to the airwaves first, and poll numbers tightened in the weeks up to the election.

Casey said he’s encouraged by reports of high turnout numbers, noting Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania.

“I’m feeling confident but it’s still Pennsylvania, so you always assume it’ll be a tight race,” he said, “and I don’t think this will be any different.”

Casey said the voters know there’s much at stake in this election.

“I had a chance over the last few days now to be able to not just shake hands but talk to voter directly, throughout that I got a real sense leading up to this that people were ready to vote,” Casey said.

This is an update from 5:30 p.m.

Obama-to-Romney voting machine repaired, back online

HARRISBURG – The Pittsburgh-Tribune Review reports that the faulty voting machine that was switching votes from Barack Obama to Mitt Romney earlier today has been repaired and is back online.

The machine was located in Perry County, where election officials took it offline after it was discovered to be reporting votes cast for Obama under Romney’s name.  Video of the error was posted online and quickly went viral during Election Day.

The newspaper quoted Department of State spokesman Ron Ruman as saying the errors are “very, very rare.”

Election officials in Perry County said they believed the glitch was the result of the machine being inaccurately calibrated prior to the election.

This is an update from 5:10 pm.

Door hanger directs voters to wrong polling place in York (Update)

HARRISBURG – A door-hanger in York County directed some voters to the wrong polling place, according to media reports.

Jeff Frantz, a reporter for the Harrisburg Patriot-News, reports that the door-hanger features a picture of President Barack Obama and urges voters to support Obama and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.

Frantz writes that the mailer claims it was paid for by the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania.

Bob Kefauver, chairman of the York County Democratic Party, said the mix-up was the result of an error by volunteers and not anything “nefarious.”

York County is home to the 4th congressional district, where state Rep. Scott Perry, the Republican nominee, is considered a heavy favorite to defeat Harry Perkinson, the Democratic nominee, in the highly Republican district.  U.S. Rep. Todd Platts, R-Pa., is retiring at the end of the current term.

The city of York, where the inaccurate door-hanger was spotted, is one of two Democratic strongholds in the district – the other being Harrisburg.

The confusion could also hurt state Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-York, who is seeking to become the state’s new auditor general.  He is opposed by state Rep. John Maher, R-Allegheny.

This is an update from 4:10 p.m. (UPDATED at 4:41 p.m. to include comments from Bob Kefauver)

Dems claim state sent confusing Voter ID mailer

HARRISBURG – In the hotly-contested 15th state Senate district, Democratic candidate Rob Teplitz says at least one voter received a confusing flyer from the Department of State in the final days of the race.

The flyer, with a return address for the Department of State, informs voters that they will have to bring a photo ID to the polls with them on Election Day.

Just one problem – a state judge issued an injunction on Oct. 2 that suspended the state’s Voter ID law for this year because there was not enough time to educate all voters about the new requirement.

Department of State spokesman Ron Ruman told Capitolwire (paywall) that the department has not sent out any of those flyers since September 21, prior to the judge’s decision.

Even so, Democrats are claiming the flyer could be a form of voter suppression and could tilt the outcome in what is expected to be a very close race.  Teplitz is squaring off with GOP nominee John McNally to replace retiring state Sen. Jeff Piccola, R-Dauphin, in the Harrisburg-centric district.

This is an update from 3:55 p.m.

Republican registrations in Philly shredded by nonprofit group?

HARRISBURG – The community group accused of shredding Republican voter registration in Philadelphia says the story is based on garbage.

And, yes, it literally is.

Mike Flynn, a reporter for conservative news website Breitbart.com, reported on Tuesday that an unnamed “citizen journalist” had pulled shredded copies of voter registration forms from the trash outside the 4616 Lancaster Ave. office of the Community Voter Project.

The CVP is a nonprofit organization that seeks to register minorities to vote.  Brad Martin, the Washington, D.C.-based organization’s spokesman, said they carry out their mission without regard to party.

So what about the piles of shredded registration forms, many of which were from voters trying to register as a Republican?

Martin said the forms were photocopies that are made as part of the normal process CVP uses to register new voters.

“In making photocopies of forms, a number of the photocopies were poor quality or unusable,” Martin said, suggesting it was those forms that were found in the garbage.

Valerie Caras, spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, said the incident indicated “Philadelphia Democrats will do whatever it takes to suppress Republican voices.”

“This is just another example of rampant voter fraud and suppression that those same Democrats claim doesn’t exist,” she said.

This is an update from 3:35 p.m.

Questionable Election Day activities in Philadelphia

HARRISBURG – Multiple media reports out of Pennsylvania’s largest city on Tuesday raised questions about the legitimacy of the election in Philadelphia, a part of the state that is crucial to President Barack Obama’s re-election.

The Republican Party of Pennsylvania said dozens of credential poll watchers were thrown out of polling places in the City of Brotherly Love on Tuesday morning.

Rob Gleason, chairman of the state GOP, said as many as 75 Republican election workers were prohibited from accessing polling places.

The party sought – and received – a court order from the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to seat those inspectors in Philadelphia polling places.

The Committee of Seventy, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that works for free and fair elections, said it was monitoring reports of Republican election watchers being kept out of polling places.

Elsewhere in the city, media reported that one polling place was set up in the same room as a floor-to-ceiling mural depicting Obama and the words “hope” and “change.”

A second court order required election workers at the polling place – a school in the city’s 35th ward – to cover the mural with “blank paper or other similar material so that the content of the mural is invisible in its entirety for the duration of the election.”

“Whether it’s blocking Republican Election Day workers form doing their job or violating Pennsylvania law by electioneering in the polling place, it is clear the Obama campaign has taken their campaign in the gutter to manipulate this election however they can,” Gleason said in a statement.

This is an update from 2:45 p.m.