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Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's Spring In Scranton...

...and along with the budding leaves and flowers comes the budding of political signs in anticipation of the spring primary election.

Now why would there be such an emphasis on a primary election? Simple, Scranton is, in effect, a one party town. While northeastern Pennsylvania is by and large a fairly conservative area (famously part of the "Pennsylvania 'T"...the south-central & northern parts of the state being conservative, leaving the southeast/Philadelphia and southwest/Pittsburgh being the more Democratic strongholds), the city of Scranton itself is a Democratic town. In fact, even the people who in theory run the local Republican party are, for the most part, shadow Democrats.

Being a Republican in Scranton is something that, for many people, is a matter of convenience. Our last Republican mayor, Jimmy Connors, was actually a Democrat who switched parties to run for office. Many School Board candidates actually cross-file under both parties for the election. All of the current sitting City Council members are Democrats; in fact, I think the last Republican to serve was Brian Reap, and that was many, many years ago.

Is all of this a good thing? I suspect that if you are a hardcore Democrat you would say "Yes". I disagree completely, and I say that as a life-long registered Democrat (although I never vote the party line, and I'm a big fan of Senator Arlen Specter). Any time any party has that much control, it's problematic. Politics should be a like a buffet: the best outcome happens when you have the most choice. What's more, with defacto one party rule, you are basically putting an awful lot of power into the hands of what I call the "Back-Room Gang"...namely the city Democratic Committee. This is the same group who chose not to endorse a single women for city-wide election, even though such politically polar opposites as Janet Evans (who strongly dislikes Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty) and Judy Gatelli (who supports Mayor Doherty) are running for election. While the city committee did endorse Mayor Doherty's opponent in the election, Gary DiBileo, that in and of itself makes the failure to endorse Janet Evans all the more bizarre.

"Bizarre" is a good word to end this thought on, because more often that not, it's what best describes the politics of this region. There is a Scranton-centric quote I've read in a few books about the region...

"Sundays we are closed...go around to the back"

...that best describes the region. The real meaning? Rules be damned, this is Scranton.

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