The Times’ 2016 primary endorsements

Polls open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., voting expecting to be busier than normal

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Election2016By now, you may be a bit tired of “feeling the Bern” or how “huge” this primary election is going to be, but the fact of the matter is that on Tuesday, the voters of Pennsylvania will have an opportunity to vote in the most meaningful primary election in decades — with but major party presidential nominations in play.

Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and voter turn out is expected to be fairly high for a primary election.

With that in mind, we offer our endorsements for this primary season — obviously if a primary is uncontested, we will not be making an endorsement.

Republican Presidential Nomination: John Kasich.

This one isn’t tough — Kasich, the governor of Ohio, is the last, best hope for the GOP to win in November. While one may or may not agree with his policies — he is fairly conservative — it is his temperament, sober, grown up and capable of leading this country that makes him the obvious pick here. While many Americans find it hard to picture Donald Trump or Ted Cruz as president (or are terrified at the prospect), with Kasich, one has little to fear from rash or irresponsible behavior.

And for Republicans, while it shouldn’t always impact their thinking at the polls, the likely damaging impact of a Trump or Cruz at the top of the ticket to down ballot candidates in November should be no small consideration.

Democratic Presidential Nomination: Hillary Clinton.

Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders have fought a spirited battle for the nomination, but best choice here is Clinton. While Clinton is all too well versed with the realities of governing in Washington, D.C., Sanders seems to have a lot of interesting, maybe even worthy ideas, but no real way to implement any of them. As we’ve seen in Pennsylvania with Gov. Tom Wolf, new ideas are great, but if you can’t make anything happen, a government will be stuck in gridlock or worse.

Make no mistake, Clinton isn’t the ideal candidate and likely will face a rugged challenge in the fall election. For various reasons, some legitimate, others false, she suffers from trust issues. An interesting fact: among the five remaining presidential candidates, PolitiFact.com has graded her out as having been the most honest during this campaign cycle.

Republican Nomination, Attorney General: John Rafferty

On both sides of the aisle, much of the argument has been on the merits of having a political pro run the office of Attorney General versus having a true prosecutor lead the office. While both arguments have merit, it seems the experience of Kathleen Kane — at best a disaster when it comes to politics, at worse, guilty of criminal wrongdoing — proves the need for someone in the office with political savvy. As a state Senator, Rafferty has been directly involved with a wide range of issues from crime to revenue and has shown the ability to articulate his vision. As most cases are handled on the court level by assistant attorney generals or staff attorneys, the need for prosecutorial experience in trumped by the need for political experience — and Raffery offers the best mix of experience in this field.

Democratic Nomination, Attorney General: Josh Shapiro

Again, in choosing someone capable of articulating their message, leading a sprawling organization and being able to work in the world of politics, Josh Shapiro has experience his opponents do not have. He’s served in the legislature and chaired a county commission — giving him experience in dealing with the law on a basic level, as well as running a large government operation. And again, while he, like Rafferty lacks prosecutorial experience, his other wide range of knowledge makes him the best option for Pennsylvania’s Democrats.

Democratic Nomination, U.S. Senate: Joe Sestak.

Adm. Joe Sestak won’t go away and won’t do what the Democratic Party leadership wants him to do: step aside. Well, he shouldn’t step aside — and it is clear that voters want to decide their candidates, not party leaders or former governors who seem to think, incorrectly, that it’s their prerogative. Party leaders are trying to force Katie McGinty on voters. She’s a nice enough person, but one clearly out of her league when it comes to running for the U.S. Senate (as both her previous run for Governor and her disastrous term as Gov. Tom Wolf’s Chief of Staff have proven). Sestak is the Democrats’ best chance to unseat incumbent U.S. Senator Pat Toomey.

Democratic Nomination, 7th Congressional District: Mary Ellen Balchunis.

Here’s another race when the political powers that be decided who you should vote for, but local Democrats are opting to have none of it and we applaud them. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dropped Bill Golderer on the 7th District, but local Democrats seem to strongly support Mary Ellen Balchunis — both the county committees of Delaware and Chester counties endorsed her over Golderer. Balchunis, who lost to U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan in 2014, has been a fixture in Delaware County (and Chester County, too), working for progressive causes and candidates for more than a decade. Golderer made much of his name in Philadelphia — and while worthy, lacks the direct connection to our local community that Balchunis worked hard to establish.

Republican Nomination, 7th Congressional District: Pat Meehan.

Pat Meehan has been an effective member of Congress — a sensible moderate at a time when many in his own party have gone “bat-@#$% crazy” as U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham put it, earlier this year. Challenger Sam Casacio seems to embody the argument that no Republican can be conservative enough, an argument out of touch with both this largely moderate (and highly gerrymandered) district and the nation as a whole. Meehan has repeatedly proved he belongs — and if he were to be upset in the primary, would lead to a likely Democratic win in November.

Republican Nomination, 16th Congressional District: Lloyd Smucker.

State Senator Lloyd Smucker finds himself in a nasty battle to replace the retiring Joe Pitts in the 16th district against businessman Chet Beiler. Beiler identifies with the Tea Party faction of the GOP — and adding another roadblock to ending the gridlock in Washington, D.C. seems like a counterproductive move. Smucker has shown himself to be capable state legislator and would likely be a solid addition to Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation.

Republican Nomination, 158th State House District: Susan Rzucidlo.

It pains us to do this: endorse a Democrat for a Republican nomination. But we’re left with little choice. Whether you agree if Eric Roe is eligible to run for State Representative, his lack of engagement in the local community over the last few years is a big red flag. His lack of elective experience — heck, experience in general — is troubling. It stuns us that this was the best that the county GOP could come up with. We also have deep concerns that Roe’s politics are too conservative for a district that tends to be fairly moderate, much like its outgoing State Representative, Chris Ross. Likewise, we have similar concerns about experience and involvement about Perry Bentley, another young man with no experience in the public sector.

Meanwhile, Susan Rzucidlo has walked the hallways of Harrisburg’s corridors of power fearlessly — fighting for the rights of the disabled for more than a decade. She is beholden to no party leadership and speaks her mind. She proudly cites our previous endorsement of her, calling her a “pain in the butt.” While we are loathe to see only one candidate for the November election, it seems clear that the Republicans have failed to put up a viable candidate and do not deserve support.

State Senate Special Election, 9th District: Tom Killion.

This is a tough one, as we think both Killion and Marty Malloy, his Democratic opponent, make strong arguments on their behalf. Both would be welcome additions to the state Senate. We narrowly give the nod to Killion because of his experience and history of working across the aisle. Still, we look forward to hearing more from both this year, as they face a rematch in the November elections.

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