Monday, August 07, 2006

The Pep Boys: Joe, Bryan and Ed

On Saturday, August 5th, I attended a rally at the Brookhaven Boro Hall, featuring Joe Sestak (Democratic candidate for the 7th congressional district), Bryan Lentz (Democratic candidate for the 161st state house district), and Gov. Ed Rendell (incumbent Democrat, running for re-election). Here is a write up of the notes I took; they are sketchy in places. There are a number of comments I missed. Keep in mind that I’m not a trained journalist, but you might still find this interesting.

It was slated to begin at 3:00, but, as with all things Rendellian, it was running behind schedule. I didn’t try to count but someone else estimated it at over 200, a number I could agree with. At 3:40 State Senator Connie Williams came out to entertain the crowd. Williams said she didn’t tell jokes or sing well but she did take some questions from the audience. I was impressed with her.

She also introduced local dignitaries and other candidates in the audience, including Shawn Diggory (160th house), Larry Healy (165th house), and Tony Payton, Jr. (179th house). I spoke to Diggory briefly and he seemed like a nice fellow.

Lentz (who is either wearing his hair shorter or he just got it cut) and Sestak came in through a side door to applause.

Sestak spoke first. He thanked Williams and said she had done as much as anyone for his campaign. He referred to himself as “Joey” Sestak, son of an immigrant and graduate of a local high school, where his mother taught. There is also a mention of his boyhood job delivering papers. At the Naval Academy he learned all he needs to know to serve: “don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal.” The Navy is just like Democrats, both believe in investing in people and accountability. The GOP has mortgaged our future. [Here he told two stories that I have heard him tell before – the parents talking with the social worker about whether or not their ill child could stay in the hospital, a conversation he overheard while in the hospital with his daughter. The other regards the procedure for detaching a plane from an aircraft carrier. Someone, usually an 18 or 19 year old, will detach the plane, then stand in front of it to give the pilot a signal that it is safe to turn off the plane. If the plane is not detached correctly it will catapult into the ocean, taking not only the pilot but also the young airman with it. The point is accountability and taking responsibility for your actions.] (see his press release on the event here).

Sen. Williams takes the microphone again and mentions that if the young parents in his story were in PA their child would be covered because of the CIP program. She also mentions Delaware Community College, but I did not note the context.

Lentz took the podium. He said he has personally knocked on over 9,000 doors and his campaign has called over 8,000 voters. He acknowledged the work of his dedicated volunteers of all ages. He said public service means serving the public. In going out to meet his prospective constituents he has learned that the people in the 161st district will tell you the truth whether you want to hear it or not, that they vote the person not the party (applause), and they work hard to get results for their families and community. He says he will do the same. Lentz has a good sense of humor and it shows. It’s hard to indicate this in event notes, but take my word for it. (his press release on the event here).

At 4:10 the main event, Gov. Rendell, appeared. I have to be honest here and say that I loved Rendell as the mayor of Philadelphia, think he’s done a good job as governor, and plan to vote for him. But I’ve had a hard time mustering up any genuine warmth for him lately. While I’ve seen him in person before, it has always been from a distance and in artificial circumstances, so this was the first time I’ve seen him interact with people or heard him speak. I can’t say I’m entirely won over, but definitely impressed.

Rendell started out by saying it was a beautiful day and we were all inside listening to politicians. “You should get a life,” he said, a joke that was well-received by the audience. (He could have added that we also waited patiently for him for an hour but that seemed to be implied.)

He got straight down to business, saying the election will be closer than the polls show, but that even if he could look into the future and see that he won by 18 points he would still break his back to win. Every year the state loses about $1 billion in federal aid. The 13 GOP incumbents who lost primaries in Pennsylvania were defeated by people even more conservative than the incumbents were. He gives as an example the minimum wage bill. Who could oppose this? Contrary to the belief that minimum wage workers are high schools kids, he said that 70% of minimum wage workers are adults, and 31% are parents themselves. A full-time minimum wage worker earns $10,700 a year, which is $3,000 less than the poverty level.

For this and other reasons he says we have to have a Democratic majority in the state house and senate. The government has a responsibility to create opportunities for people and a duty to take care of the most vulnerable.

At this point my jaw dropped because Fast Eddie started talking about religion. In fact, I was tempted to title this post “Good God, Rendell quotes Jesus!” but refrained. [Keep in mind that the governor is Jewish.] Rendell notes that in polls people felt the Democratic Party were more in line with their beliefs on most social issues, except gay marriage and abortion. However, they felt the Republicans better matched their religious values. He said this drove him nuts. Listing Jesus’ occupations, carpenter and teacher, he said these were Democratic occupations. He also pointed out that Jesus didn’t ride into Bethlehem on an elephant, and that there isn’t much in the Bible on gay marriage and abortion. However we do find “do unto others and you would have done unto yourself.” He pointed out that Jesus thanked his disciples for feeding him and housing him. When they indicated that they had not done so, Jesus replied that when they fed the hungry they fed him, when the housed the homeless they housed him. (This is a loose paraphrase of Matthew 25: 31-46 -- I had to look it up.)

Rendell then switched gears and said lottery sales had doubled while he was governor, which allowed more senior citizens to be added to PACE, more money to go to nursing homes, and more seniors to remain in their own homes.

He said Pennsylvania is the leading state east of the Mississippi in creating alternative sources of energy. We have geometrically increased the amount of wind energy produced. It was brought 1000 new jobs and many windmills were put on farms which increased farm income. (Something about 1 in 11 homes but I didn’t grasp what that statistic represented. Something about Bucks County, Johnstown and Philadelphia – I think these are the primary areas where jobs were created but am not sure.)

Rendell bragged about the back end referendum, part of the property tax reform, that requires voter approval of school district budget increases that exceed a certain amount, unless it is needed for unfounded mandates and the like. Personally, I don’t like this very much.

The governor talked about the negative aspects of elected office, the press, the intrusions when he is out in public, and the very heavy workload. He mentioned that he and his wife only get to go out to a movie once a twice a year.

However, the rewards are amazing. He told a beautiful story about a tutoring program he was able to fund. He was at a ceremony to honor the program. A teacher spoke. Someone else spoke. A student spoke. The young man said he used to think he was stupid but after tutoring he realized he wasn’t stupid. This sentence is a very poor representation but I was so captivated by the story and actually got a little misty-eyed that I didn’t jot down the particulars. It was a great story.

Rendell said you couldn’t give him $10 million dollars to stop being governor. He also pledged to work as hard the last day of year 8 as he did on the first day of year 1. Of that I have no doubt.

My thanks to the Lentz campaign for letting me know about the event, and with enough advance notice to plan accordingly. My thanks to Mr. J for taking solo parenting duties for about 4 hours (travel time, hour delay in starting, rally/speeches, travel time) so I could go.


phillydem said...

OK, I'm not big on religion, but that comment about Jesus not riding into Bethlehem on an elephant was great!

I hope Dems pick that one up.

AboveAvgJane said...


I was flabbergasted by the entire thread. Maybe I just don't pay enough attention to what the gov says but it seemed unusual to me.

BTW, I have to give you credit for your support of the s'mores kit several postings back. A lot of people have found the blog by searching for info on how to make or buy s'mores. You are clearly far more in tune with the times than I am.

phillydem said...

I'm not surprised by it since, under Dean, Dems are refusing to concede the vote of the religiously attunded voters.

BTW, glad 'smores is getting you some new readers! I myself have never even eaten one. :)

Daddy Democrat said...

At the risk of blogwhoring... I mentioned Rendell's use of the religion/values theme at his February kick-off event in Bryn Mawr:

To quote myself (hehe):
The section that got the crowd cheering was on the importance of the Party reclaiming the morality frame. If you’ve been paying attention to the remarks of prominent Democrats for the last year, you know that it’s one of the major themes that Democrats are trying to hit on. When he closed the section saying “We’re golden rule Democrats,” you could see that it plainly resonated as a catch-phrase in the room. I did a search on the term “Golden Rule Democrat” in some search engines, and it’s clear to me that this is actually a slogan that’s working its way around the DNC, DCCC, etc. You’ll find that several other Democratic candidates are using the phrase.

AboveAvgJane said...


No s'mores, eh? If we are doing food confessions, I'll add that I've never eaten a cheesesteak or a Tasty Kake.

Daddy Dem,

golden rule Dem? I like that.

phillydem said...

What!?!? Never eaten a cheesesteak!
I don't eat them all that often, but
I wouldn't turn one down. OTOH, I've
never had a Tasty Kake either or gone "down the shore".