Sunday, June 06, 2010

Onorato and Hoeffel in Norristown

The Montgomery County Democrats and Joe Hoeffel welcomed Allegheny County Executive and Democratic candidate for governor Dan Onorato to Norristown this afternoon. The setting was informal, a picnic held at Upper Farm Park, with burgers, potato salad, cole slaw and chips. Whoever organized it did a good job. There were about 100 people in attendance.

A number of elected officials spoke. Here is a quick overview of some of their remarks, followed by notes on other officials present, and some personal notes.

Marcel Groen, MCDC chair, started by thanking the crowd. He noted that election day (Nov. 2nd) is his 65th birthday.

Joe Hoeffel, Montgomery County Commissioner and one of Onorato’s primary opponents spoke next. He was very gracious. Hoeffel made some jokes about Groen’s age. He then said Onorato understands the importance of the role of government. Onorato has knowledge and passion about creating jobs and is prepared to bring what he has learned in Pittsburgh to Harrisburg. Onorato shares our values in public education and reforming government.

State Rep. Josh Shapiro spoke next. He said Onorato is not afraid to take tough stands.

State Sen. Daylin Leach made a few remarks. He also pointed out a videographer from Corbett’s campaign who was filming the event.

State Rep. Mike Gerber followed Leach.

Onorato spoke next. He said the primary was a family conversation, with real candidates and real ideas. They agreed on several issues and learned from each other about the issues on which they differed. He mentioned Marcellus Shale and education in particular. Hoeffel reached out to him the day after the primary. Onorato noted that there are only 21 weeks until the general election. The Republican candidate, Attorney General Tom Corbett has never governed. As Allegheny County Executive Onorato oversees the second most populous county in the state. The county was bankrupt when he was elected. At present the county’s unemployment rate is 2% below the national average. He consolidated 911 call centers and did away with some row offices. The county has not had a property tax increase in nine consecutive years. The state now has a $2 billion to $4 billion deficit, depending on whose numbers you use. Onorato noted that he has to win the Southeast part of the state to win the election. He pointed out that Corbett had said he wouldn’t take federal stimulus money. Onorato believes we could use that money to help set up high speed rail, invest in our infrastructure, and improve our ports. He said we rebuilt Europe, we rebuilt Japan, why can’t we rebuild America. He mention the increasing cost of health insurance. Onorato touched on the state’s tendency to change parties in the governor’s mansion every 8 years. He also noted that while that has happened over the last [50? 60? didn’t catch the exact number] years, the state has never elected an attorney general governor. The state 1.2 million more registered Democrats than registered Republicans. Onorato said he thinks Republicans want to get rid of government but that Democrats believe government can do good things. He mentioned that he is a first generation college student and that various programs helped him get to and graduate from Penn State. He said Pittsburgh, a big urban area like the Philadelphia area, faces many of the same issues, such as mass transit, colleges, and the importance of green space.

All of the speakers were greeted with warm applause.

Other notables in attendance: State Rep Tim Briggs, State Treasurer Rob McCord, Dr. Manan Trivedi, candidate for the 6th congressional district, Doug Pike, who ran against Trivedi in the primary, Richard Haaz, who ran for Montco Court of Common Pleas, Ed Cheri who ran for Montco sheriff, state house candidates Mary Lou Readinger (61st district), Jack Hansen (53rd district), Bob Dodge (147th district), state senate candidates Ruth Damsker (12th district), and Bill Wallace (24th district). My apologies if I missed anyone.

A few personal notes: Hoeffel was extremely gracious. Doug Pike and Manan Trivedi had a friendly confab. Trivedi is very personable and switched easily from conversations about his infant daughter to discussions on the importance of narrative in politics. Onorato went through the crowd, posing for pictures, answering questions, talking sports, whatever people wanted to talk with him about.

A note on Corbett’s videographer – I missed much of Mike Gerber’s remarks, debating whether or not to stand in front of the camera and say “subpoena me, Tom” or, taking a note from State Rep. Rick Taylor’s book, “I am Signor Ferrari” but decided most of the crowd would be unfamiliar with the CasablancaPA twitter account subpoenas and so stayed in place. It should be mentioned that the videographer was treated very well and encouraged to help himself to something to eat.

This was a nice event, well-organized, with plenty of opportunity to talk with candidates and others in attendance.

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