Monday, March 27, 2006

State Democratic Committee Breaks Rules to Suppress Pennacchio's Supporters

I've been curious about what went on at the Pennsylvania State Democratic Committee meeting where Casey was endorsed. It seems odd that Casey would roll over Chuck so easily. Sure, Casey is the front-runner, but multiple counties have supported an open primary. Shouldn't the vote for keeping the primary open have been closer? I contacted someone at the Pennacchio headquarters for more details. Apparently, the meeting was rather chaotic and certain pro-Casey forces pressured and intimidated Pennacchio's supporters. What follows is my transcription of her account (this is a long post):

No one expected Chuck to win the state endorsement; rather, the hope was that Chuck could force an open primary. Although the State Committee meetings were dominated by Casey supporters, Chuck managed to speak with all of the caucuses individually. While many remained staunchly in favor of Bob Casey, a significant number of committee members said that they were afraid to buck the party in the open, but would vote for Chuck during the secret ballot election to endorse a candidate.

Officially, two motions were made: a motion to vote for no endorsement and a second motion to vote for a particular candidate's endorsement. The first took place during the Business Meeting, which convened at 11:30. Originally, the campaign was told the candidates would speak during the Business Meeting. Instead, New Business was called for at the beginning of the meeting instead of at the end, which is customary, and no opportunity was given for candidates to speak. So Chuck couldn't argue for the motion. The first motion (against endorsement) was proposed by John Fox of Lancaster. It was seconded by a state committee supporter in the audience. John made the motion in the precise form given to Pennacchio's people and to the Chairman of the Lancaster County Dems by the Parliamentarian. He was not permitted to offer an argument in favor. Then Bill George, of the AFL-CIO, went to the podium and belligerently attacked the motion. Many people cheered, as this was predominantly a Casey crowd. The motion was defeated.

Immediately thereafter, the endorsement meeting was convened. The second motion--to endorse a specific candidate--was proposed. Casey needed a two-thirds vote to win the endorsement. Alan Sandals had already withdrawn his name from running for endorsement. This was probably because no state committee members would likely propose and second the motion that he be endorsed. For Sandals, removing his name was the politically expedient thing to do. Chuck, however, kept on fighting. The motion to endorse Chuck Pennacchio was made by Chuck Pascal of Armstrong County and seconded by John Fox of Lancaster County. The procedure for endorsements is as follows: A voice vote, which is challenged; followed by a stand-up vote, which is challenged; concluded with a final secret ballot vote.

This time, Pennacchio did have a chance to speak. He said something along the lines of, "My name is Chuck Pennacchio, and I'm going to be your next US Senator. I'm going to win the primary on May 16th. I'm going to win the general in November, and I'm going to go to Washington in January and fight everyday, of every month, of every year I'm in the Senate for what Pennsylvanians want." He criticized the State Committee members for thinking that their only reason for being was to endorse candidates. Chuck told the State Committee members, that, historically, they used to build, recruit, organize and mobilize the party--exactly what his campaign was doing. Chuck was fearless.

The chairman, T.J. Rooney, proposed skipping the first two votes, because he knew that they would be challenged. Once again, Bill George objected, motioning that the stand-up vote be held as official. When Chuck Pascal asked asked about the basis for this motion, Mr. Rooney said that he was the Chair and he was recognizing it, and it was based in "Rule 10," which allows for the suspension of the rules. This passed by a 2/3rds majority. About 15-20 people then publicly stood-up in the vote for Chuck Pennacchio, so Casey was declared the victor.

2 Comments:

At 8:41 AM, Blogger cseverett said...

We need fearless Chuck in Washington. This story should be spread around...

 
At 10:52 PM, Anonymous Liz Barr said...

I was there, I witnessed the whole mess. This story explains a lot... how exactly does the Democratic party differ from the Republicans? What change are we offering the voters with Bob Casey and CBK?


FYI, Chuck is visiting Blair County this weekend. We'd love to see you:

Progressive Dinner at Marzoni's Brick Oven & Brewing Co., Saturday, 7:00 PM, Duncansville

Open Forum hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Blair County, Sunday, 12:00 PM, PSU-Altoona, CAC 101-103

Blair Young Dems meeting, Sunday, 3:00 PM, St. Drogo's Cafe, Hollidaysburg

I'm guessing you already have my contact information (or can get it) from the other Liz...

 

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