Crystal Ball says we're leaning towards Toomey

Published by Mike Pound on .

A reason for Pat Toomey to smile. (Associated Press photo)A reason for Pat Toomey to smile. (Associated Press photo)

Underwhelmed by the effort thus far of Democrats to win back the U.S. Senate seat held by Pat Toomey? You're not alone.

The University of Virginia has released the latest edition of Sabato's Crystal Ball, and Kyle Klondik, the project's managing editor, isn't especially impressed either – he's moved Pennsylvania from a tossup in the 2016 Senate race to leaning Republican, a startling assessment given the widely held belief that Mr. Toomey is one of 2016's more vulnerable incumbents.

Why the change? For starters, Mr. Toomey is, well, boring, and that's apparently what we like in a senator. To be more specific, Mr. Klondik writes that the incumbent is "mild mannered and low-key," qualities that "resonate well with the Pennsylvania electorate." So, yeah ... Mr. Toomey is dull, and we like it that way.

But we're not especially fond of any of the alternatives, either. Democratic Party officials would come around to back Joe Sestak if he's the nominee, but for now, the former congressman isn't the favorite of the party, animosity that's left over from 2010 challenge of Arlen Specter. Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski? His gubernatorial run last year has been practically forgotten. Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro? Who?

Let's be clear – Mr. Klondik specifies "that this is a very tenuous Leans Republican" rating, and a strong showing by Hillary Clinton here next year could be the start of a landslide that buries Mr. Toomey, regardless of his opponent. But for now, this is a big swing for Republican, both here and at the national level.


Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto listen to a speech Downtown in February 2015. (Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette)Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto listen to a speech Downtown in February 2015. (Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette)

1) We hope everyone has recovered from the overdose of Election Night fun – and that includes Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, whose collective efforts to steer us towards candidates they supported fell flat this time out.

2) Allegheny County Councilman Bob Macey has scaled back to just one political job, after the county's Accountability, Conduct and Ethics Commission found that Mr. Macey was in violation of county ethics code for serving on council while also working part time for state Sen. Jim Brewster.

3) Fox News announced on Wednesday that it would limit the field of the first Republican presidential debate, scheduled for Aug. 6 in Cleveland, to 10 candidates, effectively silencing the other 3,586 people currently interested in the GOP nomination. The field will be determined by an average of five national polls, our fair and balanced friends said; if the debate were to be held this week, that method would leave out Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Carley Fiorina ... and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who could probably get pretty good seats at Quicken Loans Arena to watch the debate in person.

rand patriot

4) U.S. Sen. Rand Paul spoke for more than 10 hours on Wednesday about the evils of the Patriot Act, a move that was either A) a brilliant piece of campaign theater (to those who work for Mr. Paul's presidential campaign, or B) a tone-deaf pointless exercise, given a growing security threat from the Islamic State (to pretty much every other Republican in the Senate). It's not even clear that Mr. Paul's effort can be called a filibuster, because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell apparently wasn't ready to seek cloture on the bill to extend the act. But that probably doesn't matter to Mr. Paul's campaign organization, which gleefully sought donations through the entire speech.

5) If you hear from every living president on the day you retire, that's a pretty good indication that you've had a great career.


Primary Day: Election fun elsewhere

Published by Mike Pound on .

er bellevue1

The Primary Election fun isn't limited to races we chose to highlight tonight, of course. Let's take a look around the region to see what's going on elsewhere. Remember: all results discussed below are unofficial.

Bellevue and Wilkinsburg liquor referendums

There will be booze in these two Allegheny County boroughs, after residents in each locale approved going wet. The number of liquor licenses issued is based on population; Bellevue should be eligible for two licenses, while Wilkinsburg could receive up to five.

Beaver County

County commissioners: Republican County Commissioner Dennis Nichols won't be on the ballot in the fall, after he was defeated today by challengers Sandie Egley and Daniel Camp III. Democratic incumbents Tony Amadio and Joe Spanik both won their nominations.

Sheriff: Even though he was acquitted in 2014 of charges he threatened reporters and county employees, Beaver County voters apparently took a dim view of Sheriff George David, who was defeated in the Democratic primary by retired state trooper Wayne Kress.

Butler County

County commissioners: With two incumbent county commissioners, William McCarrier and Dale Pinkerton, set to retire, an army of candidates stepped up to replace them. And as it turned out, that wasn't good news for the third incumbent, James Eckstein; he came in fourth among the four Democrats vying for two nominations. The winners on that side of the ballot? Jerry Johnston and Kevin Boozel. Ten candidates lined up for a shot at two Republican nominations; the winners there were Leslie Osche and Bob O'Neill.

Washington County

County commissioners: The incumbents are all on the ballot in the fall, but it appears Larry Maggi, Diana Irey Vaughan and Harlan Shober will have some company. According to incomplete results, Mr. Maggi and Mr. Shober won the two Democratic slots on the fall ballot, and Ms. Vaughan, the Republican incumbent, will be joined by newcomer Mike McCormick.

District judge: It was an interesting day for Jesse White. The former state representative who cross-filed as a candidate for the district judge serving the area in and around Cecil, posted on Facebook earlier today that he had been "pushed" and "threatened" by the husband of his opponent while visiting a polling location; Mr. White filed a report with police, but Todd Kemp – husband of Traci McDonald Kemp, the winner of the both the Democratic and Republican nominations for the seat – disputed Mr. White's account.


A rough night for Fitzgerald

Published by Mike Pound on .

lexi tweet

We have to wonder what Rich Fitzgerald is thinking tonight.

As previously mentioned, Mr. Fitzgerald's Enemy No. 1, County Controller Chelsa Wagner, won the nomination and will likely retain her seat in the fall.

But that wasn't the only slap at the county executive tonight. East End voters gave the late Barbara Daly Danko a final win in her county council race, and that's not what Mr. Fitzgerald wanted to see. The win for the late incumbent – and opponent of Mr. Fitzgerald – means the local Democratic committee will get to pick a replacement candidate; that group probably won't go out of its way to choose a friend of Mr. Fitzgerald's.

And finally, we have the above tweet from the PG's Lexi Belculfine. The most interesting thing? That held up through the night. With 99 percent of the votes tallied, Mr. Fitzgerald took in about 67,000 votes; DA Stephen Zappala? 90,000. Treasurer John Weinstein? 88,000. That's a lukewarm reception at best.


A big night for Dem incumbents

Published by Mike Pound on .

Allegheny County is stuck at about 97 percent of its votes tallied, but that's enough for us ... and the races we checked on earlier all held up. And remember: barring very unusual circumstances, a Democratic primary win mostly likely means a win in the fall.

  • Chelsa Wagner won the Democratic nomination to retain her seat as Allegheny County controller, although her lead dwindled to about 4 percentage points over challenger Mark Patrick Flaherty by the end of the night. And Jim O'Toole, PG political editor, just let us know that Mr. Flaherty has conceded.
  • All four Pittsburgh Council incumbents – Darlene Harris, Corey O'Connor, Ricky Burgess and Deb Gross – each won the nominations for their seats. Interesting to note: Bobby Wilson and Randy Zotter totaled more votes than Mrs. Harris, which makes us wonder about how the incumbent would handle a single challenger next time around.
  • City Controller Michael Lamb also handily beat Natalia Rudiak to win the nomination for his seat as well.