Wolf's "unsolicited advice" for Democrats

Published by Karen Langley on .


Gov. Tom Wolf plans to offer congressional Democrats some "unsolicited advice" when he speaks this aftenoon at their policy retreat in Philadelphia.

"I'm going to give them some unsolicited advice as to how you get elected in these trying times for Democrats," he said this morning.

Wolf's unseating of Republican Gov.Tom Corbett was one of few bright spots for Democrats in November.

"Our values -- fairness, inclusion, trust -- those things actually are smart. They're not just right," Wolf said, after an event at which he asked legislators to send him a bill banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

"We Democrats, I think, are espousing the values that people want," he continued. "I think that's what my election showed. But my background" -- Wolf had a career in his family's cabinet business before becoming governor -- "I think these are also the values that make a healthy economy, a healthy society, work."

Wolf has argued before that eliminating unfairness to some citizens would benefit the state as a whole.


Irey Vaughan will seek 6th term in Washington County

Published by Mike Pound on .

er crop Diana Irey Vaughan

By Janice Crompton

Washington County's longtime Republican commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan announced today she will seek a sixth term in office.

Ms. Irey Vaughan, 52, of Nottingham, highlighted her experience meeting an ever-changing economy while continuing to grow jobs. Washington County is one of the few counties in the region to gain population during the last two decades.

"Over my tenure in office, Washington County has undergone a tremendous positive change that has created new jobs, attracted new companies and increased our already high quality of life," she said. "Our county became an economic driver for our region and this can be seen by our low unemployment rate, increasing population and destination status for companies locating to the Southwestern Pennsylvania region."

Ms. Irey Vaughan is the lone Republican and only female elected to the three-member commission. She will face incumbent Democrats Harlan Shober and Larry Maggi, who have announced their re-election bids, and Republican Mike McCormick from Peters. Former Canonsburg councilman A.J. Williams has also tossed his hat into the ring as a Democratic contender.


Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Darrell Sapp/Post-GazetteDarrell Sapp/Post-Gazette

1) The full state Senate will likely vote today on a proposed constitutional amendment that would give Harrisburg more leeway to determine tax exemptions for Pennsylvania's nonprofits. And the people who are unhappy about that include Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, the Pennsylvania Municipal League and Gov. Tom Wolf. Backers of the amendment, including the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, say it's necessary to provide uniform standards across the state; opponents, like Mr. Peduto, say it could limit a local government's ability to seek contributions from larger nonprofits -- like Mr. Peduto's biggest target, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center -- that may have some money to give. It's important to remember that Senate Bill 4 is a constitutional amendment and not just a law; that means it must be passed by the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions before being approved by voters in a referendum. And it doesn't require the signature of Mr. Wolf, who opposes the amendment.

2) But Mr. Wolf made one thing perfectly clear on Tuesday – he'll back a proposal to make medical marijuana legal in Pennsylvania. A new proposal was introduced in the Capitol on Tuesday, and Mr. Wolf made a point of stopping by the presentation to chat with supporters. You may recall that a similar proposal made it out of the Senate last year before dying in the House; this time around, leadership in the House is vowing to hold hearings on the measure.

3) We told you a day ago that Erik Arneson has sued Mr. Wolf to regain his job as director of the state Office of Open Records, but the controversy over eleventh-hour appointments by Tom Corbett doesn't stop there. Mr. Wolf also voided more than two dozen other last-minute appointments by his predecessor – but the state Senate wasn't impressed. A Senate committee on Tuesday approved 13 of the appointments and a spokeswoman said the remaining 15 would be considered soon. Mr. Wolf has contended that the appointments were counter to his goals of running a transparent government; Republicans counter that Mr. Corbett was within his rights as the sitting governor to name people to the positions.

4) There's at least a decent chance that folks from Pittsburgh won't have a terribly long drive to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Members of the party's national committee are making a final round of visits to the finalists – Columbus, Philadelphia and Brooklyn – this week. Our heart may be in Cbus, but our money is on Philly. Our neighbors to the west already have the 2016 Republican convention lined up for Cleveland, and while Ohio is the swingiest of swing states, there may not be enough room – and resources -- for both conventions. And while hosting political conventions is old hat for Madison Square Garden, Brooklyn isn't Manhattan. A decision is expected early next month.

5) We try to be modest here at Early Returns. But when three of our regular contributors get mentions in the Washington Post as being among the best political journalists in the country it's hard to be humble.


Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Erik Arneson (Dan Gleiter/Associated Press)

1) It didn't take long for Erik Arneson – backed by Republicans in the state Senate – to fire back at Gov. Tom Wolf after Mr. Wolf dismissed him from Mr. Arneson's new gig leading the state Office of Open Records. Mr. Wolf, you'll recall, wasn't pleased when Tom Corbett appointed Mr. Arneson – a longtime Republican aide who helped write the state's open records law – a few days before he left the governor's office; that resulted in Mr. Wolf firing Mr. Arneson. The Wolf administration contends that the director's job is an at-will position and that Mr. Arneson's appointment was political; Mr. Arneson says if that were the case, the Office of Open Records would be unable to operate with any independence. Who's right? Thanks to the lawsuit filed Monday by Mr. Arneson and his GOP backers, the state's Commonwealth Court will get to decide.

2) A side note on the spat: The Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition came down on the side of Mr. Arneson.

3) Could a renewed push to privatize liquor and wine sales in Pennsylvania become a bargaining chip when Mr. Wolf starts his push for a severance tax on natural gas? It's a possibility, WITF in Harrisburg says.

4) We've known since late last year that a number of veteran members of the Pittsburgh Public Schools board would not seek re-election. We're now getting a look at who will be vying for at least one of those seats this year.

plow tracker

5) Eight inches or so of snow over three days isn't likely to be a make-or-break situation for the leadership of any city. Still, we've been impressed with the job that Pittsburgh has done in keeping traffic moving since Sunday evening. Better still: We pretty much haven't stopped watching the snow plow tracker since Monday morning.


Perry on Politics: Throughout history, snipers prompt unease

Published by Mike Pound on .

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers PicturesPhoto courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures

By James M. Perry

The central figure in Clint Eastwood's film, "American Sniper," based on the life of the late Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in American history, is a "psychopathic patriot," says Bill Maher.

It's a "propaganda film," says New York Magazine.

It's also a huge success.

Snipers have been active in combat ever since the long-range rifle became available. From the beginning, soldiers and sailors have been uneasy about who they are and what they do. Soldiers and sailors normally fight alongside their mates. Snipers are lonely figures (though, these days, they often are two-man teams). They hide in trees or behind rocks. They pick off the enemy one by one. Chief Petty Officer Kyle, a Navy SEAL, killed as many as 255 during his four tours in Iraq. The official count is 160.

The first American sniper almost certainly was Sgt. Timothy Murphy, one of 500 handpicked sharpshooters serving with Daniel Morgan's rifle regiment at the battle of Saratoga in upstate New York in 1777 during the American Revolution. Most soldiers in late 18th Century armies carried muskets, smooth-bored weapons that were limited in range and wildly inaccurate. Mr. Morgan's men carried hand-made rifles with grooved barrels that were accurate up to 250 yards or more.

At one point in the battle, Benedict Arnold rode up to Brig. Gen. Morgan and said that the British general, Simon Fraser, was rallying his men and should be killed. "I admire him," Gen. Arnold (later to betray his country), said. "but it is necessary that he should die. Do your duty."

Sgt. Murphy, picked by Brig. Gen. Morgan for the job, climbed into a tree, and opened fire at a range of about 300 yards. The first two shots missed. The third shot tumbled Gen. Fraser from his horse. He died that night.

The British had their own sniper expert in the Revolution. Maj. Patrick Ferguson invented a breech-loading rifle and was carrying one of them at the Battle of Brandywine in 1777. His attention was drawn to a high-ranking American officer who seemed to be in range. He refused to shoot him (British officers tended to think sniping was unfair), because his back was turned. The American might have been George Washington himself. Maj. Ferguson was killed at King's Mountain in 1780.

Britain's greatest naval hero, Adm. Horatio Nelson, was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 by a sniper high in the rigging of the French ship of the line, Redoubtable. The range was very short, though, and his weapon was a musket.

The first rifle designed for snipers was put together by Great Britain's Sir Joseph Wentworth in 1853. A number of Wentworths were used by Confederate snipers in the American Civil War. Confederate snipers with Wentworths were hiding in a line of trees at the Battle of Spotsylvania in 1864. Members of Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick's staff warned the general about sniper fire from those trees. "What?" he asked. "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance," Moments later, he fell to the ground, mortally wounded by a rifle shot. It is said he "died quickly, a smile still on his face." The range was 500 yards.

Probably the deadliest sniper in history was a Finn, Simo Hayha, who killed 505 Russians in Finland's 100-day Winter War (1939-1940). That's more than five Russians a day. Mr. Hayha didn't like telescopic sights, widely used by snipers, because they created a glare and required the sniper to raise his head a little higher to take aim. Like most Finnish troops, he wore a white camouflage suit and sometimes put snow in his mouth to prevent his breath from steaming. Terrified Russians called him "white death" and, finally, on March 6, 1940, one of their snipers shot him in the jaw. He survived and lived to a ripe old age (97), a Finnish national hero.

James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, contributes regular observations to Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.