Let's caucus!

Published by Mike Pound on .

Charlee Dotson, 3, plays with a Donald Trump action figure as she waits with her father, Matt Dotson, before the start of a campaign event with Trump, a  Republican presidential hopeful, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Feb. 1, 2016. (Damon Winter/The New York Times)Charlee Dotson, 3, plays with a Donald Trump action figure as she waits with her father, Matt Dotson, before the start of a campaign event with Trump, a Republican presidential hopeful, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Feb. 1, 2016. (Damon Winter/The New York Times)

By this time tomorrow, the only people left in Iowa will be Iowans.

But between now and then, hundreds of journalists – and nearly as many Republican presidential candidates – will work non-stop as the actual Iowans caucus to commit the first delegates in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The caucusing – that may or may not be a word – begins at 8 p.m. Here are a few things to consider:

1) Why we started hearing about Iowa last fall:

2) Why we heard less about that Iowa starting in January.

3) Did you miss having Donald Trump in last week's Fox News Republican debate? Mr. Trump's fellow candidates probably didn't, and it appears that Fox News didn't either; the Trumpless debate scored the network's second-highest ratings in its history.

4) If you did miss seeing Mr. Trump in the final debate before tonight's caucuses, Stephen Colbert will be able to give you a hand:

5) We've heard over and over that Ted Cruz perhaps wouldn't win a popularity contest among, uh, pretty much anyone; curiously, a last-minute campaign mailing from Mr. Cruz isn't doing much to endear himself to the voters, either. Applying gentle social pressure to turn out the vote isn't a new tactic, but suggesting that there are state-sponsored voter ratings is; it also may be fraudulent.

6) Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz are neck and neck in the state's late polls. Mr. Cruz fits the profile that Iowa's Republican caucus-goers seem to like, as people like Rick Santorum – the winner in 2012 – or Mike Huckabee – the winner in 2008. Note: Iowa's track record of identifying the eventual Republican nominee is not so hot.

7) Many of Mr. Trump's supporters have professed to not being politically engaged before this campaign, and it's not known whether telling a polling firm that you support Mr. Trump will translate to voting for him. If turnout is heavier than normal – about 20 percent of the state's registered GOP voters have turned out in recent presidential years – that could be a sign, in Iowa and elsewhere, it does.

8) The Democrats' outsider, Bernie Sanders, is banking on the same thing: a bigger than usual turnout would mean an upset win for the senator for Vermont. Note: Iowa's track record of identifying the eventual Democratic nominee is pretty good.

9) Why does the opposite work for Hillary Clinton? Established voters equals votes for the establishment, the theory goes, and that would be good news for Ms. Clinton. And make no mistake about who the establishment is backing – insiders predict that the superior organization of Ms. Clinton's campaign will translate into an easy win tonight.

10) A final tip: make yourself a couple of Maid Rite loose-meat sandwiches for dinner – a copycat recipe of the Iowa staple is here – and watch those results roll in.


English to seek third term

Published by Janice Crompton on .

er hal english

State Rep. Hal English, R-Hampton, announced that he is seeking a third term representing the 30th Legislative District, which constitutes a large swath of the North Hills, including Shaler, Hampton, Richland, Fox Chapel and O'Hara.

Mr. English, 53, highlighted his support of legislation to shrink the size of the legislature and said he's held more than 50 "Speak with Hal" constituent meetings since his 2013 election.

In the seven months since the budget impasse began in Harrisburg, Mr. English said he has continued to support raising education funding so long as the tax rate remained steady.

"Local working families, seniors and small businesses here in Allegheny County continue to contact my office to stress that now is not the time for huge tax increases without accountability of spending," Mr. English said. "I agree, and will continue to provide residents with a strong voice in Harrisburg."

"I have consistently supported the funding schools need to provide a quality education, but I know that strong schools are about more than just money," Mr. English stated. "We need to ensure that our children are learning the core skills in math, reading, writing, and technology to compete globally when they enter the workforce. We also need to keep the control of our schools in the hands of local parents, teachers and school officials, not government bureaucrats in Harrisburg and Washington, DC." Mr. English said his goal is to give latitude to teachers to teach with their own style and reduce classroom time preparing for mandatory exams.

Mr. English worked to pass "The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable Act" for seniors, which was sponsored by AARP; and said he is working to improve underage drinking laws after a community tragedy.

He said he has helped to improve public safety by efforts to increase paving and patching in the district and an overhaul to major intersections in the district. Mr. English worked to have a Port Authority bus route reestablished for workers and business owners.

Mr. English has lived in the district for 25 years with his wife Sue, a Shaler native. The couple raised two grown sons.


Undecideds a force in Dem Senate polls

Published by Mike Pound on .

John Fetterman (Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette); Katie McGinty (Associated Press); Joe Sestak (Associated Press)John Fetterman (Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette); Katie McGinty (Associated Press); Joe Sestak (Associated Press)

If we were to vote for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination today, a candidate named Undecided would do very well.

Two new polls on the Senate race, from Harper and Franklin and Marshall University, show Joe Sestak with a leads over fellow candidates Katie McGinty and John Fetterman; both polls also show that there are a significant number of potential voters who have yet to make up their minds about the race.

The lead for Mr. Sestak, the candidate the state's Democratic establishment loves to hate, in the Harper poll is slight. Thirty-three percent of likely Democratic primary voters said they support the former congressman over Ms. McGinty (28 percent) and Mr. Fetterman (11 percent). That other 28 percent? Undecided, which offers a wide-open door for Ms. McGinty, the former secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, and Mr. Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock.

Mr. Sestak also has a lead over his opponents in the F&M poll, but he's losing -- by a wide margin -- to that undecided person. In this poll, 17 percent of registered Democrats said they backed Mr. Sestak, while 13 percent supported Ms. McGinty and 6 percent backed Mr. Fetterman. Four percent told F&M pollsters they supported "some other candidate" and a stunning 61 percent said they didn't know.

The other reason – besides all those undecided voters, we mean – that Mr. Fetterman should be optimistic? Harper included in its poll a question about support for tattoos; among those who said they have a very favorable view of ink, Mr. Fetterman trailed by 6 percentage points to Mr. Sestak, whose tattoo status is not known.


Cal U student to seek nomination in 49th

Published by Janice Crompton on .

er brendan headshot copy


California University of Pa. graduate student Brendan Garay announced today he will seek the Democratic nomination for the legislative seat held by retiring state Rep. Peter J. Daley, D-California.

Mr. Garay, 23, of California, is serving his second term as student government president at Cal U, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business adminstration in May and is now pursuing an MBA.

"It's time for a change in Harrisburg! The great people of the 49th District deserve a representative that is willing to cross the aisle to get the work of the commonwealth done," Mr. Garay said in his campaign announcement. "Our district deserves a representative that will put the needs of our hardworking taxpayers first! I am willing to dedicate 100% of my time to serve our district and its citizens."

Mr. Garay previously worked as an assistant in an accounting office for three years. Currently, he is a building manager for Cal U's student union and he helps operate the college farm.

Mr. Garay has entered a growing field of candidates that includes three other Democrats and two Republicans. Mr. Daley announced recently he will not seek an 18th term in office. He is the longest serving member of the Legislature from Western Pennsylvania.


Marburger will challenge Metcalfe again for House seat

Published by Kate Giammarise on .

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe and Gordon MarburgerRep. Daryl Metcalfe and Gordon Marburger

HARRISBURG -- One of the state House's most conservative members could face a primary challenge from within his own party.

Gordon Marburger also challenged Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, two years ago, though he had to do so as a write-in candidate, due to an error in filing his campaign paperwork. Even as a write-in candidate however, Mr. Marburger garnered a lot of votes.

On the Democratic side, candidate Christian Rieger, an attorney, is gathering signatures to appear on the ballot.

Tuesday was the first day for candidates to begin gathering signatures to get on the April primary ballot.

Mr. Metcalfe has a reputation as one of the House's most outspoken conservatives. His most recent controversy involved a spat on the floor of the House with another member where he elaborated on the differences between "a white nationalist...and a white supremacist." He is widely viewed as having long blocked potential LGBT anti-discrimination legislation.

The 12th district includes part of Butler County.

Mr. Metcalfe was first elected in 1998; he is serving his ninth term in office.