Election Guide

Races to Watch


PA Governor’s Race:
Candidates: Tom Corbett (R) | Dan Onorato (D)
What the Polls Say: Leaning Toward Corbett

About the Candidates:
Tom Corbett is in his second term as Pennsylvania Attorney General where he’s made headlines for cracking down on corruption in the state legislature. Corbett’s office has indicted a number of high-ranking sitting legislators from both parties, notably former House Speakers John Perzel (R-Northeast Philadelphia) and Bill DeWeese (D-Greene County). He has sent the former number two Democrat in the state House, Mike Veon, to jail for a scheme where state workers were paid bonuses with tax dollars in exchange for working on political campaigns. Prior to being elected Attorney General in 2004, Corbett served as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. He’s from Shaler Township, a suburb of Pittsburgh.

Dan Onorato is in his second term as the executive of Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh and is the state’s second most-populous county after Philadelphia. While county executive he managed to eliminate several of Allegheny’s row offices and has not raised property taxes in seven years on the job. He says that effective executive leadership will allow him to hit the ground running in Harrisburg. Prior to being elected county executive, Dan served as county controller and was a Pittsburgh City Councilman for two terms. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh and still lives in the city.

About the Race:
History would seem to be against Dan Onorato on this one. Since 1970, when Pennsylvania Governors were permitted to run for two terms, Pennsylvania voters have switched the party in control of the Governor’s Residence every eight years. After eight years of Democrat Ed Rendell, it would seem to be the Republican’s turn. The polls, however, have tightened up in recent weeks as Tom Corbett has stumbled somewhat. Corbett has signed a “No Tax Pledge” but then said in a debate that he would consider increasing the amount of money workers pay into the state’s unemployment fund (he has since backtracked on that and says he would not increase that amount). Whoever is elected governor will likely face an enormous budget deficit next year that could run as high as $4-5 billion.

PA Senate Race:
Candidates: Joe Sestak (D) | Pat Toomey (R)
What the Polls Say: Dead Heat

About the Candidates:
Congressman Joe Sestak currently represents Pennsylvania’s Seventh Congressional District, which includes most of Delaware County and parts of Chester and Montgomery Counties. Prior to being elected in a Democratic wave in 2006, Sestak served 30 years in the Navy, where he rose to the rank of Vice (three star) Admiral but ended up retiring as a Rear (two star) Admiral. Sestak says he initially ran for Congress because he wanted to ensure that everyone has the same access to healthcare that his family did; he credits his superb government health insurance with helping his daughter overcome brain cancer. Sestak is originally from Delaware County.

Pat Toomey is the reason Arlen Specter changed parties, becoming a Democrat after decades spent as a Republican. Toomey nearly defeated Sen. Specter in the 2004 Republican primary for senate, running to Specter’s right. Early polls for this race showed Specter possibly losing to Toomey in another Republican primary. From 1999 – 2005, Toomey served as congressman for Pennsylvania’s Fifteenth Congressional District, representing much of the Lehigh Valley. Since then, he ran the Club for Growth, a political action committee that works toward limited government and lower taxes. He has worked on Wall Street and ran a small chain of restaurants called Rookies in the Allentown and Lancaster areas. He is staunchly for curbing the growth of government spending. Toomey is originally from the Allentown area.

About the Race:
Pat Toomey has held a lead through most of the summer and early fall but polls in the last two weeks have shown this race tightening dramatically. The two are actually pretty surprising candidates for moderate Pennsylvania. Yes, they follow party lines on almost all the big issues but might actually be more extreme than most members of their parties. Sestak voted for the health care reform bill and the stimulus package but says he would have preferred if the health care bill included a public option, and he thought the stimulus could have been larger. Toomey has said he’s against both. Toomey has said he’s for letting younger workers invest their Social Security contributions in private accounts, and the Club for Growth, which he guided, is well known for going after moderate Republicans.

PA 7th District Congressional Race:
Candidates: Pat Meehan (R) | Bryan Lentz (D)
What the Polls Say: Dead Heat

About the Candidates:
Pat Meehan is the former Delaware County District Attorney and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Bryan Lentz is a sitting state representative and has served in the Army in Iraq.

About the Race:
This district switched from Republican to Democrat in 2006, sending Joe Sestak to Washington. As this race goes, so may go control of Congress. Meehan is running as a political outsider, painting Lentz as just another politician. Lentz says his work in Harrisburg has prepared him to go to Washington. Lentz has admitted that some of his campaign volunteers helped conservative third party candidate Jim Scheneller get on the ballot. Meehan says that’s a dirty trick to try and siphon votes from Meehan’s campaign.

PA 8th District Congressional Race:
Candidates: Patrick Murphy (D) | Mike Fitzpatrick (R)
What the Polls Say: Dead Heat

About the Candidates:
Rep. Patrick Murphy is a former Army Captain who has represented the eighth district since 2006. Mike Fitzpatrick is a lawyer who held this seat for one term, from 2005-2006 when he lost to Murphy. He also served as Bucks County Commissioner.

About the Race:
This district covers all of Bucks County and very small portions of Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia. The polls have been all over the place. Both candidates have been trying to portray the other as what’s wrong with Washington. Fitzpatrick says Murphy and the Democrats are to blame for out-of-control government spending while Murphy says Fitzpatrick and the Republicans caused the current economic mess.

New Jersey:

NJ 3rd District Congressional Race:
Candidates: John Adler (D) | Jon Runyan (R)
What the Polls Say: Dead Heat

About the Candidates:
Rep. John Adler won this seat by a narrow margin in 2008. Prior to that, he served in New Jersey’s state senate for 17 years. Jon Runyan is well known as a former Philadelphia Eagles football player. This is his first foray into politics.

About this Race:
Charges have flown back and forth between the candidates in this race. Runyan says Adler’s campaign was behind a movement to get tea party candidate Peter DeStefano onto the ballot. Adler says Runyan brought farm animals onto his New Jersey estate to get a tax break.


Delaware Senate Race:
Candidates: Christine O’Donnell (R) | Chris Coons (D)
What the Polls Say: Advantage for Coons

About the Candidates:
Christine O’Donnell has become a darling of the national Tea Party movement after her surprising primary upset of long-time Delaware politician Mike Castle. Her campaign, once seen as a long shot, raised $2-3 million in the first few weeks after that victory. Over the last decade, she has appeared on numerous talk shows as a conservative commentator, and some of those appearances have come back to haunt her in this campaign. She’s perhaps most well known for saying that she “dabbled into witchcraft” in high school. While she paints herself as a political outsider, O’Donnell has mounted campaigns for the U.S. Senate twice before. She is originally from Moorestown, N.J. but has lived in Wilmington and Greenville, Del.

Chris Coons is currently the executive of New Castle County, Delaware’s most populous. Prior to that he worked as an attorney for W.L. Gore & Associates – the company that makes Gore-Tex products. His stepfather, Robert Gore, is chairman of the family-owned company, and Coons owns millions of dollars of stock in it. Coons has also faced criticism in this race for comments he made decades ago. While a student at Amherst College, Coons wrote a paper in which he called himself a “bearded Marxist.” He has said since the title was a joke, and the paper was meant to describe his transition from Republican to Democrat. He says time spent living in Nairobi, Kenya gave him a new attitude about the poor and also inspired him to serve the public. Coons grew up in Hockessin and lives in Wilmington.

About this Race:
The Delaware Senate race is one of the most closely watched in the nation and not necessarily because it is tightly contested. Instead, it exemplifies the nation’s interest in the Tea Party Movement this year. O’Donnell has said she will cut government spending, although she has not fully provided details of exactly how she plans to do that beyond looking for waste and abuse. She does say she would cancel the unspent stimulus money, would extend the Bush tax cuts for all income brackets, including the wealthiest, and opposes the health care reform bill. Coons also believes the federal debt is too large, but he plans to tackle it in a different way. He would not extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest tax bracket (those families making $250,000/year or more) and he wants to end tax breaks for big oil and gas companies and companies that ship jobs overseas.

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