Government & Politics

Government & Politics news from 90.5 WESA.

Republican Mike Kelly will represent Pennsylvania’s third congressional district for a third two-year term after defeating Democratic challenger Dan LaVallee with about 60 percent of the vote.

Kelly, a Butler resident, spoke with LaVallee following the returns, and said both were happy to have run clean campaigns.

“I think that what we’re both very pleased with is the fact that we kept it above the belt,” he said. “We didn’t throw dirt on each other. We didn’t do a lot of things that you see on some other campaigns.”

Democratic incumbent Adam Ravenstahl has defeated Republican challenger Tom Fodi in the 20th House District race with 61 percent of the vote. This is the 29-year-old Summer Hill representative’s third consecutive two-year term.

Fodi, 31, said he ran for the seat with increasing disappointment in the party politics of the commonwealth.

Although Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District leans Democratic, voters delivered another two-year term to Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus Tuesday with 59 percent of the vote.

Supporters, family and friends gathered at a victory party at Rochester Inn Hardwood Grill in Westview. Though this election was starkly different from 2012’s, constituents appeared just as passionate. Bill Strait from Wexford said he supported Rothfus because Strait is fearful for the future of the country.

State Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny) has won his seventh consecutive two-year term in the Pennsylvania House, defeating independent Mark Brentley by an 86 percent to 13 percent margin.

Wheatley says that he will focus on three things this term: education, jobs and redeveloping neighborhoods.

Wolf Ousts Corbett In Pennsylvania Governor's Race

Nov 4, 2014
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Democrat Tom Wolf was elected Pennsylvania governor Tuesday after the businessman and first-time candidate spent $10 million of his own money on an early TV ad campaign that endeared him to voters and helped send unpopular Gov. Tom Corbett to a historic defeat.

When he takes office in January, Wolf will likely face a Republican-controlled Legislature and a yawning budget deficit as he tries to make good on a promise to dramatically increase the state government's share of public school costs.

He said he's ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work.

Live Midterm Election Coverage and Essential Pittsburgh Special

Nov 4, 2014
Vox Efx / Flickr

It is election day! Tonight at 8pm 90.5 WESA will air live coverage of the 2014 Midterm Elections. 

Paul Guggenheimer and Mark Nootbaar offer live in-studio analysis, guest interviews and updates on local and state-wide races.

Guest commentators include outgoing State Rep. Erin Molchany of the South Hills, Republican At-Large County Council Member Heather Heidelbaugh, former County Commissioner, PA State Sen., and State Rep. Mike Dawida will join Paul in breaking down the numbers.

At 10 p.m. we will team up with NPR for its national election coverage while offering updates from the 90.5 WESA newsroom on local and state-wide races from our reporters in the field.

David Harris Explains Grand Juries

Nov 4, 2014
David Harris

A grand jury is a legal body that is empowered to conduct official proceedings to investigate potential criminal conduct and to determine whether criminal charges should be brought.

One of the most famous grand juries was used in the investigation of President Clinton by Ken Starr.

More recently a grand jury is now investigating the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. University of Pittsburgh Law professor David Harris joins us to discuss the role of grand juries and their role in our justice system.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File

The polls have opened in Pennsylvania's history-making race for governor.

Voters are deciding between Democrat Tom Wolf and Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in an election that will settle who will govern the state for the next four years after a campaign that smashed the state's spending record.

An election law progress report finds Pennsylvania is a mediocre student when it comes to heeding the advice for improving the voting experience.

Common Cause, the liberal-leaning advocacy group behind the report, surveyed 10 states with tight gubernatorial or congressional elections to see if they had implemented any of the January 2014 recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.

McCaffery steps down amidst lewd email scandal. In what has been described as Seamus McCaffery’s “retirement,” the state Supreme Court Justice effectively stepped down from his position without fighting his case, 90.5 WESA’s Mary Wilson reports. McCaffery claimed that the state chief justice was “out to get him” earlier last month. As McCaffery leaves, questions still remain about inter-court social dynamics.  

Nov. 4 is Election Day. Here's a brief overview of what you need to know.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The Democratic candidate for governor in Pennsylvania launched his political campaign with a television ad blitz and has never trailed in the polls in the race against incumbent Republican Tom Corbett.

Tom Wolf has been knocked as a tax-and-spend liberal with ill-defined policy plans, but the biggest question is how he’ll work with a Legislature likely to remain in GOP control. The York County businessman points to his experience serving his community in the midstate as his credentials.

Call it a “prebuttal” — a chance for the state GOP to respond to President Barack Obama’s visit to Pennsylvania before it happens.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf is scheduled to appear with Obama in Philadelphia at a rally on Sunday, and Republicans are treating it as an opportunity to make some of the president’s low poll numbers stick to Wolf.

Most polls show Wolf has a wide lead over Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, but indicate the president is far less popular.  

In his campaign to unseat incumbent Rep. Jake Wheatley (D- Allegheny), Mark Brentley, Sr. is touting his lifelong history as a resident and activist in the 19th House district.

The problem, however, is that Wheatley has held the 19th district seat for 12 years — so he does not suffer from a lack experience working in the district that covers much of the North Side, Hill District, East End and Beltzhoover .

And he isn’t lacking on local support, either.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

From the very beginning of the 2014 campaign, Gov. Tom Corbett was fighting an uphill battle. His approval ratings were low, polls consistently showed him running far behind potential Democratic candidates, and the controversy over fracking and school funding were grabbing headlines on a weekly basis. 

Corbett staked his first campaign on fiscal discipline and a no-tax pledge. He had a GOP-controlled Legislature but faltered on most of his major policy priorities. 

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has one vacancy now, with another one to materialize at the end of the year. The state Senate, which confirms interim judicial nominees, is waiting for a signal from Governor Corbett on whether he’ll try to fill the first right away, or wait to fill both at once.

The governor’s office has given no indication he wants to nominate someone to fill an empty slot on the state’s high court anytime soon. The seat was vacated by Justice Seamus McCaffery, a Democrat, whose retirement this week ended an investigation into a slew of allegations against him.

“In the 10 years I‘ve been (working with) Council, I can remember always seeing stories on the Internet … about other cities getting grants … from D.C., getting grants from Harrisburg, getting grants from Home Depot, the Coca Cola Foundation,” said City Councilman Dan Gilman during Wednesday’s committee meeting. “Occasionally Pittsburgh would pop up, but it was pretty rare.

All that is changing though, as Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration begins to make good on its promise to bring more grant money into the city.

The City of Pittsburgh’s Bureau of Emergency Services (EMS) has seen increased call volume in recent years, and responders have kept pace. That’s according to an audit released Wednesday by Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb.

“Back in 2006/2007 we were looking at almost 116,000 calls, now we’re up to almost 122,000 calls in that two-year period [2012-2013], and despite that increase in call volume, we found that average response times pretty much held steady,” said Lamb.

Mary Wilson / WITF

A new Franklin & Marshall poll shows Gov. Tom Corbett has made gains in his race for re-election, but Democratic hopeful Tom Wolf maintains a double-digit lead among registered and likely voters surveyed.

The York County cabinet magnate is 13 points ahead of Corbett among self-reported likely voter respondents. It's a narrowing lead, and it reflects the work Corbett has done to appeal to his base. 63 percent of surveyed Republicans say Corbett deserves re-election, up from 39 percent in August.

Much attention has been paid to the well-being of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police’s K-9 officers since the death of Officer Rocco earlier this year.

Higher quality protective vests are to be purchased for the 24 dogs on the force.

Now, a bill providing “pensions” for retired officers has received unanimous approval in City Council.

The second of two public hearings on Pittsburgh’s 2015 capital budget is scheduled for Wednesday evening at the Morningside Senior Center.

“It’s a good way for the mayor and his administration to get out in the community and hear what’s on people’s minds about what they want to see in the capital budget,” said Sam Ashbaugh, Budget Director for Mayor Bill Peduto.

Peduto will submit his 2015 capital budget to City Council on Nov. 10. Ashbaugh said city departments submitted $70 million in funding requests for $30 million in funding, which is why public feedback is important.

Erin McClelland / Campaign Website (http://erin14.com/)

 

With the election a week away, we'll look at the race for the seat in the 12th Congressional District. Democratic candidate Erin McClelland joins us. She'll share her views on several issues including health care, her views on Ebola in our country, and how she started a nonprofit business specializing in addiction treatment.

AP Photo / Keith Srakocic

Former President Bill Clinton came to Pittsburgh on Monday to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf.

Clinton addressed several hundred Wolf supporters at a South Side union hall as the first-time candidate tries to knock off Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. Those in attendance also heard from other politicians including U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) , U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Clinton lauded Wolf, saying he finds it unbelievable that there isn’t a severance tax on natural gas in Pennsylvania. 

Suspended state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery has stepped down, effectively immediately, the court said Monday.

McCaffery’s retirement, as the court referred to it, ends an investigation into allegations McCaffery e-mailed sexually explicit images to people within the state attorney general’s office and threatened a fellow justice. The Judicial Conduct Board said he promised not to try to become a senior judge or run for elected judicial positions.

Wally Gobetz / Flickr Creative Commons

Animal rights bill fails to move out of state House: A bill that banned the practice of consuming cats and dogs in private received unanimous support in the state House back in December of 2013. Once it was sent to the Senate for approval, however, a pigeon-shooting amendment was added, causing the bill to languish in committee when it was sent back to the House, 90.5 WESA’s Mary Wilson reports.

Another ethical imbroglio, another call for reform.

The state Supreme Court's suspension of one of its justices has prompted reform advocates to question why Pennsylvania uses partisan elections to choose its appellate court judges.

Why have Democrats and Republicans become so divided? And why can’t Congress seem to agree on anything?

These are the questions that American voters have been asking themselves for years, and new research might finally have an answer.

According to a report released by Carnegie Mellon University, these extreme political differences are the result of close and heated elections.

Researchers have found voters on opposite ends of the political gamut tend to favor more polarizing candidates when an election is thought to be close.

With the general elections less than three weeks, absentee voters are encouraged to sign up and register for their ballots as soon as possible – the deadline is 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 28th.

State Supreme Court Suspends McCaffery

Oct 23, 2014
PA National Guard / Flickr

The state Supreme Court has suspended one of its own, Justice Seamus McCaffery, with pay. The suspension is a response to McCaffery's admitted exchange of sexually explicit emails with people in the state attorney general's office, among other things. 90.5 WESA's capitol correspondent Mary Wilson provides an update from Harrisburg.

Pennsylvania cities will have about two months to scrap local gun restrictions that could leave them open to lawsuits under a state proposal headed for the governor's signature.

The measure gives gun owners and groups like the National Rifle Association standing to sue municipalities (and collect attorney fees) over gun ordinances that go beyond state law.

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