Williams goes after Onorato — but “mixed up the facts”

State Senator Anthony Williams says Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato’s actions don’t back his rhetoric, when it comes to job creation.

Onorato, the Democratic front-runner, has made his track record of growing education, research and health care jobs in Pittsburgh a central platform of his campaign. As the only other Democrat airing statewide television commercials, Williams could be viewed as Onorato’s strongest challenger.

Speaking at a Cumberland County business incubation center, Williams said Onorato’s message overstates his track record.

But Williams may have slipped up: as one example, Williams cited a visit to the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative. He says the group’s deputy director, Ann Gleeson, expressed frustration that her organization didn’t receive any county funding.

Gleeson didn’t return my calls for comment, but told Capitolwire Williams “mixed up the facts,” and that the organization isn’t eligible for county funds. On top of that, Gleeson added, “I am not in business, that is a different field, but the county and state have done a great job with biosciences here, they have done a lot.”

Williams’ spokeswoman, Nia Ngina Meeks, said Williams’ comments to reporters were based on the conversation he had with Gleeson, and Williams told Capitolwire, “I know what she said and she said it.”

The Onorato camp responded to Williams’ criticism via email. Spokesman Brian Herman wrote, “unlike his critics who do not have executive experience, Dan Onorato has run the second-largest county in Pennsylvania, working to attract billions in economic development for the region, balancing a budget each year without raising property taxes and reforming government to save taxpayers millions of dollars.  And, at a time of national recession, Allegheny County’s unemployment rate is below the state’s and the nation’s.”

Williams says he’ll continue to draw contrasts between his record and Onorato’s in the final weeks before the primary. He declined to say whether those contrasts will come in the form of negative campaign ads.


Sestak speech

I wasn’t able to get to DC yesterday to cover Joe Sestak’s speech, but the Allentown Morning Call has the details. According to Colby Itkowitz, “Sestak did not shed any new light on his military career, but more succinctly recounted the events that led to his retirement. He did not address the specifics in the week-old Specter TV ad that says Sestak was relieved of duty for ‘creating a poor command climate.'”

Tom Fitzgerald of the Inquirer reports Sestak has no plans to release Navy records related to his reassignment.

Additional coverage from the Post-Gazette’s Dan Malloy here, and below, the speech’s text:

I decided to run for United States Senate because I believe that for too long, Washington has neglected Pennsylvania’s working families. I believe Pennsylvania needs someone we can count on to lead with principle and conviction. And believe we cannot keep sending the same politicians to Washington if we want to restore trust in our public servants and national institutions.

Throughout this campaign, my opponent, Senator Arlen Specter, has decided that it is more important to focus on me than on the people of Pennsylvania.

Therefore, I have decided to take this opportunity to discuss who I am, what I believe, and how I came by my convictions — to help the people of Pennsylvania.

I respect Senator Specter’s long service in Washington, but not always his political conduct. We differ not only on policy, but in our approach to public service. I believe that, as a representative of the people, it matters not only what one accomplishes, but how it is accomplished.

A year ago today, Senator Specter, after 44 years as a Republican, left his party. He made his reasons very clear. He said he joined our party because his chances of winning re-election as a Republican were “bleak.”

Senator Specter’s apparent willingness, particularly in an election cycle, to say or do anything for his own political survival — a willingness to go back on his own positions even as he questions the character of his challengers — represents what is wrong and broken in Washington. Arlen Specter’s generation of politics has undermined not only our democratic process, but ultimately our sense of national unity and the trust in our leaders and institutions required to overcome the challenges we face as a country.

I am a Democrat because I believe in Democratic principles — dedication to community, opportunity for all, and service to a common good.

I learned many of these principles from my father — not just what he taught me and the example he set, but who he was and where he came from.

My father was an immigrant from Slovakia. He came to this country as a young boy and fought for his adoptive nation in World War II. Last October, that boy who was born in a foreign land was laid to rest an American hero in Arlington National Cemetery.

I grew up in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia. My mother and father raised eight kids on the salaries of a Navy man and a Catholic-school teacher.

Growing up one of eight kids, I saw what happens when families have the opportunity to succeed based on their own hard work and talents, and when parents are able to fulfill the real American dream of passing on to their kids a better life and a better country than the one they inherited.

That’s what taught me the core belief of my Democratic principles — that strong working families, a vibrant middle class, makes a strong country.

The concept of a middle class is uniquely American. It is born out of the basic idea that everyone should contribute to their fullest and should be given the tools and opportunity to do so. This simple idea has been the engine of our economy, the source of our innovation, and now, all over the world, it is taken for granted that shared opportunity is shared prosperity, and common wealth is common strength.

Too many in Washington fell for the idea that what’s good for the powerful and well-connected will eventually work out to be good for the rest of us. Prosperity has never trickled down from the top in this country. It has always been built up by hardworking people — people striving for their own  achievement, but always with a sense of being part of a greater effort.

America has always been driven by this alliance of rugged individualism and common enterprise. It is part of the American character that we measure the wealth of our society by its poor, the health by its sick, and the justice by its wronged.

Ours is the first nation founded on principle, not power, and the perfection of our union, our long struggle to embody the vision set by our founders, is the history of the progressive movement — freedom, suffrage, civil rights, equality … ideals that are not attained until they extend to all.

Ours is a nation built on service to others — hewn from the wild through a commitment to the common good and prospering ever since through our dedication to our neighbors, our country, and the world community.

I think that’s what motivates us as Americans, and, especially, as Democrats — the belief that our individual achievement can never be measured apart from the common good.

That is the foundation of my Democratic principles — the conviction that we can do no better for ourselves than by serving others above ourselves.

That’s what I learned from my father, and throughout my 31 years in the U.S. Navy.

I followed in my father’s footsteps to Annapolis and entered the military during the height of the Vietnam War. When I went to sea in the early 1970s, the military ranked last among all national institutions in public trust.

Today, that has changed. The service now ranks as our most trusted and respected institution. That, I believe, is because people have come to understand that troops go to war — but it is the nation that sends them there.

The military overcame that challenge of the post-Vietnam era by reaffirming its commitment that leadership depends on a sense of public service — with a dedication to transparency and accountability.

I again find myself serving in an institution that rates low in the eyes of the public — the United States Congress. When the body created by and for the people does not enjoy the public trust, it must be viewed as nothing short of a crisis.

Today, there is a lack of faith in our government and even our country — what we stand for, what we’re capable of — that makes it difficult to meet the serious challenges we face.

The problem is not with a perceived division among the American people — for what is a democracy without a fierce competition of ideas?

The problem is a politics that seeks to divide, politicians who view the doubts and fears of the people as an avenue to power, and, too often, how they chose to act when they have assumed the public trust.

How can a politics that rewards those who best undermine, divide, and sow doubt result in a leadership that is able to create, unite, and inspire?

When our democracy becomes consumed by personal attacks, it’s no wonder that we end up with growing mistrust — and, too often, with political leaders who feed that kind of cynicism.

I would like to quote President Obama, who made this declaration just over two years ago:

“Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well. For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. …We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change. … Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, ‘Not this time.'”

Well, here we are in the next election, and our politics is as dominated as ever by division, distrust, and personal attacks.

Despite the serious challenges the people in Pennsylvania and across the country continue to face — day in and day out — Senator Specter has decided to base his campaign not on his 30-year record, not on his plan for the future, but on baseless attacks on my character, including my service in the United States Navy.

I have no greater honor than my 31 years of service to this country.

On September 11, 2001, I was serving in the Pentagon and was, days later, tapped to direct a new Navy anti-terrorism unit, called “Deep Blue,” a role that took me to Afghanistan for a brief mission early in that war. I later commanded the USS George Washington aircraft carrier battle group in combat operations supporting our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Later, I returned to the Pentagon. It was a time of two escalating wars and we were struggling to face a new era of post-Cold War challenges. The Navy urgently needed to adapt to 21st century threats, including the Global War on Terror, and I was charged by the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Clark, to make it happen.

The Navy was still measuring strength by the number of “hulls” — how many submarines, how many ships.

These days, the fight is won or lost in cyberspace more than anywhere else. It’s not how big you are. It’s what you’re capable of. We needed a sleeker, smarter Navy that’s a better match for the challenges we face today.

I called for steep cuts to the conventional fleet — fewer submarines, even fewer carriers — in exchange for a “knowledge-based” Navy. We can better monitor enemy movements with inexpensive sensors than multi-billion dollar submarines.

This view wasn’t popular with some in the establishment — in the Rumsfeld Pentagon, Congress, and the defense industry.

As I became a Congressman, preparing to come down to the Capitol, I introduced myself to a Senator. “I remember you,” he said. “You’re the Admiral who tried to cut my submarines.”

When Admiral Clark retired, the new CNO wanted a larger fleet and a new team. It was his decision, and I respected it.

My young daughter was diagnosed with brain cancer, and I retired to help care for her. I ran for Congress to see all Americans have access to the kind of health care that saved her life — health care that was provided to my family by the American public.

Admiral Clark — the man in charge, the man who was there — left no question when he was asked about my service to the very end. “I wanted straight talk,” he said, “and this put [Joe Sestak] in the crosshairs. People are going to say what they want to say, but he challenged people who did not want to be challenged. The guy’s courageous. A patriot’s patriot.”

It was my job to be in the crosshairs. I was proud to do it and I am proud to now do it again for the working families of Pennsylvania.

Where I come from, if people care more about their own careers than making the right call, then lives are put in danger, and lives are lost. But the consequences on Capitol Hill are just as grave, or more so, for our nation.

I am challenging Arlen Specter because policies he has supported have devastated the lives of untold numbers of American families.

  • Like his votes to strip away safeguards on Wall Street and let bankers gamble away the pensions of hardworking people while pocketing billion-dollar bonuses for themselves;
  • His support for disastrous Bush economic and tax policies that brought our country to the verge of collapse and left us with a staggering debt;
  • And his vote for a tragic war in Iraq and his steady support for the Bush Administration’s misguided foreign policy that harmed our national security.

In the Navy, we relieve a captain if he runs the ship aground.

If Senator Specter has changed his views and learned from these mistakes, then he ought to say so. But he has not.

If he has a plan to repair our country here at home and restore our standing in the world, we have yet to hear it.

These are serious times, and we face significant challenges. For nearly a year, I have laid out my proposals, principles, and beliefs for the people of Pennsylvania.

If the Senator believes my positions are wrong, if he believes they will fail our country, I urge him to make his case.

But instead of addressing these issues, Senator Specter has little to offer but tired, old Washington politics of negativity that help no one, except, perhaps, himself.

There is nothing I am more proud of than my service to this country. Arlen Specter can say whatever he wants about me — but the honor I take in having worn the cloth of this Nation for 30 years cannot be undone by a 30 second attack ad.

But for Americans — particularly those who hold elected office in Washington, DC — the words of President Obama are worth considering: “The American people are looking to us for answers, not distractions, not diversions, not manipulations. They want real answers to the real problems we are facing. I don’t care what they say about me. But I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phony outrage and swift-boat politics. Enough is enough.”

As a military man, I was disgusted as Senator Max Cleland, who lost his limbs for our nation, was attacked as unpatriotic during his re-election campaign. I, and others, abhorred it when Senator John Kerry, who served our nation gallantly, was smeared by false charges against his military record as a fighting man in Vietnam.

An attack on the honor of a Veteran is a dishonor to every Veteran, and to do it for the purpose of one’s political advantage discredits our democracy. It is a disservice to all the people out there who are struggling and are looking for real answers, and real leadership.

As I was leaving the Navy, a fellow Admiral said to me: “Joe, you weren’t supposed to take your assignment seriously.”

But I took it very seriously. I took it seriously because it was a serious challenge that had been neglected for too long. How could one possibly weigh one’s own career against what is best for the security of our country, and the lives of our men and women in service?

I knew what was at stake, and I will never do anything less than what is called for, which often takes hard work, tough calls, and a willingness to be accountable.

That’s what I did in the Navy, what I do in Congress, and what I’ll do every day in the Senate.

There is a lack of accountability throughout our government, where those in positions of trust don’t take seriously the charge to put the common good ahead of their self-interest. We got a good look at it on Wall Street. We see it every day in Washington.

The problems our country faces will not be easy to fix. We can overcome them, and we will, but not until we have leadership with the resolve to accept great challenges, and the courage to take them seriously.

It’s not enough to talk about change. You’ve got to fight for it. And sacrifice for it. Because when you take on the big challenges, and really try to change the status quo, you often face the consequences not if you fail, but if you are succeeding. That’s what I’m willing to do.

When I was a young boy, I decided I wanted to be just like my father — join the Navy and command a ship at sea. I’ve fulfilled that dream.

And now there is no consequence that I am unwilling to face in order to stand up for what I believe is right.

That’s what I have done throughout my career and what I will do every day as a Senator — because that is what the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the United States of America demand and deserve from those who serve this nation in their name.

Cawley goes on offense…against Rohrer

Republican lieutenant governor candidate Jim Cawley is taking sides in the GOP’s gubernatorial primary.

Cawley, the endorsed candidate in the nine-way Republican lieutenant governor primary, took a not-so-veiled shot at state Representative Sam Rohrer during a Tuesday morning interview.

Just an hour before our interview, Cawley told PoliticsPA, “I adopt Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: Thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican. …And I haven’t.”

Cawley has made his support for Attorney General Tom Corbett clear from the beginning of his campaign. The Bucks County commissioner refers to the Attorney General as his “running mate” in a television ad, and has already reserved the domain name www.corbettcawley.com. When asked to explain why he calls Corbett a “running mate” before either of them have won a contested primary, Cawley said he uses the phrase because both men are the Republican Party’s endorsed candidates.

Cawley also defended himself against attacks he’s too liberal. A recent mailer from Chet Beiler’s campaign charges Cawley with supporting Planned Parenthood and raising taxes. Cawley says that’s not true.

He says some of the attacks are due to the fact he’s from Bucks County.

During the session, Cawley twice ducked the question of whether he thinks Pennsylvania can balance its budget without raising taxes, saying, “I think what we need to do first is figure out where the money is that people are sending us now. Once we’ve identified how money is being spent, where it’s being spent and whether it can be spent better elsewhere, then we can broaden the discussion.” He returned to the topic later on, though, saying, “increasing taxes is not the answer. Period.”

Here’s Cawley’s tv ad:

Gun rally draws GOP candidates

A shaded Metcalfe MCs the 2nd Amendment rally

Pennsylvania’s two Republican candidates for governor stood shoulder-to-shoulder with 2nd Amendment advocates during a pro-gun rally at the state Capitol today.

Several hundred people crowded the Capitol’s front steps for the event. Suzanna Gratia Hupp, a former Texas legislator and the survivor of a mass shooting she says she could have stopped had she been armed, expressed the group’s sentiments during her speech.

Many of the speakers called for the passage of the “castle doctrine” bill – a measure that would reinforce a person’s right to defend his or her home with deadly force, without the obligation of trying to retreat first. After the event, Attorney General Tom Corbett said he couldn’t directly support the legislation without reading it first, arguing there are three different measures before the General Assembly. He did side with its general goal.

State Representative Sam Rohrer backed the measure without qualifications.

The event was MCed by Republican lawmaker  Daryl Metcalfe, who’s running for lieutenant governor.

OFA rallying behind Specter

Organizing for America is putting its grassroots network into motion to help Senator Arlen Specter’s reelection effort.

President Obama has sent a letter to supporters asking them to volunteer for the Republican-turned-Democrat in his race against Congressman Joe Sestak. “He cast a deciding vote in favor of the Recovery Act that brought our economy back from the brink and created more than 120,000 jobs in Pennsylvania in just the first three months of this year,” the letter reads. “He fought hard for health insurance reform, and because of that victory 1.3 million uninsured Pennsylvanians will now have access to affordable care — including more than 140,000 with pre-existing conditions. And he’s been a champion of Wall Street reform and combating climate change, two crucial parts of my agenda that won’t happen without Arlen’s support.” The letter comes days after Vice President Joe Biden stumped with Specter in his hometown of Scranton.

Meantime, Sestak is set to deliver a “major campaign speech” tomorrow — in Washington, DC. It’s an interesting venue choice with three weeks to go before the May 18th primary. Perhaps the speech is targeted at the national media, rather than Pennsylvania’s primary voters?

More ads (and hard hats!): Williams and Corbett

With a nod to Alex Roarty of PoliticsPA and PLS, here’s the latest Anthony Williams ad. Note that Williams is the latest candidate to wear a hard hat, or speak to a group of construction workers wearing the headgear.

And here’s a link to Attorney General Tom Corbett’s new 30 second spot. It’s hosted on blip, not Youtube, so I can’t figure out how to embed the video on the blog. Again, please note the hard hat b-roll.

Casey wants more federal drilling oversight

Democrat Bob Casey is calling on the EPA to take a larger role in investigations of water contamination caused by natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale formation.  The release is below.

SCRANTON, PA—U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today was joined by residents in the Dimock area whose wells were contaminated by drilling conducted by Texas-based Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. as he called for additional oversight of natural gas drilling.  Senator Casey today sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging them to examine its current authority to determine whether it can take additional steps in Pennsylvania to investigate and respond to groundwater contamination and other potentially harmful consequences of drilling.

“Natural gas drilling can provide an economic boost to Pennsylvania but we must protect ground water,” said Senator Casey.  “We will not allow an out-of-state company to come to Pennsylvania and contaminate the groundwater of our residents.  Three million Pennsylvanians rely on wells for their drinking water.  We must ensure adequate safeguards are in place to protect this most basic necessity for Pennsylvanians.”

In the letter, Senator Casey wrote: “I urge EPA to examine its authority to determine whether it can take additional steps in Pennsylvania to investigate and respond to groundwater contamination and other potentially harmful consequences of drilling. I request a meeting with you and appropriate EPA officials to discuss natural gas drilling and whether EPA could launch an investigation into water and environmental contamination.”

In 2009, Senator Casey introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act.  The legislation would repeal a Bush administration exemption provided for the oil and gas industry and would require them to disclose the chemicals they use in their hydraulic fracturing processes.  Currently, the oil and gas industry is the only industry granted an exemption from complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Hydraulic fracturing – also known as “fracking”, which is used in almost all oil and gas wells, is a process whereby fluids are injected at high pressure into underground rock formations to blast them open and increase the flow of fossil fuels.  Fracking is used in areas of Pennsylvania where natural gas is being drilled from Marcellus Shale.

This injection of unknown and potentially toxic chemicals often occurs near drinking water wells.  Three million Pennsylvanians are dependent on private wells for water.  Troubling incidents have occurred around the country where people became ill after fracking operations began in their communities. Some chemicals that are known to have been used in fracking include diesel fuel, benzene, industrial solvents and other carcinogens and endocrine disrupters.