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By Jan C. Ting

Delaware's hot political races

What are the hot political races this year in Vice-President Biden's home state of Delaware, where campaigns are underway for all the top offices including Governor, Lt. Governor, U.S. Senate, Congress, and all the seats in the state legislature?

You have to look pretty far down the ballot to find a competitive race in what is now deeply blue Delaware. Popular Democratic Governor Jack Markell is headed for a comfortable re-election, along with his running mate Lt. Governor Matt Denn.

U.S. Senator Tom Carper, the most successful politician in Delaware history, is about to be re-elected to his third term in the Senate, despite a vigorous self-funded challenge from Independent businessman and lawyer Alex Pires. With the anti-incumbent opposition divided between Pires and a Republican challenger, Tom Carper is again a shoo-in.

Delaware's freshman member of Congress, former Lt. Governor John Carney, is waging an all-out re-election campaign, even though most Delaware voters couldn't pick his Republican challenger's name out of a multiple choice.

With President Obama and Vice-President Biden at the top of the ballot, and a Democratic plurality in Delaware voter registration, all the statewide Democratic officeholders can expect to be re-elected by big margins, including Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart, who survived a serious primary challenge.

I would pick three state senate races to be competitive, in which both major parties should and will concentrate their spending.

The single most competitive race in Delaware is in northern Delaware's 4th senatoral district where freshman Democratic Senator Mike Katz is being challenged by State Representative and Republican Minority Leader Greg Lavelle. This is a district which has always had a Republican registration plurality, and still does even after the 2010 redistricting by the Democratic controlled state legislature.

Senator Mike Katz is a practicing physician, and currently the only physician in the legislature. I believe he is the first Democrat elected in the 4th senatoral district since at least before the Civil War, and would welcome any information or correction pertaining to this belief. Republicans are raising money to try to stop his re-election, and Democrats know this is a seat that needs to be vigorously defended. Senator Katz has been politically independent and during his first term challenged the leadership of Senate President Anthony DeLuca who was this year defeated for re-election in the Democratic primary.

A second competitive state senate race is in the 12th senatoral district which straddles the northern Delaware communities of New Castle, Bear, and Glasgow, where 16-year incumbent Republican Senator Dori Connor, age 65, is being challenged by Democratic special-needs advocate Nicole Poore, age 39. The age contrast in this race is striking, but it's hard to predict which candidate will benefit from it.

A third race to watch is Sussex County's newly constituted 6th senatoral district where Republican Ernie Lopez faces off with Democrat Andrew Staton. Both candidates had to win their nominations in contested primaries. Although there's a Republican registration plurality in the district, which ought to favor Lopez, his primary victory over Tea Party favorite Glen Urquhart was both close and heated, which could affect turnout for this race in the general.

If these, the most competitive races in Delaware this year, seem relatively small potatoes, take heart from the fact that Tea Party insurgent Christine O'Donnell, who upset veteran Congressman Mike Castle in the 2010 Republican primary for U.S. Senate, has signaled her intent to make a fourth run for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

In a move welcomed equally by both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, O'Donnell has indicated her interest in challenging U.S. Senator Chris Coons, to whom she lost in the 2010 general election to fill the final four years of Vice-President Biden's last Senate term. A replay of the Coons-O'Donnell race should again put Delaware back on the national political frontburner in 2014!

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Mitt Romney crashes on taxes in the final stretch

Only when candidates speak in private do they reveal who they really are and what they really think. Mitt Romney did that in his remarks secretly recorded at a dinner for $50,000 and up donors to his campaign in Boca Raton, Florida, in May. We should not forget what he said to those donors:

"There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what....who are dependent on the government, who believe they are victims....These are people who pay no income tax....My job is not to worry about those people....I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Romney has since described his taped comments as "inelegant", but has defended them as reflecting what he apparently believes.

Who are those approximately 47% of households who don't pay federal income tax? A portion of them, about 22%, are retired senior citizens living on Social Security, Medicare, retirement savings, and modest pensions. About 8% are either unemployed or full-time students or disabled, including military veterans. Most of the remaining households that don't pay federal income taxes are simply lower-income families of workers who pay federal payroll taxes on their earnings but don't make enough income to owe federal income tax.

The federal government collects payroll taxes in excess of 15% only on wages earned by labor, so Mitt Romney is exempted from paying payroll taxes to the extent he treats his compensation from Bain Capital as income from capital, either dividends or capital gain. Working families actually pay a higher total rate of federal taxes than Mitt Romney, who has reported paying only 13.9-14.0% federal income tax for the only two years for which he has chosen to release his tax returns.

That low rate of federal income tax means that virtually all of Romney's income is being reported at the capital gains rate which is capped at 15%, unlike the rate on ordinary earned income from labor which is capped at 35%. For 2011 Romney reported adjusted gross income of $13.7 million, none of which was from wages subject to payroll taxes.

Romney has already said he's not worried about the very poor because there's a safety net. And now he says he's not going to worry about the working poor either, or non-contributing retirees or students or the disabled.

Instead Romney will focus on across-the-board cuts in the federal income tax which 47% of households don't pay. The tax cuts he advocates include lowering the rate on capital gains to zero percent, and eliminating entirely the federal tax on the largest decedent's estates, which Romney calls the "death tax". He says he can make the cuts revenue neutral by eliminating unspecified loopholes and deductions, which would increase taxes for unfavored taxpayers. But nobody believes that can actually and politically be done.

The arrogance of the richest man ever nominated to run for president towards working American families ought to be disqualifying. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were right. Romney is indeed the worst possible candidate the Republicans could put up against President Obama.

Romney divides the population into makers and takers, self-made entrepreneurs such as himself, and teeming masses of lazy freeloaders. Born into a wealthy family, educated in private schools, Romney is among those born on third-base but who think they hit a triple.

America applauds and rewards its entrepreneurs, but they achieved their success on the infrastructure, the highways, airports, schools, law enforcement, national defense, courts, and other institutions, including the social safety net, which have been achieved through democratic self-government.

Romney's Ayn Rand-ist vision of America is blind to that reality. We are, in fact, all in this together.

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Why an unsigned per curiam opinion from Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Voter ID law?

The decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on the state's controversial Voter ID law has been much anticipated. So it was disappointing to see the high court punt on the issue and remand the case back to Commonwealth Court which had upheld the law relying on testimony of state officials that it could be implemented by the November 6 election without disenfranchising eligible citizen voters. And it was especially disappointing to see the high court do so by an unsigned per curiam opinion.

In that unsigned opinion, the Supreme Court stated its dissatisfaction "with a mere predictive judgment based primarily on the assurances of government officials". It directed the Commonwealth Court "to consider whether the procedures being used for deployment of the cards comport with the requirement of liberal access which the General Assembly attached to the issuance of PennDOT identification cards. If they do not, or if the Commonwealth Court is not still convinced in its predictive judgment that there will be no voter disenfranchisement arising out of the Commonwealth's implementation of a voter identification requirement for purposes of the upcoming election, that court is obliged to enter a preliminary injunction."

Why was the court's decision made per curiam, which is Latin for "by the court"? Usually Supreme Court opinions are signed, so everyone knows which justice wrote the opinion. Per curiam opinions occur most often in cases where the court finds the issues non-controversial, which is certainly not the case with the Voter ID law.

The most glaring example of a per curiam opinion issuing in a controversial case was the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore deciding the year 2000 presidential election. Perhaps in that case no justice was willing to sign a hasty and imperfect decision sure to be criticized. And perhaps that's the same reason no justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was willing to sign its Voter ID opinion remanding the case back to the lower court.

Kudos to Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices Debra Todd and Seamus McCaffery who issued clear and impassioned dissenting statements, which they signed.

Justice Todd found that, "the lower court indeed abused its discretion in failing to find that irreparable harm of constitutional magnitude — the disenfranchisement of a substantial number of eligible, qualified, registered voters, many of whom have been proudly voting for decades — was likely to occur based on the present structure, timing, and implementation of" the Pennsylvania Voter ID law.

Justice McCaffery stated that, "I cannot in good conscience participate in a decision that so clearly has the effect of allowing politics to trump the solemn oath that I swore to uphold our Constitution. That Constitution has made the right to vote a right verging on the sacred, and that right should never be trampled by partisan politics."

Via Brandywine to Broad

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Why an unsigned per curiam opinion from Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Voter ID law?

The decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on the state's controversial Voter ID law has been much anticipated. So it was disappointing to see the high court punt on the issue and remand the case back to Commonwealth Court which had upheld the law relying on testimony of state officials that it could be implemented by the November 6 election without disenfranchising eligible citizen voters. And it was especially disappointing to see the high court do so by an unsigned per curiam opinion.

In that unsigned opinion, the Supreme Court stated its dissatisfaction "with a mere predictive judgment based primarily on the assurances of government officials". It directed the Commonwealth Court "to consider whether the procedures being used for deployment of the cards comport with the requirement of liberal access which the General Assembly attached to the issuance of PennDOT identification cards. If they do not, or if the Commonwealth Court is not still convinced in its predictive judgment that there will be no voter disenfranchisement arising out of the Commonwealth's implementation of a voter identification requirement for purposes of the upcoming election, that court is obliged to enter a preliminary injunction."

Why was the court's decision made per curiam, which is Latin for "by the court"? Usually Supreme Court opinions are signed, so everyone knows which justice wrote the opinion. Per curiam opinions occur most often in cases where the court finds the issues non-controversial, which is certainly not the case with the Voter ID law.

The most glaring example of a per curiam opinion issuing in a controversial case was the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore deciding the year 2000 presidential election. Perhaps in that case no justice was willing to sign a hasty and imperfect decision sure to be criticized. And perhaps that's the same reason no justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was willing to sign its Voter ID opinion remanding the case back to the lower court.

Kudos to Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices Debra Todd and Seamus McCaffery who issued clear and impassioned dissenting statements, which they signed.

Justice Todd found that, "the lower court indeed abused its discretion in failing to find that irreparable harm of constitutional magnitude — the disenfranchisement of a substantial number of eligible, qualified, registered voters, many of whom have been proudly voting for decades — was likely to occur based on the present structure, timing, and implementation of" the Pennsylvania Voter ID law.

Justice McCaffery stated that, "I cannot in good conscience participate in a decision that so clearly has the effect of allowing politics to trump the solemn oath that I swore to uphold our Constitution. That Constitution has made the right to vote a right verging on the sacred, and that right should never be trampled by partisan politics."

Via Brandywine to Broad

View Story

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