2014 governor's race a flashback to 2006
You may not know who Scott Migli is, but you should.
And you will – very shortly.
Migli is arguably one of the most important voices of reason when it comes to this year's governor's race in Pennsylvania.
But to understand why, we need to go back to Pennsylvania's Senatorial race in 2006 – one that featured a general election face-off between incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum and Democratic challenger Bob Casey Jr.
In that race, both Santorum and Casey faced contested primaries – albeit both with only token opposition. But the state GOP took no chances. Through Migli, its executive director, it challenged the petitions of Santorum's only Republican opponent – an underfinanced, relatively unknown longshot candidate. Rather than fight what he thought was a losing case, Santorum's opponent dropped out, telling the press, "I don't have a lot of money. I didn't see the sense in making our side spend any more money."
Migli did his job successfully.
Unfortunately for the state GOP, though, Santorum went on to lose the race to Casey by a whopping 17 percentage points – the largest margin of defeat for any sitting senator since South Dakota's George McGovern lost to James Abdnor in 1980. In other words, Santorum was clobbered.
Fast forward to last week when Gov. Tom Corbett's only Republican opponent – Bob Guzzardi – was removed from the ballot by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Regarded by most pundits as no more than a nominal challenger, Guzzardi exited the stage after another successful challenge by the Pennsylvania GOP. Megan Sweeney, its communications director, told me, "Today, the State Supreme Court ruled that Bob Guzzardi did not meet the statutory requirements to have his name on the ballot for governor. Our focus has been and remains on working to reelect the Corbett-Cawley ticket so that they can continue to move Pennsylvania forward in a positive direction."
In less polished, but more direct words, Guzzardi told me via email, "The State Republicans spent a lot of time and resources to remove a Republican from a Republican primary ballot and deprive Republicans of a choice. The Republican Party wonders why it is losing."
I wonder if Guzzardi read my U-Turn column in which I encouraged the state GOP to open up the primary to interested challengers.
Here's what I said:
The Republican Party needs to send out a loud message that all interested parties are invited to put their names on the line. The voters will then decide who is most qualified to run our state.
A primary will give you, Gov. Corbett, a second chance to sharpen your pencil as well as your wits. It will give you free advertising. It will give you televised debates. It will give you the chance – that you so sorely need – to show that there's fire in your belly.
Unlike former 76er Allen Iverson, you need practice.
You need a sparring partner or two because you can't pull it off without them.
So I was curious how Scott Migli – long removed from the state GOP – felt about Guzzardi being bumped from the ballot. In a Facebook discussion, Migli said, "I've grown up and to be honest, we should encourage more people to run for office, not make it increasingly harder and harder. The money needed to survive against the party system in either party is incredible and therefore many decide against running. People with good ideas and a platform should be heard and maybe then our government will change. Until that time, we get what we get."
Migli went on to make it clear that his position had nothing to do with support for Guzzardi. "I am not defending Bob Guzzardi's views or policies," Migli said, adding, "That is up to the voters to decide. But we simply have made it impossible to challenge the party system. It happens on the state level and the federal level, and I think it creates many of the problems we currently have."
"We all learn from our experiences," Migli told me.
I agree with Migli. Barack Obama is not the only one allowed to evolve. We all can and should evolve on common sense issues. We need to give the voters choices. That's the point of a primary. Otherwise, we should eliminate primaries and have candidates chosen by elected state committeepeople.
If that sounds like a banana republic, you're not wrong.
Migli, president and owner of Battlefield Strategies, now focuses on grassroots consulting, mainly in education choice and healthcare arenas. Though he operates in the Virginia/DC metro area, he's never far removed from Pennsylvania politics.
Oh, and that GOP challenger that he knocked off the ballot in 2006? That was me.