With so much of America demonstrably fed up with the way politics is practiced these days, it was disappointing to watch how the brother of retiring U.S. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick became the front-runner in the Republican primary to replace the congressman.
Brian Fitzpatrick retired from his supervisory special agent job with the FBI in California late last year and, within weeks of buying a house in Bucks County, became the favorite of the county Republican Party. State Rep. Scott Petri, who had raised nearly $300,000 for the Eighth District race, decided it was best to drop out.
The district, which includes Bucks and part of Montgomery County, has survived gerrymandering elsewhere to remain the most competitive district in the commonwealth. So it's understandable that the local party would want to keep a Fitzpatrick on the ballot. Mike Fitzpatrick was a county commissioner for 10 years before being elected to Congress in 2004.
Though defeated by Democrat Patrick Murphy in 2006, Mike Fitzpatrick was reelected in 2010. His decision not to run this year made GOP officials nervous. But their embrace of the congressman's brother, who had not lived in the district for six years, led to charges of backroom politics by his remaining opponents, former Bucks County Commissioner Andy Warren and Plumstead psychologist Marc Duome.
Warren and Duome make a good point about the party's endorsement process, but it doesn't invalidate the fact that BRIAN FITZPATRICK has attributes that would likely make him more effective in Washington. His national security background would be an asset in Congress. Fitzpatrick could be more up to speed on local issues, having been absent from the district for several years, but family ties and frequent visits have kept him informed.
In the Eighth District's Democratic primary, the better candidate is STEVE SANTARSIERO, whose heavily Republican legislative district is inside the congressional district. He is already well versed on the issues facing its residents, including job creation. And he is an able advocate for campaign-finance reform and tougher gun laws.
Shaughnessy Naughton, who runs a family publishing business, is a strong candidate whom the Inquirer endorsed for the nomination in 2014. But her appeal has been weakened by an allegation that her campaign broke federal election laws by coordinating with a political action committee that the former chemist founded, ostensibly to recruit candidates with science backgrounds.
In the Seventh District Democratic primary, MARY ELLEN BALCHUNIS is the better candidate. The La Salle University political science professor's attention to detail would benefit the heavily gerrymandered district, which includes most of Delaware County and parts of Chester, Montgomery, Berks, and Lancaster Counties.
Balchunis, who ran unsuccessfully against Republican Rep. Pat Meehan in 2014, has a worthy primary opponent in Presbyterian pastor Bill Golderer, who founded Broad Street Ministry, which serves thousands of the city's homeless. But Balchunis, who has been active in Democratic politics since she was a college student, seems more prepared and suited for Congress.