Monday, April 21, 2008

PA-5 Final Call - Thompson

This is a tough one, mostly done by elimination.

I never liked Shaner. I am not convinced there is any "there" there. I can't be too impressed with his business prowess because the business was just handed to him. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with that, but it doesn't automatically qualify one for Congress. He's just managed not to screw it up since he's been doing it. I can't be impressed that he was a Hill staffer to Santorum because (a) I've known a few stupid Hill staffers, (b) Santorum blew up, and (c) Santorum was a big government conservative. I can't be impressed with how he ran his previous campaign for state house because he was a miserable failure despite practically unlimited funds. As far as his current campaign is concerned, his campaign ads have been extremely pretentious, filled with standard boilerplate Republican issues that aren't at all controversial in a Republican primary. And finally, there is his relatively recent drunk driving incident where he fled the scene and called the District Attorney while hiding out in his house.

I was inclined to vote for Walker until the recent criminal charges came out. As much as I would like to believe that Walker is the victim of a political smear, it is very likely that something unbecoming of a Congressman happened last August, and I am unwilling to take the chance of putting a potential felon against the Democrat in the general election. If Walker's accusations of political tomfoolery are correct then a few people need to go to jail for a long time. I just can't take that bet in an election though.

Stroehmann is the next biggest spender, but he thinks McCain-Feingold is basically OK, if perhaps subject to some tweaking. McCain-Feingold is one of my pet issues, and I take his acceptance of the current campaign finance regime to be deeply disturbing. His economic plan shows a great deal of thought and has some merit, but it is still essentially a command and control approach to economic development not compatible with economic libertarianism. And once again personal issues cloud a fifth district candidate, this time related to a messy divorce.

Stroehmann has a decent chance of winning, perhaps the best, but I want to do better than him.

Richardson speaks strongly about Constitutional issues and is correct on everything as far as I can tell. His legal background shows strongly. His biography indicates to me that he will not have any personal bombshells to come out. His only potential weakness is his emphasis on his evangelical faith. I'm OK with the fact that he's a Baptist minister, but doesn't that sort of speak for itself? Why does he need to stress that so much? It turns me off slightly, and I suspect that in an area that is not heavily Baptist, it will turn of some others as well. Overall though, he's a decent candidate and I wouldn't say anything bad about somebody who voted for him.

Thompson also seems to be a fundamentally good person. He has a long history of public service in various organizations. He also strikes me as a serious and generally intelligent person. The fact that he has a son with a Purple Heart gives him electoral credibility against the likely Democrat candidate Bill Cahir, who is himself an Iraq veteran. He's not as forceful as Richardson on Constitutional issues, but he is against the current campaign finance regime.

Media reports put polling in the pre-scandal race with Shaner and Walker leading, followed by Stroehmann, then everybody else. If my FEC analysis is any indication, all the candidates with finances below Stroehmann are pretty much equal weight in terms of viability. So really this ends up not helping at all.

I feel like this is a very imperfect analysis, but I'm going with Thompson. Generally speaking, I trust him. He's better than most, if not all of the other candidates, and he has the backing of outgoing Rep. John Peterson, which probably counts for something. I don't have any special love for Peterson, but I so have some abstract degree of trust in Peterson as a generally decent person.

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