Plenty to ponder in these pre-election days
— The presidential race gets top billing, of course, but many important decisions await you when you get into the privacy of the voting booth.
The nation will be watching on Tuesday to see whether Americans give Barack Obama another four years, or whether they make the Democrat a one-term president.
National polls seem to give Republican Mitt Romney a slight edge, but the all-important battleground states appear to be leaning toward Obama, setting up the possibility of Romney winning the popular vote but the president capturing the Electoral College.
Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein will also appear on the ballot.
Here are the other races for federal and state offices:
United States Senate
Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr. is seeking a second term. He’s the son of a former governor, but former Gov. and fellow Democrat Ed Rendell has criticized Casey for running a quiet re-election campaign.
Tom Smith is a wealthy former coal company owner who used much of his fortune to easily capture the Republican nomination, despite not having the party endorsement. He was a considerable underdog to Casey at the beginning of the campaign, but polls have narrowed and Roll Call newspaper now rates it in the competitive “Leans Democratic” category.
Libertarian Rayburn Smith is also in the race.
1st Congressional District
Democratic Rep. Bob Brady won a special election in 1998 and has easily won re-election ever since. He represents 30 percent of the Northeast, much of it new territory along the North Delaware Avenue riverfront that he took from Rep. Allyson Schwartz in redistricting.
The Republican is Realtor John Featherman. He said he’s running to improve the lives of people in what is one of the nation’s poorest congressional districts.
State Attorney General
Republicans have won every race for attorney general since it became an elected office in 1980. The GOP has generally run prosecutors and benefited from a view that it’s the law-and-order party. Democrats have put up some lackluster candidates.
However, this year, Democrats think they can elect one of their own. Former Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Kane defeated former congressman Patrick Murphy in the primary and should benefit from a Democratic voter-registration advantage.
The Republican candidate is Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed, a son-in-law of former state Attorney General LeRoy Zimmerman.
Outside groups have run television commercials that have distorted the records of both candidates.
Marakay Rogers is running as a Libertarian.
State Auditor General
The major-party candidates are state Reps. John Maher, a Republican from Allegheny County, and Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat from York County. Maher is a CPA, while DePasquale worked for the state Department of Environmental Protection before being elected to the House in 2006.
Libertarian Betsy Summers is a sales representative for a veterinary supply company and an independent broker for an Internet company that builds home-based business networks.
Maher and DePasquale are both running for re-election to their House seats.
Democrat Rob McCord, of Lower Merion, is seeking a second term in a low-key race that also includes Republican Diana Irey Vaughan and Libertarian Patricia Fryman.
McCord, a businessman before being elected, is often mentioned as a future candidate for governor or Senate.
Irey Vaughan is a commissioner in Washington County.
Fryman is a retired auditor from Venango County.
5th Senatorial District
Democratic Sen. Mike Stack, a lawyer and Somerton resident, is seeking a fourth four-year term. The district has strong Democratic leanings, and Stack took 72 percent against Republican John Farley in 2008.
The GOP’s Mike Tomlinson, of Mayfair, has run an energetic campaign, attending community meetings and knocking on people’s doors. He’s a former teacher and CPA.
152nd Legislative District
Republican Rep. Tom Murt, of Upper Moreland, faces Ronald Kolla, a musical theater instructor at Hatboro-Horsham High School.
The district includes four divisions in Somerton.
154th Legislative District
Democratic Rep. Larry Curry is retiring. The favorite to replace him is Democrat Steve McCarter, a longtime high school social studies teacher. Republican Mark Sirinides, a chemist, won a spot on the ballot by running a write-in campaign on primary day after failing to get the minimum number of nominating petitions.
The district includes one division in Burholme.
169th Legislative District
Democratic Rep. Ed Neilson faces Republican Dave Kralle in a rematch of their special election in April.
Neilson is a former political director of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 and an official in the administration of Gov. Ed Rendell. He was working for a law office, handling business development and government relations, before running for the seat.
Kralle is a former aide to state Rep. Dennis O’Brien, who held the seat for more than 30 years before joining City Council earlier this year.
The 169th district is expected to move to York County after redistricting. If Neilson wins, he could face fellow Democratic Rep. John Sabatina Jr. in a 2014 primary. Kralle’s home is expected to be included in the 173rd district, currently represented by Democrat Mike McGeehan.
172nd Legislative District
Freshman Democratic Rep. Kevin Boyle was elected in 2010, defeating longtime Republican Rep. John Perzel, who was facing corruption charges. Boyle had been an aide to City Councilman at-large Bill Greenlee.
The Republican candidate is Al Taubenberger, president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and the Burholme Community Town Watch and Civic Association. He has previously run for Congress (twice), mayor and City Council.
Both candidates live in Fox Chase.
177th Legislative District
Republican Rep. John Taylor was elected in 1984 and has generally cruised to re-election in an overwhelmingly Democratic district. If he wins again, he’ll gain more Republican territory in redistricting.
The Democratic candidate is William Dunbar, a former aide to state Rep. Tony Payton and U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah. He is expected to benefit from voters who push the straight Democratic lever to support Obama.
The following local candidates, all Democrats, are unopposed: State Sen. Shirley Kitchen (3rd district), Reps. Brendan Boyle (170th), Mike McGeehan (173rd), John Sabatina Jr. (174th), Mark Cohen (202nd) and Dwight Evans (203rd) and James “Scoot” Clay in the 179th district.
Philadelphia voters will decide on four ballot questions. Here is the wording on each of the questions:
Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to allow for the establishment of an independent rate-making body for fixing and regulating water and sewer rates and charges and to prescribe open and transparent processes and procedures for fixing and regulating said rates and charges?
Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to authorize the creation by ordinance of requirements for additional information to be submitted with the annual operating budget, annual capital budget, and capital program, including, but not limited to, information about the cost of performing specific functions, the effectiveness of such functions, and the costs versus benefits of proposed expenditures, and to require the Finance Director to provide such information?
Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter — which allows for a preference in the civil service regulations for the children of Philadelphia firefighters or police officers who were killed or who died in the line of duty — be amended to further allow for a preference for the grandchildren of such firefighters or police officers?
Should the City of Philadelphia borrow One Hundred Twenty Three Million Six Hundred Seventy Thousand Dollars ($123,670,000) to be spent for and toward capital purposes as follows: Transit; Streets and Sanitation; Municipal Buildings; Parks, Recreation and Museums; and Economic and Community Development?
The state’s voter identification law remains in place, and election board workers will ask voters for an ID card, just like they did in the April primary.
Voters, though, do not have to show an ID to cast a ballot. Poll workers will ask for the ID only as a test run for when the law will be implemented, during the May 2013 primary.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Committee of Seventy has comprehensive election information on its Web site, seventy.org
There, individuals can sign up to volunteer for the group’s Voter Protection Program on Election Day.
Also, by typing your address in a box, you’ll be able to find the address of your polling place, along with your ward and division and the names of your local, state and national elected officials.
For more information, call the Committee of 70 hotline toll-free at 1-866-OUR VOTE. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or email@example.com