ShareThis Page
Home

Angry voters have few targets in Nov.

| Monday, Oct. 24, 2005

Tom Dimuzio hasn't been this angry in 13 years.

Back then, the retired Westinghouse engineer got so fed up with the major party presidential nominees that he volunteered for H. Ross Perot's campaign. This time, he has joined a statewide effort to defeat every incumbent Pennsylvania lawmaker.

But when he heads out on Election Day next month, Dimuzio, 66, will have little to do. He'll stand outside his Bethel Park polling station and encourage voters to recall two state Supreme Court justices that few will recognize.

"That's all I can do," Dimuzio said. "I don't have a bone to pick with anybody running locally."

Rarely in recent years have Pennsylvania voters appeared as energized as they do now in the wake of the Legislature's July 7 vote to raise their own salaries by 16 percent to 54 percent. Activists have marched on Harrisburg with a giant pink pig, harassed lawmakers at neighborhood meetings and vowed to oust them. Pennsylvania's judges and top state officials also got salary increases.

But in November's general election, there are few castle gates to storm.

None of the lawmakers is up for re-election. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph Cappy, who praised legislators for their "prudent courage" in supporting the raises, won't be on any ballot before 2009.

Only judicial posts and local races for municipal and school board seats will be decided.

So, for now, angry voters can turn their wrath only upon Supreme Court Justices Sandra Shultz Newman and Russell M. Nigro, who face yes-or-no retention votes that typically draw little attention. The justices are the only two pay-raise recipients on the ballot.

"If we succeed in removing Justices Nigro and Newman from the bench, it will be enormous," said Tim Potts, founder of a nonprofit organization called Democracy Rising PA. "It will give people confidence in their government like they haven't had in 100 years."

In Pennsylvania history, no Supreme Court justice has been ousted by the voters.

Activists say breaking that pattern could embolden voters for the real fight in the May primary, when all state representatives and half the state's senators are up for re-election.

State lawmakers and legislative aides hope that, by then, voter apathy -- combined with the usual perks of incumbency, such as name recognition and campaign contributions -- will keep the incumbents in office.

Activists say the key is keeping voters involved.

"We're not going to let them forget," said Judy Brown, 61, of Upper St. Clair, who heads the Allegheny County chapter of a grassroots group, the Pennsylvania Club for Growth. "We'll just keep pushing it and getting other people involved."

Dimuzio said he'll still be angry through May and next year's general election. He wondered whether others will, too.

Back in 1992, when he had high hopes for Perot's presidential campaign, Dimuzio prepared for a revolution and then saw his candidate withdraw from the race in July before coming back for a final push in October.

It took more than a dozen years for Dimuzio to invest himself in another political cause.

"My only hesitation," he said, "is whether this thing is going to fall on its face in May."

Staff Writer Debra Erdley contributed to this report.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me