Sunday, October 31, 2010

Barletta Speaks To NAACP

As the election fast approaches Lou Barletta made his pitch at a meeting of the NAACP yesterday held at Mount Zion Church in Wilkes Barre. Matt Hughes of the Times Leader wrote this observation.

Both Kanjorski and Barletta spoke at the NAACP’s Meet the Candidates Forum, held Saturday at the Mount Zion Baptist Church. Barletta arrived on time for the event and left before it ended; Kanjorski arrived after Barletta had already spoken and left.

Barletta outlined his economic policy of creating jobs by providing incentives for businesses to hire employees.

“The government doesn’t create jobs; businesses do,” Barletta said. “We have to get businesses going again so they can create jobs.”

Barletta slammed Kanjorski for not attending the meeting, as he believed Kanjorski would not attend, for refusing to hold in-person town hall meetings and for not participating in debates in each of the five counties in the 11th District as Barletta invited him to do. Kanjorski and Barletta debated once Thursday in Jenkins Township.

“One of the most important issues in this election … is that many people in our district feel that their voices aren’t being heard,” Barletta said. “He didn’t hold any town hall meetings and only did one debate. That’s not reaching out.”

Readers may recall in 2008 Kanjorski skipped out on the NAACP meeting held at East Stroudsburg University.

The reason why depends on who you ask. A campaign spokesman said Kanjorski had a scheduling conflict. But an event organizer said she was told Kanjorski objected to a Barletta press release earlier Wednesday charging Kanjorski is "afraid" to debate Barletta.

The result was that Barletta, the mayor of Hazleton, was the lone candidate to discuss his views and take questions from about 90 people — including elected officials and local activists of both parties — at Beers Lecture Hall. The forum, sponsored by the Monroe County NAACP and the ESU chapter of the American Democracy Project, also was broadcast on Blue Ridge Cable Channel 13.

Kanjorski instead went to a regional event for presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign workers in Scranton.

What wasn't in that report was the fact that Kanjorski had actually pulled up to the East Stroudsburg University event and left. Participants relayed they saw Kanjorski to event organizers.

Another little known fact centers on how Kanjorski won his office in the first place. In the primary of 1984 Kanjorski defeated then Congressman Frank Harrison. Harrison died last year. Here is a link to a story about Harrision.

Former Rep. Frank Harrison (D-Pa.) died this week at the age of 69. He was found dead in his Galveston, Texas, apartment, according to media reports in Pennsylvania. He reportedly died of natural causes.

A lawyer and college lecturer in northeastern Pennsylvania before being elected to Congress, Harrison served in the House from 1983 to 1985, seeing his political career cut short when now-Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D) defeated him in the 1984 Democratic primary.

Kanjorski, D-Nanticoke, provided an e-mailed statement on Harrison’s unexpected passing.

“As we mourn the loss of Congressman Frank Harrison, I pass along my thoughts and prayers to his family and friends,” Kanjorski said.

“Frank and I knew each other as college debaters.

During his time at King’s, Harrison helped run the debate team. He was an avid debater at St. Mary’s and King’s and enjoyed working with young people and piquing their interest in debate, said friend Gene Brady, who is executive director of the Commission on Economic Opportunity.

“I think he believed in the public discussion of issues and everyone’s right to their opinion,” Brady said. “He was a very intelligent person … He just had a great intellectual curiosity.”

Guess it must be Republicans Kanjorski doesn't like to debate. At least Harrison saw the importance of public discussion.

In that article comments from The LuLac Political Letter were chronicled.

As the 1984 Democratic primary approached, Harrison found himself in the middle of a few obstacles. The first was the division of the Democratic Party. Eugene Hudak, the Luzerne County Clerk of Courts was angry at the local Democratic leadership of former Senator Martin l. Murray. Hudak was a long time antagonist of the Democratic power structure. Efforts to defeat him were useless since he always came out of Nanticoke with a lion’s share of votes. Hudak got behind his fellow hometown boy Paul Kanjorski who was now making his third run for the seat of Dan Flood. In the meantime, in the fall of 1983, local residents were plagued with a water crisis. Apparently some type of bug got into the water supply and residents fell prone to the disease dubbed giardiasis. As the locals were boiling their water in big pots and pans, Harrison was on a Congressional trip with the Democratic delegation to the Costa Rica to study international relations in Latin America. Even though it was an honor to be selected by the leadership for the trip, the perception of the Congressman jetting off to a sunny land while his voters back home dealt with a harsh winter and bum water was not a good omen for Harrison.

In that 1984 primary were Harrison, Kanjorski, Gene Knox and Steve Flood. Kanjorski picked as his political consultant Ed Mitchell who earlier ran for a seat in the 10th Congressional District against Joe McDade and competed for Flood’s seat in the 11th against a crowded field in the early rounds of Harrison vs. Kanjorski. Harrison had as his consultant Bob Kutler, a Washington D.C. operative known for not wearing socks and not suffering fools gladly. Kutler bragged about not knowing the local political power brokers while Mitchell massaged them onm a regular basis. Mitchell also put together a series of fast paced ads featuring Caribbean music in the background asking the question “Where Was Frank?” referring to the Congressman’s foreign affairs trip.

The ads resonated and put Harrison on the defensive. He never recovered. Kanjorski was portrayed as the local, hometown earnest young lawyer from the ultimate coal town, Nanticoke while Harrison was tagged as a Harvard educated elitist who had lost touch with his district. At the time, Ed Mitchell was quoted as saying, “We fundamentally controlled the dialogue throughout the campaign, framed the debate and kept Harrison on the defensive.” On election day, Kanjorski won his hometown by 3,000 votes (Nanticoke) while Harrison carried Wilkes Barre by only 700 votes. District wide, Kanjorski won by 2,000 votes and never looked back serving in Congress since 1984. “We ran a poor campaign for a lot of reasons” said Ungvarsky. “What we couldn’t translate to the voters was the importance future assignments Harrison would be in line for by his relationships with the House leaders. The problem was it did not transfer over to the voters. Harrison always felt that while Dan Flood built a tremendous base for the district in terms of roads and hospitals, the role of Congressman should be looking at a larger economic picture and not putting band aids on problems already in place. His vision was a bit different and perhaps he was too cerebral for the taste of local politicos. Harrison wanted to look beyond the coal fields heritage and truly expand the area to big Fortune 500 companies but he never got the chance to play out his vision” said Ungvarsky. David DeCosmo, former radio and TV journalist, who ironically broke the Giardiasis story remembers Harrison “As a straight forward guy”. He said, “Harrison recognized the political climate at the time. Whoever was going to succeed Flood could expect to be there a long time. He always answered every question put to him, was very opinionated even if that was often at odds with the general consensus of the time, was very available to all of the media and at the heart of it all was a very, very kind man”. DeCosmo agreed that it was Giardiasis, with its wide ranging implications, brought down the career of Frank Harrison. (Not to mention launching the career of Ed Mitchell as a political consultant).

The three time political battles between Kanjorski and Harrison are often compared to a local version of the Ali-Frazier heavyweight match ups.

It cracks me up everytime I hear someone say Barletta would be finished politically if he loses to Kanjorski this time. Kanjorski lost two times before defeating Frank Harrison. Three times may be a charm but four may mean more.


Yonki's friend and political sparing partner said...

There is a difference between Kanjo's repeat attempts than Barletta.
Lou will have lost to the same opponent all 3 times in a General election. The problem will be that if Lou, a popular republican can't pull of defeating a vulnerable dem in a dem district 3 times it will show he can never win a congressional seat.
If he LOSES which he really shouldn't this time.
However, he really should have sought state office. Either Lt. Governor or he should have challenged Eachus. Either one he would have one hands down.
His obsession with Kanjo is reminiscent of Ahab and the white wale

Anonymous said...

Kanjo's first run was as an independent. He never didn't go head to head with Harrison on 3 occasions.

McGruff said...

I will correct my statement about Kanjorski's defeat. I had remembered it different until I went back to the Google book that I read. You are correct about Kanjorski as an independent the first time then losing to Musto. I thought he ran against Harrison but he didn't Harrison's first term.