While I can’t vote in the 102nd district, I have been following this race very closely and a post by Russ Diamond about Wanda Bechtold as a write in candidate (http://www.truckerruss.com/writein.php) has really gotten under my skin.
Now, as I’ve said many times, we don’t elect gods, we elect human beings and human beings have flaws so there is no such thing as a perfect candidate. None of the candidates in the 102nd race are going to be perfect but can we stop with the Wanda is a flawed Candidate while pretending that Russ has no flaws? Can we get off the trash the opponent bandwagon to fight for the issues?
In spite of years of being rejected by the voters, now he wants us to believe that Wanda shouldn’t be running as a candidate because she didn’t win a write-in during the Primary. What happened to the Russ that told everyone that they needed to be involved, to not just look at the odds or the money but to look at the importance of the race? That’s the sort of rhetoric that is betrayed by his actions. If losing a Primary is enough to keep you from pursuing office, what does it say about Russ? That’s not saying that Russ shouldn’t be in the race, it’s just saying that Wanda has every right to run as a Write-in Candidate as Russ does to be the Republican nominee.
I get the split the vote issue what I don’t get is why Russ didn’t apply that to himself when he ran for the House as a Libertarian candidate in 2004 or when he launched the Draft Russ Diamond political committee of 2006 as he launched his bid for Governor. Apparently what was once okay for Russ is now not okay for somebody else, especially if it challenges him. It’s that sort of double speak that has really bothered me. Again, I don’t fault Russ for running…I do however fault him because his words now seem to betray his former actions. It demonstrates an inconsistency that makes me uncomfortable.
The double speak on House Bill 76 where he claims to be a supporter but proposes a different plan is just one more of those “What is truth?” moments for me. While during the last two years in Lebanon County we haven’t heard a peep from Russ Diamond to support the efforts of local grassroots efforts to get this done, he still says he supports it. When we do hear from Russ it’s any chance he gets to take shots at the legislation and trying to diminish the progress made by the grassroots efforts to push this bill forward. And this is nothing new. He took cheap shot at efforts after the first rally in Support of this legislation 2 years ago. The push for an alternative plan just days before the vote in the Senate Finance Committee makes it even harder to believe he really does support House Bill 76. Immediately after that press release, Diamond supporters converged on the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition Facebook page where they attacked the coordinator of the effort to get this bill finished, claiming that SB 76 was dead and it was time for plan B.
I had a meeting with Russ some time ago where he gave us this alternative plan. There were some other things that were discussed that were totally out of line with the purposes and goals of the PTCC and we simply let it go at that. Russ asked us to sit on that alternative plan and not make it public and we were more than happy to comply because we knew it would just be one more distractions from getting SB 76 passed. What we didn’t know was that he planned on using this as a cornerstone when he announced his candidacy and that whenever progress was made on pushing SB 76 he would again push this alternate plan just as he most recently did. He didn’t tell us he was going to planning on running, but I do feel that his intention was to use the PTCC for his own purposes. I am not alone in that perception. All involved in that meeting save Russ, felt the same way. Once Russ announced, we knew about the alternate plan and we also knew it was only a matter of time before he’s advocate for it. We kept our word…Russ did not keep his. He told us that his plan was only to enacted once it was certain that SB/HB 76 failed. Russ knows that this played into the endorsement of Wanda by the PTCC. That being said, her work in the past to advance it had more weight in that decision than Russ’s actions with the alternative plan. She got the endorsement because she earned it.
Another supporter then writes a blog for the Lebanon Daily News, again hitting Senate Bill 76 for what she’s sees as flaws, while not really understanding the mechanics of the bill and then closes with a veiled hit at Wanda implying she’s a one issue candidate. Apparently she hasn’t been on Wanda’s page to see that while she sees the importance of SB/HB 76 she also supports other issues. She’s been willing to take those Issues out to the people in public, not invitation only, town halls.
I’ve known both Wanda and Russ Diamond for a liitle while. I know that Wanda has worked with us on the Property tax Independence Issue. I also know she is working with us to promote other issues as well, like Right To Work and Prevailing Wage. Wanda was doing this long before she decided to become an candidate in the 102nd. She came out to meetings and town halls on these issues and helped us when we asked for help to push these issues. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Russ. That’s why this whole effort to promote Wanda as Wacky Wanda gets under my skin. It dismisses the hard work she’s done because she’s challenging Russ Diamond and that’s not enough reason to me. Wanda’s voluntary work in the efforts of supporting our troops is a commendable commitment to community service that demonstrates something of Wanda’s character. The Lebanon 9-12 Project has an Adopt-A-Soldier program and it has been a pleasure to be able to work with Wanda at times as these efforts have crossed paths in support of one another. After retiring from the Military her commitment to the troops didn’t end. It was a lifetime commitment. That same attitude of commitment can be seen in other areas of her life and the volunteer work she has done. I guess what I’m trying to say is that with Wanda, I see more than just a campaign rhetoric promise, I have seen active participation in doing what she can to make a difference.
Russ has referred to SB/HB 76 as a scheme and I beg to differ. It is not a scheme….its a well thought out plan that responsibly places a replacement funding mechanism to provide for future education costs capped to the the rate of inflation while eliminating the School Property Tax. There is nothing like this is Russ’s plan and frankly, in my opinion it’s his plan that is the scheme. It’s a scheme to divert away from HB/SB 76 while attempting to undermine the efforts of the grassroots coalitions across the state and the work they’ve done. Like most schemes of this nature part of the aim is to divide in its attempts to conquer and the efforts of the supporters of his plan are trying to do exactly that. For the most part that has been unsuccessful. In pushing this alternate plan when he did has turned that effort into the sideshow distraction.
In calling Wanda’s campaign a sideshow distraction he is not only attempting to insult Wanda, he is insulting those who support her because they feel she is the better candidate. Again, why is it only a sideshow distraction because it’s Wanda, but when Russ did it he claims to have been fighting for the people. Can’t the same also be true of Wanda?
A little over a year ago, when Russ stated he was leaving politics to pursue the life of a trucker, I have to admit to being somewhat relieved. In every election involving Russ we spend more time talking about Russ and his past then we do about the issues at hand that impact the voters on a day to day basis. I have had serious issues with Russ as a candidate but I do feel that every one seeking this office has a right to do just that. I was looking forward to a Primary Race where the frame of the dialogue would be focused on issues like Property Tax, Right To Work, Paycheck Protection and then Russ threw his hat into the ring for this election cycle. I’ll admit to being frustrated because I feared that once again the issues would go out the window. I wasn’t wrong. Even when Wanda tried to talk about the issues of Property Tax, Right To Work and Paycheck Protection at her announcement as a candidate out comes the Diamond supporters to drag the campaign down into the mud again with one of them acting more like a Rodeo Clown doing what they could to try and cause a disturbance. That seems to be the game plan. Hit piece web-sites thinly veiled delibertely using the Camp Wanda effort to create confusion. Personal attacks of supporters of Wanda even to the point of implying that wearing Red Shirts makes them a Communist even though a Red State is clearly defined as a Republican State so that implication would have to be carried to the logical conclusion that some of Diamond Supporters think that Republicans are communists. Laugh if you want to but the same leap being made about Camp Wanda’s Red Shirts can be applied to their way of thinking. Not happy with just attacking Wanda, Russ’s supporters extend those attacks going after the integrity of the PTCC while taking cheap shots at David Baldinger and other members of the PTCC. Some have suggested that this is Russ sending out his minions but we have no proof of that…what we do have proof us is that during this entire time Diamond has never come in to these groups or pages to try and set the record straight or to refute the actions of these people.
Equally disturbing was the notion that our standing up to the Executive Committee for their decision to try and remove Diamond from the ballot was maligned to become us defending Russ Diamond. It wasn’t. It was about defending the voice of the people in free and open elections. By focusing only on some war between the Long’s and Diamond, the real issue of what the Executive Committee did in violation of the by-laws was ignored. As soon as we go back into that territory and talk about how some members of the committee are still violating those by-laws, it immediately turns back into this Long/Diamond affair. Frankly, I find the actions of the Executive committee to be wrong but this constant harping on Wanda as a write-in candidate from the Diamond campaign isn’t any different. What we’re still hearing is technicalities to try and have people removed from the voting process.
When we did stand up to the Committee some attacked us as somehow defending Domestic Violence and when I made it clear that I do not support Domestic Violence and that I abhor such actions I get an email telling me that I was wrong in that statement and that I was somehow accusing Russ of being guilty of the same. That’s bull. That’s just more character assassination. I don’t know what happened before those PFA’s were filed and both sides tell conflicting stories. Of course, only one side has ever really gotten press on it.
There have been so many things that went on behind the scenes in this election cycle and it all started once Diamond through his hat into the ring. That’s not to claim that he is responsible but I find it more and more difficult to believe that he hasn’t played a role in it. That started long before the flyer that went out from Wanda Bechtold and no Russ, that is not going to go down in history as the most underhanded hit piece in political history. There have been worse including flyers that had absolutely NO basis in truth.
For me it really boils down to this. We had a chance to start fresh in the General Election. We had a chance to go into the General Election and tackle the big issues. To their credit both Bob McAteer and Wanda Bechtold began that way. When Russ had a chance to truly applaud the successful victory of SB 76 he used that time to diminish that success. I’m sorry but “Pleased as Punch” and then almost dismissing the impact of that vote doesn’t cut it for me. When Contacted by the press it was only Wanda who applauded the action of the Senate Finance Committee for giving this bill the respect it deserved and in her press release on the matter stated that she gives her full support to SB/HB 76 where she promised to keep fighting for it if elected….not some alternate plan to distract from SB/HB 76 but to keep pushing until it becomes law.
Instead of talking about the issues, we see those advancing the issues being attacked about everything but the issues and so it goes on. That’s probably the way this will continue to play out. As the other candidates try and talk about the issues there will be those coming out who don’t seem to want those issues discussed and will do everything they can to keep from allowing the important issues to be advanced. I’m tired of the rodeo clowns that make a mockery of this process and I’m tired of the distractions from issues that are going to impact my life and the lives of my children and grandchildren for as long as we can still afford to live in this state.
Let’s get back to the real issues at hand and stay focused on what the candidates mean when they say Property Tax Independence, Right To Work or any other issue. Let’s put this battle back on the battlefield of ideas and then let the voters in the district make that call in November. Along the way those peripheral issues are going to come in to play because that’s just part of the process. Let it be discussed but not at the peril of the things that have direct impact on us as a voter.
While I can’t vote in the 102nd, whoever wins this race is going to have an impact on my life in the 101st. They are going to vote on these issues and that’s why this matters to me, especially with HB/SB 76 if it carries through til next year. I need to know if these candidates are going to be behind this bill 100%. I feel the same way about their support of Paycheck Protection and other Right To Work Issues. It’s not enough to tell me you’ve been fighting for me when, as a grassroots advocate working at the local level to see those things come to fruition, I don’t see it happening. I need more than words.