It is now January 20th, the Senate has been back in session for two days, and in six days the election season for 2016 will begin. The Bureau of Elections, Commissions, and Legislation has placed the year’s election schedule online, and January 26th is the first day that nomination petitions can be circulated. It remains to be seen if there will be any competitors to the current most junior Senator, but I am hopeful that there will be some measure of competition. Even in cases where the incumbent is well-entrenched, such as with Tim Murphy, it is always better to have at least some choice given to the electorate. If Reschenthaler runs unopposed, he may very well become entrenched until he sees some opportunity to move up or out. The last three senators from the 37th district have all resigned (Tim Murphy in 2003, John Pippy in 2012, and Matt Smith in 2015), so that trend may very well continue if Reschenthaler gets no competition.
Once the office of Matt Smith, this building is now the office of Guy Reschenthaler, though without a name change.
Reschenthaler’s State Senate page is available and shows two offices serving the district, one in Moon and one in Mt Lebanon. I haven’t been by the office in Moon, but a drive past his office in Mt Lebanon yesterday showed that the signage is a bit behind the times. I’m guessing that either the budget impasse has not allowed funds to be made available to replace the signage, or Reschenthaler is saving every dime he has to retain his seat against any rival in the election this year. Interestingly, Matt Smith’s personal senate page is still up, seemingly unchanged after his resignation in June. That is, everything is frozen in time except for his Twitter feed.
Lastly, Reschenthaler was one of five Senators, led by Scott Wagner, to announce a package of six bills to try to reform lobbying in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with Reschenthaler’s particular contribution being bill to “increase penalties for violations of the lobbyist law from $2,000 to $4,000, with penalties increasing for repeat violations.” This doesn’t strike me as being particularly groundbreaking in itself, but it does indicate that Reschenthaler is initially aligning himself with Wagner, a distinctly non-establishment if not Tea Party-aligned Republican from York County whose package of bills is raising questions of his intent.
While in the process of setting up this blog, I found out, using more effort than it should have been, that Dominic Pileggi, Senator from the 9th district, which includes parts of Chester and Delaware counties, resigned effective January 3rd, 2016, so that he can serve as a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, a position to which he was elected in November. As per usual, he will be replaced in a special election sometime in the future, on a date to be determined. This means that I will need to make some changes behind the scenes to make some of the blog’s pages work with 49 senators instead of 50, it also means that Guy Reschenthaler’s term as the 50th Senator in seniority will be a short one.
What most intrigues me about this news is how hidden this information was. While running through the list of Senators on the PA Senate website, I discovered that no Senator was listed for District 9. Seeing that the most recent Senator for this district was Pileggi, I did a Google search for his name and saw that his Wikipedia entry still listed him as the Incumbent. Another search result was to his Senatorial webpage, which had suspiciously excised any reference to Pileggi himself and had become a generic 9th District webpage. Ultimately I had to go to his Facebook page to find the news of his resignation from a post he left on December 29th. No announcement of any type was to be found on the Senate home page, no explanation was given on that site as to why no Senator was listed as representing District 9. You have to find this out explicitly by either viewing the print-friendly list of Senators or by using the “Find My Legislator” form to see the Senator listed as “VACANT”. I wouldn’t expect his resignation to be trumpeted on TV and print news in Pittsburgh, but I don’t think it should be that hard to find, especially for anyone interested enough in the Pennsylvania Senate to view its webpage. I wonder how many people in his district are even aware of this happening, given the traditionally low turnout for odd-year elections and my personal experience in seeing the lack of knowledge of Matt Smith’s resignation in the 37th district just last year.
Somewhat amusingly, the Pennsylvania Senate Republicans website lists “9th Senatorial District” as a currently-serving GOP Senator. You may think this presumptuous since, in theory at least, a Democrat could perfectly well win this seat in the special election. However, as a grand total of three men, all Republicans, have held this seat since 1949, an assumption of victory may not be so far-fetched. Although long held by Republicans, it is in an area of the state with largely Democratic representation, so perhaps a Democratic victory is not so improbable.