If you haven’t heard, there’s an extremely important race brewing in Delaware County for the District 26 Senate seat which will soon be left vacant by retiring Republican Edwin “Ted” Erickson.
The Democratic candidate, John Kane, is the business manager of the local DelCo Plumbers Union, and is running on a platform critical of the policies imposed under the current administration. Kane is up against Tom McGarrigle, a city council member since 2008, and chairman since 2012.
Since a win here could help swing the Senate in the Democrat’s favor, both sides will be exhausting all of their resources on this campaign. Considering that the Inquirer recently published a story stating that this race is at “ground zero,” the next two months will ultimately shape the election result.
A few weeks ago, McGarrigle penned an editorial for the DelCo Daily Times in support of a 4% natural gas extraction tax. Under his proposal, 100 percent of the revenue from the severance tax would go towards funding K-12 education, effectively reversing some of the education cuts which have occurred over the last four years; sound familiar?
“We have a booming natural gas industry that is making billions of dollars annually. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s fee on Marcellus Shale natural-gas wells is the lowest among 11 states. The severance tax of 4 percent that I have proposed will put Pennsylvania in the middle of the pack compared to other states. Natural gas companies would pay their fair share, and it would not hinder the future development of the industry.
When I announced my support for a severance tax on natural gas, I turned a few heads as one of only a handful of Republicans to support it. But the bottom line is that it makes sense.”
While I’m all for Republican support of an extraction tax, this is clearly just an attempt by McGarrigle to distance himself from Tom Corbett as much as possible. The divide within the GOP has become very clear over the past few months, with Republican legislators refusing to submit to the Governor’s demands on liquor privatization and pension reform during budget season, and now prospective candidates skewing themselves more towards the moderate.
Although McGarrigle’s refusal to align himself with any Corbett policies shows the dysfunction within the GOP and general distaste for the Corbett administration, it is also a very smart move in a race that will come down to the wire.
By supporting the extraction tax, the city council chairman is attempting to undermine one of the main pillars of Kane’s campaign; to restore the education funding cuts and force the natural gas drillers to pay. While this strategy makes sense because McGarrigle will certainly win some votes from Democrats, he also risks alienating many within his own party who will feel that he isn’t conservative enough. We won’t know the true impact that the editorial has until updated polling figures are released.
For Kane to win, he will need Democrats to flock to the polls in November. Although District 26 has supported several Dems in recent national elections, the District also re-elected Senator Erickson twice since 2006. Simply riding the pro-Wolf, anti-Corbett wave may not be enough for a win, so expect Kane to be on the DelCo campaign trail non-stop over the next two months.
If you’ve missed out on this race to this point, now is the time to get familiar, because it will no doubt be one of the biggest storylines in the Democrat’s campaign to take the Senate in November.