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An Interview with Fox TV political analyst Larry Ceisler
1. Who do you think will win the Democratic primary election for governor and why?
Every day my mind changes on this question. The election has always been Casey's to lose. Bob has so many built-in advantages and his fund raising has been nothing short of spectacular. The Rendell campaign has rebounded quite nicely from a rough start and is humming along at a very impressive clip. I am very surprised when I hear from friends in the West the positive impact the Rendell spots and his campaigning has made. In the end, it's all about money and turnout in the Southeast. If Casey out raises Rendell, he will be very hard to beat. If Rendell gets turnout numbers that fall between mayoral and presidential years and if Democrats in the Philly suburbs decide they want to vote in the Primary, Rendell has the makings of a knockout. Bottom line...I am not going to go out on a limb on this one.
2. If you were advising Mike Fisher, what would you be telling his campaign to do in an uncontested primary?
Raise money...and more money. It is so easy for donors to say, call me after the election. Sure you get a free shot with George W. in town, but Fisher needs to get more in. He also needs his office (Attorney General) to be more active, especially in the Philadelphia market. Fisher has no profile here in the Southeast. Good government is good politics, even as your election approaches. By the way, if this election turns on who is the best manager...Fisher wins...Kent Gates is a winner and knows how to play all the angles
3. You had the distinction of being certified in federal court as an "expert" in politics during the redistricting lawsuit and you testified several times against the GOP plan. What is your take on the Congressional Redistricting plan? Who are some of the big winners and losers?
The big winners are not in the House delegation, rather they are the GOP Leadership in D.C. who might just retain their majority because of the PA move and Rick Santorum who had the balls to put this coup together. I see the new delegation coming down at 13-6 (Republican). I think Congressman Murtha is in for a very rough ride. Frank Mascara called the GOP bluff and has nothing to lose. I think there are going to be a lot of Democrats quietly rooting for Mascara from the sidelines. Surface transportation projects in the state are a loser with the retirement of Bob Borski. I hope the GOP delegation elicited some type of funding promise in return for sacrificing Borski in the effort to take out Hoeffel.
Since we asked Larry this question, a federal court panel has ruled the Pennsylvania Congressional map as unconstitutional and has ordered the Legislature to redraw the map within three weeks. GOP leaders may appeal that ruling and may also revise the map without significant changes.
4. What do you see in the Southeast as the "races to watch" this Fall for the state Senate and state House?
This is a premature question because if Rendell is the nominee, there could be as many as 8 GOP House seats that will be seriously contested. If Casey is the nominee, the battle will move to the rest of the state with the exception of possibly 3 Southeast seats. Key races will be in Montgomery County, the two Lower Merion seats; in Bucks County, the vacant Reinard seat; and the Gannon seat in Delaware County. Democrats have good candidates, but the top of the ticket is going to have a lot to do with our section of the state .The only real Senate race with be Tomlinson-Kostmayer. Again, if Rendell heads the ticket, it could be a rough November for Tomlinson. I can envision Dave Sanko (Senior Advisor to Governor Schweiker) having to come back to be the stopper in this one for Tomlinson.
5. What was your best moment in a political campaign? What was your worst moment?
Best Moments: Both of these with Ken Smukler, Working as Deputy Campaign Manager for Wilson Goode in 1987. First handing Ed Rendell, his last campaign loss in the Primary, and then doing the same with Frank Rizzo in the General. It is still hard to believe Mayor Goode beat two icons...but politics can be strange. The other was Rick Mariano's 1995 election to City Council. It was our first significant win as a partnership. We beat an incumbent backed by Ed Rendell. That campaign began my friendship and association with John Dougherty.
Worst: Also with Ken. John Braxton's loss to Tom Foglietta. John Braxton is a great guy, but the campaign turned very ugly. We did things that I'm not proud of and they countered with tactics that were very beneath the people who Tom trusted. That campaign actually turned my stomach and is the reason I changed my practice from straight partisan campaign work.
Weirdest: Having a candidate for a major office telling us after he had won a contested Primary that he did not want to run in the General...and then after the polls closed in the General, having a reporter call and tell me our client did not vote...I told the reporter he was crazy...and then a few hours later found out the candidate was indeed a no show at the polls...talk about Freudian.
6.Which elected officials do you admire the most?
Arlen Specter and Jim Florio (former NJ governor). Senator Specter is a winner and a worker. He has never let up and never will. He has a love and knowledge of PA that is unmatched. If dogged determination was ever listed in Webster's as one word.. it would be defined by Specter.
Jim Florio - I do not think there is a finer man or politician. He made a move that he knew would cost him politically, but it was the right thing to do. We will see how Jim McGreevy handles the same situation.
7. If you could be Governor for a day, what would you do?
I would move the state Capital to a place that would attract some media attention. State government is practiced in a media vacuum and the results, or lack of, show it. Legislatively, I would push through some type of limitation on campaign giving and spending. I would also pass merit selection for the appellate courts and the City of Philadelphia.
Larry Ceisler has been the Fox TV Political Analyst since1998. He is one of the top political analysts in the state used by newspapers throughout the Commonwealth. Born and raised in Washington County, Larry has lived in Philadelphia since 1982. He graduated from American University and Duquesne University School of Law. He also attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Some of Larry's clients include the House Democratic Caucus, National Audubon Society, Business Roundtable, Philadelphia Housing Authority, IBEW Local 98, Laborers District Council, Lincoln-Mercury, AARP, Law School Admission Council, Councilman Frank Rizzo, Greater Philadelphia Radio Group and Philadelphia Magazine.