U.S. Sen. Bob Casey offers post-primary take on the political landscape

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey offers post-primary take on the political landscape
Sen. Bob Casey.
PHOTO: Charles Mostoller

A week after a primary election in which dark-horse candidates shook up the political landscape in Pennsylvania, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey reflected on the big wins for Democrats Katie McGinty and Josh Shapiro.

Casey, D-Pa., was with his party’s presidential candidate Hillary Clinton celebrating the former secretary of state’s Pennsylvania winlast Tuesday night.

Casey also shared his expectations on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee – or at least his hopes for a change of gears within the Republican-controlled Congress.

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Beginning with the race for attorney general, in last Tuesday’s primary, Montgomery County Board of Commissioners’ Chairman Josh Shapiro won out over fellow Democrats John Morganelli and Stephen Zappala with 48 percent of the vote. Shapirofaces off in the fall against Republican Sen. John Rafferty, who represents parts of Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties. The two are competitors coming from familiar turf.

But Shapiro has faced criticism that he lacks the prosecutorial proficiency to be at the helm of the highest office enforcing the law in the Keystone State.

During an interview Tuesday at his Center City Philadelphia office, Casey said this issue was not unfamiliar to him. He dealt with it himself when he was running for auditor general in 1996.

“[Critics] said, ‘You have no training in accounting or finance or any of those kinds of disciplines, how can you run an agency like that?’” Casey said.

“One of the arguments I made was, ‘I have a good plan for this office, and I’ll hire a good team.’ And I was right about both. I served eight years there. Josh has all that potential. The word ‘reform’ is going to be very important here – making sure that when people see the attorney general’s office, they don’t just see a super district attorney or a large prosecutorial agency…

“They want someone who’s going to be on their side, be a consumer advocate or someone who stands up for them on preventing senior scams or whatever it is, they want all the power it [has]. He has a good plan already, but I think he’ll demonstrate as attorney general, that he’ll hire a good team.”

Casey applauded Shapiro for running a tough race and an expensive one, at that. He said he thinks surviving that uphill battle against a Democrat (Zappala) who was backed by major Philadelphia labor unions will help him in the fall.

In the race for the state’s other U.S. Seante seat,McGinty picked up more than 43 percent of the Democratic vote, leaving Joe Sestak, John Fetterman and Joe Vodvarka behind. She faces incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey in the fall. Toomey ran uncontested in last week’s primary.

“I think the fact of having gone through a tough primary is going to make her a better candidate in the fall,” Casey said of McGinty.

“Every team needs to be tested, so she and her campaign will benefit from that, even though it’s an expensive process. It’s the conditioning and the preparation that helps a lot.”

As for any chance for a hearing on President Barack Obama-backed Judge Merrick Garland, of Washington, D.C., to replace the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, Casey said he was hopeful, but not optimistic.

He said too many recalcitrant Republican senators are blocking the way for Garland to get a hearing or a vote. Republicans, on the other hand, argue they’re waiting until after the presidential election to allow American voters to weigh in on the direction of the high court.

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“I hope Republicans will reconsider their current position, which is not only not to have a vote, as the U.S Constitution says they should have, but at a minimum, they’ll allow a hearing –a formal, judiciary committee hearing –in addition to the meetings that some Republican senators have had with Merrick Garland.

“… That’s the job of senators, to ask those questions and to review the record of the individual and to make a judgment. Your job is not to walk away from the responsibility. I think the Republican caucus is not doing its job if they stay on the course they’re on.”

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