Pennsylvania candidate keeps us guessing

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March 14, 2012

By Maresa Strano


HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania: Attorney General of Pennsylvania candidate Don Bailey arrived on the Democratic primary ballot two weeks behind schedule. The Commonwealth Court, citing signature irregularities as cause for the delay, ultimately validated his filings and cleared him to run alongside fellow Democrats Patrick J. Murphy and Kathleen Granahan Kane in late February.[1]

Murphy, an Iraq vet, is a highly-regarded figure in socially progressive circles owing to his sponsorship of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" while serving in the House. Kane is a career prosecutor with a personally-supplied and robust campaign war chest.[2]

Bailey withdrew his name from the Democratic primary ballot instead of contest the challenge in court

At first, Bailey's primary competitors did not publicly acknowledge the addition of the former Westmoreland County Congressman and State Auditor General, except to say his presence did not perturb their two-way race.[3] Murphy and Kane had a dramatic advantage over Bailey already: Not only were their candidacies granted prompt clearance by the state, their campaigns were already well-established by the filing deadline, enhancing their lead in terms of campaign funding, exposure, and endorsements. Referred to by operatives for Republican candidate David Freed's campaign as "the strongest field Democrats have fielded for Attorney general"[4] since 1978, when Pennsylvania voters approved a Constitutional amendment that changed the office from an appointed position to an elected position, Murphy's and Kane's apparently dismissive attitude toward his candidacy was not altogether unsurprising.[1]

As it turned out, Murphy did not view Bailey's late entrance as fashionable or inconsequential. Despite his 20 year hiatus from politics and his record of recklessness as a civil rights lawyer, Bailey is a decorated Vietnam veteran with an Irish last name. These two qualities, while not enough to win Bailey an election, could be enough to make Murphy lose this election.[5] Such was the perceived threat to Murphy's primary election victory in April that three of Murphy's "allies" undertook to drive Bailey out of the race by challenging his nominating petitions.[6] After the special scrutiny and examination already applied to his petitions during/after the filing period, Bailey would have to contest the challenge in court. Rather than pursue the contest, he withdrew his bid for the Democratic nomination on March 10.

The three plaintiffs, whose lawyer is not shy about their political motivations, "have ties to powerful state interests who have crossed him in court," according to Bailey. He sees the claims as more than a maneuver orchestrated by Murphy's campaign. "I've become an earmarked enemy of the entire legal system in Pennsylvania."[5]

Bailey plans to run as an Independent instead, an historically difficult feat in Pennsylvania. The state requires hopeful candidates outside the two major parties to obtain signatures numbering 2% of the highest vote-getter in the last statewide election in order to secure their place in the general election. Based on 2011 election results, Bailey will need 20,601 petition signatures, about 20 times what he gathered for his Democratic bid, to gain ballot access by the August 1 deadline.[6]

About the uphill journey ahead, Bailey told the Pennsylvania Cable Network, "If they get me, they get me; But until the day they die they are going to remember the fight I'm going to give them."[5][7]

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