Monday, November 1, 2010

Endorsements for Tuesday's Election: Towne (I), Sestak (D), Mensch (R), Freeman (D), Onorato (D)--REMEMBER TO VOTE TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 2ND!

And the winner IS...

Posted by: Noel Jones

By "winner" of course, I am not predicting who I think will win, rather who I think should win these races. I even use the term "should win" loosely, as in some cases, I am voting for the lesser of two dangers, rather than for a candidate that inspires me, but in the absence of inspiring candidates in every race, what else is a voter to do?

Readers should know that those I was raised a Democrat, I am an Independent at heart,  so I never straight-ticket, and often vote for multiple parties, as evidenced by my endorsing one Independent, one Republican and three Democrats in this election. To me elections are about the individual candidates and where they stand, not any party machine with which they are affiliated. While I know that there are many fans of the President who feel it important to send him the largest team of Democrats possible to be able to get anything meaningful passed, after some intent study, I have come to disagree. A "majority" of Democrats or Republicans has little bearing on what gets passed or not passed. What matters is having a majority of members in congress on both sides who have not been bought off by corporations and special interest groups, and it would be a fallacy to insist that one party or the other is free of sin in this regard, otherwise the Democratic majority that the President has already had would have been able to get more bills through with less dilution in these first two years.

DISCLAIMER: the main platform issue motivating these endorsements is each candidate's position on hydrofracking for natural gas, which I feel strongly is the most serious threat to our quality of life in the Lehigh Valley, whether people have waken up to that fact or not (and I have taken several other factors under consideration as well):

U.S. House of Representatives: Jake Towne (I)
I have seen this candidate in two live debates now, as well as interacting at community events and on this blog. Aside from coming out first in this race in favor of a state-wide moratorium on hydrofracking for natural gas until safety studies can be completed, this candidate strikes me as the most earnest and the least political of all three candidates, as he engages genuinely and thoroughly with candidates when approached. While I do not agree with him on all issues, he has bold ideas for change in our government and in our economy, and whereas some of these ideas sounded shocking and radical at first, he has gotten a lot better at explaining them along the way. I suspect his "Open Office" policy would be a mere extension of his openness with voters on the campaign trail and offer rare transparency and accountability. It's refreshing to meet a candidate who is not afraid to think out of the box, takes a clear stand on issues without playing politics by being vague, is not polarizing in his arguments, and admits when certain aspects of his strategy are still in formation, leaving the door open to voters to contribute to that strategy. Towne wants to end our wars overseas so as to inspire less terrorism and drastically reduce our taxation for trillions of dollars in defense spending. He wants to fade out the federal income tax over time and fund schools at the state level, rather than taxing residents at a federal level and requiring them to apply to get their money back. He thinks any American in love should be free to marry another, and that the federal government has no business trying to ban gay marriage.  I called him as the winner of the Express-Times debate at the State Theatre on this blog, and the Express-Times likewise endorsed him as the best choice over the Democrat and Republican in this race, who have been turning voters off with regurgitations of typical party talking points and their confusing and offensive tit-for-tat mudslinging campaigns. I agree with the Express-Times--let's send Towne to Washington.

U.S. Senate: Joe Sestak (D)
Most importantly, Joe Sestak is a co-sponsor of the FRAC Act in Congress, which seeks to pull natural gas drillers back under the regulation of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which Cheney and his team exempted them from in 2005. But almost as importantly, his opponent is a former Wall Street banker who opposes Wall Street reform and is part of the industry that got us into the mess we're in. Sestak co-sponsored anti-bullying legislation and supported legislation for increased funding of disadvantaged students, as well as supporting merit-based pay for teachers. Aside from being strong on the civil rights of gay Americans--and especially gay troops and veterans--Sestak supports tax cuts for small businesses, closing tax loopholes for companies who send American jobs overseas, and sees nationwide passenger rail as a great potential job creator, carbon emissions reducer, tool for economic development of areas hard-hit by the recession, and a means of reducing American independence on foreign on oil, by reducing our dependence on car travel to commute. His opponent is in favor of tax cuts for companies that outsource American jobs. His opponent is also against gay rights, uses polarizing terms like the "Death Tax" and has no stated position on education when our nation's educational system is in crisis. We need innovative, forward-thinking candidates like Sestak. Bring on those railroad jobs!

State Senate: Bob Mensch (R)
Bob Mensch is one of the few Republicans in our senate taking the environmental dangers and health risks of hydrofracking for natural gas seriously, and as polarized as politics have proven to be in the past two years, we need allies in both camps that are intelligent, diplomatic and savvy enough to be able to talk to each other to work it out and do the right thing to protect the drinking water and health of 15 million people who get their water from the Delaware watershed, where 50,000 oil rigs are waiting for a green light to drill. Aside from that, Mensch has proven himself accessible to voters both through this blog, via email and phone, and by meeting in person with Easton residents concerned with pension reform and its effect on property taxes for our school district. He is in favor of merit-based pay and career ladders as incentives for getting and keeping great teachers. He is also a fiscal conservative passionate about reducing wasteful spending in Harrisburg, which we really need. I am breaking rank with my Democratic upbringing to vote for a Republican in this race not only for his own strengths, but because his opponent has been much less accessible and proven himself less diplomatic and savvy in short conversations I have managed to have with him at public events, which usually ended in his handing me his literature, rather than engaging in a earnest conversation. In one 5 minute conversation, Mensch's opponent managed to insult the intelligence of rural Americans (not realizing that I grew up in rural Alaska) and to compare natural gas drillers to Hitler (see my earlier blog post on Hitler references and Godwin's Law).

State House: Bob Freeman (D)
Bob Freeman has been in office 22 years and his depth of experience and connections have paid off for our region, especially with regard to funding for economic development, historic preservation, environmental conservation. He has co-sponsored four bills with regard to hydrofracking, including moratoriums on drilling in floodplains, state forests, and within 2500 feel of community water sources. He is a true statesman in an era of polarized vitriol when we desperately a statesman with his grace, diplomacy and savvy representing us in Harrisburg to be able to open the kind of dialogue that will get anything meaningful done. Bob has also proven himself very accessible to residents via phone, email, through the blog and in agreeing to meet with residents in the community concerned about the pension crisis and its impact on our property taxes for schools. In researching his opponent's positions, I found it incredibly hard to find clear ideas or compelling stances on what he is for, and I question his judgment with regard to statements like, "only God can give rights," especially with regard to gay rights. Freeman, on the other hand, supported legislation adding gays and lesbians as a protected group under the Hate Crimes Statute. In an election where anti-incumbent sentiment has rarely been higher, this is one incumbent to keep.

Governor: Dan Onorato (D)
This, for me, is a vote against his opponent, more than an enthusiastic vote for Onorato. While Onorato has done great things in the Pittsburgh area with regard to economic development, it concerns me greatly that he is clearly passionate about drilling in the Marcellus Shale as a job creator and instituting a severance tax on drillers to help balance the state budget, making no statements about health risks or safety concerns.  Still, he is better than his opponent, who is against all moratoriums and severance taxes on drillers (PA is currently the only state that doesn't have a severance tax on natural gas drilling, so Big Gas is getting rich off our land for free, while putting our health and property values at risk). Onorato's opponent added our state to a federal lawsuit over Arizona's controversial SB 1070, which allows law officers to violate civil liberties by demanding identification papers of any individual they think might be an illegal immigrant, as well as suing the federal government to fight implementation of the measly bit of health care reform that we did get this year. Onorato is pro-rail, and made Allegheny County one of the few in PA to protect against anti-gay discrimination. He has my vote, because the alternative would be dangerous, but it will take a seriously letter-writing and rallying campaign to convince Onorato that he needs to take health concerns over hydrofracking seriously.

So there you go--those are my picks. You are welcome to drop comments that agree or disagree to get a final conversation of persuasion going leading up to the close of polls tomorrow--whatever you do--PLEASE MAKE A PLAN FOR TOMORROW TO GET OUT AND VOTE AND REMIND ALL YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY! Polls are open until 8:00 p.m., so there is plenty of time to vote after work! If you have any questions about where or how to vote, please pick up a voter's guide at a local business near you, or download The West Word Voter's Guide from the Downloadable Documents link on the right side bar of this home page.


noel jones said...

for more info and comments on tomorrow's election, visit Bernie O'Hare's blog, Lehigh Valley Ramblings located here:

or by clicking the link on the right side bar of the home page on this blog--he's been covering the candidates for months now...

David Caines said...

Hi Noel,
We are in agreement, and I will consider Mensch. But honestly for the foreseeable future We'll just be voting the democratic ticket. At least until the current administration has managed to clean up the mess left by the last Republican administration. And possibly until they admit that since the Obama election, they have been willing to sacrifice the good of the nation for the good of the party. Which to me brands them as traitors one and all.
I'll admit I find these truths a shame as I share some beliefs with my republican friends. But I personally feel that I can not vote for them until they stop trying to destroy the nation. That is not the GOP that I was raised with and it is not a GOP that I can in any way support.Which is a shame.
Well, you live close enough that we may well see you at the poles.

noel jones said...

I hear you, David. I think I'm going to set the alarm and go to the polls to vote when they open, and then again from 7-8pm because I'm really curious to see whether there's a good turnout or not. It would be so great to see a LINE...

tachitup said...

.Oh, Noël, you're just too predictable. I know you think the issues you graded them on are the most important, but not everybody is in accord. Yes, Fracking is important, and rail is nice, but gay mariage and right-to-life are not in the top 5 of my concerns. My wallet is #1.

- Governor: Onorato has no stated health concerns from fracking, from your voter's guide. How can you vote for that? Of course Corbett will cave and go for a severance tax...just too good to pass up.
- Senate: Toomey has not done a good job addressing gas. But Sestak is an Obama rubber stamp.
-House: Yep, Towne is the best candidate for us, but ain't gonna win. The others are a toss-up, I'll go with Dent.
- Harrisburg guys: you got that right.

Alan Raisman said...


Was this an endorsement by the Neighbors of Easton blog, or was this solely your endorsement? Were the other contributors to the blog asked who they think would best serve the people who read this blog?

Alan Raisman said...

A final Election Day thought:

Polls are open from 7 AM until 8 PM!! Voting does not take more than 10 minutes!! Please go and vote!! And if you see a volunteer outside, no matter their party, thank them for being there. They put in a lot of volunteer hours!!

noel jones said...

Alan, the Neighbors of Easton blog is again a solo project. The other bloggers fell away over time, and I intend to expand the scope of the blog soon. So Neighbors of Easton is myself and all who read and comment here.

Tachitup--I assume that by "predictable" you mean that I've been consistent in my concerns. I'm ok with that. But right-to-life was not mentioned here--not sure where you got that. Yes, Onorato scares me with regard to hydrofracking, but not as much as Corbett. I'm not sure how you think that Toomey has address health risks on natural gas? I couldn't find him anywhere on record as having health concerns with regard to natural gas. Glad we agree on Towne--why throw the vote to Dent? Why not send a message?

One thing that is important to clarify--The West Word is not affiliated with Neighbors of Easton--I just give it a place to live on line while the WWNP, who funds the West Word project, develops their own web site where it will be available from that point on. I contribute to The West Word, but that is a very large team that is politically neutral. Neighbors of Easton is only neutral in that it welcomes all political opinions in earnest conversation and debate. The political opinions stated in posts are mine. Political opinions stated in comments belong to each commenter.

Dennis R. Lieb said...


The NoE blog and Noel are now one in the same. The format has changed and she is now the sole contributor. I'm not sure how she will handle input from former contributors like me since I may have special issues I'd like to address in the future and might like an occassional guest forum. But this is totally up to her and I have no problem with whatever decision she makes.


Dennis R. Lieb said...


On the West Word; just so you know, the paper has every right to take controversial positions it feels are important to the neighborhood, whether or not those positions jibe with the political stance of the city or the non-profit organizations engaged to help revitalize it.

Do what you think is best and act your conscience.


Julie Zando-Dennis said...

As the founder of The West Word and it's editor-in-chief, I can say with certainty that The West Word is not Noel Jones' or the Neighbors of Easton's publication. Noel is a valued member of The West Word's editorial committee, who also, like every editoral committee member, also contributes articles. The paper's editorial committee is comprised of a number of concerned West Ward residents, with a variety of political viewpoints. We embrace residents like Noel who are active in working towards positive change in the neighborhood. But to clear the record, Noel is just one of several such residents.

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

I do not support Jake Towne, because of his extremist views. For example, according to The West Word Voter's Guide, Mr. Towne wants to eliminate public assistance to illegal immigrants, saying that "'Anchor babies' create an incentive for foreign nationals to deliver their babies on American soil."

This inflamatory rhetoric is simply not true. In fact, a US citizen child cannot file for a US visa for that citizen's parents until 21 years of age, and upon reaching that age the citizen applicant must also be earning at least 125% of the US poverty threshold to be able to apply. Thus, temporary or illegal immigrants who have babies in the US have no means of remaining legally in the US; they must return home and wait until the child reaches age 21.

To deny citizenship to "anchor babies," the nation must amend the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment's citizenship clause was crafted in response to southern states which had challenged the right of African-Americans to be U.S. citizens. The 14th Amendment's citizenship provision intentionally liberated African-Americans and other people of color from the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which determined that people of African descent, particularly if they had ever been enslaved or descended from anyone who had been enslaved, were not entitled to the privileges of U.S. citizenship.

Fast forward to Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who recently announced that he would consider introducing a bill to rescind a provision in the 14th Amendment which generally guarantees U.S. citizenship to those who are born within U.S. borders. If Graham and politicians like Jake Towne have their way, where do we stop? Should we go back to Dred Scott and deny citizenship to blacks who are born within our borders? How about the children of Italians, Irish, Poles? Muslims?

I've always said, and truly believe, that if Libertarians like Jake Towne ruled, we would still have slavery in the south. Libertarians support state rule over all else -- morality, decency, rationality.

Another case in point -- Towne's position on marriage equality. While he says that he thinks Americans should be apply to marry the partner of their choice, he thinks that it's a state issue. Like anti-miscegenation laws, which banned interracial marriage, were a state issue? Anti-miscegenation laws ruled the South before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967 declared anti-miscegenation laws a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and therefore unconstitutional. In Jake Towne's world, the federal courts would have no such right, and it would be up to the states to decide whether a black could marry a white. Not a world I care to live in.

noel jones said...

Thanks, Dennis. And yes, I will still be posting guest posts from other writers occasionally, usually with the intro of "Please see a message from ________ below:" so that it's clear whose words and message the reader is reading.

Most such contributors, i.e., my former bloggers, already have my personal email address, but if there is someone new out there who would like to ask about posting an article, they are welcome to email me at

noel jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Caines said...

I'm not votting for Jake Town mostly because he's an indie at a time when all that is likely to do is help the republicans into office. And as to his rhetoric about "Anchor Babies", I think he is way too far removed from the problem to understand that they really haven't been much of an issue for the better part of a decade. I've known and worked with many illeagals and all in the last 15 years have taken themselves home so as not to have the children born American citizens, but born citizens of their parents nations. Despite our arrogance, the opinion of the world seems to be that American citizenship has lost it's value. I blame that on Bush one and two.
But mostly I feel that the Republicans stabbed us in the back on Obama. There has always been an unstated understanding in American politics that you may get as dirty and nasty as you wish pre-election, but after the voters have spoken you celebrate your win or mourn your loss and then you get on board accept the voice of the people and move towards the common good of the nation.
Sadly that has not been the case with the GOP for years, a decade or more really...but clearly since the Obama win. For the last two years they have been openly opposed to all things Obama with almost no real plan of their own except to destroy the man and his projects and the nation be damned. That's unacceptable and what ever beliefs I may share with the republicans and even a few tea partiers, cannot in my view make that outright refusal to play "By the rules" anything but treasonous. Even if they put up supper man as a candidate I couldn't vote for him. There's no way to trust a party that simply doesn't care about the nation unless they are in control, they have stepped beyond the realm of fair play, and they'll have to fix that before I ever vote Republican again.

noel jones said...

Julie--thanks for such a thorough post. As I said in the post, I do not agree with Towne's position on everything, and immigration policy is not of those issues agree with him on. But I absolutely disagree with Dent's position on hydrofracking, which could quite possibly, as seen in Dimock, PA, poison the drinking water for 15 million of the rest of us. I don't trust Callahan's position as he hedged so many times on the issue during the campaign, and finally made a statement a week from the election as to bringing gas companies back under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Towne has been strong, detailed and clear on his stance from the beginning, publishing an entire position paper on the topic.

As for gay marriage, he did not strike me at all as disingenuous when he said publicly on three different occasions that he thinks anyone should be free to marry the partner of his or her choice. I think he genuinely believes that it is not within the purview of the federal government to legislate marriage, and I'd have to agree with him there. I think every state should legalize gay marriage, as California and Massachussetts have, and the federal government should not be obstructing that at all. Churches have a right to decide whether they will marry gay couples or not within the definitions of their religions, but as far as LEGALl marriage in any state--the free will of any American to combine finances, property, insurance and access rights to anyone they choose should have been legalized a long time ago--in fact it makes me mad that it has to be legalized at all because it never should have been illegal in the first place.

The three main positions that I like Towne on are: 1) his stance on hydrofracking, making citizen health and safety the priority over the gold-rush mentality 2) his ideas on education--our federal Dept of Ed is a new creation from 30 years ago that has failed us miserably, and he has a good point--why should we every year, pay more federal income tax to fund the Dept of Ed, and then have our school districts and states have to apply to get it back to fund programs for our students? How many salaries and pensions are our taxes paying the Dept of Ed just to make that maneuver each year? 3. His stance on foreign wars and the war on terror. We have got to get over these outdated methods of invasion and war--they have nothing to do with stopping random suicide bombers within our borders. We are spending trillions to fund wars that are going nowhere, making us no safer--all they do is create more people in other countries that hate us and want to do us harm. We could cover a lot of our nation's other money problems with severe cutbacks on defense spending, we would have all that manpower for securing borders, airports and ports, and we would save the lives of both our troops, and civilians overseas, resulting in less wounded veterans, lost soldiers and less of the anti-American resentment that spurs increased terrorist recruitment. How does it make sense to send and entire army to catch one man, killing civilians in the process? We are in a recession and spending trillions on defense. It makes no sense fiscally, or in the interests of peace.


noel jones said...

FYI--the post of mine that i deleted was a duplicate of the one before it...

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

I know you respect my right to disagree about Jake Towne, and that's why I think that your blog is such an asset to the community -- above all, you clearly support the democratic process and are not an idealogue.

By the way, I voted for a Republican for the first time in my life after reading your endorsement of Mensch. I was impressed by his positions as relayed in the Voter's Guide, but hesitated because of his party affiliation, but your endorsement pushed me over the edge.

Mensch has the courage to speak out in favor of civil unions, whereas Wallace is silent on the issue, perhaps not wanting to offend his base. We need politicians who will fight for equality, and not shrink in fear of political backlash.

noel jones said...

Julie--absolutely. Everyone is welcome to disagree--please, everybody, feel free to disagree! You might get spirited replies from me, but I am always glad when people enter the debate with good arguments, and I especially appreciate really thorough posts that share detailed, fact-based information with other readers.

One of the things I like about both Towne (I) and Mensch (R) is that they take clear positions so that you know where they stand, and yet I have found them both to be extremely accessible, willing to listen to new ideas and engage with the public in an earnest way. So I feel that even if I disagree on one or two issues, that I could, as a resident, contact them and make my argument, be taken seriously, treated respectfully, and possibly influence their strategies for dealing with the problems we face. For instance, on the immigration issue, I feel confident that I could contact Towne and say, "So, is the concept of Liberty something we only uphold as a philosophy only within our borders, or should we uphold the concept globally?" and I am confident that he would engage in an open-minded debate on the topic. Bob Freeman (D) is also extremely accessible and listens intently and with respect to all arguments. The other Democrats I have found to be rather inaccessible, so I feel torn about them, even if I may agree with a lot of their positions, because I have no idea whether or not they will listen to their constituents if elected.

Two really important qualities in my mind for the candidates we elect are: 1. the ability to listen earnestly to constituents and consider our views, and 2. the ability to dialogue respectfully across party lines for common goals, i.e., completing environmental studies to establish safety standards before drilling for natural gas at 50,000 sites poised to do so in the Delaware.

noel jones said...

p.s. I was glad to see that The Morning Call ran photos on the front page of all five candidates for the House and Senate races, including Jake Towne (they had excluded him from debate they sponsored for that race). I haven't heard any polls on the House race in the last few days--the national news is all over our Senate race but not our House race, which I don't get, because with a popular Independent in the race, and a Dem and Republican less than ten digits apart, it could really go any direction...

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

This morning I thought the polls were more crowded than usual.

noel jones said...

that's great--i've been reading in the local papers on line that turnout has not been crazy high, but definitely higher than a usual mid-term turn out.

when i voted at about 9:00, there were just three people in line, but most commuters would have already voted by then, unless they're voting after work...

noel jones said...

Election results for our region can be found on the front page of The Morning Call and their Election Night 2010 Results interactive map:

noel jones said...

with 10% of districts reporting, the poll results are Callahan (D) 49%, Dent (R) 43%, and Towne (I) 6%. Still 90% of votes to be counted, so the numbers could shift some.

noel jones said...

Currently Sestak (D) over Toomey (R) for Senate 57% to 42%...

noel jones said...

with 28% reporting:

Callahan 46.9%
Dent 45.5%
Towne 7.6%

with 44% reporting:
Sestak 54.4%
Toomey 45.6%

with 45% reporting:
Onorato 50.5%
Corbett 49.5%

noel jones said...

Corbett has pulled ahead of Onorato by one point:

Corbett (R) 50%
Onorato (D) 49%

Sestak is hanging on to a lead over Onorato but the gap is narrowing:

Sestak (D) 52%
Toomey (R) 47%

nothing new on Callahan/Dent/Towne yet...

noel jones said...

Corbett 51%
Onorato 48%

Sestak 52%
Toomey 47%

Dent 47%
Callahan 45%
Towne 7%

noel jones said...

with 39% reporting:

Dent (R) 49%
Callahan (D) 43%
Towne (I) 7%

noel jones said...

with 71% reporting, Dent widens his lead, and Towne increases his percentage for the Independent vote:
Dent 50%
Callahan 41.6%
Towne 8.4%

with 78% reporting, Corbett is pulling ahead:
Corbett 52.3%
Onorato 47.7%

with 79% reporting, Sestak is holding on:
Sestak 51.6%
Toomey 48.4%

noel jones said...

with 84% reporting, it's neck and neck:
Sestak 50.8%
Toomey 49.2%

with 86% reporting, it looks like Corbett will be our next Governor:
Corbett 53.2%
Onorato 46.8%

with 72% reporting:
Dent 50.6%
Callahan 41.3%
Towne 8.1%

noel jones said...

Toomey has pulled ahead of Sestak for Senate, but with less than a point lead, it's too close to call--this could end in a recount.

Corbett is our new Governor.

Dent beat Callahan decisively and remains our Representative in Congress, with Towne garnering 7.5% for the Independent vote.

Now it's time for Jon Stewart and The Daily Show to restore my sanity! Good night.

repmensch said...

Noel, Thanks to you and your support team for the endorsement in last Tuesday's election. I truly appreciate your help and support; and I will continue to work to keep your organizations' respect. Never hesitate to write,, or call, 484.433.5917 with any issues or concerns. Sincerely, Bob Mensch

noel jones said...

Thank you, Senator Mensch for posting! (and for providing direct contact info in your post) We are lucky to have a few elected officials that are willing to reach out to constituents in tech-savvy ways.