The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, June 18, 2003  

A Better Candidate This Time and The Fire Next Time

Some people spend a lifetime planning to run for public office. I thought about it, discussed it, and analyzed it, for about six months, much more seriously than I expected and far more earnestly than many Rittenhouse readers probably believed.

As you already know, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) is facing a challenge from the right in the Republican primary from Congressman Pat Toomey (R) of Allentown, Pa. But there is, as yet, no declared Democratic candidate.

It was this distressing fact that above all else prompted me to at least consider a campaign. The very idea that Pennsylvania Democrats would allow Sen. Specter to ride unchallenged into a fifth term -- assuming he wins the Republican primary, of course -- was to me unfathomable and indefensible. There had to be somebody else on the ballot, I thought, and if Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) can be a U.S. Senator, why couldn’t I?

Of course, one doesn’t just sign on the dotted line and join the race. Pennsylvania is a big state, it’s an important office, and Specter is a formidable candidate. Discussions with politicos here and in Washington focused on the enormity of the task, with fundraising, statewide organizing, and lack of name recognition and political experience clearly the major obstacles.

More personally, there was my own financial position to consider. I’m not wealthy and I don’t expect to be anytime soon. Unlike, for example, law-firm partners who continue to take their salaries and profit draws while campaigning for public office, it would just be me and my bank accounts. A scary prospect, that. And then there’s my health, which, as I’ve noted here in the past is, for the moment anyway, not so great. Could I endure a lengthy campaign, physically and mentally, and would my opponent ignorantly make an issue of the challenges I face on a daily basis?

And finally, there’s the matter of the general tenor of American politics today. Sen. Specter is not the most scrupulous gentleman around, nor do I have a reputation for being tender when it comes to sparring with my opponents. (See, for example, Jeanne d’Arc: “I’m really glad Jim Capozzola doesn’t feel the same way about me that he does about Camille Paglia, because once he takes you down, you don’t get up again.”) I was eager for the challenge. I’m pretty sure it would get ugly, but in an intelligent and entertaining way. I’d give anything to go one-on-one with Sen. Specter in a series of debates.

Taking all things into account, though, I’ve come to realize that it’s just not to be. The timing isn’t right and I’m ill-prepared. And so I’m abandoning any hope of or effort toward challenging Sen. Specter, bowing out, as it were.

There’s good news, though. I’ve learned recently that Sen. Specter will almost certainly face a strong and experienced Democratic opponent in the general election, one far more capable than me of the challenge at hand. All of you will learn the name soon enough, and I can’t wait to blog aggressively on this candidate’s behalf.

Beyond that, Sen. Santorum is up for reelection in 2006, and running against “man-on-dog” Santorum is a notion that already has the fire burning for next time.

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