Democracy Rising Newsletter

Member Group : Democracy Raising PA

There’s a lot going on in state government, especially in the realm of public integrity and elections. Here are some updates.
Legislative Elections
All House districts and half of the Senate districts are up for election this year. Since last week’s edition of DR News, we’ve learned of a few changes, including one that has not made it to the official list yet. Some candidates fell victim to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission’s brinksmanship, finding themselves not in the district they thought they were. Others were removed from the ballot by court order or withdrew for various reasons. Some challenges are still pending, so there may be even fewer districts with competition when the dust settles.
For now, here’s the latest ballot summary for the 25 Senate districts:
• 9 districts have no competition in either the primary or general.
• 7 have competition only in the general election.
• 5 have competition in one, but not both, party primaries and the general election.
• 3 have competition only in the primary.
• 1 (District 15) has competition in both major parties in the primary election and, therefore, competition in the general election.
The latest ballot summary for the 203 House districts is:
• 79 districts have no competition in either the primary or general.
• 62 have competition only in the general election.
• 28 have competition only in the primary.
• 33 districts have competition in one party, but not both, primaries and in the general election.
• 1 (District 39) has competition in both major parties in the primary election and, therefore, competition in the general election.
Resign to Run Update
There’s another incumbent lawmaker who is running for two seats at the same time. He’s Rep. Mark Mustio, Allegheny, who is running for election in both his current House district and for the state Senate. He has competition only in the general election in the House district, and competition only in the primary in the Senate district. As with others seeking two offices at once, this violates what 87% of PA voters want and creates the possibility of a special election following at least a two-month period when citizens are not unrepresented in the House.
The Second Veon Trial
A jury has convicted former state Rep. Mike Veon, Beaver, a second time. After deliberating for three days, the jury issued guilty verdict on 10 of 15 charges that Veon used a non-profit organization he controlled to channel taxpayer money into projects that benefitted himself. Veon also was convicted in 2010 for his role in the Bonus Scandal.
Mike Veon guilty on 10 of 15 corruption charges, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 5
Ex-Rep. Mike Veon’s conviction in 2nd corruption trial is a miscarriage of justice, attorney says , Harrisburg Patriot-News, March 6
The Orie Trials
The second trial of state Sen. Jane Orie, Allegheny, is in progress. Her first trial in 2011 was declared a mistrial when prosecutors alleged that documents presented by the defense had been altered. Subsequent testing by the Secret Service confirmed the forgeries.
Co-defendant and sister Janine Orie will be tried separately. Last year, the two faced trial together, but since the new charges of forgery against Jane Orie did not involve Janine Orie, there will be two trials.
For the first time, a prosecution witness has implicated Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin in the charges leveled at her sisters. Melvin already is the subject of an Allegheny County grand jury investigation. Various organizations, including DR, have called on Melvin to step down or the Supreme Court to suspend her. However, she continues to serve but has recused herself from criminal cases arising from Allegheny County.
Ex-chief: I never saw directive from Pa. Sen. Orie, AP in the Centre Daily Times, March 2.
Calls continue to mount for Orie sister to leave bench after testimony, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 5.
Orie aide: ‘Political work came first’ , Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 6.
Staffers made calls as Orie, ex-aide testifies , Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 6.
Sentencing Updates
• Former state Rep. Brett Feese begins serving prison term for his role in Computergate scandal , Harrisburg Patriot-News, March 1
• March 21: Former House Speaker John Perzel and aide Brian Presky will be sentenced. Both pled guilty in the Computer Scandal. Former House Speaker Perzel to be sentenced March 21, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 3.
• April 24, primary election day: Former House Speaker Bill DeWeese will be sentenced after a jury found him guilty of theft and other charges on February 6.

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