Tuesday, January 2, 2007

T-Minus Three Hours

Battle for the Gavel: 9 a.m.

To get you all up to speed:

In the fall elections Nov. 7, Democrats pulled off the improbable, erasing a 109-94 deficit to take control of the state House for the first time in a dozen years.

The outcome, however, was delayed for weeks as Chester County officials recounted a razor-thin contest for the 156th District seat, which eventually was awarded to Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith. It all heightened the political drama.

With the thin 102-101 majority in hand, it appeared that the top Democrat in the House, Rep. Bill DeWeese of Greene County, was poised to take the speaker's gavel from Rep. John M. Perzel (R., Phila.) when the 2007-2008 legislative session began Jan. 2.

But Perzel, speaker since April 2003, refused to move out of his Capitol office suite as he desperately sought a way -- any way -- to remain speaker.

He apparently found it over the weekend in the form of a disgruntled Democrat from Reading. Thirty-year Rep. Thomas Caltagirone (D., Berks) in a letter to colleagues said he planned to cross the aisle, but not switch parties, for Perzel.

Mathematically at least, that gave the upper hand to the Northeast Philadelphia Republican. If successful, Perzel would become the first speaker in Pennsylvania history -- and it goes back to the 1600s, mind you -- to serve as speaker as a member of the minority party.

But there remains a handful of GOP representatives, including several freshmen members, who have publicly harangued the idea of Perzel continuing to run the chamber.

Now, there's growing speculation that a third speaker candidate might emerge.

The House takes the floor at noon when all 203 representatives will put their hands on the Bible and take the oath of office. Then, in their first act as the new House, the fun begins as they elect the next speaker.

From the Capitol, my colleagues Amy Worden and Angela Couloumbis and I will be here to post on every twist and turn of the political intrigue that will have a major impact in the months to come on taxes, health care, mass transit ... basically everything of import from Harrisburg.


Spread Head Don said...

A third candidate might be just what this Commonwealth needs...any idea who the possible candidates may be?

A Big Fat Slob said...

Gort has suggested Phyllis Mundy (D-Luzerne).

She is from a Republican district and has worked well with other NEPA Republicans for her entire career. She is smart and well-respected.

I think it is a brilliant suggestion. Perzel and DeWeese bear similar odors.

A Big Fat Slob said...

"The House takes the floor at noon when all 203 representatives will put their hands on the Bible."

There's a great little bit -- because we all know that only true believers need apply in Pennsylvania politics. Sheesh.