Pottsville has always been a problem for the Republican Party. Forever a bastion for the lunch bucket democrat, the county seat is now a magnet for poor, minority transplants from Reading, Allentown, Philadelphia, and Manhattan, who just happen to also vote democrat. Its amazing what the construction of a few Section 8 housing complexes can do for democratic voter registration, huh?
Yet, even with this drastic disadvantage among registered voters (Pottsville democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 3 to 1), the city GOP committee has a unique opportunity to make some in-roads in the 2009 municipal elections. They just have to be smart about it.
The issue that killed Republicans in November was the economy. As we all know, it sucks. Our guys were in charge during the downswing, so our candidates took the hit. The same can happen to city democrats, but only if the GOP decides to do things a bit differently. You see, crime is up. Drug use is up. The side streets are a dump. Houses remain vacant. Businesses are leaving. Property values continue to plummet. And, of course, the pink elephant in the room . . . there aren’t any jobs to be had–ANYWHERE. This type of environment doesn’t bode well for any incumbent administration, no matter how well entrenched their party is. Add to that the fact that there won’t be any Barack Obama, Ed Rendell, or Mantura Gallagher at the top of the ticket this year and you have the perfect storm for a Republican insurgency. I believe that if the Pottsville Republican Committee specifically targets certain geographics, demographics, and issues, they can capitalize on the shortcomings of the city democrats in this piss poor political climate.
For starters, the GOP needs to find a new crop of candidates. It seems that the Republicans have been running the same five names every election cycle for the past decade. If they just took a chance on some new blood, it could pay huge dividends. Pottsville is a big city with lots of great people who would make excellent candidates. Go out and recuit them. Stop making people “pay their dues” for twenty years before putting them on a ballot. Retreading candidates who have lost school board elections or council races in past years, does nothing for the party except guarantee another loss.
Second, the East side and Jalapa (I hope I spelled that correctly) have zero representation in city government right now. Target those areas by finding a candidate who lives there and can speak to the issues that will resonate there. When given the chance, voters in those areas have proven to be very loyal to natives. So, how about we give them someone to be loyal to?
Then, speak to the issues that are important to those specific areas. Everyone hates drugs, except for hippies and drug dealers. Its not a left/right issue. Its an everyone issue. Pottsville has seen as stark rise in the methamphetamine and crack cocaine trade in the past five years. It has infiltrated the school system and has become a blight on certain areas of the city. Crack houses are popping up at an astounding rate and property values are plummeting equally fast. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a mayoral candidate who possessed experience fighting illicit substances and had a plan to exterminate the market? And don’t you think some conservative democrats who live on Peacock Street or in Yorkville may just respond to such a candidacy?
Finally, how can downtown business hope to be revitalized when there isn’t any parking available on Centre Street for store patrons. I don’t know many people who want to walk all the way from the Mahantango garage to Coney Island. Do you? There are so many buildings that are in disrepair and could easily be knocked down to make room for more parking spaces, but the city never wants to drop the hammer. As a result, local mom and pop shops continue to close, more people flock to the unemployment rolls, and the downtown remains lifeless.
These are only a few ideas to get started, but there is plenty more that can be done. Thankfully, for the first time in a long time, the city GOP has a leader who is actually open to new ideas like these. Tom Yarnell is an old war horse, but he is always looking for new tricks. If you have an idea or know of a good prospective candidate, don’t be afraid to stop him at Lisa’s Ladle or in Maroon’s and tell him your story. You just better be prepared to have a few beers before you leave. Tommy doesn’t do “A drink”.
He can’t do it alone, though. It is going to take a city-wide collaborative effort. If the GOP can find it within itself to change the way it looks at politics and the way in which in does business over the next few months, they might just be looking at a long overdue election night victory later this year.