Yesterday's debate was great.

Four of the six declared candidates showed up, including every Democrat except Anthony Hardy Williams. The church was packed. The feeling was electric, filled with a sense of accomplishment at putting together the first ever Philadelphia debate organized to highlight the interests, needs, concerns and goals of Philly's real people. I'm talking about people coming from all walks of life who have profound, immediate problems, and who need a politics that is real, rather than petty and personal. By their presence the candidates affirmed the importance of these communities of real folks, represented by both the 350-400 people in the room, and by the 90 advocacy organizations that had worked their butts off to make the event happen. The questions were substantive, the answers more or less so, but no one left feeling they hadn't learned a lot about who these people are that want to lead our state.

So the big news was the event, not any one individual. But it was also clear to me that the guy who is most in sync with the diverse and pressing needs of Philadelphians is Joe Hoeffel. Hoeffel repeatedly made clear that nothing good would be coming from the state unless we found ways to fairly raise revenue for the Commonwealth. So he made repeated calls for the kind of progressive tax reform that I have never heard a gubernatorial candidate make in all my years of following PA politics. The list of reforms he advocated included a progressive income tax, closing of the loopholes in the corporate net income tax that make it virtually a voluntary tax, and high, immediate taxes on gas extraction in Pennsylvania with no coddling of that industry. He also was the only candidate calling for recognition of gay marriage, and repeal of the abortion control act. His answers on questions related to prison reform, education funding, housing, AIDS funding and raising the welfare grant were all sensitive and appropriate to the imperatives of those issues, as were those more or less of Onorato and Wagner. (Rohrer, a right wing Republican, was, of course, coming from a different planet.) Yet Hoeffel clearly spoke with more passion about those things, and, given his willingness to raise revenue, much more credibly. He's definitely the guy I want to see sitting in the Governor's mansion in January.

But that's one man's opinion on the candidates. Whoever people may have left the event supporting, the greatness of the evening was that it happened, that so many of those who so often need to scramble just for the slightest recognition by anyone in power, had that power come to them to see their aligned strength. Now if we can keep that force going, the page that was turned last night will be the first page of a great new volume of Philadelphia history. Kudos to all those who had a hand in making this debate truly great, in particular Sherrie Cohen of CES and Gloria Gilman of NN, but including dozens of others who pitched in selflessly and anonymously to make this historic event seamlessly come together.

Imaginary People

It's good to see that Philly's imaginary people are finally going to get their comeuppance! I'm so sick of how uppity imaginary folks are these days!!!

Don't have to worry anymore, DeWitt,

in case you're actually worried about the rights of the imaginary people. The Supreme Court -- having finished its work ending discrimination against real people like African-Americans, women, the poor and LGBT folks -- is now taking care of the so much more pressing needs of imaginary people like Exxon, Comcast, General Electric and the like. That other stuff was so sixties, Earl Warrenish-like. So thanks for reminding us of the imaginary people plight, even in that great sarcastic way of yours, but take heart, the Supreme Court is on the case!!! As to the rich real people, who I can tell you are also worried about, it's true I don't know who will ever protect them. What a problem! But maybe you'll devote your life to that.

Prison Reform

What did Hoeffel have to say about prison reform? His website doesn't have much to say about crime.

Hoeffel seems to be a rare Democrat who understands that we need to embrace and convey our values rather than run away from them. Democrats need him to win - not just PA Dems. This is how you do it.

As reported in the Inky, Hoeffel wants to revise sentencing

practices that are "are putting too many nonviolent offenders and drug users in jail." That would reduce overcrowding. Further he credibly proposes to increase funding for education and job training programs that are the key to keeping people from getting themselves in jail in the first place.

PCN rebroadcasting debate today (Sat.) at 2pm

I think the PCN cable tv station is rebroadcasting the debate today (Sat. 2/20) at 2pm.

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