Wednesday, March 29, 2006

How To Defeat Your Opponent Without Actually Having To Run Against Him

I thought whole petition challenge business was bad in my PA House district, but at least no one here tried to pick off the incumbent, as has just occurred in the district a few blocks away from me:

In the face of a challenge to his nominating petitions, state Rep. Michael Diven, R-Brookline, yesterday officially withdrew from the Republican ballot in the May 16 primary. But while Mr. Diven's name will not be on the primary ballot, it does not necessarily mean the end of his candidacy for re-election.

Mr. Diven, a former Democrat who turned Republican to make an unsuccessful run for state Senate last year, said he hadn't made up his mind on his next step, but suggested that he was inclined toward an attempt to defend his seat.

"We're still evaluating our options," he said. "Obviously, if I wanted to retire I wouldn't have circulated petitions and sought re-election. The question is, logistically, what decision makes the most sense, but I'm definitely interested in exploring those."

Long-time readers of this blog may recall some of my commentary concerning that state Senate race from last year (here and here). That was kind of an unfortunate contest, as it quickly drifted away from substantive discussion of issues and devolved into a direct mail duel in which each candidates seemed to be presenting photographic evidence that his opponent had a fatter neck than his own. If nothing else, it kept me amused.

It also showed how desperate the local Democrats are to be rid of Mike Diven. He was a loyal Democrat right up to the end; his change of registration was ultimately due to the party's rejection of him rather than the other way around. I heard him speak once, early in the campaign, to a conservative audience and he had a lot of things in common with the Republicans in attendance. He was also a little nervous, no doubt due to venturing on what was "enemy territory" just a few months earlier. On the whole, though, he comported himself well in the face of a tough audience. His real difficulty wasn't so much trying to please Republicans as it was running as a "turncoat" in a now-hostile district.

There is still a chance that Diven could end up running for reelection anyway, if he gets enough write-in votes in the Republican primary, or if he runs as an independent in the fall. He won't be able to get away with sending out mailers with unflattering pictures of his opponent this time, though. Let me put it this way: If this political campaign were a beauty contest, his Democratic challenger would win with 100% of the vote.

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