A major state-wide race of interest to progressives on Tuesday was the election of Kathryn Boockvar to Commonwealth Court. Unfortunately, Boockvar lost to Republican Anne Covey 48 to 52, despite voters in Allegheny County going for Boockvar 56 to 44 pct. At a much more local level, the other candidate endorsed by the Sierra Club, Kelly Fraasch, won her race for Mt. Lebanon Commissioner, 58 to 42 pct over Bill Hoon. In Westmoreland County activist Allen Uhler was elected Upper Burrell Township supervisor.
Referenda to ban shale gas drilling were on the ballot in three Pennsylvania communities. In State College a ban was favored by 72 pct of the voters. in Peters Twp (Washington County) a ban was soundly rejected 82 to 18 pct, and in Warren rejected 62 to 37 pct.
As expected in heavily Democratic Allegheny County, Rich Fitzgerald easily won the race for County Executive. With both Fitzgerald and opponent Raja favoring drilling in the county, activist Dana Dolney mounted a last-minute ‘write in’ effort. The recorded ‘write in’ vote was 1,722, or 0.75 pct of votes cast. How many were for Dolney is not known.
The election of four new commissioners in South Fayette township could strengthen the township’s resolve in a complicated struggle with gas drilling Range Resources. Winners Gabriel (D), Horowitz (D), Malosh (R), and Miller (R), all endorsed by Clean Water Action, ran on a platform of support for zoning restrictions adopted in November 2010. In August Range Resources legally challenged the ordinance changes. Members of the Zoning Board also objected to the restrictions, but turns out that two of the zoning board members held leases from Range. Last week the township sought an injunction to stop the zoning board from making any decision on the proposed ordinance changes.
In a review of the November 8 elections, reporter Erich Schwartzel describes the increasing role that the gas drilling companies are playing in political campaigns. Coupled with the reported use of military style ‘counterinsurgency operations‘ by the gas companies, it looks as though grassroots activists are in for a rough time before we get to the May 2012 primary elections.