Today is the time of anniversaries in Central Pennsylvania. 150 years ago, at about this time, the Battle of Gettysburg was raging. 145 years later, there was a bit of a Civil War within the ranks of Pennsylvania prosecutors. This was the famous dueling press conferences between then Montour County District Attorney Bob Buehner and former Clinton County District Attorney Ted McKnight on 7/1/08 and that of members of Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) on 7/3/08 as metaphorical counter attack.1 That counter attack was successful as Pickett’s Charge was 145 years before.
A year later, I wrote about the conferences, noting how badly political things had gone for then Centre County District Attorney Michael T. Madeira in the prior 12 months. I referred to it as his Annus Horribilis. I noted, among his other problems, his performance in the recent primary. He was unopposed but not everyone in the primary, limited to registered Republicans, voted for him. In fact, more than 36% either wrote in someone else or did not cast a vote for him.2 That was a very high rate that did not bode well for him; of course, Mr. Madeira was trounced in that election.
There was something else that happened at that press conference. A defense attorney was there with a colleague asking questions of that PDAA assemblage. Her name was Stacy Parks Miller, and in 2009, she was the one that trounced Mr. Madeira. Today, she is the one running for reelection. So, how did she fare, in comparison?
Ms. Parks Miller, a Democrat, received 90.5% of the votes cast in the Democratic primary. Just under 9.5% of the Democrats either abstained or wrote in someone else.3 That is better than Mr. Madeira, but it is also better than someone else. Ray Gricar.
In most of Mr. Gricar bids for reelection, he faced a challenger, either another Republican vying for the nomination or a challenger on the Democratic side in the fall municipal election; the fact that no one has challenged Ms. Parks Miller is in itself a signal of her strength (though an independent could still file). Only in 1997 did Mr. Gricar face the situation where there was no primary challenge and no Democratic candidate in the fall. In that primary, Mr. Gricar received 84.7% of the vote; just over 15% of the Republican electorate did not vote for him.3 In those terms, Ms. Parks Miller has shown greater electoral strength than Mr. Gricar did.
There is something else; though the election has not been certified, Ms. Parks Miller appears to have won the Republican primary as well. If so, that is a feat that Mr. Gricar never matched. To win the nomination, Ms. Parks Miller needed at least 250 votes and more than anyone else. While she easily achieved the latter, there could be some questions about the former. At least 249 votes, by my count, we cast by “Stacy Parks Miller.” There were a number for “Stacy Parks-Miller” with a hyphen, and for “Stacey Parks Miller,” plus some other variations. The intent was clear and these should be credited to the District Attorney, but I’ve learned to wait for the official results. If these are included, she probably had more than 300 write-in votes. As of this writing, I have not heard of the official result.3
Ms. Parks Miller’s electoral strength comes from what, so far, has been a good record in office, and some of that is due to her conduct in the Gricar case. There is a mini debate on the role of the Gricar case in her 2009 victory. It certainly didn’t help Mr. Madeira, but some sources have referred to it as an “albatross” for his re-election, and that it was the major reason for his defeat.4 I think it was a factor, but not the sole or even principal factor. If it was, the electorate must be ecstatic about how Ms. Parks Miller has handled the Gricar case. I hope to look at these differences, the good parts, along with a laundry list of questions, in a future blog. Very clearly, however, there is both a greater investigative effort and a greater release of information under Ms. Parks Miller than there was under Mr. Madeira.
Ms. Parks Miller, in 2013, shows substantially more electoral strength than her two predecessors. That is impressive and even a bit surprising. Her first real foray into Centre County politics, at least that received any attention, was asking questions at that press conference five years ago. Except for a few of the “old Gricar hands,” that is now little remembered and was barely noted at the time, getting just a comment in Mr. Bosak’s blog.
Ms. Parks Miller was not the only to get some write-in votes; there were many. Mr. Madeira, under various spellings, had just over 30 votes for the Republican nomination, and 15 for the Democratic nomination.3 There were several for a certain cartoon rodent copyrighted by Disney Corporation.
Ray Gricar had 2 votes, one each for the Republican and Democratic nominations; Count Dracula had 1 vote for the Republican nomination.3 If you think about it, there are some similarities. Both are dead legally but may still be walking the earth and both have ancestry the Balkans.
Centre Daily Times Ray Gricar Section: http://www.centredaily.com/138/
Link to the Main Index for Sporadic Comments on Ray Gricar: http://www.centredaily.com/2011/03/21/2597340/main-index-32011.html
E-mail J. J. in Phila at email@example.com