These could well be the final days for Rep. Paul Kanjorski’s long journey from the coal banks of northeastern Pennsylvania to the halls of power in Washington.
The venerable senior member of the House Financial Services Committee is in extreme danger of losing the seat the Democrat has held since Ronald Reagan was wrapping up his first term and the Dow was at 1,200.
Recent polls strongly suggest the end is nigh.
Kanjorski’s Republican opponent, Lou Barletta, is holding a 7-point lead according to a Franklin & Marshall/Times-Shamrock poll released Tuesday. The results of the poll are largely in line with others that show the Hazleton mayor with a substantial lead in his third effort to unseat Kanjorski.
In a late-September poll from the Times Leader newspaper in Wilkes-Barre, Barletta held a solid 11-point advantage.
Kanjorski, a 73-year old moderate who helped frame the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and is a frequent guest on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” show, is perilously close to losing even though Democrats enjoy a nearly 2-to-1 registration edge in Pennsylvania’s 11th District.
Barletta is a favorite of the Tea Party right for his stand against illegal immigration. Hazleton was among the first cities in the country to adopt a law, since ruled unconstitutional, that penalizes businesses that hire illegal immigrants and landlords who rent to them.
Though my hometown Hazleton has been on the decline for the past decade— a fact that Kanjorski’s campaign has tried to exploit in recent ads — Barletta remains wildly popular in the region.
In his bid for a third mayoral term in 2007, he garnered more than 90 percent of the primary vote. The previous mayor was running unopposed on the Demcoratic ticket, but a write-in campaign for Barletta was successful — by a 2-to-1 margin — and allowed him to win the November race uncontested.
A Kanjorski loss would be significant for the banking industry as it would substantially change the congressional leadership picture.
He no longer would be the senior Financial Services member — after Chairman Barney Frank —and his role presumably would then fall to uber-liberal Maxine Waters, assuming she is re-elected and survives a post-election ethics trial.
As for the practical chances of Kanjorski’s re-election, his campaign is hanging onto a few scant threads of hope.
They say the polls are unreliable — a predictable response — citing how an F&M poll at the same point prior to the 2008 contest between Kanjorski and Barletta had the challenger ahead by 5 points.
And they reject the Times Leader poll by citing a variety of amateurish polling errors that called the results into question.
But local political analyst Jeff Brauer at Keystone College told the Times Leader the electorate sent Kanjorski a big message in the primary when he received barely a majority in the primary when he ran against two challengers.
One final indicator provided a good news-bad news scenario for the Kanjorski camp: PoliticsPA.com, the state’s premier political web site, no longer considers Kanjorski Pennsylvania’s most endangered incumbent.
The bad news: He’s now No. 2.
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