Saturday, November 20, 2004

Outsourcing Senate Seats

Importing nationally recognized names to run for Senate seats seems to be a political strategery (sic) that both major parties are using more and more each election cycle. Most recently, Alan Keyes (a resident of Maryland) was imported to Illinois in a last minute desperate challenge to Barak Obama. There wasn't any sense that Keyes would be a serious challenger: no, it was more about agenda exposure by the radical right. Keyes was soundly trounced, and a major political figure for the future (Obama) emerged from Illinois.

Lest you think I'm unfairly picking on the GOP for this tactic, during the final year of the Clinton presidency, Big Dog and Hil went hunting for a residence to occupy following their tenure in the White House. The search for a place to live seemed more driven by geographic political compatibility than anything else. Democrats in New York had sent out feelers to Hillary for a Senate run against Rudy Guiliani - but unfortunately, her residence of record wasn't even in the same time zone as the Empire State. So, "Hello, Century 21? I'm looking for a nice Senate seat in move-in condition. What have you got?"

I wonder what the commission was on that transaction?

These are two of the more high profile state-swaps in recent memory, but the practice is occurring more and more frequently to accommodate high profile names and/or specific political agendas.

Now, I was always under the impression (ok, so slap me) that to represent the residents of a particular state, it would make sense that a candidate at least meet state residency requirements, and I'm not talking about renting a U-Stor-It shed or blind post office box somewhere within the state borders. How can a congressional representative (Senate or House) claim to represent the needs of their constituency when they don't even live part-time in the jurisdiction they represent?

Case in point: earlier this week, a story broke which received very little national press - but it caught my attention, particularly given the Senator in question. Rick Santorum (R-Alpha Centauri), who purports to be the junior Senator from PENNSYLVANIA, is actually living with his family in Leesburg, VIRGINIA. He and his wife home school their kids via an internet "charter school", at the expense of Penn Hills School District (PENNSYLVANIA) taxpayers -- $38,000 / year for his five children. The local school board rightly pulled the plug on the Santorum kids this past week.

My questions: what took the school board so long, and are local school district taxpayers demanding a refund from Senator Santorum for prior schooling expenses covering the time his family has lived outside of PENNSYLVANIA? The Santorum's clearly don't qualify for the home schooling option granted them by Penn Hills School District (PENNSYLVANIA), because the family doesn't live in PENNSYLVANIA. And, rather than making a politically suicidal application to the Leesburg, VIRGINIA school district to cover the tuition (an application they could legally make), the Santorum's have decided to cover their own expenses of home schooling their kids.

As a Pittsburgh-Post Gazette editorial points out, "No one should represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate because he once lived here or because he visits all 67 counties every year. A traveling salesman can do that." The editorial paints a pretty shaky picture of Santorum's residency in PENNSYLVANIA.

Is Santorum just hedging his bets? After all, he's up for re-election in the 2006 midterms. If PENNSYLVANIA doesn't work out for this uber-fundamentalist fascist whack job of a Senator, maybe he'll have better luck running in VIRGINIA, where he currently lives.

And in the interim, perhaps the Pa. Democrats can convince Martin Sheen to rent a post office box in Altoona.