Remember when every slow-talking Iowa senior citizen had more suitors for her Democratic caucus vote than pills in her week-at-a-glance medication caddy? When free promo John Deere caps were temporarily replaced with free promo Dick Gephardt caps? When every surviving bit of semi-authentic regional culture became "color" on CNN?
Pennsylvania, aren't you jealous?
You'd never know it, but there's a presidential primary here on Tuesday, and who's gonna chat with the polling-place ladies if you don't vote? And they're probably bringing candy.
Even though Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's all but installed on the November ballot as the Democratic nominee, in Pittsburgh and in most of the surrounding suburbs, registered Democrats can still vote for Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich or Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and their slate of delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Boston, set for July 26-28, where the party's official platform positions will be ratified.
Besides a number of delegate seats that go to party officials, other convention delegates are selected by congressional district, with each district getting between five and seven delegates. One delegate is selected for each 15 percent of the vote a presidential candidate gets in a district.
U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle's District 14 -- which includes all of Pittsburgh and several eastern 'burbs and Mon Valley towns -- gets six delegates. Obviously, there's a full slate of Kerry people -- including City Councilor Twanda Carlisle, Al Fondy and Sylvia C. Wilson from the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, and state Reps. Jake Wheatley and Joe Preston. But there's also a full Kucinich slate, with headliner state Sen. Jim Ferlo.
Though Howard Dean and another once-hopeful Dem, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards have fallen in line behind Kerry, the less threatening Kucinich has not formally withdrawn from the race and has been keeping up an exhausting appearance schedule.
"One would think he's not even a candidate," Ferlo complains, and he aims to change that locally. On April 25, Kucinich will be in Pittsburgh for a day of six appearances - including a meeting with the Coalition of Veterans Advocates, at Monumental Baptist Church, at the Islamic Center and finishing the day with one of Ferlo's classic free-admission fundraisers -- with fortifying kielbasa, hot dogs and Iron City beer -- at the Pittsburgh Brewing Company in Lawrenceville.
"This rally is 'Speak out now, help build the Democratic Party platform" - by sending delegates to the convention, Ferlo says. "We have an heir apparent before rank-and-file Democrats [in most states] have had a chance to express their opinion. Kucinich is the only one who stands on principal, insisting that the troops be brought home [from Iraq]," Ferlo says, also listing Kucinich's support for fair trade, universal health care and repealing the USA PATRIOT Act. Meanwhile, Ferlo says, "Kerry needs more cartilage in his backbone."
Besides the Kucinich slate in Pittsburgh's District 14, District 4 in the North Hills (U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart's district) has a full team for Kucinich as well. But even Kucinich's bid to send delegates to the convention has long odds: Of the delegates already pledged, Kucinich has only 23, compared with Kerry's 2,174. John Edwards has 537 delegates and Howard Dean has 158.
In Pittsburgh, there's just one Howard Dean delegate on the ballot. Four Dean delegates, however, join the Kerry contingent (which boasts a full slate of five) to make an appearance on the ballot in U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy's District 18. (John Edwards is still on the primary ballot in Pennsylvania, but doesn't have any convention delegates running in the Pittsburgh area.)
And for those Democratic voters who appreciate perennials more than annuals, there is the confusing perpetual candidacy of Lyndon LaRouche -- he's gotten a few delegate nominees on the ballot in each district too.