Bias May Influence Pa. Primary Voters

This story was written by Brandon Taylor, Daily Collegian
In the state's upcoming primary, Pennsylvania voters are slated to break a longstanding voting trend.

On April 22, either Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., or Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., will win in the Keystone State, which rarely elects female or black candidates, according to a recent Associated Press article.

Although no concrete data exists to explain why few minority candidates are elected in Pennsylvania, Penn State Harrisburg Public Policy Professor Matthew Woessner said racial or gender bias may account for the disparity.

"You can assume that there is some racial or gender bias in Pennsylvania, as there is nationally," Woessner said. "The question is how much?"

To date, only one woman and one black man have run for governor of Pennsylvania, neither winning the office, according to the AP.

Gov. Ed Rendell said he might have won the 2006 gubernatorial race against opponent Lynn Swann by a small margin because of racial bias, said Chuck Ardo, Rendell's press secretary.

In February, Rendell also said there were some voters in Pennsylvania who would not vote for a black candidate in the upcoming presidential primaries, Ardo said.

"He certainly believes that there are still some people scattered throughout the commonwealth ... who have racial biases," Ardo said. "That pool of voters is relatively small, and we hope it will continually shrink."

The most recent Quinnipiac University Poll shows Obama closing the gap on Clinton's lead in Pennsylvania, which is now 50 to 44 percent.

Obama's increase in the polls is likely related to the senator's presence in the state and has little to do with gender or race, president of Penn State Students for Hillary Sean Leonard said.

"When you have a two-person primary, it gets closer once it's contested," Leonard said.

Penn State Students for Barack Obama President Michael Stewart agreed that race or gender would not be a problem for either candidate, but said the situation varied throughout the state.

"There are differences between Philadelphia and Bellefonte -- you can't get over that," Stewart said. "Rural Pennsylvania and inner city Pennsylvania have two different demographics with different concerns." Currently, Pennsylvania's 21-member congressional delegation includes only one woman, Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., and one black man, Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., both from the Philadelphia area, according to congress.org. "There are not many African-American voters outside the Philadelphia area," said Steven Peterson, Penn State Harrisburg professor of politics and public affairs. "There is a natural constituency there, where the odds of success go up." That doesn't mean that black candidates cannot be elected outside of the Philadelphia area, Peterson said, just that election results show they aren't.
© 2008 Daily Collegian via U-WIRE
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