I've written several times, positively, about Patrick Murphy, who would like to be the Democratic candidate for the 8th Congressional district (Bucks Co, part of Northeast Philadelphia, and a tiny bit of Montgomery County). I've written not so positively about Fred Viskovich, another potential Democratic candidate. That leaves only Andy Warren, the third Democratic hopeful. After reviewing the public record, here are a few of my observations. Sources are listed at the end of this post.
Warren was a high school social studies teacher for 15 years. He was elected, as a Republican, to four terms as Bucks County commissioner, serving from 1979 to 1995, when he resigned to become regional supervisor at PennDOT. A full biography is available on his website.
Andy Warren has wanted to be in office for a number of years. Warren once dreamed of being governor (6/16/03). In 1995, when he resigned as Bucks County commissioner, he said he eventually intended to run for office in the county again, and specifically mentioned the 8th congressional district, then held by Republican Jim Greenwood, or state office (4/17/95). In 2003 he mentioned again the possibility of running for office:
"I don't want to retire," he says. "If I retired from here [PennDOT], I would want to run for office," Are there options for this polemical figure who views elected office as the highest calling? "In Bucks County, the opportunity has not presented itself," he said. (6/16/03)
In 2004, when Greenwood suddenly withdrew from the race, Warren expressed interest in being picked by Republican leaders as Greenwood's successor, although county commissioner Mike Fitzpatrick and state senator Joe Conti were considered the frontrunners (7/22/04). Fitzpatrick was selected and ran against Democrat Ginny Schrader, winning the seat. Bucks County Republican party officials then had to select a replacement for Fitzpatrick on the county board of commissioners.
"Warren, 61, of Middletown Township gave his reason for wanting to rejoin the county board [of commissioners]: "I always believed that it was the most effective elective office that one could hold" (12/09/2004)
On his website he says something similar: “a County Commissioner is one of the few positions where one experiences the entire spectrum of human life issues.” So much for wanting to run for Congress. However, he was not as quick to round up support as some of the others interested.
"[Warren] agrees that Komelasky, Scarborough and Cawley are the front-runners at this point, in large part because they've already been contacting members of the executive committee about their interest in Fitzpatrick's seat. But he said he isn't worried that he and other potential nominees will be blocked out of the process. "They have declared, they are out running, if you will, he said. "I am technically still on the sidelines -- you can't be upset with people who are in the race." (11/29/04)
His lack of initiative wasn't the only problem. As Republican county chair Harry Fawkes said in an interview with the editorial board of the Bucks County Courier Times, Warren had been involved in some "very negative" meetings. "Once we pick him," he asserted, "we've got to get him elected." (12/13/04). The job went to Jim Cawley.
On June 2, 2005, newspapers reported that Warren was switching parties and becoming a Democrat. Fawkes said Warren "mentioned" the county party's snub of him, when the executive committee failed to nominate him for the commissioner's seat Fitzpatrick vacated to run for Congress. (6/02/05) As for his future amibitions, Warren said he did not swtich parties for the express purpose of running for any office. (6/02/05) He also did not rule out the possibility. Nor did Democratic county chair, John Cordisco who said Warren definitely would be considered for a high-level candidacy. (6/02/05) In August, though, Cordisco said of the 8th district race, "I don't know whether (Warren) will be the candidate; that's not been decided" (8/24/05). Warren admitted he's still be a Republican if he'd returned to county office, and said he would try have"'tried to change the direction' of the party from within" (9/24/05).
To be fair, Warren also mentioned that he felt out of step with Republican policies. "When one finds that his philosophy is so out of step with the organization, you either sit silently by, hypocritically, or you do something about it, he said. "It was time to move on. So I did." (6/02/05). He made similar statements in at least two other newspaper articles (2/14/06 and 7/21/05). Even so, he has said if he'd been selected for office he would still be a Republican, which is a pretty clear indication that policy matters were not his primary concern.
Seven weeks later he said people were approaching him about running for office.
"Some people have expressed interest in me as a possible candidate," Warren said. "I wouldn't say no." The Middletown resident said he hasn't been approached by the Democratic leadership, including Gov. Ed Rendell, about the possibility of running for Congress." (7/21/05).Although he had indicated he would stay at his job at PennDOT until January, he suddenly resigned in September to campaign full-time (9/24/05).
I found two of his statements to be indicative of his current campaign. In September he said, "When I was a county commissioner, I always said I was a county commissioner that happened to be a Republican," he said. "I will be a congressman ... who happens to be registered as a Democrat." (9/24/05). Although it may have just been a slip of the tongue, I found it interesting that he happened to be a Republican, but happens to be registered as a Democrat. Those two aren't necessarily equal signs of commitment to the party and it's ideals. He has also said that he might stay in race even if Bucks County's Democratic Party endorses someone else. (2/14/06).
Since 1995 Mr. Warren has been talking about running for Congress, unless, of course, there was the possibility that he might regain his seat on the county commissioners board, and then it is the most effective elective position he could hold. He was a Republican until he disagreed with their policies, which happened to coincide with his not being selected for either office. Now he's registered as a Democrat, although he won't necessarily abide by the county party's wishes. It seems that Mr. Warren is determined to return to office, any office, and representing any party. That has to give you pause. I can understand the desire to be in the public eye and have an effect on policy, but there are many ways of doing that which do not require running for office. He was influencing regional transportation policy at PennDOT and there are similar organizations and a lot of community groups that would no doubt have welcomed Warren's participation. I am always wary of people who want to be in office, any office, any party, any time.
I have noticed that people who have been in office or have held office for a number of years sometimes begin to think they are coated with teflon and universally loved. Warren seems to have succombed to this syndrome. Someone in his position usually has to have a strong ego, but he can get carried away.
"Between the two of us [Warren and Schrader], I think everbody in Bucks County has voted for one of us at one time or another," Warren said (2/17/06)
"I believe I'm one of the two or three most recognizable names in Bucks County, so I have that," he said (9/24/05)
"I could be selling flowers out on the street and I would be the most visible flower seller," Warren said. (6/16/03)
He thinks he is one of the two or three most recognizable names in the county? Pick ten county residents at random and ask them who he is. Most people have a hard time telling you who their senators are, let alone county commissioners or PennDOT employees. His ego shows through in other places, too. For example, on his website biography he notes that he was voted "Most Outstanding Senior Boy" in high school. Generally speaking people stop including high school accomplishments, unless it involves something truly extraordinary (this wouldn't count) as soon as they get into college.
The Rough Edges
We can all appreciate that a congressional representative needs to have a strong personality and the ability to push for his beliefs and the best interests of the district. But they also have to have the ability to work with people, and not to unduly aggravate the rest of the House. Warren doesn't always choose his words carefully. Telling voters they are uncivilized or anarchists doesn't seem to be the best way to go about getting into office.
"It's more difficult to build [roads] in Bucks because if Newtown says it's Wednesday, Lower Makefield says, "No, it's not. It's the day before Thursday," said Warren. "And you can substitute any two municipalities in Bucks for Newtown and Lower Makefield." .... "You don't have that in places like Lackawanna county," Warren said. (2/127/05)
It's nice that he thinks so highly of the people he has and hopes again to represent. However, they come off better than his prospective Montgomery County constituents:
"PennDOT district Andy Warren says cooperative communities are far more likely to get road projects approved. The difference between Bucks County and Montgomery County is the difference between civilization and anarchy." Later in the same article "Bucks County is innately more civilized than Montgomery County -- it's that simple," said Warren after last week's so-called 'historic' conference that brought together five Bucks townships to start a dialogue for the first time over what to do with traffic, namely trucks. As an afterthought, the Bucks resident and former county commissioner urged a reporter to add to his quote, 'he said with a chuckle."" later in same article "So is Warren implying that Woodhaven Road residents -- who have sought to shut down the proejct -- are engaged in anarchy? "That impression has often crossed my mind," he said" (4/30/04)
That will like very nice on campaign brochures mailed to the Montco section of the district, but, then it's such a small part that perhaps they can be overlooked.
"A group called Residents for Regional Traffic Solutions has taken credit for getting the detour put in place. They claimed that the detour reoute was safer because it directed trucks to wider roads intended for heavy, non-residential use. [Warren] added that if other residents were upset about not being consulted, they should have been as proactive as Tonge's group. The supervisors obviously disagreed with their actions and PennDOT's. At that point Warren apologized." (8/28/2003)
While a PennDOT supervisor might get away with telling residents that if they aren't organized their opinions don't count, elected officials are probably asking for trouble saying the same things. It does certainly imply that those with the money and time to put a group together are going to get preferential treatment. I'm not saying this isn't true, just that voicing it might not work to your advantage in an election.
"This is just lunacy," Warren retorted in 1998 to a Buckingham supervisor's charge that PennDOT was purposely slowing completion of a Wycombe bridge. "If (Henry) Rowan tells me it's Friday, I'll look at a calendar." (6/16/03)
That attitude will really help form the relationships necessary to get things done in Congress.
"When the 202 issue was discussed in Solebury, he told residents there they could choke on their own congestion -- at a meeting of 150 people," Buckingham Supervisor Henry Rowan said. "Obviously, that didn't go over very well," (6/16/03).
Can't imagine why people didn't care for that comment. Another one of those comments often made in private but usually not said in public.
"Warren, a feisty official, said he thinks he could have been reelected to a fifth term as commissioner this year but he decided to take the job with PennDOT because of the opportunity to join the Ridge administration, and the money. With two sons in college, one of them in graduate school, teh $76,400 salary that comes with the PennDOT job will come in handy. he earned about $50,100 as commissioner. Warren said he also has plans to marry Shelley Gardner, a former county employee, this summer. Warren's relationship with Gardner became a political flap when he voted to increase her pay. Gardner eventually resigned from the county." (4/17/95)
"Recently [county Democrats] have returned the GOP fire, directing most of it at Warren, who opinion polls have shown generates a high negative response among county voters." (10/30/1987)
So, if I understand his comments over time, Bucks County residents are more civilized than those in Montgomery County. That should go over well with the section of Montgomery County gerrymandered into the district to siphon Democratic voters out of the 13th district. But Bucks County residents aren't all that nifty either, as they can't agree among themselves. Citizens who can muster their resources the fastest are going to get his ear, and the rest can go hang, or perhaps "choke on their own congestion." That's a great quote for the campaign brochure. He finds it appropriate to pubicly denigrate the other elected officials he has to work with, and thinks its okay to give his girlfriend a raise. Some people might think it best to recuse themselves from that sort of decision. Unfortunately the marriage did not last and Warren is currently married to his third wife.
The Campaign Talk
Warren currently has at least three campaign co-chairs. Originally he started with Milt Berkes, and Lucille Trench (2/14/06). Recently he added Ginny Schrader. Readers may remember Schrader ran against Jim Greenwood and, when he dropped out of the race, Mike Fitzpatrick two years ago for the 8th Congressional district. She initially entered that race this year, but dropped out in September. Later she announced her intention to run for the 10th Senate district. A month later she dropped out of that race, for "personal reasons." Now she has become the co-chairwoman of Andy Warren's campaign. "He's a good Democrat with good Democratic principles. When I say's he's a good Democrat, I think that will go a long way [with voters]" (2/17/06). I admire her confidence, although I'm not sure I share it.
Schrader herself was once a Republican but changed parties. In 2004, Tom Ligenfelter lost the Democratic primary to her. Ligenfelter ran as a Democrat after running for office several times as a Republican. He changed his party registration in 2003 "saying Republicans were cutting interested candidates out of the running." "Ligenfelter said party labels are largely immaterial -- they're important only because you need to be a Republican or Democrat to win public office," he says. "[Schrader] said Ligenfelter, in comparison, changed his registration for the wrong reason. When you change parties, you should be changing because you believe in the principles of the party you're changing to ... not because you want to run for office," she said (4/16/2004).
And yet, it would seem that this was, without question, and by his own admission, a factor in Warren's change of parties as well. While one cannot expect absolute consistency from campaigns, some semblance of it always adds an extra layer or credibility.
Warren intends to run for the 8th congressional district, regardless of party endorsement, as a Democrat, a party he has been a member of for all of 8 months. I would, quite honestly, hope that the party does not endorse him. Warren has said that being county commissioner is the most effective office so perhaps he would like to run for that office, for whatever party he wishes, against whatever other candidates seem to be running, next time it is up for election. He is quite sure he would have been reelected had he stayed in office so surely he would see no problems in running for it again.
I took note of an editorial he wrote in January (1/19/06), supporting our troops in Iraq. I'm pulling this phrase out of a sentence on the proposed veterans cemetery in Bucks County: "Every living soldier represents the best and bravest of our country......" In this I would agree with him wholeheartedly, and would recommend this soldier in particular.
Callaway, Brian, "GOP: He'll quit today," Bucks County Courier Times 7/22/2004 p. A1.
Callaway, Brian, "Two Democrats bucking the odds in the 8th," Intelligencer 41/6/2004 p. B3.
Callaway, Brian, "Warren quits post to run," Intelligencer 9/24/05 p. B1.
Callaway, Brian, "Warren shoring up support from Democrats, GOP," Bucks County Courier Times 2/14/06, p. A2.
Callaway, Brian, "Zeroing in on Fitzpatrick's successor," Intelligencer 11/29/05, p. B1.
Fernandez, Bob, "A new job today for ex-official in Bucks, Andy Warrent will help oversee the state road system," Philadelphia Inquirer 4/17/1995 p. N1.
Hawkes, Alison, "'Civilized' approach pays off for Bucks," Bucks County Courier Times 4/30/2004, p. A1
Hawkes, Alison, "Warren's rocky road," Intelligencer 6/16/2003, p. A1.
Klein, Julia M. "GOP mirrors Democrats in courting swing vote," Philadelphia Inquirer 10/30/1987 p. B6
Larson, Sarah and Brian Callaway, "Former commissioner switches parties," Intelligencer 6/02/2005, p. A1.
Martinez, Rick, "Building highways not in Bucks' nature," Intelligencer 2/27/2005, p. A1.
Patel, Ushma, "PennDOT truck detour signs expect to stay until Swamp Road reopens," Bucks County Courier Times 8/28/2003, p. C8.
Scheid, Brian, "Schrader quits, endorses Warren," Bucks County Courier Times 2/17/06 p.A1.
Scheid, Brian, "Warren considers run for Fitzpatrick's seat," Bucks County Courier Times 7/21/05, p. C1.
"Shallow thinking," [editorial] Intelligencer 12/13/2004 p. A6.
Turner, Dave and Christine Schiavo, "GOP candidates vie for seat -- county party leaders will nominate three among 11 seeking to replace a county commissioner," Philadelphia Inquirer 12/09/2004 p. B5.
Warren, Andy, "Unconscionable disgrace: soldiers left unprotected," [editorial] Bucks County Courier Times 1/19/2006 p. A10.