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Friday, April 6th 2012

10:27 PM

Games People Play

Yesterday, April 5, was a big news day. The leading GOP presidential contender, MITT ROMNEY, paid a visit to Wyoming County; the SWB YANKEES opened their season against the LEHIGH VALLEY IRON PIGS; the PHILADELPHIA PHILLES opened their season against the Pittsburgh Pirates; and, last but not least, JERRY SANDUSKY had a pretrial hearing in Centre County court (you didn't think this would be a Sandusky-less post, did you?).

I missed a good bit of all that news because I was busy getting things organized for our coverage of the upcoming primary election. But, on the face of it, the thing that seemed as though it would be the most exciting turned out to be the least exciting. And, I'm not talking about Mitt Romney.

No, Thursday's hearing in the Sandusky case proved to be the very definition of anticlimactic. At first, it seemed like there could be some key developments in the case. The judge was expected to hear arguments and possibly rule on several motions - including one to dismiss the charges - and Sandusky was expected to be there. The hearing was supposed to last into the afternoon. With so much going on, what could a news station do but send two reporters and order satellite time?

But, the hearing ended almost as soon as it started. Sure, Sandusky showed up, but that was about the only thing that went as planned. Sandusky's lawyer withdrew most of the motions, so there really wasn't much for anyone to do after that except go home and wait for more motions to be filed sometime later.

Later will actually have to be pretty soon, though, because the judge seems to be holding to the recently revised trial date of June 5. The original trial date was May 14, but I never thought that would happen. Despite what this judge says now, I'm also not convinced that the trial will start on June 5. In fact, I'm still not convinced that there's even going to be a trial. What I am sure of is that Sandusky's lawyer is continuing his strategy of doing whatever it takes to keep Sandusky out of jail for as long as possible.

With the hearing out of the way, I went back to focusing on election preps. One of the most interesting primary races looks to be in the 17th Congressional District where incumbent Democrat TIM HOLDEN is facing a strong challenge from attorney MATT CARTWRIGHT. Holden, a "blue dog" from Schuylkill County, has been in office for 20 years. In 2002, after redistricting, he went up against another incumbent, Republican George Gekas, and surprised a lot of people, I think, by winning. Now, the lines have been redrawn again, and Holden again finds himself in unfamiliar territory. Schuylkill County is still in the 17th, but now the district includes large chunks of Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, where Cartwright has some name recognition.

Both candidates started advertising a couple weeks ago. Cartwright showed some humor when he used his initial ad to introduce himself and his family. Holden stood around with guys in hard hats and touted his accomplishments. But, Holden has now gone negative and, as some other bloggers have pointed out, that's often a sign that a candidate is in trouble. On the other hand, candidates wouldn't "go negative" if it didn't work. I think it will be interesting to see if it works this time. In November, the winner will face the GOP candidate, LAUREEN CUMMINGS of Old Forge.

Another interesting race looks to be in the 112th State House district in Lackawanna County. Incumbent Democrat KEN SMITH is being challenged for a second time by KEVIN HAGGERTY. Smith won two years ago. Since then, his family-owned restaurant, which had already been sold to a bank at a sheriff's sale, has now reopened under new ownership, and Smith has been criticized for failing to pay back loans. The money issues didn't hurt Smith in 2010. It will be interesting to see if 2012 will be different.

2012 will be different in NEPA due to the fact that it won't have a AAA baseball team. The SWB Yankees will play all of their games on the road while PNC Field gets renovated. A lot of those games will be played in upstate New York, which prompted the temporary rebranding of the team as the Empire State Yankees. That name change only served to increase speculation that the team would never come back to the area. But, just today, Lackawanna County officials announced they are close to finalizing a deal that will keep the team in NEPA for at least the next 30 years.

Finally, the Phillies opened the season with a win at Pittsburgh. A win is a win, and it's always nice to start the season with a W. But, I'm a little concerned that it took Roy Halladay pitching a two-hitter over 8 innings to get the win. The Phils offense managed to push just one run across the plate. The Phils pitching was good last year and, if the first game is any indication, it may have to be even better this year. I think they have a good shot at topping 100 wins again, but they're going to have to score more than 100 runs to get them.
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