Rain drenches delegates as they enter last day of Democratic Convention

Dean Genth, 66, of Mason City, Iowa
Dean Genth, 66, of Mason City, Iowa

BY TOM FONTAINE  tfontaine@tribweb.com

Iowa delegate Dean Genth’s blue button-down shirt was soaked when the final night of the convention began Thursday.

Like many convention-goers who ventured to Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center in the afternoon, Genth, 66, of Mason City had to make his way through pouring rain.

“No amount of rain is going to dampen my excitement about tonight,” said Genth, who used the ride-share service Uber to get from his Center City hotel to the arena in South Philadelphia.

Genth and his husband, Gary Swenson, hosted a Clinton campaign event at their house in May 2015. Genth and Swenson, the first gay couple to receive a marriage license at the Cerro Gordo Courthouse after the state legalized gay marriage in April 2009, supported Barack Obama when he ran against Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary.

“She was a great candidate then. Now she’s an even better one,” Genth said, pointing to the experience Clinton gained as secretary of State after that primary race.

This story was first posted Thursday, July 28, 2016 at 6:15 p.m.

Who ya gonna call? Trumpbusters!

Jason Bloomberg, 55, of Cheyenne, Wyo. sports an array of buttons as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Jason Bloomberg, 55, of Cheyenne, Wyo. sports an array of buttons as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

BY TOM FONTAINE  tfontaine@tribweb.com

Jason Bloomberg says he’s a “walking billboard” for defeating Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in November.

His vest was covered with political buttons Wednesday as he walked through a concourse at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center during the Democratic National Convention.

Jason Bloomberg, 55, of Cheyenne, Wyo. sports an array of buttons as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Jason Bloomberg, 55, of Cheyenne, Wyo. sports an array of buttons as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

More than a dozen of them were emblazoned with the word “Trumpbusters” and an image resembling the logo from the movie “Ghostbusters” – except that the ghost bore a remarkable resemblance to Trump, including his signature sweep of orange hair.

“Our democracy is facing the threat of a Trump presidency,” said Bloomberg, 55, a Hillary Clinton delegate from of Cheyenne, Wyo. “Nothing is progressive about Donald Trump. We need to bust him.”

Bloomberg drove 1,300 miles from Cheyenne to Philadelphia in an electric car, with a fellow Wyoming delegate riding shotgun. He said his car was adorned with anti-Trump messages.

During their 3½-day trip, the Wyoming Trumpbusters stopped many times and struck up conversation with people.

“It was wonderful. Even a lot of Republicans out there don’t like Trump,” Bloomberg said.

This story was first posted Thursday, July 28, 2016 at 10:50 a.m.

Sen. Casey makes the case against Trump at Democratic National Convention

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey talks to Pennsylvania delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday, July 25, 2016.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey talks to Pennsylvania delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday, July 25, 2016.

BY TOM FONTAINE  tfontaine@tribweb.com

In a night marked by soaring speeches that called for party unity, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey calmly portrayed Republican nominee Donald Trump as a hypocrite in his brief remarks Monday to the Democratic National Convention.

“The man who wants to make America great again doesn’t make anything in America,” Casey said.

“Donald Trump says he stands for workers and that he’ll put America first, but that’s not how he has conducted himself in business,” Casey said, noting that Trump’s company makes dress shirts in Bangladesh, furniture in Turkey, picture frames in India, wine glasses in Slovenia and neck ties in China.

“Why would Donald Trump make his products in every corner of the globe but not in Altoona, Erie or here in Philadelphia?” said Casey, a Democrat from Scranton who is in his second term in Washington.

Casey’s well-received speech was overshadowed by ones given later in the night by party leaders such as U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker and First Lady Michelle Obama.

“It was a great lineup. What a contrast to whatever that was in Cleveland last week,” Casey said Tuesday morning.

In contrast to Trump, Casey described presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as a “leader with a proven track record of fighting for an economy that works for all of us.”

Casey also described her running mate, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, as “a man with great integrity.”

“I’m not too objective (about Kaine) because I’m a big fan of his. Even someone who doesn’t want to vote for him would grant that he’s a very competent individual,” Casey told the Tribune-Review, pointing out how Kaine has served as a city councilman, mayor, lieutenant governor, governor, U.S. senator and vice presidential candidate.

Among work on which they have collaborated, Casey, Kaine and two other Democratic senators earlier this month sent a letter to the Federal Reserve asking for it to consider easing reporting requirements on some banks — including PNC Bank and Bank of New York, which both have Pittsburgh ties.

Under the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, banks with at least $250 million in assets are required daily to report their liquidity, or ability to cover their debts. The requirement was deemed a way to limit fallout from a future financial panic.

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the Vermont-based political action committee Democracy for America, told The Washington Post that the request would “help banks dodge consumer-protection standards and regulations designed to prevent banks from destroying our economy.”
Casey disagreed, arguing that the changes called for in his letter would help remove an “onerous” requirement on certain banks. PNC Bank, the nation’s seventh-largest financial institution, has assets of $351 billion and the Bank of New York Mellon, the eighth largest, has assets of $324 billion, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation data.

This story was first posted Tuesday, July 26, 2016 at 12:25 p.m.

Pennsylvania Democrats call for party unity

Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Marcel Groen speaks to delegates to the Democratic National Convention over breakfast Monday, July 25.
Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Marcel Groen speaks to delegates to the Democratic National Convention over breakfast Monday, July 25.

BY TOM FONTAINE  tfontaine@tribweb.com

Pennsylvania Democratic Chair Marcel Groen opened the state delegation’s breakfast meeting Monday with a call for party unity.

The Democratic National Convention is getting under way amid an email scandal that appears to show that leaders of the neutral Democratic National Committee favored presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, as Sanders had alleged during his campaign. Thousands of Sanders supporters took to the streets of Philadelphia in protest Sunday.

Democratic Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said she plans to resign after the convention. It’s unclear if there will be any other fallout from the email scandal.

At the start of Monday’s breakfast, Groen asked all delegates committed to Sanders and his supporters to stand up. He applauded them, and the large crowd followed suit.

“OK, you can sit down now,” Groen joked after the lengthy applause.

“We want you, we need you, we want you to be part of us,” Groen, a Philadelphia attorney and former chair of the Montgomery County Democrats, told the Sanders supporters. “We need your thoughts, your passion and your ideas … In order to speak with one voice, it can’t just be your voice and it can’t just be our voice. It has to be all of our voices.”

Other speakers Monday echoed Groen’s call for unity, including U.S. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Bob Casey of Scranton, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager.

Ellison, the lone member of the House Black Caucus to endorse Sanders, made a direct appeal to Sanders’ supporters. Ensuring the development of a progressive agenda, he told them, “requires all of us to get out there and fight.”

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker speaks to Pennsylvania delegates at the Democratic National Convention.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker speaks to Pennsylvania delegates at the Democratic National Convention.

Booker, one of the finalists for the vice presidential position that Clinton offered to Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, gave a rousing speech that brought the crowd to its feet.

“It’s never about what (Republicans) say – It’s about what we do,” Booker said. “This is a party with a purpose. You’ve got to stand up and get off the sidelines.”

In trying to compliment Booker, Groen took an unintentional swipe at Casey – the next speaker – by saying that Casey didn’t have the oratory skills of Booker. The crowd groaned, but Casey took the dig in stride, noting how a columnist once compared his personality to oatmeal.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey talks to Pennsylvania delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday, July 25, 2016.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey talks to Pennsylvania delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday, July 25, 2016.

Casey said the two key issues at stake in this election are economic security and national security – and the Democratic ticket is well-positioned to deal with both issues, given their experience. Casey said he worked closely with both Clinton and Kaine during his time in the Senate.

“The good news here for our candidates and for us is that we have two candidates who are serious candidates … they are serious enough to put on paper what they would do if elected. The other side doesn’t have that,” Casey said.

Podesta said Clinton’s campaign already has 30 offices open across Pennyslvania and it plans to open more. More than 300 organizers are campaigning on Clinton’s behalf.

“We are working to build a real coordinated campaign. We have a message and a candidate that this country needs,” Podesta said.

This story was first posted Monday, July 25, 2016 at 12:30 p.m.

Pennsylvania shares pride of place at Democratic convention

BY TOM FONTAINE  tfontaine@tribweb.com

Pennsylvania’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention is one of eight that will be seated on the convention floor at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her running mate, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, have close ties to several states on the floor.

Clinton’s father was from Scranton, and she was baptized and spent her childhood summers in Pennsylvania. She was born Illinois, formerly served as First Lady of Arkansas, and served as a senator from New York. Kaine currently serves Virginia in the U.S. Senate.

Delegations from Florida, Iowa and Nebraska are also on the convention floor.

The remaining 49 delegations will be in the lower level of the arena, which seats 19,500 people. The convention opens Monday afternoon and runs through Thursday.

Pennsylvania has 210 Democratic delegates, of which 127 are committed to Clinton and 83 to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

In Cleveland some enjoyed history as well as politics

Black and white sailors load a shell into a siege gun, one one of the bronze sculptures on the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Cleveland's public square. Although blacks did not serve as soldiers in the Union army until 1863 and then only in a segregated capacity, the Navy - by tradition - had been integrated from the very beginning. Donald Gilliland photo
Black and white sailors load a shell into a siege gun, one one of the bronze sculptures on the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Cleveland’s public square. Although blacks did not serve as soldiers in the Union army until 1863 and then only in a segregated capacity, the Navy – by tradition – had been integrated from the very beginning. Donald Gilliland photo


BY TOM FONTAINE
 tfontaine@tribweb.com

Thousands of visitors flocked to Public Square in Cleveland’s downtown during the Republican National Convention.

Many went there to protest, but some learned about history.

The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument commemorates Cuyahoga County’s 9,000 Civil War veterans. Throughout the week, the monument’s executive director Tim Daley sat in front of the monument and told its story.

Tim Daley, executive director of the Cuyahoga County Soldiers & Sailors Monument in Cleveland.  Donald Gilliland photo
Tim Daley, executive director of the Cuyahoga County Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument in Cleveland.

“Only 10 percent of native Clevelanders have ever been inside” the monument, Daley said, noting the commission that takes care of the monument is working to change that.

The monument, built for $280,000 in 1894 and recently renovated for $2 million, is impressive. A 125-foot column towers above a memorial room and esplanade. The memorial room has four bronze relief statues that recognize the Women’s Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Aid Society, a forerunner to the Red Cross; the beginning of the war in Ohio; the emancipation of slaves; and the end of the war.

Busts also recognize officers who died in the Civil War.

Cuyahoga County, in which Cleveland is located, contributed greatly to the Civil War. The 9,000 men who served in the war represented about one-fifth of the county’s population, which was about 50,000 at the time, Daley said.

And of the men who served, about 1,100 died.

Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Cleveland.  Donald Gilliland photo
Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Cleveland. Donald Gilliland photo

A Steelers fan in Cleveland

Kathy Rotuno, 59, is a Steelers fan living in Northeast Ohio. Tom Fontaine photo
Kathy Rotuno, 59, is a Steelers fan living in Northeast Ohio. Tom Fontaine photo

BY TOM FONTAINE  tfonataine@tribweb.com

While covering the Republican National Convention, I had a few hours to kill at our hotel in suburban Cleveland, so I threw on some shorts, flip flops and — because I’m a Western Pennsylvanian in Browns country — a Steelers T-shirt.

I walked to a nearby convenience store for coffee. The first person I encountered did a double-take when she saw me.

She stared at my shirt.

I thought, “Here we go.”

“I love your shirt,” said Kathy Rotuno, 59, of Vermillion, Ohio, who works at the convenience store in Westlake.

Wait, what?

Rotuno said she’s a third-generation Steelers fan who moved to Northeast Ohio from New Castle, Pa., when she was 5.

“My dad brought the Steelers with us,” Rotuno said, noting her family watched Steelers’ games whenever they aired on TV in Northeast Ohio, which wasn’t often. Somehow, Rotuno’s brother wound up becoming a Browns fan.

Rotuno’s 20-year-old son has spent his entire life in Northeast Ohio, but Rotuno raised him right: He’s also a Steelers fan.

So what’s it like living in enemy territory?

“When we’re advertising that we’re Steelers fans, we get some strange looks and sometimes people say things. But for the most part, the Browns fans treat us OK,” Rotuno said.

This story was first posted July 20, 2016 at 12:22

Musicians to politicians: Stop playing that rock & roll

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives on stage Monday, July 18, 2016, the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.  (AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives on stage Monday, July 18, 2016, the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (AFP/Getty Images)

BY TOM FONTAINE  tfontaine@tribweb.com

Rock & roll is anti-establishment. Donald Trump is anti-establishment. But that doesn’t mean people in rock & roll want to be associated with Trump.

Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame said Wednesday that “no one has had more challenges with using artists’ music than Donald Trump.”

Neil Young asked Trump to stop playing “Rockin’ in the Free World” at his campaign events, while Allee Willis asked him to stop playing Karate Kid’s “You’re the Best.” Steven Tyler of Aerosmith asked him to stop playing the band’s “Dream On,” and R.E.M. asked him to pull the plug on using “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.”

Just this week Queen asked the Republican nominee for president to stop playing “We Are the Champions,” after he made a rock-star style appearance to the tune the first night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

queen

Musicians have asked other politicians to stop playing their music. Bruce Springsteen objected to Ronald Reagan playing “Born in the U.S.A.;” Bobby McFerrin opposed George H.W. Bush using “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and Issac Hayes cringed when Bob Dole reworked the R&B classic “I’m a Soul Man” to create “I’m a Dole Man.”

Sting told Al Gore to quit playing “Brand New Day,” while Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine objected to House Speaker Paul Ryan even being a fan of his music. This week, Morello participated in a protest march in Cleveland and performed with rap icon Chuck D. of Public Enemy.

Coincidentally, Morello and Chuck D.’s supergroup Prophets of Rage named its current tour “Make America Rage Again,” a play on Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.”

This story was first posted July 20, 2016 at 11:45 a.m.

PA delegate: Kasich is ‘Hamlet of the Cuyahoga’

Ohio Gov. John Kasich talks to the Tribune-Review in his Columbus, Ohio offices on Monday, March 30, 2015  Stephanie Strasburg photo.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich talks to the Tribune-Review in his Columbus, Ohio offices on Monday, March 30, 2015 Stephanie Strasburg photo.

BY TOM FONTAINE  tfontaine@tribweb.com

Ohio Gov. John Kasich backed out of a planned appearance at the Pennsylvania GOP’s delegate breakfast Wednesday, citing scheduling conflicts.

“I’m glad he canceled his speech. What’s the point of having him here?” said Pennsylvania delegate Marc Scaringi of Cumberland County’s Camp Hill.

Kasich, a McKees Rocks native, won 120 delegates in the presidential race but declined to endorse Trump after suspending his campaign following a lopsided loss in April’s Pennsylvania primary. He has been a vocal critic of Trump since.

“I call him the Hamlet of the Cuyahoga,” Scaringi said, referring to Shakespeare’s tragic hero and Northeast Ohio’s winding river.

Scaringi said Kasich’s disaffection appears to have spread to Ohio’s 66 delegates, all of whom cast their votes for Kasich in Tuesday’s roll-call vote. Pennsylvania cast 70 of its 71 votes for Trump, with one vote going to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

“We didn’t get a warm welcome from the Ohio delegation,” Scaringi said.
The two delegations sit beside each other on the convention floor. While Pennsylvania and other delegations often sprang out of their seats during the convention to celebrate the occasion, Scaringi said the Ohio delegation “sat down a lot.”

“We’re hopeful that they turn the page,” Scaringi said.

Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort spent much of the first day of the convention criticizing Kasich in the media – to the point Ohio leaders began to publicly push back on the Trump campaign in defense of their popular governor.

Donald Trump almost certainly needs to win Ohio to gain the White House.

Alienating the people of Ohio, the Plain Dealer wrote, shows how not to kick off a convention.

This story was first posted on July 20, 2016, at 9:14 a.m.

PA Delegation helps nominate Donald Trump

BY TOM FONTAINE  tfontaine@tribweb.com

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination for president Tuesday night in Cleveland, with Pennsylvania and Michigan maneuvering to allow Trump’s home state of New York to cast the deciding votes.

Pennsylvania deferred its vote to New York when its turn came up. Trump had won 1,217 delegates by that point, or 20 shy of the number required to secure the Republican nomination. Pennsylvania had 71 delegates at stake.

Earlier, Michigan had passed on its turn to vote.

Donald Trump Jr. announced that 89 of New York’s delegates would vote for Trump, while six would support Ohio Gov. John Kasich. That pushed Trump over the 1,237-delegate mark and started a celebration on the convention floor, with “New York, New York” booming over the sound system in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena.

After voting resumed, Pennsylvania cast 70 of its 71 votes for Trump. One delegate voted for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

“The Trump people did that. They did the math and said they wanted to have (Donald Trump’s) son push his father over the top for the nomination,” said Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Rob Gleason.

“It was exciting for us to do that,” Gleason said. “And it was exciting for us to deliver 70 votes to Donald Trump.”

Gleason did not identify the single Cruz delegate, but said, “I admire him for doing it,” noting the delegate ran for election on the promise that he would cast his vote for Cruz.