Paul McKrell, pictured here with Hillary Clinton before she found her voice in New Hampshire, has returned to Pittsburgh to run for Lisa Bennington's seat in Harrisburg.
The question is, did he find his voice? There is an interesting backstory or two to this campaign.
McKrell had been executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Young Democrats (PAYD), beloved by most, despised a few. When he decided late last year to begin contemplating a run for Lisa Bennington's seat, he was muscled out of PAYD -- for having committed the cardinal sin of running against (or thinking about running against) an incumbent Democrat.
We don't know how the head of PAYD can get muscled out of his position, but we assume it works something like how Ken Wolfe was muscled out of the Young Democrats of Allegheny County (YDAC) for having reported improper electioneering among city workers.
McKrell was content to continue his plans for the seat anyway, until former city councilman Len Bodack got in the race. Apparently there were no party strictures against his challenging the incumbent. Bodack in fact offered McKrell a very pretty penny to join the Bodack campaign (and to drop his own bid).
McKrell turned the offer down, but despairing of his chances of beating a well-financed former councilman and an incumbent officeholder, and perhaps feeling a bit ill-used by the local political apparatus, he went off to political purgatory in Iowa.
Fast forward a little over a month. Bennington surprises everyone by dropping out, McKrell's friends rally to his side, and he returns to Pittsburgh triumphantly to compete for the nomination.
McKrell is an interesting political commodity. An ACDC committeeman, he supported Bill Peduto in the primary (he worked for him in 05) and he never downplayed that support.
However, in the general election he supported the nominee enthusiastically like any good party operative, and by Election Day was considered useful and loyal enough to cruise around with Ravenstahl and Zober, getting into all sorts of trouble.
When asked what his priorities would be in Harrisburg, Paul went right for perks, bonuses, and kickbacks -- cleaning up the system. When pressed for policy, his wonkish side seemed to gravitate towards health care and education.
One challenge as a candidate will be the degree to which McKrell looks and sounds exactly like a politician. This problem will not be fixed -- yet might still be overcome.
We remember McKrell waiting outside the special public hearing of the School Board on Schenley. The hearing was just getting started, the anti-Schenley consultants were starting to offer testimony, yet the extra rooms were conveniently not yet open. Most of the crowd was gathered around the front door, blocked by officers. No one was rioting, but everyone was jockeying for position; people were upset to be missing out.
That's when Paul McKrell, clad in his suit and his hair and looking every bit the important official, started yelling, "This is a public meeting, let us in!" Then ten seconds later, "This is a PUBLIC meeting, LET US IN!" This for about five minutes. Eventually we were let in.
Admirably, Paul maintained his control the whole time, despite the force from behind.
The Comet certainly can not yet endorse Paul McKrell for District 21. However, we absolutely endorse the idea of Paul McKrell in Harrisburg.