When the Kathleen Kane 'Get Out the Vote' rally ended around 7:30 p.m., April 12, the rally’s featured speaker, former president Bill Clinton was immediately mobbed.
But, instead of the secret service gentlemen, with their rigid postures and curly earpieces, whisking the apparently still ‘rock-star’ popular 42nd president away, Bill decided to linger for a while.
“Pennsylvania has always been Clinton country,” Frank Keel, spokesperson for the Kane campaign, said. “Both Bill and Hillary.”
Standing at the same level as the adoring event attendees, the former president was separated only by a thin chain, arranged in a semi-circle to the platform, where he, Democratic state attorney general candidate Kane and Bucks County commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia stood on just minutes before.
Instead of making just one round of shaking hands, autographing books he’s written and maintaining such a genuine-looking grin for every picture taker – Clinton made several rounds.
“I shook his hand, and it made my whole night,” Gavin Lichtenstein, Upper Moreland High School Junior, said. “It was great to have him right in our school, and I thought tonight was fabulous for the community in general.”
In Preparation of a President
According to Keel, the night could just as easily have happened at Colonial School District, as it was the Kane campaign’s other choice to hold the 'Get Out the Vote' rally.
“Upper Moreland really stepped up,” Keel said. “The administrators couldn’t have been more welcoming and accommodating.”
According to Upper Moreland School District superintendent Dr. Robert Milrod, the school district was contacted by the Kane campaign with the offer of a presidential visit at approximately 10 a.m., April 10.
“And, they needed an answer from us by noon,” Milrod recalled.
Typically, months of school board committee meetings or other school-district level considerations would first need to occur, prior to a facilities approval request. However, according to Milrod, the Upper Moreland School Board of Directors unanimously approved the campaign visit prior to the noon deadline.
“It was really forward-thinking by our board of school directors to recognize that this is an educational opportunity and not really a political opportunity,” Milrod said. “This was an opportunity to allow our students, to allow the members of our community, to meet a president of the United States.”
In keeping with the a-political policies of the school board, Milrod said that the other candidates for state attorney general were immediately invited to also present their campaign at the high school.
By the evening of April 12, no other candidate had yet responded to the invitation.
Milrod said that special accommodations needed to be made in preparation of the Kane campaign and Clinton’s visit.
Such accommodations included the acquisition of a large raised platform and rental of a newer public address system, among many other accomodations.
But, like the costs associated in renting out the high school gymnasium, Milrod said that the Kane campaign had paid for everything associated with the event.
He also said that security measures were also taken into careful consideration and thanked the Upper Moreland Police Department for their presence, as well as other first responders of the township, including Second Alarmers Rescue Squad and the Willow Grove Volunteer Fire Compnay.
Public Feedback and Presidential Recognition
Once the event was publically announced on April 11, there were immediate concerns by some Patch readers on the cancellation of a college panel discussion scheduled at the Upper Moreland High School for junior-year students.
According to Patch reader, mary beth Dougherty, the event would have allowed parents to ask the college panel discussion questions, and expressed aggravation over school district’s decision to opt for the former president’s visit.
According to Milrod, only two parents had pre-registered for the event, and that the district was having trouble finding college representatives to attend the panels at this time of year. The panels are an ongoing series throughout the year.
Milrod said that Abington School District will host a large college fair in the coming days, to which Upper Moreland students will be encouraged to attend.
At the very beginning of his speech, Clinton publicly thanked Milrod and UMHS principal Joy Perishio for their hospitality and accommodations.
Clinton then went on to reveal his fond recollections and bond he has with the township.
“It was a real honor having him here back in Upper Moreland,” Milrod said, referring to Clinton’s first visit during his presidency, when he awarded the Middle School a National Blue Ribbon designation.
Local Political Thoughts on the Rally
Several local elected township officials attended the Kane rally, including school board members Lisa Berlin and Dan Barber.
“It’s a great opportunity for the community and students to experience the president of the United States,” Barber said.
While the school board operates as a non-partisan entity (the majority of the current school board have Republican seats), overall, the Kane rally was certainly a politically motivated event, as only registered Democrats would have the opportunity to vote for her at the April 24 Pennsylvania Primary elections.
This may be the reason why members of the Upper Moreland Democrats held the majority presence of the township’s prominent political figures at the rally.
According to Nick Scull, the Upper Moreland Democrats chairperson, the organization has recently grown in membership after years of non-growth. Scull said that 30 such members joined other prominent township residents in the VIP seating section at the rally.
“We’re just trying to be neutral,” Scull said after the rally. “We participated in large numbers, because we wanted to see Clinton and hear what [Kane] was about, not whether or not we should vote for her, because that’s what the Primaries are all about … we’re supporting the process.”
Ward 2 commissioner Kevin Spearing said he was happy to see Clinton in Upper Moreland addressing so many people, as his presence was able to bring so many residents together in support of the democratic process.
“We have to focus on what we have together, what we share, the common ground,” Spearing said of the entire Upper Moreland political climate. “We’re moving in the right direction.”
Among the prominent township political figures at the rally included commissioners Lisa Romaniello and Spearing, who are both Democrats, and James McKenna, Ward 7 commissioner, who switched parties within the last month to become a Democrat.
“Kane is an excellent candidate,” McKenna said. “And, I think her background and experience as a prosecutor will help her.”
All three commissioners agreed that the primary for state attorney general will come down to experience in relation to the position.
“Really, it comes down to the job,” Romaniello , Ward 1 commissioner, said. “Bill was able to speak to voters to get to the issues.”
She added that voters focusing on issues rather than political ideologies is a lesson everyone can learn from.
“And, that’s what rallies like this are for,” Romaniello said.