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A Voice for Choice

by John J. Miller

Meet the Pennsylvania Democrat willing to take on teachers’ unions

Three Philadelphia businessmen captured the attention of Pennsylvania’s political class last year when they pumped more than $5 million into the campaign of state senator Anthony H. Williams, a black Democrat seeking his party’s nomination for governor. John P. Martin, a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, spoke of the money’s “potential to catapult Williams past other contenders.” One of his sources, G. Terry Madonna of Franklin and Marshall College, warned darkly of the ethical implications: “Here’s the point: Money buys . . . access and influence.”

The cash didn’t purchase Williams a victory. He came in third in the Democratic primary, well behind Dan Onorato, who went on to lose to Republican Tom Corbett in November. But the contributions may have served an unexpected purpose: By giving Williams an opportunity to promote his signature issue of school choice, they created the preconditions for the passage of one of the most ambitious pieces of conservative legislation any state will consider this year. Pennsylvania could approve what its secretary of education, Ronald Tomalis, calls “the most expansive school-choice law in the nation, involving more kids across a greater geographic area than anywhere else in the country.”

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