Off to the political jungle at Pennsylvania Society weekend

     An aerial view of the skyline of Manhattan in New York, Friday, June 20, 2014. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo)

    An aerial view of the skyline of Manhattan in New York, Friday, June 20, 2014. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo)

    It’s the second weekend in December, so I and a few hundred other Pennsylvania political junkies are headed to New York for the three-day schmooze-fest known as Pennsylvania Society weekend.It’s a non-stop slate of dinners, receptions, fundraisers and cocktail parties among the state’s political, legal and commercial elite who come to network, gossip, see and be seen.

    It disgusts a lot of reform-minded progressives, and I can’t quarrel with their critique. I love reformer Eric Epstein’s description of it as a “frat party on steroids.”

    But I go with a clean conscience, because my job is to know what these folks are up to, and it’s an invaluable experience for me to trade insight and gossip with them, as well as those who do their bidding and seek their favor. I hit plenty of receptions, but make a point of avoiding free food and anything to drink stronger than a club soda.

    Some things I’ll be keeping my eye on this year:

    – Governor-elect Tom Wolf – To his credit, he’s not throwing a big reception, instead donating the 20 grand he would spend to food banks. But he’ll be making the rounds and shaking hands, as he should. He has to govern, and he needs to build relationships and know what people in the capitol are thinking.

    And whether he likes it or not, he will be a huge center of gravity all weekend. People will be hunting him down, looking for jobs, suggesting favored candidates, and offering political advice. I can’t imagine what it must be like, but I’ll try and get my three minutes with him.

    – Philadelphia mayoral hopefuls – They’ll all be there, making the rounds and shaking hands. Ken Trujillo plans a live radio broadcast Saturday morning from the Waldorf Astoria, and is the only one of the announced candidates who plans a fundraiser in New York as far as I know.

    City Council President Darrell Clarke, who isn’t a candidate but could be, is holding a Saturday fundraiser.

    – Potential U.S. Senate candidates – Republican Senator Pat Toomey plans a fundraiser, and Democrats will be buzzing with talk about who’ll run against him. Former Congressman Joe Sestak is in. Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro is a talked-about rising star of the party, but isn’t committing to anything yet. State Attorney General Kathleen Kane was once considered a great candidate, but she’s had a politial year from hell.

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