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Scranton in hopeful’s roots

U.S. Senator Joseph Biden, D-Delaware, a Scranton native, came to Marywood University in October 2006 for a preview showing of a film about Monsignor Andrew J. McGowan, who died in July 2006. Flanking Biden is Phil Bosha, of Wyoming, at left, and Father Louis Grippe, of Swoyersville.

CHARLOTTE BARTIZEK file photo/for the times leader

SCRANTON -- The news that Scranton native Sen. Joe Biden, of Delaware, will be Sen. Barack Obama’s running mate on the national Democratic ticket was met with praise, skepticism and deep emotion Saturday here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

District Justice James Kennedy grew up 20 feet from Biden’s house and the two have been friends all their lives. Kennedy was at Cosgrove’s in Scranton’s Green Ridge section to watch his friend accept presumptive presidential nominee Obama’s invitation to run as his vice president.

“Let me tell you, this is a very emotional day for me,” Kennedy said. “I’ve been with him since kindergarten; we played together in the same dirty street. I’ve known the family for five generations.”

Kennedy said the Biden family is “unbelievable – world class all the way.” He said Biden’s favorite church hymn is “On Eagle’s Wings” and he said it applies to Saturday’s announcement.

“I’ve been with Joe through good times and bad,” Kennedy said. “We were all deeply saddened when his wife and daughter were killed in an automobile accident. I find the words to the hymn very appropriate today. He was raised on eagle’s wings – his mother and father completed each other.”

Biden grew up at 2446 N. Washington Ave. in Scranton. His backyard faced Kennedy’s house at 2446 Dimmick St.”

“Every day we grinded it out,” Kennedy said. “We were close, close, close, close and still are. He will bring tremendous value to the ticket and to the world.”

Wilkes University political science professor, Dr. Tom Baldino, said the Biden choice was a good move for Obama.

“He has the experience in foreign policy that Obama lacks while also strengthening Obama’s argument that he, as president, will abide by the Constitution,” Baldino said. “Biden also should help Obama carry Pennsylvania. Biden’s personal ties to our region, as well as his familiarity to (and with) the people in southeast Pennsylvania (Delaware is part of the Philadelphia metro region’s media market) will ease the concerns that some Hilary supporters may have had about Obama.”

Baldino said Biden’s profile as an Irish Catholic with blue-collar roots closely matches the demographic profile of western Pennsylvania Democrats.

“Finally, it is fair to consider a presidential candidate’s VP selection as one of the first important indicators of the candidate’s judgment,” Baldino said. “The choice of Biden suggests that Obama prefers to err on the side of safe and solid rather than new and flashy. While Biden has made his share of gaffes over his political career, he’s also demonstrated that he is dependable, very bright, and an honest broker. He speaks his mind about his convictions.”

The Obama campaign said in a release that Biden – often called Pennsylvania’s third senator -- is a leader who has worked for decades in Washington, but has never lived there, and is an expert on foreign policy whose heart and values are firmly rooted in the middle class.

“Biden has stared down dictators, spoken for America’s cops and firefighters, and is uniquely suited to serve as Barack Obama’s partner in the urgent mission to bring about the change America needs to put our country back on track,” the release said.

Terry Casey, chairman of the Luzerne County Republican Party, wasn’t surprised, calling Biden “the likely choice” for vice president.

“I think it strengthens Obama’s lack of understanding of and experience in foreign policy,” Casey said. “As far as his Scranton roots, I haven’t heard Joe Biden’s name mentioned in the same sentence as Scranton in 50 years until today.”

U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Nanticoke, applauded Obama’s selection of Biden, whose family moved to Claymont, Del., when he was 10 years old.

“All residents of the 11th District, but particularly those in Lackawanna County and Scranton, can be proud that Sen. Obama has chosen a native son of Northeastern Pennsylvania to be part of our winning team in this year’s presidential election,” Kanjorski said. “Sen. Biden’s experience in the Congress, his expertise as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and his progressive record for hardworking middle-class families on domestic matters are perfect complements for Sen. Obama’s leadership skills as our presidential nominee.”

Ed Mitchell, Kanjorski’s spokesman and a longtime political analyst, said Biden’s selection will bode well for Obama and Kanjorski.

“People in this region tend to support people from the region who are on national tickets,” Mitchell said. “A lot of Hillary Clinton supporters who were dissatisfied will now come out and vote and the more Democrats you bring to the polls, the more it helps the candidates.”

Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty, a big supporter of Clinton, said the choice of Biden was obvious.

“The people of Northeastern Pennsylvania always vote their own and they will view Sen. Biden as one of their own,” Doherty said. “He does help the ticket.”

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