NEW YORK — Councilman Kenyatta Johnson pointed to the Vanderbilt Room on one side of the Waldorf Astoria lobby and the Empire Room on the other. Normally on the Friday evening of Pennsylvania Society, he said, “there’s a party over here and a party over there when you walk in.”
This Friday evening neither of them were being thrown. Dozens of politicos were still milling around the lobby, but the word “dead” was getting thrown around a lot to describe the annual bash so far.
Thursday night, when festivities normally begin, had far fewer party choices for attendees to choose from. On Friday, PoliticsPA still threw the popular Governor Mifflin Reception to close out the night, but two major parties that usually happen — including one thrown by Johnny Doc — were not scheduled for this year. Johnny Doc’s Local 98 party had been a staple of Pennsylvania Society for the last few years, known for its live band, large crowds and odd Christmas tree ornaments handed out as party favors (they even had a Councilman Bobby Henon ornament a couple years ago).
Some of the blame certainly goes to the budget. The House Democrats and Republicans who vowed not to attend appeared to have kept their word, even though a recess was called for Friday and Saturday.
But Pennsylvania Assembly members and Tom Wolf weren’t the only ones missing. Johnny Doc, obviously, has no affiliation with the Assembly. And others noticed it seemed like fewer lobbyists were around than in previous years.
Of course, “dead” is a relative term at the Pennsylvania Society. About a dozen events took place during the day, from the infamous Donald Trump luncheon to a Cozen O’Connor Holiday Reception. Notable politicians like former Governor Ed Rendell and U.S. Senate candidates Katie McGinty and John Fetterman were around.
Former Governor Tom Corbett said he thought this Pennsylvania Society had been as lively as others he’d been to.
“Look, everyone here’s going out to dinner,” he said, “and receptions are going on.”
Corbett was the exception, though. Most agreed this year’s event had lacked some of the energy of those past, though not necessarily for the worse. If few people from the state Assembly are around that means they’re in Harrisburg hopefully discussing or researching budget plans, and everybody here in New York wants one finished soon.
“We need a budget,” Johnson said.