Bob Casey Sr.

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Bob Casey Sr.
Bob Casey 1986.jpg
Casey campaigning in Pittsburgh, 1986
42nd Governor of Pennsylvania
In office
January 20, 1987 – January 17, 1995
LieutenantMark Singel
Preceded byDick Thornburgh
Succeeded byTom Ridge
45th Auditor General of Pennsylvania
In office
January 18, 1969 – January 21, 1977[1]
GovernorRaymond P. Shafer
Milton Shapp
Preceded byGrace M. Sloan
Succeeded byAl Benedict
Member of the Pennsylvania Senate
from the 22nd district
In office
January 1, 1963[2] – November 30, 1968
Preceded byHugh J. McMenamin
Succeeded byArthur Piasecki
Personal details
Robert Patrick Casey

(1932-01-09)January 9, 1932
Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, U.S.
DiedMay 30, 2000(2000-05-30) (aged 68)
Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Resting placeSaint Catherine's Cemetery, Moscow, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Ellen Harding Casey
Children8, including Bob Jr.
Alma materCollege of the Holy Cross (BA)
George Washington University (JD)

Robert Patrick Casey Sr. (January 9, 1932 – May 30, 2000) was an American lawyer and politician from Pennsylvania. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as the 42nd Governor of Pennsylvania from 1987-95. He previously served as a state senator (1963–68) and Auditor General of Pennsylvania (1969–77).

Casey was best known for leading the pro-life wing of the Democratic Party, taking the lead in fighting Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a major Supreme Court case that upheld almost all the prohibitions on abortion that Casey signed into law. He championed unions, believed in government as a beneficent force, and supported gun rights.[3][failed verification]

His son, Bob Casey Jr., has also served as Auditor General. He went on to serve as Pennsylvania Treasurer and is the senior United States Senator from Pennsylvania, most recently re-elected for a third six-year term in 2018.

Early life[edit]

Casey was born in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, the son of Marie (née Cummings) and Alphonsus Liguori Casey. His family, of Irish descent, was originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania, but his parents moved to New York in order for his father, a devoutly Roman Catholic former coal miner who began working as a coal miner at age 10, to attend Fordham University School of Law.[4] The family returned to Scranton following Casey's birth.[5]

After attending Scranton Preparatory School, Casey turned down an offer to play for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1949, opting to go to college instead. He went to the College of the Holy Cross, where he was president of his senior class, on a basketball scholarship. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1953, and received his Juris Doctor from George Washington University in 1956. Upon graduation and admission to the bar, Casey worked for the Washington, D.C. law firm Covington & Burling, where he remained until returning to Scranton in 1958 to enter solo practice.[6]

Political career[edit]

Three unsuccessful tries for Governor[edit]

A member of the Democratic Party, Casey was elected to the Pennsylvania State Senate in 1962. He first sought the office of Governor of Pennsylvania in 1966, losing the Democratic Party primary to Milton Shapp.[7] Casey was the candidate of the party establishment, but the independently wealthy Shapp ran a successful insurgent campaign for the nomination. Casey tried on two other occasions without success, in 1970 (again losing to Shapp) and again in 1978 (losing to Pete Flaherty). Considered a moderate and despite growing frustration with Democratic Party policies, Casey rejected Republican offers to run for governor on their ticket on two occasions.

Auditor General[edit]

In 1968 and 1972 Casey was elected to the post of Auditor General of Pennsylvania. Paul Beers in his 1980 book "Pennsylvania Politics Today and Yesterday: The Tolerable Accommodation", wrote that Casey was "regarded as the finest auditor general the Commonwealth ever had."[8] During his term as Auditor General, Casey was noted for feuding with then-Governor Shapp over Pennsylvania's pension system and exposing corruption. Before Casey, the Auditor General's office had no public accountants, who hired 24 of them.[8] Beers notes that during his two terms, "Contracts for day care, Medicare, the Farm Show, highways, [Milton] Shapp's pet dream of a Pocono Arts Center, and property leases were all investigated and audited thoroughly by Casey, with accompanying headlines when he uncovered mistakes or petty corruptions."[8]

Third gubernatorial run and mistaken identity[edit]

Restricted from seeking another term as Auditor General of Pennsylvania, Casey declined to seek the office of Pennsylvania Treasurer in 1976. Instead, a county official who was also named Robert Casey won the Democratic primary and the general election, spending virtually no money and doing virtually no campaigning; voters merely assumed they were voting for the outgoing Auditor General.[citation needed] In 1980 the Republicans launched an extensive advertising campaign to clarify that "Casey isn't Casey," and the Democratic state treasurer was defeated for re-election, losing to R. Budd Dwyer.

In 1978, yet another candidate named Robert P. "Bob" Casey, a different Robert Casey, this one a teacher and ice cream parlor owner, likewise received the Democratic party's nomination for Lieutenant Governor, again with a no-spending, no-campaigning strategy. This Casey, who joined Democratic gubernatorial nominee Pete Flaherty, narrowly lost to Richard Thornburgh and William Scranton III.

Fourth gubernatorial run and election[edit]

After a decade practicing law, Casey made a fourth bid for governor in 1986, billing himself as the "real Bob Casey" to distinguish himself and make light of the mistaken identity follies of the past. Dubbed "the three-time loss from Holy Cross" by detractors, Casey hired two then-generally unknown political strategists, James Carville and Paul Begala, to lead his campaign staff.

Pot Smoking Hippie poster (Oct 17, 1986)
Photo from "The Guru Ad" (Nov 1, 1986)

Unlike his three previous tries, Casey won the Democratic primary, defeating Philadelphia district attorney (and future Philadelphia Mayor and two term governor) Ed Rendell. He then faced Thornburgh's lieutenant governor, Bill Scranton in the general election. The race was considered too close to call until three weeks before the election, when a poster appeared statewide, depicting Scranton as a "dope smoking hippie". Casey condemned this poster in the Pittsburgh Press on October 18, 1986.[9] On the Saturday before election day, however, Carville launched the now infamous "guru ad", a TV advert which attacked Scranton's practice of transcendental meditation.[10] Casey defeated Scranton by a margin of 79,000 votes.


Governor Casey with Congressman John Murtha.

Inaugurated January 20, 1987, Casey was immediately confronted with several serious issues. Budd Dwyer, the state treasurer who had been convicted on charges of accepting kickbacks, committed suicide at a televised press conference just two days into his term. Casey brought what he called an "activist government" to Pennsylvania, expanding health care services for women, introducing reforms to the state's welfare system, and introducing an insurance program for uninsured children (which became a model for the successful SCHIP program later adopted nationwide). House Bill 20, entitled the Children's Health Insurance Act, created the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in Pennsylvania. According to PA's CHIP website, "Pennsylvania's CHIP program would later be used as the model for the federal government's SCHIP program. Legislation for the federal CHIP program was signed into law August 5, 1997 by former President Bill Clinton." [11]

Casey also introduced a "capital for a day" program, where the state's official business was conducted from eighteen different communities throughout the state. Despite charges that his administration squandered a budget surplus and ran the state into record annual budget deficits, Casey remained popular with voters, easily winning re-election in 1990 against pro-choice Republican nominee Barbara Hafer. Polling data showed that abortion attitudes were a stronger predictor of vote choice than party affiliation.[12]


Governor Casey was well known as a staunch Roman Catholic pro-life advocate.[4]

In 1989, Casey pushed through the legislature the "Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act", which placed limitations on abortion, including the notification of parents of minors, a twenty-four-hour waiting period, and a ban on partial-birth procedures except in cases of risk to the life of the mother. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania sued, with Casey as the named defendant, asserting that the law violated Roe v. Wade.

The case went to the United States Supreme Court in April, 1992. On June 29, 1992, in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court upheld all of Pennsylvania's restrictions except one (the requirement for spousal notification) allowing states to impose certain restrictions, but still affirming the right to an abortion found in Roe.[3]

1992 Democratic National Convention controversy[edit]

Considering abortion a key social issue for the 1992 presidential election, Casey tried to get a speaking slot to give a minority plank on the topic at the 1992 Democratic National Convention. He was not given a speaking slot[13] and said in a series of news conferences the party was censoring his pro-life views even though he agreed with the party on nearly all other issues.[14][15] And after a speech by another pro-choice supporter from Pennsylvania, DNC supporters actually sent a camera crew in search of Casey to humiliate him.[16][17]

After the convention, convention organizers tried to say that Casey was not allowed to speak because he did not support the Democratic ticket. Al Gore called Casey the next day to apologize.[16][3][17][18][19]

In contrast, convention speaker Kathleen Brown had been falsely alleged to have not endorsed the ticket due to bitterness over her brother (Jerry Brown)'s losing the nomination,[20] In reality the Browns had come to support the Clinton ticket prior to the convention.[21]

Several pro-life Democrats such as John Breaux addressed the convention, though did not speak directly on the issue of abortion.[20] After the convention, Casey went on vacation rather than campaign for Clinton in Pennsylvania, which was a key swing state. He also refused to say whether he would campaign for the Democratic nominee, though he told The New York Times, "I support the ticket. Period."[22] Several pro-life Democrats spoke at the convention, but they did not focus their remarks on abortion, and the issue was not debated the way that Casey had wanted.[17]

Death penalty[edit]

Regarding capital punishment, Governor Casey's administration came under much criticism. In an interview with C-Span in 1992, Governor Casey stated: "I support the death penalty."[23] However, Casey was criticized as being "wishy-washy"[24] on the death penalty. Governor Casey during his term signed 21 execution warrants, but none of those were carried out,[25] and upon entering office in 1987, dissolved a death warrant signed by his predecessor Dick Thornburgh, five days before it was stated to occur.[24]

For a period of four years during his administration from May 1991 on, Casey refused to sign any death penalty warrants. In 1994, Casey vetoed a bill that would "require Casey and future governors to sign death warrants for condemned killers within 60 days after their death sentences are upheld by the state Supreme Court."[26]

Casey would be forced to sign two death warrants after May 1991,[27] after a lawsuit was brought by Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli. The court ruled in Morganelli v. Casey,[28] that Casey did not have the power to ignore death warrants. Pennsylvania resumed executions once Casey's successor, Tom Ridge, took office.

On November 29, 1990, Governor Casey signed a bill that eliminated the electric chair as a method of executions in Pennsylvania and replaced it by lethal injection.[29]

U.S. Senate politics[edit]

On April 4, 1991, Casey was faced with filling a vacancy in the U.S. Senate when Republican U.S. Senator John Heinz died in a plane crash. After briefly considering appointing Chrysler Corporation Chairman Lee Iacocca, an Allentown native, Casey settled on state Secretary of Labor and Industry, and former Kennedy functionary Harris Wofford (despite private fears that he was too liberal for rural Pennsylvania voters).[14] According to former Casey press secretary Vince Carocci, the Governor insisted on two conditions:

First, that Wofford would bring Carville and company on to manage his campaign for election; second, when the issue of abortion came up as it inevitably would, Harris would proclaim his support for the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act, which already had its constitutionality upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.[14]

With those assurances in hand, Governor Casey appointed Wofford to the Senate, and then vigorously supported him in Wofford's uphill fight to remain in the Senate against former Pennsylvania Governor and U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh in the special election held that fall. Thanks in large part to Casey's fundraising prowess and Carville's political ability, Senator Wofford scored an upset victory over Thornburgh. However, Casey and Wofford came into conflict during the early Clinton administration, when Wofford refused a personal plea by Casey to support an amendment similar to a provision in Casey's Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act. Casey made it very clear that if Wofford opposed the amendment, the Governor would withhold his support in Wofford's next Senate election. Wofford supported the amendment, but still was defeated in the 1994 election by two-term conservative Congressman Rick Santorum.[14]

The footnote to this story came years after Governor Casey's death. By 2005, the Governor's son, Bob Casey, Jr., had served two terms as auditor general and had been elected state treasurer the year before, crushing his opponent with over 3.3 million votes. Despite the younger Casey's pro-life views, National Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, heavily recruited him to run in the 2006 election against Santorum, by now the number-three Republican in the Senate. Casey went on to win a landslide victory over Santorum.[30]


During his second term, Casey was diagnosed with hereditary amyloidosis, an inherited condition characterized by the deposition of insoluble proteins in organs and tissues.[31] Though rare, the disease had also claimed the lives of Pittsburgh Mayor Richard Caliguiri and Erie Mayor Louis Tullio in 1988 and 1990, respectively. To combat the disease, he underwent an extremely rare heart-liver transplant on the morning of June 14, 1993 at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The announcement of Casey's disease was made just days before he underwent the transplant, and as a result many accused him of receiving preferential treatment with respect to donor waiting lists.[32]

Before undergoing the operation, he transferred executive authority to Lieutenant Governor Mark Singel, marking the first time Pennsylvania was under the leadership of an acting governor. Casey resumed his duties on December 13, 1993, almost six months to the day after he underwent the operation.[citation needed]

Following his operation, Casey strongly supported legislation that encouraged organ transplants by guaranteeing access to the families of potential organ donors by organ recovery organizations, providing drivers' license identification of potential donors, and establishing an organ donation trust fund from voluntary donations to promote the benefits of organ donation. Today the organ donation trust fund is named in his honor.[citation needed]

Post-political career[edit]

Prohibited from seeking a third term, Casey left office on January 17, 1995. He contemplated a run for President to oppose Bill Clinton in the 1996 Democratic primaries, but declined due to failing health.[33][34]

Despite the transplants, Casey continued to suffer long-term effects of his disease, to which he finally succumbed on May 30, 2000 at age 68 in Mercy Hospital in Scranton.[35] His survivors were his wife of fifty years, Ellen (née Harding); his eight children, Margaret, Mary Ellen, Kathleen, Bob, Jr., Chris, Erin, Patrick and Matt; numerous grandchildren; and his brother John.[4]


  1. ^ "Benedict Is as Benedict Does". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. January 21, 1977. Retrieved February 7, 2010.
  2. ^ "Length of Legislative Sessions Since 1776". The Pennsylvania Manual. 118. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Department of General Services. 2007. pp. 3–280. Archived from the original on October 1, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c Peter J Boyer (November 14, 2005). "The Right to Choose". The New Yorker.
  4. ^ a b c Molotsky, Ervin (May 31, 2000). "Former Gov. Robert P. Casey Dies at 68; Pennsylvania Democrat Opposed Abortion". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "Governor Robert Patrick Casey profile". Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
  6. ^ "Robert P. Casey Papers, 1943-2000". Pennsylvania State University Libraries. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  7. ^ Zausner, Robert (May 31, 2000). "Former Gov. Casey Is Dead At 68". Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Paul B. Beers (November 1, 2010). Pennsylvania Politics Today and Yesterday: The Tolerable Accommodation. Pennsylvania State University Press. pp. 412–414. ISBN 978-0-271-04498-9.
  9. ^ "Casey 'deplores' posters attacking Scranton". The Pittsburgh Press. October 18, 1986. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  10. ^ Ferrick, Jr, Tom (February 10, 2008). "Recalling the Maharishi and Carville's Killer Ad". The New York Times. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  11. ^ "A Brief History".
  12. ^ Cook, Ted G. Jelen, Clyde Wilcox (1994); Ted G. Jelen, Perspectives on the politics of abortion (1995) p. 76
  13. ^ Shailagh Murray (January 21, 2007). "Democrats Seek to Avert Abortion Clashes". The Washington Post: A5.
  14. ^ a b c d Vincent P. Carocci (2005). "A Capitol Journey: Reflections on the Press, Politics, and the Making Of Public Policy In Pennsylvania". Archived from the original on December 31, 2006.
  15. ^ Casey, Robert P. (1996). Fighting for Life: The Story of a Courageous Pro-Life Democrat Whose Own Brush with Death Made Medical History. Word Publishing. p. 190. ISBN 978-0-8499-1224-5.
  16. ^ a b Hentoff, Nat (June 19, 2000). "Life of the Party". The New Republic. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  17. ^ a b c Michael Crowley, "Casey Closed", The New Republic, September 16, 1996.
  18. ^ Wines, Michael (August 1, 1996). "The States And The Issues". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  19. ^ Casey, Robert P. (1996). Fighting for Life: The Story of a Courageous Pro-Life Democrat Whose Own Brush with Death Made Medical History. Word Publishing. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-8499-1224-5.
  20. ^ a b Casey, Robert P. (1996). Fighting for Life: The Story of a Courageous Pro-Life Democrat Whose Own Brush with Death Made Medical History. Word Publishing. p. 190. ISBN 978-0-8499-1224-5.
  21. ^ Rosenbaum, David E. (July 13, 1992). "The Democrats; Brown Offers No Support, Just Attacks". The New York Times. ("Mr. Brown's sister, Kathleen, is the State Treasurer of California and is planning to run for Governor in 1994; he supports Mr. Clinton and is scheduled to address the convention on Tuesday night.")
  22. ^ Michael Decourcy Hinds, "Pennsylvania; Democratic Ticket Heads Into Fertile Territory", The New York Times, July 19, 1992, Section 1, Page 20
  23. ^ "Life and Career of Robert Casey".
  24. ^ a b "Governor Casey says he won't rush death penalty decisions for others". Gettysburg Times. August 14, 1987. p. 3A.
  25. ^ Execution Warrants Issued by Governor (1985 to Present),; accessed May 14, 2017.
  26. ^ "Casey's Veto Survives Vote In The Senate". Philadelphia Inquirer. June 15, 1994. Archived from the original on October 12, 2016.
  27. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 24, 2006. Retrieved February 28, 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ "MORGANELLI v. CASEY - 166 Pa.Commw. 574 (1994) -".
  29. ^ Death Penalty in Pennsylvania – Statistics & History of Capital Punishment in PA,; accessed May 14, 2017.
  30. ^ Michael Barone, The Almanac of American Politics: 2006 (2005) pg. 1424.
  31. ^ Falk, Rodney; Comenzo RL; Skinner M (1997). "The systemic amyloidoses". NEJM. 337 (13): 898–909. doi:10.1056/nejm199709253371306. PMID 9302305.
  32. ^ "The Case of Bob Casey". Retrieved May 10, 2018.
  33. ^ "Anyone left? The search for a Clinton challenger in 1996". The Progressive. May 1, 1995. Retrieved December 6, 2010.
  34. ^ Newton-Small, Jay (November 24, 2009). "Can a Pro-Life Dem Bridge the Health-Care Divide?". Time. Retrieved December 6, 2010.
  35. ^ Reeves, Frank, and Shelly, Peter J. (May 31, 2000). "Former Gov. Robert P. Casey dies at 68". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on August 15, 2004. Retrieved December 24, 2017.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Dick Thornburgh
Governor of Pennsylvania
Succeeded by
Tom Ridge
Preceded by
Grace Sloan
Auditor General of Pennsylvania
Succeeded by
Al Benedict
Pennsylvania State Senate
Preceded by
Hugh McMenamin
Member of the Pennsylvania Senate for the 22nd District
Succeeded by
Arthur Piasecki
Party political offices
Preceded by
Allen Ertel
Democratic nominee for Governor of Pennsylvania
1986, 1990
Succeeded by
Mark Singel
Preceded by
Grace Sloan
Democratic nominee for Auditor General of Pennsylvania
1968, 1972
Succeeded by
Al Benedict