ON BACKGROUND: Welch’s exit, Trivedi’s boost and Sestak’s staffers
Every week, PoliticsPA will give you a taste of the buzz, rumors and gossip floating around Pennsylvania’s political wags. This week, we talk Welch’s campaign departure, Trivedi’s important endorsement, and Sestak’s campaign losing another staffer.
Steve Welch made life much easier for incumbent congressman Jim Gerlach over the weekend when the businessman suddenly ended his congressional primary challenge.
Although he was down heavily in at least one poll, that doesn’t mean Welch couldn’t have tested Geralch within his own party. At the very least, the former candidate might have forced the congressman to spend money he didn’t have and weakened him for a potentially difficult election battle in November.
“Welch was committed to spending a couple of million dollars, and Gerlach had $5,000 in his federal account,” said Ray Zaborney, a Republican strategist, who added that the incumbent’s candidacy is undoubtedly strengthened by Welch’s departure.
Gerlach will face either Manan Trivedi or Doug Pike in a general election expected to be one of the Democratic Party’s few opportunities to pick up a seat in 2010.
Speaking of Trivedi, the physician and Iraq war veteran received a big boost over the weekend when he received the Chester County Democratic Committee’s endorsement. His received about 70 percent of the vote, according to his campaign, which called the support a “game-changer” for the race.
The race now seems like a contest between a well-funded candidate, Pike, and one who has more local support. Either way, most Democrats and other observers expect it to be one of the most competitive, and possibly nastiest, primaries of 2010.
Lower Merion Township Commissioner Brian Gordon is also in the primary.
Arlen Specter spoke with a group of bloggers Tuesday afternoon to discuss, among a variety of topical issues, a debate between Pat Toomey and Joe Sestak and his support for reconciliation to approve health care legislation.
Near the end of the conference call, PoliticsPA asked, instead of answering more questions from the press, if there was anything he personally would like to discuss.
The senator decided to talk about what he calls the distressing lack of unity in today’s congress.
“I’d like to see if we can’t find some way out of the quagmire we’re in,” Specter said. “The gridlock is in congress is really very (problematic) for our country. I think we have weakened not only the president but the presidency.
“People are really question the capableness of our form of government,” he added.
He quipped at the end of his comments that he was finished with his “dissertation.”
Specter’s opponent, U.S. Rep. Sestak, lost a former *communications staffer, J.J. Abbott. He left the campaign shortly after the state Democratic Party’s endorsement meeting in early February to join Jack Wagner’s gubernatorial effort.
He’s the fifth staffer to leave the campaign recently, which could spark criticism that the southeast congressman doesn’t have the campaign infrastructure to run a statewide race.
Sestak’s campaign officials, however, have pointed out they recently opened offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh while raising more than $5 million. They have the infrastructure and resources to defeat Specter on May 18, they say.
The campaign also received a boost over the weekend when it received an endorsement from Lancaster County Democrats and majority support, although not an endorsement, from the Chester County Democrats.
Finally, anybody else notice that Governor Ed Rendell isn’t shy about critiquing President Obama in public? That’s not a shock for the sometimes famously (infamously) off-message governor. But his comment on Sunday about Obama being “out-messaged” by the GOP on the stimulus is just the latest in a string of remarks that, themselves, appear off-message for a Democratic big-wig.
I guess any doubt that Rendell, one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest advocates, will not get a position in Obama’s cabinet next year can be erased.
CORRECTION: J.J. Abbott was not new media director for Sestak’s campaign, as the article previously stated. He was a member of the communications staff. PoliticsPA regrets the error.