Burns, Welch Brawl for GOP Endorsement

By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor

The race for Republican state committee’s endorsement looks increasingly like it’s coming down to Tim Burns and Steve Welch, and things got heated between the two on the campaign trail today.

Burns, a businessman from Washington County who ran for Congress in 2010, and Welch, an entrepreneur from Chester County who also ran for Congress in 2010, are vying for the support of committee members around the state.

Today, candidates spoke to members in northeast PA and the Lehigh Valley. But unlike last week’s meeting of the central caucus, which was relatively civil, the campaigns brought out the knives.

It started with a flier. Committee members from the northeast caucus found on their tables a flier criticizing Burns over his 2010 campaign, marked as paid for by Welch’s campaign.

The two main points of the flier, according to several people who saw it, were that Burns’ fundraising in the 2010 general election lagged that of his spring special election; and that his numbers general election were below those of Tom Corbett and Pat Toomey.

It got to Burns. He reportedly spent half of his remarks at the NEPA caucus attacking Welch, calling the move “desperate,” “sad,” and, “pathetic.”

PoliticsPA was not in attendance at either meeting.

“It shows a complete willingness to toss Reagan’s 11th commandment into the wood chipper,” said Burns campaign manager Tim Kelly. “If I had to defend our opponent’s record of voting for Barack Obama and supporting a Kucinich-caliber liberal for Congress, I would want to change the subject, too.”

Welch campaign manager Peter Towey defended the criticism, saying Burns’ past performance was relevant to committee members’ decisions.

“In the 12th district, he [Burns] underperformed Toomey and Corbett significantly,” he said.

“This race isn’t about Steve or Tim, or Tom or Sam or Marc. It’s about nominating the strongest candidate to be able to defeat Bob Casey.”

Towey added that Welch would publicly stand by criticism of his opponents, drawing a contrast with a series of anonymous emails that recently went out to Pa. conservatives. The message blasted Welch for the Obama vote. Towey said the emails were similar to those sent in the past by an opponent’s campaign operative.

“Anything we put out there, we’re going to put our name on it,” Towey said.

But the tangle highlights an emerging dynamic in the race: Burns and Welch each prioritizing the state committee endorsement.

Tom Smith, a former coal company owner from Armstrong County, has loaned over $5 million to his campaign so far and has said that he will remain in the race regardless of state committee’s decision. Indeed, his ideal outcome from the committee process appears to be a non-endorsement.

It should be noted that Smith’s support has come mostly in the form of a loan, which can be refunded, rather than a contribution (which is typical for a self-funding candidate).

But in the face of Smith’s show of financial strength, a state committee endorsement will be a key element in the path to the nomination either for Burns or Welch. Each is wealthy and each has pledged to support his own campaign, but it is unclear ultimately how much the two men are willing to kick in.

Kelly said the Burns campaign would release its numbers this week and that they would be “competitive.” The number will be over $500,000 and under $1,000,000, he said, and would show Burns’ ability to raise money.

Welch has already loaned his campaign $1 million.

Republican insiders are worried about Smith, who is relatively untested on the campaign trail and has received flak for some of his performances at debates and forums. The question is: who will the establishment rally around to take Smith on?

It’s Burns or Welch, most insiders agree, meaning that the stakes of state committee are the highest for them. State committee convenes to make its endorsement decision on January 28th in Hershey.

Burns has stopped short of ruling out the option of continuing his campaign against an endorsement, if one takes place. But his campaign manager echoed Burns’ statement that it would be “very difficult” to do so.

Welch told PoliticsPA last week that he would respect the committee’s endorsement and bow out if it endorses an opponent. He has said the same to many committee members.

“I think it would be arrogant to think that they [state committee members] don’t know what they’re doing,” Welch said. “As long as it’s an organic process, I would respect that.”

Straw Poll Results

The NEPA caucus is among the smallest in the state; consisting mostly of counties on the New York border (Bradford, Lackawanna, Pike, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wayne and Wyoming counties). Turnout was additionally depressed by the bad weather. Welch won among the 16 committee members who attended:

Steve Welch: 7
Tim Burns: 3
David Christian: 2
Sam Rohrer: 2
Marc Scaringi: 1
Tom Smith: 1

And Smith pulled out a convincing win in the NECRA caucus (Carbon, Luzerne, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton, and Schuylkill counties):

Smith: 12
Burns: 4
Christian: 3
Welch: 3
Rohrer: 2
Scaringi: 2

Following last Saturday’s central caucus win by Burns, each of these three candidates has won a straw poll. The show heads to the southeast caucus meeting on Wednesday, where the onus will be on Welch to show strong support in his home territory.

The candidates will visit the southwestern and northwestern caucuses on Saturday.

Update: Here’s a copy of the flier.

Myth vs Fact – Tim Burns

January 14th, 2012 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Senate, Top Stories | 6 Comments

6 thoughts on “Burns, Welch Brawl for GOP Endorsement”

  1. MrSilenceDogood says:

    Burns has twice proven that he can’t win a general election, and Welch is such a milquetoast that he’d get eaten alive by Bob Casey. And I really can’t understand why so many Tea Party people are in love with Sam Rohrer. HE VOTED FOR THE MIDNIGHT PAYRAISE! If the Republicans really want to win, they should pick Marc Scaringi. He’s by far the debater and he doesn’t have any black marks on his record that the Democrats could use to deflect attention away from Casey and Obama.

  2. The Real Tea Party says:

    Bob…its rare, but you’re right. The tea party has proven ineffective when it comes to promoting their own candidates. They still go on and on about how money isn’t a factor in campaigning.

    Also, the tea party isn’t engaged in this electoral process at this point for a very important reason. They are focused on recruiting committee people at the local level. They have realized that the Republican Party is driven by County Parties so they are attempting to gather the needed committee seats to take over while the “establishment” focuses on what’s important, winning elections.

    I’m sure a lot of us can’t wait for 2012 to be over so that 80% of the tea party goes home and let’s the rest of us continue to do our jobs in getting Republican elected.

  3. Bob Guzzardi, Ardmore Penna. says:

    Although I think the ‘shipping jobs overseas’ is a phony issue, it is one that resonates with many, including many Tea Party Republicans.

    I don’t know what “tax loopholes” issue but it is crystal clear that ObamaCasey will run a class warfare campaign and it is necessary to counter with a deep understanding of Free Market Limited Government principles as best job creator and a higher standard of living. I am confident that Steve Welch can do that because I have spoken with him. I think Tim Burns can, also. I know Tom Smith can and has the record to prove it.

    I think Tim Burns lost because he was perceived as the Establishment’s candidate and lost support among those who had supported Bill Russell and Peg Luksik earlier. The Establishment threw the grassroots candidate under the bus. Not nice.

  4. Bob Guzzardi, Ardmore Penna. says:

    Both Steve Welch and Tim Burns are very smart guys who defend Free Market Capitalism and the underlying values of “Work, Save and Invest” and Limited Government. Job Creation is the key issue in their campaigns and I think that is the right focus although there are other issues and the Ds will try to distract from their multitrillion dollar failures of bailouts and stimulus and quantitative easing and debasing the dollar.

    Tim Burns main liability is Ray Zabourney who is connected to tainted Republican Senate’s “leadership” tainted with support for Rendell budgets and Bonusgate. Tim Burns association with Rob Gleason who manipulated the 2010 endorsements does not help him, either, in his home areas. Steve Welch has a point in his claim.

    Steve Welch has been much smarter in his choice of campaign consultants and operatives like experienced and personable Peter Towey.

    Tom Smith is a total outsider completely INDEPENDENT OF LEADERSHIP and he has the money, combined with job creating, real world business experience in a real economy, productive business, to be independent of leadership in money and in ideas and run a primary against the State Republican Establishment Endorsed candidate.

    The Tea Party has been ineffective in raising money and doing all the things necessary to get someone elected. I think this is why Sam Rohrer, another excellent candidate, fails and Sam Rohrer lacks any job creating business experience.

    The Tea Party has a million ideas and a million complaints but needs to learn how to Bell the Cat.

  5. State party endorsements should go the way of the powdered wig. Let the voters choose the best candidate in the primary election. The Democrats were wise enough to reach this decision over the weekend and the Republicans ought to follow the same path. Personally, I don’t think I will back any of the candidates who say they will withdraw from the race if they are not endorsed. It shows that they really aren’t completely committed to the process or the campaign itself.

  6. Dan says:

    I think how the SWPA Caucus votes will be pretty telling. If Burns can’t pull his own caucus, then it will make it that much harder to get the statewide endorsement.

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