State House Minority Leader Frank Dermody Sends Letter to Legislative Reapportionment Chairman McEwen Requesting The LRC Not Rush New Legislative Maps

By: Geoffrey Middleberg, Assistant Editor

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny County) who voted in favor of the legislative districts that were remanded by the State Supreme Court today called for the Legislative Reapportionment Commission not to rush to pass new maps.

Leader Dermody feels that any new map should go through a through vetting process including a new round of public hearings and input from stakeholders.

The 2001 map that remains by court order is more favorable to Democrats than the 2011 map would have been and therefore, Democrats in the state House see pickup opportunities on the old map that may not necessarily exist on a new map.

Dermody Letter to LRC Chairman

Tribune-Review: Pa. Charter Schools Are Struggling To Meet Standards, But Keep Growing

Read more here.

When Ron and Tina Gamble’s twin daughters, Jessica and Lauren, considered leaving public school for cyber school after sophomore year, several factors influenced their decision. The family from Murrysville liked the flexible cyber school schedule and lack of “busy work.”

Standardized test scores and state requirements did not factor into the decision.

“They don’t seem that important to me,” said Lauren Gamble, 17.

Since the charter school movement began in Pennsylvania nearly 15 years ago, most of the state’s charter schools continue to struggle to meet state standards. Yet, charters in Western Pennsylvania keep growing.

More than 90,000 students are enrolled in 142 public charter schools, including 12 cyber charter schools, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. An estimated 30,000 students are on waiting lists.

Morning Call: Pennsylvania Seeks Health Care Law Funding

Read more here.

Gov. Tom Corbett believes the Obama administration’s health reform law is unconstitutional, but that’s not stopping the state from asking the federal government for money to implement it.

State Insurance Commissioner Michael F. Consedine last week announced that the Insurance Department filed its application for about $33 million to complete planning and begin development and design of a health insurance exchange.

“The governor continues to believe that the law requiring the purchase of health insurance is unconstitutional,” Consedine said in a statement. “However, it would not be prudent to be caught unprepared. Therefore, we must implement a solution, if necessary, by developing a plan for Pennsylvanians should the U.S. Supreme Court not strike down the law.”

1/30 Morning Buzz

Good morning politicos, and welcome to the Buzz. If you couldn’t make it to Republican state committee this weekend, you missed quite a show.

After strong pressure from Gov. Corbett and his team, the party endorsed Steve Welch in the Senate race, thereby ending the primary. Just kidding. Literally every other candidate – as of today – remains in the race. Tim Burns said Saturday he would stay in, about a 170 degree reversal from his pre-state committee position. He’s likely ticked off about the Guv’s impressive last-minute vote-whipping effort, which you can read about here.

Meanwhile, everyone is still waiting on the Pa. Supreme Court’s ruling on redistricting.

1/27 Ups & Downs: Redistricting, redistricting, redistricting, redistricting. Is anyone talking about anything else this week? There are too many individual lawmakers and candidates who would win or lose depending on the myriad possibilities to name them all, but here are the broad strokes.

Corbett: Election Under 2001 Lines ‘Stupid’: “We’re waiting to see an opinion from the court. We got an opinion from the dissenting side, now we’re waiting for an opinion from the majority, but they seem to have gone out of town somewhere.”

Urban for Congress in PA-17: Luzerne County Councilman Stephen Urban, who made headlines last year when he switched from Republican to Democrat, is circulating nominating petitions for U.S. Congress. He would face incumbent Rep. Tim Holden and Democratic primary challenger Matt Cartwright, an attorney from Scranton.

$40K on Hand for Feinberg: Former congressional staffer Evan Feinberg raised just $50,000 so far in his Republican primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Tim Murphy (PA-18). This is in comparison to Murphy’s $200,000 he raised in the third quarter of 2011, the latest filing available for the congressman.

Bud George to Retire: Longtime state legislator Rep. Camille “Bud” George, D-Houtzdale, who represented parts of Centre County throughout his nearly four decades in office, announced Friday he will retire at the end of 2012.

Another Dem v. Kelly: Democratic attorney George Schroeck has announced his candidacy against Rep. Mike Kelly. He joins psych prof Missa Eaton in the Dem primary. Let’s hope he makes the ballot… ‘Schroeck’ would make for an interesting write-in campaign.

Legislative Election Updates
Note: these will be chaotic until we have a better idea of the final maps so bear with us.

SD-19: Former Rep. Tom Houghton had announced a primary against Sen. Andy Dinniman, but if the old lines stick he’ll be back in Sen. Dominic Pileggi’s district.

SD-31: Dem Susan Spicka, one of the challengers challenged by the redistricting mess, said she wouldn’t challenge Sen. Pat Vance.

HD-26: The Chesco Dems endorsed Spring City Councilman Michael Hays against incumbent Rep. Tim Hennessey.

HD-50: Bill DeWeese defiantly declared his bid for re-election, saying, “I am confident that by [the petition deadline], the battery of politically motivated missiles aimed at me by Gov. Tom Corbett will have been defused in the courtroom setting.”

HD-74: Longtime Rep. Bud George will retire, giving the map-drawers a handy district to cut. If the old lines stick, however, its a sure pickup for the GOP.

HD-88: State Rep. Sheryl Delozier is a challenger magnet. In addition to rumored primary candidate Gary Eichelberger, a Cumberland County Commissioner, Delozier has officially drawn a Dem opponent in Joshua Coward, 23, an ex-Marine and HACC student who lives in Mechanicsburg. With a name like Coward, how could he lose!

HD-104: The Dauphin County GOP endorsed Jenna Lewis, the 27-year old Republican challenger to Rep. Sue Helm. Lewis works in the Dauphin District Attorneys office.

HD-134: Former Northwestern Lehigh principal Dennis Nemes threw his hat into the crowded ring to replace former Rep. and now Lehigh Co. Judge Doug Reichley.

HD-155: If the old lines stick, Downingtown Mayor Josh Maxwell will run for retiring Rep. Curt Schroeder’s seat instead of the new 45th district in Chester County.

HD-156: Two Democrats are vying to face Rep. Dan Truitt, a conservative freshman whose seat is one of the Dems’ top pickup opportunities: East Bradford attorney Bret Binder and West Chester Councilwoman Cassandra Jones. Neither was endorsed.

HD-157: Former state Rep. Paul Drucker was endorsed by the Chesco Dems for a rematch against freshman Rep. Warren Kampf.

HD-158: Susan Rzucidlo, who ran in 2010, was endorsed against Rep. Chris Ross.

Have an update on a legislative election? Email it to press@politicspa.com. Hat tip to Eric Smith of the Pottstown Mercury for his eight-dozen election updates.

National:
Politico: It’s Dem on Dem in PA GOP primary
USA Today: Swing States poll: Romney and Obama tied; Gingrich trails
USA Today: Ron Paul: Staying in GOP race through convention
The New York Times: Facing second loss to Gingrich, Romney went on warpath
The New York Times: The man behind Gingrich’s money
New York Times/Five Thirty Eight: Gingrich upset chances dwindle in new Florida poll
New York Times/Five Thirty Eight: Advantage Romney  in February, but risks abound
New York Times/Five Thirty Eight: Another check on the campaign’s truthiness
New York Times/Five Thirty Eight: In Florida debate, Gingrich ignores lessons of recent history
New York Times/the Caucus: Romney says Gingrich is making ‘excuses’ for his Florida woes
The Washington Post: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich trade blows in Florida
Pennsylvania Ave: Santorum hints he’s quitting Florida, but not race
Pennsylvania Ave: F&M poll: Bush and Congress more to blame for economic woes
Pennsylvania Ave: Casey, Schwartz stake out roles on payroll tax cut committee
Politico: Mitt Romney finds his mojo going into the Florida primary
Politico: Super PAC takeover? Not so fast, campaigns say
Politico: Risk Santorum 2012 campaigh: Leaving Florida, heading west
Politico: Herman Cain endorses Newt Gingrich in Florida
Politico: Newt hints Santorum should drop out
Politico: NBC legally obligated to run Romney ad it wanted pulled
Politico: Biden: Dems will win back the House
Politico: Justice Dept. to SCOTUS: Don’t overturn entire law
Roll Call: Getaway presents Democrats as unified
Roll Call: Congressional Republicans not backing down
The Hill: Romney plays for Hispanic support in FL
ProPublica: Obama’s unfulfilled State of the Union goals
Slate: Romney fights back
Slate: Douggars help Rick Santorum campaign in Florida
Times Tribune: No front-runner in GOP candidate field
Politico: It’s Dem on Dem in Pa. GOP Senate Primary
Early Returns: U.S. Senate Endorsement Reaction
LA Times: Herman Cain endorses Newt Gingrich
Tribune Review: Florida melting pot could be best GOP barometer yet
Tribune Review: Ahead in Florida, Romney turns focus back to Obama
Tribune Review: GOP presidential candidate Santorum’s daughter admitted to hospital
KDKA: GOP Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum ready to move campaign to next set of states
Early Returns: Welch gets GOP nod for U.S. Senate
Early Returns: GOP scuffle re: Senate endorsement
Early Returns: Feinberg: $40K in cash

Statewide:
Early Returns: Gov. Election under 01 lines “stupid”
Early Returns: Maher, Pinto joust in aud gen forum
Capitolwire (Paywall): GOP Endorses Three Row Office Candidates
Capitolwire (Paywall): Republicans Weighing Options As They Await Supreme Court Redistricting Decision
Legal Newsline: PA bill requires AGs to wait eight years to run for governor
Patriot News: Governor Corbett shows Republicans he’s in charge
Patriot News: Pennsylvania’s newly adopted congressional redistricting  plan is riddled with shortcomings, critics say
Capitolwire (Paywall): Republican Senate Candidates Debate, While Corbett Buttonholes for Welch
Keystone Politics: Where do Dem AG Candidates stand on the mortgage settlement
York Dispatch: DePasquale part of effort to close “Delaware loophole”
Wayne Independent: Dems look for good year at the polls
Capitol Ideas: Friday Morning Coffee: Pennsylvania Republicans spar over Senate endorsement
WHYY Newsworks: Patrick Murphy to get Nutter’s endorsement for state Attorney General
WHYY Newsworks: Redistricting ruling throws PA political races into chaos
Post-Gazette: GOP auditor general candidates Maher, Pinto clash
Times Tribunes: State tax legislation could attract Shell refinery
The Times Leader: Pa. GOP endorses Welch as Casey challenger
Capitolwire (Paywall): Bud George Went From ‘Retire? Retire My Ass!” To Retiring In Three Months
Beaver County Times: PA Republicans endorse Welch to challenge Casey
Morning Call: Welfare drug testing tried in PA
GoLackawanna: Santorum heads home for a breather
Tribune Review: Transit funding a state issue, Port Authority chief says
Tribune Review: Obama to colleges: Keep tuitions down or face federal aid cuts
Post-Gazette: Corbett seeking to make mark in state elections
Post-Gazette: Governor’s candidate for Senate gets state GOP nod
Post-Gazette: Obama’s backing of shale gas aimed at voters in Marcellus region
KDKA: Could there be 2 Pa. primaries at double the cost?
Tribune Review: State justices drop redistricting bombshell, hurry to tropics
Post-Gazette: GOP auditor general candidate says he’d review system for tracking shale wells
Post-Gazette: Shale drillers see slow down as natural gas prices decline
Observer Reporter: DeWeese to seek Dem nomination in 50th

Philadelphia:
Philadelphia Weekly: Occupy Philly struggles to regroup
Fox: Rick Santorum’s daughter admitted to CHOP
CBS: Council members wants city to make up for cuts to school district services
CBS: Philadelphia City council members proposes neighborhood improvement zones
CBS: Free tax help offered for Philadelphia, Delco residents of moderate means
WHYY Newsworks: New City Council session, new rules
WHYY Newsworks: Feds give Philly schools $64M
Inquirer: Jeers for plan to keep bars open to aid schools
Inquirer: Corbett’s slate exposes GOP rift

SEPA:
Montgomery Media: Township sees $1.2M surplus
Bucks Local News: Newtown Township adopts resolution supporting repeal of Pa.’s prevailing wage law
Delaware County Times: Changing Landscape In 7th Congressional District Continues To Draw Stares
Daily Local: Chester officials offer solution to school financial crisis
Daily Local: Obama campaign opens new office in West Chester

Pittsburgh:
Tribune Review: Marcellus Shale excites new generation of industry and manufacturing
Tribune Review: Pittsburgh Public Schools shuffle to fill vacancies
Tribune Review: United Way of Allegheny County expanding tax preparation program
Tribune Review: Allegheny County to send tax bills month late
Tribune Review: Bishop Zubik rips Obama on health care mandate
Tribune Review: Report projects most in Pittsburgh will get lower tax bill
Post-Gazette: Mayor asks for cash to cover appraisals for assessment appeals
Post-Gazette: Duquesne schools examine survival strategies

Southwest:
Beaver County Times: CEO: Aither Chemical wants ‘multiple plants’ in region
Beaver County Times: Beaver Area: Women’s Center provides child safety programs
Beaver County Times: Senator wants review of VA cemeteries in Pa.
Observer-Reporter: Pa. GOP endorses Irey Vaughan, Maher
Observer-Reporter: City reopens 2012 budget, seeking cuts
Altoona Mirror: Developer reappointed to water authority
Indiana Gazette: Government in action

South Central:
Lebanon Daily News: Senators rush to city’s aid
Carlisle Sentinel: Former Marine, HACC student announces bid for 88th legislative district
York Dispatch: Columbia Gas announces $6M in pipeline projects
York Dispatch: Southern looking at $1.1M budget deficit

Lehigh Valley:
Morning Call: Policy of taking licenses before a DUI conviction draws critics
Morning Call: Politics as usual: Pawlowski, Cunningham fued reaches airport board
Morning Call: Former Northwestern Lehigh principle Dennis Nemes running for Reichley’s seat in the 134th District
Morning Call: Lehigh Township supervisors try to end zoning dispute
Morning Call: Audit finds Northampton County paid $100,000 in medical claims for ex-employees
Morning Call: Most board members resign from Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School
Morning Call: Nominees named for Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone board
Morning Call: Mayo named new Allentown schools chief
Morning Call: Townships question earned income tax withholdings
Reading Eagle: School districts forced to spend more on pension fund
Reading Eagle: Congressman Dent eyes 5th term, more of Berks in district
Reading Eagle: School wants change in police coverage
WFMZ: Protecting your kids from cyber danger
WFMZ: DOH cites hospital for putting patients in ‘jeopardy’
Express Times: Allentown residents displaced by sinkhole says city is ‘pushing it on our backs’
Express Times: Mansfield Township officials haven’t spoken in months, residents concerned
Express Times: Easton could see changes in garbage rules as group sees recycling picking up

NEPA:
Pocono Record: State redistricting put on hold as judges travel to Puerto Rico
GoLackawanna: Lackawanna county budget will not be reopened
GoLackawanna: New economic department introduced
GoLackawanna: State election ruling throws 2012 races into turmoil
Citizens’ Voice: Corruption runs deep in the hills of NEPA
Citizens’ Voice: Barletta: A frustrating first year
Citizens’ Voice: Petrilla seeks former Butler Township position
Citizens’ Voice: Bipartisan proposal targets business tax loophole
Wayne Independent: Democrats look for good year at the polls
The Daily Review: Pickett supports business tax restructuring bill

North by Northwest:
Erie Times-News: Romney, Gingrich battle it out in Florida
AP: GOP insiders rise up to cut Gingrich down to size
Erie Times-News: More seek unemployment aid, but trend is positive
Erie Times-News: Erie County government looks to save up to $2 million with bond refinancing
Erie Times-News: Lawyer George Schroeck announces candidacy for 3rd district congressional seat
Erie Time-News: Court ruling throws legislature races into turmoil
Erie Times- News: Evans: “Hoping to reinvent myself one more time”
Centre Daily Times: Pa. tax legislation could attract shell refinery
Centre Daily Times: In Florida, Romney’s organization seems to trump Gingrich’s crowds
Williamsport Sun Gazette: Marino introduces bill to change business as usual in Washington
Williamsport Sun Gazette: Commissioners approve agreement for road transfer

Opinion:
Op-Ed, Post-Gazette: Opinion: Get rid of the political parties: The Republican-Democratic duopoly is not serving us well
Slate: Newt Gingrich’s moon colony and Mars plan
Williamsport Sun Gazette: Obama’s philosophical disconnect remains
Centre Daily Times: State of Union offers hope, little change
Centre Daily Times: American gun laws downright insane
The Daily Beast: Michaek Tomasky on how Rick Santorum nailed Mitt on Romneycare
Roll Call: Anderson: Address the Housing Crisis’s Underlying Issues
Roll Call: Wallison: Common Shock Is the Real Cause of Financial Crisis
Politico: Opinion: Obama needs better plan for youth
Politico: Opinion: Americans now seek a certifiably smart president
Politico: Opinion: The Newt I know
Politico: “Obamacare” shreds social safety net
The Washington Post: If Gingrich debated Obama
The Washington Post: Angry about inequality? Don’t blame the rich
Pocono Record: Opinion: Outsourcing: No one to blame but ourselves
The Daily Review: Editorial: Capitol Matters: Rendell walks a path few have trodden
Wayne Independent: Opinion: Redistricting fiasco comes as no surprise
Citizens’ Voice: Editorial: EPA serves the interest of the public
The Times Leader: Opinion: Back leaner look for legislature
The Times Leader: Opinion: Not enough women in Pennsylvania politics
Times Tribune: Op-Ed: Former welfare dept. adviser published controversial views
Times Tribune: Op-Ed: What would a letter from a Corbett supporter say, exactly?
Times Tribune: Op-Ed: The world has changed, but local politics fail to keep up
Daily Local: Opinion:  Democrats are rooting for Gingrich
Philly Inquirer: Editorial: Court finds its voice against gerrymandering
Morning Call: Opinion: PA legislature is too big, but is only part of the problem
Morning Call: Opinion: U.S. economy seems poised to grow in 2012
Morning Call: Opinion: U.S. economy still 10 million jobs short of boom times
Morning Call: Opinion: Medical insurance premiums increase
Op-Ed, Post-Gazette: The Next Page/ Council districts that make sense: a proposal for local reappointment
York Daily Record: Editorial: Platts took an aisle seat to history
Morning Call: Opinion: Tax cuts for rich makes GOP salivate
Reading Eagle: Opinion: TransCanada plan not dead yet despite Obama’s move
Reading Eagle: John Forester: Court’s directions a map to limbo
Op-Ed, Post-Gazette: Opinion: Big Brother Blinks: The high court draws a line against police GPS use
Op-Ed, Post-Gazette: Opinion: Asides
Op-Ed, Post-Gazette: Opinion: Space cadet: Gingrich’s moon colony is sheer fantasy
Op-Ed, Post-Gazette: Opinion: Not concerned about budget cuts to public education? Then you are NOT paying attention
Op-Ed, Post-Gazette: Opinion: Local Option – Communities deserve a say in gas drilling rules
Op-Ed, Post-Gazette: Opinion: Un-districted: The state justices leave Pennsylvania hanging
Op-Ed, Post-Gazette: Giffords’ grace: She leaves Congress as a fighter and an inspiration

Blogs:
Keystone Liberty: Lawmakers introduce corporate tax reform
Young Philly Politics: What do John Stewart, Elizabeth Warren, & Barack Obama have in common?
Keystone State Education Coalition: Confidential draft fiscal distress legislation
Commonwealth Foundation: Welfare reforms protect the poor, taxpayers
Lehigh Valley Ramblings: Simmons: Allentown’s tax grab here to stay
NEPArtison: PA-AG Update: McCaffery Out
NEPArtison: NEPA & the redistricting situation
Water Cooler PA: No secret ballot for GOP endorsement is same as union card check
2 Political Junkies: More on Republicans’ respect for the Constitution
2 Political Junkies: More on Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth
2 Political Junkies: More on Rick Santorum’s birther flirtations
Pennsylvania Progressive: Ron Paul the anarchist
PennPatriot: Members of the Penn State Board of Trustees must be held accountable for their actions
Citizens’ Call: New state legislative redistricting plan a long shot for this year; current district boundaries will likely hold for 2012 elections
Citizens’ Call: Gas industry and citizens groups class over fracking in Obama State of the Union Speech; leading pediatrician speaks at Abington Hospital on health effects of fracking
Keystone Politics: Councilwoman Brown: Extend bar hours until 3AM to help fund public schools
Keystone Politics: Vote count for fracking fee just got tougher
John Hanger: Obama and the Republican circular firing squad are nailing down President’s victory

Burns Staying In

By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor

Tim Burns will remain in the U.S. Senate race despite a disappointing third-place finish at Republican state committee, his campaign announced Sunday. The committee endorsed Steve Welch in a single ballot Saturday.

“Despite yesterday’s vote, I know that my candidacy offers our party a strong contrast to Senator Casey,” Burns said in a statement. “Yesterday’s results are just one battle in a long fight to defeat the Obama/Casey agenda.”

Burns finished a close third behind Tom Smith, a former coal company owner from Armstrong County. Both men trailed significantly behind Welch, an entrepreneur from Chester County.

The final vote for the top three was Welch 182, Smith 51, Burns 46.

Burns had never definitively stated that he would exit the race should the committee endorse an opponent, but he certainly gave that impression to reporters and committee members.

It’s unclear how much of his support (or his campaign team) will continue on against the state party and the Governor, who also endorsed Welch.

In his statement, it’s clear that Burns felt betrayed by the committee’s decision. An intense, last-minute lobbying effort by the Governor’s political team eroded much of his support.

“After establishing a commanding lead over Steve Welch in the caucus straw polls, I was certainly disappointed by the results of yesterday’s roll call vote,” said Burns. “It is clear that the endorsement of the Governor carries a lot of weight with the committee.

“I got into this race because I believe that I am the strongest candidate to defeat Bob Casey and in caucus after caucus, state committee members agreed.”

Four other candidates, who never seriously contested for the endorsement, remain in the race. They are Sam Rohrer, a former State Rep. from Berks County; Marc Scaringi, an attorney from Cumberland County; David Christian, a veterans advocate from Bucks County; and John Kensinger, a pharmacist from Bedford County.

PAGOP Endorses Welch

By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor

Hershey – Tom Corbett asked, and he received.

The Pennsylvania Republican Party endorsed Steve Welch for U.S. Senate in its first ballot Saturday. The victory followed several heated days of vote whipping by the Corbett and his political team.

“It’s an incredible honor for to stand before you as the Republican Party endorsed candidate for the United States Senate,” Welch said. “I can promise you that I will make you proud of the decision you made here today.”

As he has done for much of the campaign, Welch hammered U.S. Senator Bob Casey, the man he hopes to replace.

“I won’t ever let him get away with telling Pennsylvanians he’s an independent voice.  Bob Casey is nothing more than a rubber stamp for Barack Obama and Harry Reid’s big government, job killing liberal agenda,” Welch said.

The Chester County entrepreneur scored a surprisingly quick win after intense rumors of a move for an open primary. The question whether to endorse in the Senate primary won approval 201 to 140.

The final vote tally for the endorsement (169 votes were required) was:
Steve Welch: 182
Tom Smith: 51
Tim Burns: 46
Sam Rohrer: 33
Marc Scaringi: 6

In the end, aside from a handful of defections in Montgomery County, almost all of the southeast Pa. caucus fell in line behind Welch.

Burns, a businessman from Washington County, had the most disappointing day of any candidate. His final total at state committee was lower even than the total of straw poll votes he received at various regional caucuses in January. Much of his support from southwestern Pa. migrated to Welch, at least in part thanks to the Governor’s lobbying efforts.

Burns and his campaign left quickly after the results; he has previously said it would be “very hard to run against an endorsement.” A spokesperson said Burns was in the race for now, and that a statement would be coming shortly.

Rohrer, a former state Rep. and 2010 gubernatorial candidate from Berks County, actively campaigned against holding an endorsement and will continue in the race.

Next step

In his remarks, Welch preempted what is likely to be a central theme of the primary going forward: his 2006 party switch and 2008 vote for Barack Obama in the Democratic primary (he voted for McCain in the general election).

“From the very first day I launched my candidacy, I’ve been completely open with the voters and with the people in this room about my own partisan history,” he said.

“But when I took one look at the extreme agenda coming from Obama, Casey, Reid, and Pelosi, I came back to the Republican Party with a vengeance.  But I didn’t just commit to being a Republican.  Partisanship is not what matters most to me.  I dedicated myself to making sure our party never again strayed from our principles.”

Indeed immediately after the meeting adjourned, Smith consultant Mark Harris went on the offensive.

“This race is now clearly now a race between an Obama-Sestak liberal, and a consistent, lifelong conservative,” Harris said.

“…a consistent, lifelong Democrat,” quipped Brian Nutt, Tom Corbett’s 2010 campaign manager who is a consultant for Welch. He was a member of the Governor’s political team whipping votes late into Friday night.

“That’s fine, we can have that argument,” Harris replied. “The gloves are off now.”

Welch’s campaign manager Peter Towey echoed Nutt’s criticism that Smith, too, has a long history in the Democratic party. Smith was a registered Democrat until 2011, and briefly served as a Dem county committeeman (he was kicked off for supporting Republicans).

“This is a clear contrast between one candidate who has been a lifelong Democrat and would rather not talk about it; was a Democrat elected official in 2010, and another candidate who has been very open and upfront about his political past, and how he got to this point of getting involved.”

Smith, meanwhile, celebrated his second place finish.

“I’m happy we did as well as we did. We’ve only been at this for three and a half months in earnest. To come in second place – I think that’s terrific. We’ll build on that and we’ll go from there,” he said.

“It’s their process. I’m just a candidate and I’m just gonna run my campaign.”

Welch was equally direct in his gratitude for Corbett.

“Governor Corbett will not get an ‘I love you,’” Welch said after thanking his family, “but he certainly will get a ‘thank you.’ His support has been incredibly important in this process.”

Earlier in the process, Welch said he would respect the process “if it is organic.” Asked about criticism that the Governor’s strong lobbying efforts were inorganic, Welch deferred.

“This had everything to do with people supporting the candidate they want. I think that’s a great process,” he said. “We are fortunate; certainly the Governor’s endorsement is a big help because people respect the Governor.”

Corbett’s take

Nutt and Corbett speak in advance of a vote Saturday

Corbett, who endorsed Welch a few weeks ago and personally lobbied state committee members on his behalf Friday night, implored the party to make an endorsement.

“I strongly believe in the endorsement process, and I urge you to support candidates today,” he said to state committee.

“I wouldn’t be here without the endorsement process. Jim [Cawley] wouldn’t be here,” he told an earlier caucus meeting.

He rebutted critics who said the party was seeking to run the process from the top down. An array of Tea Party groups who held an anti-endorsement counter press conference across the hotel, and they congregated in the back of the room to loudly cheer for committee members who spoke against endorsing.

“It is an open primary. Anyone can sign up.”

As to why he backed Welch, Corbett repeated cited geography.

“They’re qualified,” Corbett said of his ticket. “There are a lot of qualified candidates. The differences is, who can win in November.

He said he wants a ticket that could be supported by Democrats, independents, and “liberal or moderate Republicans, when they vote for President Obama – although I don’t think they’re going to.”

Misc

David Christian, a veterans’ advocate from Bucks County, and John Kensinger, a pharmacist from Bedford, were not nominated on the floor. Each has said he will remain in the race.

Scaringi, too, has said he will remain in the race – though his consultant Jason Fitzgerald is leaving the campaign and will support Welch.

Cumberland County District Attorney Dave Freed was unanimously endorsed for Attorney General; likewise Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughn for Treasurer.

State Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny) easily won endorsement over former Pa. Community Bankers CEO Frank Pinto, 270 votes to 46. Pinto said he would stay in the race, and even said he would refuse the endorsement if it were offered him.

Corbett Whips Last Minute Votes for Welch

By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor

Corbett seeks to seal the deal with a committee member.

Hershey — As the seven Republican candidates for U.S. Senate debated at the Hershey Lodge on Friday night, Governor Tom Corbett summoned committee members to the hallway one-by-one to lock down their support for his endorsed candidate: Steve Welch.

In a pair of high-backed chairs in the hallway of the Lodge, Corbett made his case for the endorsement, several sources relayed to PoliticsPA.

He reportedly said that the outcome would affect the reputation of state committee as well as his own. He also made the case for a geographically balanced ticket: Welch from the southeast, Dave Freed from south central, and John Maher and Diana Irey from the southwest.

Many of the committee members he spoke to were from the southwestern caucus, Corbett’s home base, but had expressed hesitation toward making an endorsement – or even supported another candidate – in last week’s caucus meeting.

Brian Nutt is a spokesman for Corbett. His firm, BrabenderCox, counts Welch as a client. Nutt said the Governor was thanking committee members rather than lobbying them, acknowledging that there were making tough votes.

Others argued that the Governor’s mere presence in the hallway, let alone the fact that he was personally whipping votes, bodes ill for Welch, a Chester County entrepreneur.

If the votes were there, they ask, why go to the trouble?

Indeed, most committee members criticized Corbett’s handling of the race and characterized the last-minute push as the consequence of an unforced error – namely, the lateness of his endorsement.

As a result, a race that had been far from the top of the Governor’s radar a month ago has emerged as a test of his clout.

Corbett declined comment when approached by PoliticsPA.

State of Play

The question of whether to endorse appears to be settled: it takes 50 percent of members to say no, meaning that in order to have a chance of failing, supporters of Burns and Tom Smith’s would have to vote against it. There is zero indication that either campaign has made any effort to do so. Indeed, Burns’ campaign distributed a letter reiterating his intent to fight all the way through the meeting.

Welch appears posed to win the endorsement. Earlier in the evening, the PAGOP’s Leadership Committee nominated and endorsed Welch – all within 2 minutes – as the Governor looked on.

Corbett’s team made their way into the bar at the Hershey Lodge late into the night projecting a sense of mission accomplished. They mingled with Tim Burns’ team, which seemed committed to the fight but resigned to its likely outcome. Burns and Welch have been tangling for weeks to win the endorsement.

People have a variety of predictions, but the general sense is that Welch will take it within 4 ballots (the lowest vote-getter is knocked off after each ballot until one candidate gets 50 percent plus one). A few predict it will happen on the first ballot, skeptics say 6.

The southeast delegation was evidently not as sewn up as PoliticsPA reported Thursday, but it is now. The Montgomery County delegation huddled for over an hour after the debate ended to discuss strategy, with Chairman Bob Kerns asking members to vote for Welch. The thinking went, according to a few who were in the huddle, that they stood to gain little from opposing Corbett and that it wasn’t worth trying given the fact that Welch was likely to pull through anyway.

Over in Bucks County, word is that native son David Christian, a businessman and veterans’ advocate, won’t even get their votes in the first ballot.

Meanwhile other members, partly in response to the intense scrutiny the vote will earn them on the floor Saturday morning, are prepared to take their medicine and back Welch.

Burns is a businessman from Washington County; Smith is a businessman from Armstrong County. Also contending are Sam Rohrer, a former State Rep. from Berks County; Marc Scaringi, an attorney from Cumberland County; and John Kensinger, a pharmacist from Bedford County. The latter three oppose a committee endorsement.

Early Returns: Gov. Corbett Says Election Under 2001 Legislature Lines ‘Stupid’

Read more here.

“We’re waiting to see an opinion from the court. We got an opinion from the dissenting side, now we’re waiting for an opinion from the majority, but they seem to have gone out of town somewhere.”

“It’s not me that’s waiting, ’cause it’s really the commission, but it’s the voters of Pennsylvania who are waiting. They don’t know who’s going to represent them. If you’re going to do that, fine, get an opinion. What’s taking so long?”As for the Democratic theory that this year’s elections should go forward under the 2001-drafted boundaries, he said that’s out of the question.

“It’s stupid,” he said. “It’s probably unconstitutional.”

“People have moved tremendously in the last 10 years. Ask [House Speaker] Sam Smith – he’ll tell you the numbers that have moved in certain areas. I think that’s an unconstitutional thought process.”

Urban Circulating Congressional Petitions in PA-17

By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor

Luzerne County Councilman Stephen Urban, who made headlines last year when he switched from Republican to Democrat, is circulating nominating petitions for U.S. Congress. He would face incumbent Rep. Tim Holden and Democratic primary challenger Matt Cartwright, an attorney from Scranton.

“I don’t know yet, we’ll see,” Urban told PoliticsPA in a brief conversation this afternoon.

Urban, 59, was a Luzerne County Commissioner from 2000 until the County switched to home rule in 2011. He then ran and won a seat on the 11-member County Council. His prior experience is in the U.S. Army and military intelligence.

He also ran as a Republican for Lieutenant Governor in 2010, as well as for State Senate against John Yudichak. But his biggest headlines came at the end of 2010, when, citing a lack of GOP support for his campaigns, he switched to Democrat.

He came under scrutiny at the time, but easily won a seat in the crowded primary for County Council last year.

After redistricting, Holden retained only about a fifth of his constituents, meaning that he is more vulnerable to a challenger in 2012 than any time in the past decade. He kept his home turf in Schuylkill County, but shed Harrisburg in exchange for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton area and Easton.

If Urban enters the race, it would be a big boon to Holden. He would likely split the Lackawanna-Luzerne bloc that is key to Cartwright’s campaign.

Evan Feinberg Raises $50,000 in 4Q of 2011; On The Backs of Influential Donors

By Tara Jerry, Contributing Writer

Former congressional staffer Evan Feinberg raised just $50,000 so far in his Republican primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Tim Murphy (PA-18).  This is in comparison to Murphy’s $200,000 he raised in the third quarter of 2011, the latest filing available for the congressman.

In a statement to PoliticsPA, Feinberg said, “Raising $50,000 almost entirely from individuals instead of special interest groups speaks to the widespread support for my candidacy.  The best, however, is yet to come, as I anticipate a number of key endorsements in the coming weeks.”  One of Feinberg’s donors is Michael Needham, CEO of Heritage Action for America (an independent, sister organization of the Heritage Foundation).  The Heritage Foundation is a massive conservative think-tank, and their support could be huge for Feinberg.

Murphy, a five-time incumbent, officially launched his reelection Thursday night.  He made no mention of Feinberg (often referred to as “The Kid”), and instead attacked Obama.    Although he voted against many of Obama’s proposals, including health care reform and Dodd-Frank, many people on the right side of the Republican Party feel he is too moderate and too close to labor unions.  An editorial in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review even calls him a “weasel” and says Murphy “must think his constituents are a stupid and gullible lot.”  Murphy’s reelection wins have been with wide margins, but with the new congressional map his district is redder than he’s used to.  This could be an advantage for Feinberg, if he can raise enough money in the coming weeks and months to support his primary campaign.

So far only one candidate has announced a run on the Democratic side, Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi.

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