Reader Poll: Vice President Toomey?

Now that Mitt Romney has the GOP nomination in the bag, the biggest national question is who will join his ticket. One name that’s stayed on the margins of the discussion – but still mentioned – is Senator Pat Toomey. Do you think he has a shot?

ICYMI – the Washington Post has a fun VP Pick ‘em feature – check it out.

And don’t miss this throwback – Toomey’s own foray into the 2008 Veepstakes via Wall Street Journal op-ed. His suggestions for John McCain included Sen. Jim DeMint and former Gov. Mark Sanford.

With the midterms approaching, what issue matters most to you?

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You Called It

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s primary, PoliticsPA asked which race would turn out to be the closest in the state. A credit to the best politicos in the state, our readers got it right: Jason Altmire v. Mark Critz.

That race came down to just 2 points: Critz 51 percent, Altmire 49.

Readers got second place right, too. The final tallies for other races polled, in order of closeness, were:

The Attorney General primary (5.6 point spread; Kathleen Kane with 52.8 percent, Patrick Murphy with 47.2).
State Senate district 37 primary (12.1 point spread; Raja with 43.7 percent, Sue Means with 31.6).
The PA-17 primary (14.2 point spread; Matt Cartwright with 57.1 percent, Tim Holden with 42.9 percent).
The U.S. Senate primary (17.2 point spread; Tom Smith with 39.5 percent, Sam Rohrer in second with 22.3).
The PA-18 primary (26.6 point spread; Tim Murphy with 63.3 percent, Evan Feinberg 36.7).

With the midterms approaching, what issue matters most to you?

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National GOP Group Targets Kane

The Republican Attorneys General Association wants to make sure it can continue to count Pennsylvania as a member. The group launched a new website that dings Democratic nominee Kathleen Kane – including a heroic attempt to find a picture of her that is unflattering.

It was first reported by John Baer of the Daily News.

The site is simple; basically a rehash of arguments made by her primary opponent, former Congressman Patrick Murphy. Namely, they target Kane’s campaign talking point that she prosecuted over 3,000 cases by noting her remarks that she took just 24 to trial. (RAGA’s claim that Kane was deceitful is unfounded – her campaign for the most part carefully said ‘prosecuted,’ not ‘tried.’)

But the site gives a brief preview of the Republican case against Kane, who many GOP operative had said was the more formidable general election foe.

Kane faces Republican Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed as she seeks to become the first Democrat elected to the post as well as the first woman. Current AG Linda Kelly was appointed, not elected, to fill the remainder of Gov. Tom Corbett’s term.

Kane’s camp swung back, calling the effort a sign of concern by the GOP.

“Obviously, the Republicans are running scared if they feel compelled, less than a day after the primary, to start bogus negative attacks on Kathleen Kane,” said Communications Director Joshua Morrow. “They won’t work anymore in a general election than they did in the primary.”

He pointed to numerous times that Republicans have called Kane a strong general election candidate:

“Unlike Murphy, Kane has experience as a prosecutor and would pose a more serious challenge to David Freed in November.” – Chairman Steven C. Boc, Philadelphia Federation of Young Republicans.

“Prosecutor Kathleen Kane… is in the driver’s seat to become the first Democrat attorney general. And expect the Penn State scandal to be front-and-center in the fall election, with Kane pounding away about what former Attorney General Tom Corbett knew, and when he knew it.” – conservative columnist Chris Freind.

“This is the strongest Democratic field” in a while, Alan Novak, a former state Republican chairman, said during an interview on the Pennsylvania Cable Network. “It will be a strong contest for David Freed.”

The Republican Attorneys General Association is part of the Republican State Leadership Committee. The effort wasn’t coordinated with the Freed campaign, which is focused on boosting his own name ID and fundraising.

“The Freed campaign’s focus is clear. We’re traveling the commonwealth each day, meeting with voters and telling Dave Freed’s story,” said Campaign Manager Tim Kelly. “Dave is a career prosecutor and, for the past 7 years, the elected District Attorney in Cumberland County. His leadership in locking up criminals and keeping our streets safe in the DA’s office will extend seamlessly to Attorney General’s office.”

Rohrer Comes Around

Sam Rohrer, the former state lawmaker who rode his grassroots conservative support to a second place finish in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate primary, has thrown his support behind GOP nominee Tom Smith.

“I congratulate Tom Smith on his victory. He is now our Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in the General election. I have offered him my support and counsel and I encourage others to support him as we endeavor to take back the Senate from the control of Harry Reid and his enablers,” Rohrer wrote in an email to supporters.

Rohrer had been less warm to Smith in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s vote. In his concession speech, he criticized the role of party endorsements and money in the process.

This is the second thwarted statewide run for Rohrer. He challenged Tom Corbett for Governor in 2010 to be outdone by the party and establishment. This time, he was overcome by the superior financial resources of Smith.

Smith is a former coal company owner from Armstrong County; all told he contributed over $5 million to his successful effort. Rohrer’s other rival, Chester County entrepreneur Steve Welch, had the endorsement of the Pa. Republican Party and Gov. Tom Corbett.

Welch was forthcoming with his support for Smith on Tuesday.

“I also want to congratulate David Christian, Marc Scaringi, and Steve Welch for stepping out into the arena. Each brought with them unique though diverse talents, history, experience and service. Only in this great nation can individuals step onto the political landscape and have a chance of winning the prize and assuming the duty that comes with serving in public office,” Rohrer added in his email.

At least Smith is further along than Corbett, as far as Rohrer is concerned. After his 2010 primary defeat, Rohrer was far less up front about his support for the nominee. He did little, if anything, to stifle rumors of a write-in campaign for him.

The Best and Worst Ads of the 2012 Primary

Based on your submissions and conversations with operatives on the ground, here is PoliticsPA’s list of the best and worst ads of the 2012 primary. Includes TV ads, web videos, radio and direct mail.

The criteria is somewhat subjective. In some cases, a piece stood out because it was inherently well done, aesthetic, or clever. In other categories, a piece won simply by being effective – making the difference for its campaign.

Best TV Ad Overall

“Steel Spine and a Caring Heart”
Kathleen Kane for Attorney General
Produced by The Campaign Group

There’s no person more popular among Pennsylvania Democrats than Bill Clinton, and this ad simply showcased the former Prez reciting Kane’s campaign talking points (3,000 cases, first woman elected, etc) in his unique style. For the preponderance of voters who only tuned into the campaign in the final two weeks, Clinton’s seal of approval was good enough for them. Simple and effective.

Worst TV Ad Overall

“Corruption in Our Courts”
Tim Holden for Congress, PA-17
Produced by Trippi & Associates

Before he lost his congressional seat, Tim Holden lost the campaign ad war. No bright spot, and the single worst was this one, which implied that opponent Matt Cartwright had bribed a judge. The problem? Cartwright’s client in that case was perhaps the most sympathetic victim imaginable. It precipitated instant backlash (including from Cartwright’s camp, which somehow had a copy of the spot before it went out to TV stations), and led Holden to pull the ad and call for a ceasefire within a day of it being on the air.

Best TV Ad, Positive

“Threat”
Kathleen Kane for Attorney General
Produced by The Campaign Group

Kane’s ads were each very solid, but this one really cut through the clutter. It tells a dramatic story in 15 seconds and reinforced her image as a tough-as-nails woman and prosecutor.

Honorable Mention, TV Ad, Positive

“Red Ink”
Tom Smith for Senate
Produced by SRCP Media and Cold Spark Media

Smith’s TV strategy was all about quantity, so the consistent quality of his ads was a bonus. The visual in this spot is memorable, even though the issue positions are fairly standard Republican talkers.

Best TV Ad, Contrast/Negative

“Honesty”
Mark Critz for Congress, PA-12
Produced by Murphy Vogel Askew Reilly

Mark Critz’s upset win can be attributed to a number of factors including GOTV and labor support, but it would be a mistake to overlook messaging. The Congressman from Johnstown turned the campaign into a referendum on the Balanced Budget Amendment (which Jason Altmire supports) and its supposed impact on senior benefits. This ad effectively dovetailed that hit with Critz’s endorsement from Bill Clinton.

Honorable Mention, Contrast/Negative Ad:

“Impersonator”
Steve Welch for Senate
Produced by Brabender/Cox

This memorable spot changed the conversation of the Senate race from ‘Steve Welch is a Democrat’ to ‘lots of the candidates have history as Democrats.’ The biggest problem with this ad is that the Welch campaign didn’t have enough money to run it more.

Best TV Ad in a Local Campaign

“Taxpayers Hall of Shame”
Raja for State Senate, SD-37
Produced by Brabender/Cox and Cold Spark Media

It’s an oldie but goodie. The infamous midnight pay raise is now 7 years removed, but it’s still a headache for lawmakers who supported it – including Rep. Mark Mustio, who sought to move up to the state senate. Raja’s campaign hammered Mustio over the vote, and sent his favorables tumbling down at least 24 points, according to their internals.

Best Third Party Ad

“Say ‘No’ to Tim Holden”
Against Tim Holden for Congress, PA-17
Produced by SKD Knickerbocker

There were enough third party ads in PA-17 to constitute their own category on this list. Several groups, including also the Campaign for Primary Accountability and Center Forward, ran spots in the race. This ad, bankrolled by the League of Conservation Voters, stood out the most. It paired Holden with former President George W. Bush and slammed the Congressman for his conservative environmental record. It wasn’t the first time enviros had targeted Holden, but it was the last.

Best Third Party Ad in a Local Campaign

“Pay Raise Geist”
Against Rick Geist for State Representative, HD-79
Produced by Rockwood Strategies

Three-decade-plus Rep. Rick Geist lost his Republican primary on Tuesday by about 180 votes to PSU-Altoona finance prof Joe McGinnis. The Citizens Alliance for Pennsylvania spent about $30,000 to air this spot, which skewers Geist for his two pay raise votes and his vote to increase his pension.

Best Web Video

“Separated at Birth”
Steve Welch for Senate
Produced by Brabender/Cox

Even before Steve Welch had the backing of Tom Corbett and the PAGOP, he was on the radar of most statewide and national reporters more than any other candidate. This video is a big reason why. It’s a clever takedown of Sen. Bob Casey’s 2006 campaign promise to be independent of party leadership that scored 40,000 hits on YouTube. One can speculate at the production value, etc, but none can deny it’s a great video.

Honorable Mentions, Web Video.

“The Naked Truth About the Congressman” (NSFW)
John Featherman for Congress, PA-1
Produced by Shoreline One Productions

It would be unthinkable to leave Featherman out of this category. His crafty web videos are legend. This spot features Philly radio host Ruth Weisberg – and little else – discussing Rep. Bob Brady’s record compared to PA-1’s distinction as one of the country’s poorest districts.

“Talk Fast”
Babette Josephs for State Representative, HD-182
Produced internally by Dave Scholnick

Rep. Babette Josephs lost a close primary to Brian Sims, but it wasn’t for lack of creativity. This quirky video shows Josephs walking around her Philly district in her trademark backpack, discussing her record and philosophy in a way that lives up to the title.

Best Radio Ad, Positive

“Bingo”
Frank Farina for State Representative, HD-115
Produced by Bob Harper Productions
Listen to it here.

The race to replace retiring Rep. Ed Staback was a nail biter, but at the end of the day newcomer Frank Farina cleared former Lackawanna County Commissioner Randy Castellani by 110 votes. He advertised a lot on TV, and radio as well. This one is typical of several quirky spots Farina had that built on his effective “vote for him because he’s a nice guy” theme.

Best Radio Ad, Contrast/Negative

“Browns and Indians”
Feinberg for Congress, PA-18
Listen to it here.

Evan Feinberg was a longshot to beat Rep. Tim Murphy, but credit to his campaign for thinking outside the box. In this radio spot which aired on 93.7 The Fan, Pittsburgh sports talk, Feinberg noted that Murphy was a native of Cleveland, Ohio and accused him of being a Browns and Indians fan. Murphy’s camp had made an issue of Feinberg’s residence – he’d lived in DC for 5 years before moving back to the district in the fall – so it was a nice defensive move, too.

Best Direct Mail, Positive

“Platts for Perry”
Scott Perry for Congress, PA-4
Produced by Long, Nyquist & Associates
View it here.

Rep. Todd Platts didn’t make an endorsement in the GOP primary to replace him. But he did offer kind words about a number of the candidates running – including Pa. Rep. Scott Perry, who scored 54 percent of the vote on Tuesday. His wide win was the biggest surprise of the primary, since he’d been outspent by opponent Chris Reilly and supporters. How’d he do it? With a campaign implying he had Platts’ backing. Case in point: this mail piece.

Best Direct Mail, Contrast/Negative

“Roy Christ’s Report Card”
Patty Kim for State Representative, HD-103
Produced by The WS Group
View it here.

This is a primary race that came down to 45 votes on Tuesday, so one could argue that any little wrinkle might have been the difference-maker. Voters and consultants we spoke to said it came down to this Kim campaign piece, which targeted rival (and second-place finisher) Roy Christ’s service as President of the Harrisburg School Board. A number of people close to the school board situation said the mailer’s claims were false, but the average voter wouldn’t know.

Honorable Mention, Best Direct Mail, Contrast/Negative

“Pay Raise Sam”
Tom Smith for Senate
Produced by Cold Spark Media
View it here.

This was the most aesthetic piece of campaign lit we saw this cycle, beautiful in its simplicity. It blasted Rohrer for his 2005 vote in favor of the midnight pay raise, as well as the 2001 pension increase. It’s a good example of the key lesson for any campaign when it comes to direct mail (or most anything): less is more.

Worst Direct Mail

“Dakshinamurthy”
Mark Mustio for PA Senate, SD-37
Produced by Long, Nyquist & Associates

This category has the distinction of receiving more nominations than any other, and this mail piece took them unanimously. Rightly so. It’s not often that a single mailer causes a major newspaper – the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – to reverse itself on an endorsement. The paper pulled its endorsement for Mustio and backed Raja instead.

“D. Raja” is how Raja’s name appeared on the ballot, and his business, and personally, and basically everywhere. Why would a mail piece highlight his full first name, Dakshinamurthy, when that’s not how it appears on the ballot? To play the race card, the PG concluded (aided by similar themes in other Mustio mailers and TV ads). The blowback forced Mustio’s campaign into retreat and probably contributed to his third place finish.

4/30 Morning Buzz

Good morning politicos, here’s the Buzz. Hopefully all the campaign staffers out there had the chance this weekend to relax and catch your breath and clean up the office. The general election starts today.

If you missed Keegan on PA Newsmakers this weekend, you can watch it here.

The Best and Worst Ads of the 2012 Primary: Based on your submissions and conversations with operatives on the ground, here is PoliticsPA’s list of the best and worst ads of the 2012 primary. Includes TV ads, web videos, radio and direct mail.

Primary Election Ups & Downs: This is our longest Ups & Downs ever! Here’s who really impressed us on election day, and who didn’t.

Blair GOP Chair: Geist is Done (Watch Video): Rep. Rick Geist won’t be on the ballot in November. Blair County Republican Chairman A.C. Stickel tells PoliticsPA that Geist didn’t win enough write-in votes to be the Democratic nominee, nor enough absentee votes to close his 196 vote deficit.

Who Won the “War on Women” Tuesday? As the war on women rages between pundits on national cable news, PoliticsPA takes a look at its proxy fights during Tuesday’s election. How well did Planned Parenthood do?

Cook Calls PA-12 a Tossup: Mark Critz overcame the odds on Tuesday when he defeated fellow Rep. Jason Altmire. But he’s only half done. He now heads into a general election matchup with better-funded GOP challenger Keith Rothfus. The non-partisan Cook Political Report moved the district from “lean Dem” to “toss up” today.

Legislative Election Updates

Boards of election around the state begin today counting write-in votes as the November ballots finalize.

SD-33: Who will get the Democratic nomination on a write-in? Will it be Sen. Rich Alloway, his far right opponent James Taylor, or actual Democrat Bruce Neylon. Time will tell.

HD-7: Will Rep. Mark Longietti (D-Mercer) make the GOP ballot as well? Nearly 500 Republican write-ins were counted (300 are needed), and Longietti has been the GOP candidate before.

HD-14: There were 1,200 Dem write-ins for the seat of Rep. Jim Marshall (R-Beaver). Democratic Midland Councilman Sam Rosatone Jr. ran a concerted write-in campaign, but so did Marshall.

HD-50: The race for Bill DeWeese’s seat in Greene County is as entertaining as it is confusing. The Observer-Reporter has some of the possible scenarios now that DeWeese is officially a felon.

HD-79: Rick Geist is done, says the Blair Co GOP Chair. He doesn’t have enough write-in votes to run as a Dem, or absentee votes to catch up with Joe McGinnis on the Republican ticket. Meanwhile, McGinnis cited Geist’s decline to have a debate as a reason for the outcome, and the Altoona Mirror posits that Geist’s loss will reduce that area’s clout.

HD-90: Shelton Schwartz, a Democrat from Greencastle, and state Rep. Todd Rock (R-Franklin) ran write-in campaigns for the Democratic nomination.

HD-154: Republican Mark Sirinides, a chemist, hopes to face Steve McCarter for the Montco seat of retiring Rep. Lawrence Curry. Write-in votes are pending.

HD-182: 14-term Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Phila) has officially conceded to Brian Sims, an attorney and LGBT rights advocate.

HD-193: Adams County Dems are crowing over their successful write-in attempt for Mike Strausbaugh, having done so secretly so as to preempt Rep. Will Tallman from doing the same. The two will now (likely, pending the count of write-in votes) face off in the November. It’s a rematch; Tallman beat Strausbaugh 75 to 25 in 2010.

National
Pennsylvania Ave: Barack Obama memo attacks Mitt Romney
Pennsylvania Ave: Youth vote rally for President Barack Obama
Politico: Ron Paul’s Alaska payback
Politico: Obama White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech pokes at GOP
Politico: Josh Gerstein: White House offers rare defense of drone attacks
National Journal: Bill Clinton joins President Obama for the first of three fundraisers
Five Thirty Eight: What do springtime polls tell us about the general election?
Five Thirty Eight: Arizona is (probably) not a swing state
Washington Post: Mitt Romney’s road to presidency this fall looks narrow on electoral map
The Hill: Obama’s green team comes out swinging for election season
The Hill: Lawmakers: Newt’s long farewell may cost him at GOP convention
The Caucus: Obama Campaign raises money for Hillary Clinton
The Caucus: In Ohio, Romney hails two entrepreneurs named John
The Caucus: Romney calls for protecting Chinese dissident
The Caucus: Crossroads assails Obama for being too ‘cool’
The Caucus: European fiscal crisis could shape debate over U.S. economy

Statewide
Pennsylvania Ave: 15th District is a-changing
Pennsylvania Ave: Pat Toomey replaces Jim DeMint on Steering Committee
Capitol Ideas: For legislators, the breaks are long; the voting calendar short
Capitol Ideas: Ex- Sen. Bob Mellow’s guilty plea delayed
State House Sound Bites: Corbett: Chalk Welch’s primary loss up to the race, not the endorsement
PA Independent: Week in review: Elections, elections, elections
StateImpact PA: “Crucify him”: The latest EPA flap
StateImpact PA: What low water levels mean for Pennsylvania
StateImpact PA: A link between heavy drilling and illness? Doctors search for solid answers
StateImpact PA: Drill Bits: Act 13 legalese, angry shareholders and not many complaints

Philadelphia
Inquirer: Pa. legislators return with budget on their minds
PhillyClout: Babette Josephs concedes 182nd race to Brian Sims
Philly.com: No longer in office, its Rizzo unleashed
Daily News: 2nd group of Occupiers cleared of wrongdoing

SEPA
Pottstown Mercury: Highway funding advocates to miss ousted Pa. lawmaker
Delco Daily Times: Board member: Probe of fight involving Chester Upland board member will not happen
Delco Daily Times: Pa. attorney general objects to Sandusky use of subpoenas
Montgomery Media: Write-in candidate awaiting results in 154th district
Bucks Local News: Yardley Borough, municipalities challenge Marcellus Shale gas drilling law
Daily Local: Chester County vote considered key for Mitt Romney

Pittsburgh
Early Returns: D-trip lift for Critz
Early Returns: Cook: PA-12 now a toss up
Post-Gazette: Port Authority board approves deep cuts
Tribune-Review: Tea Party Express bus tour kicks off in Cranberry
Tribune-Review: Senate candidate much more than ‘just a farm boy’

Southwest
Altoona Mirror: McGinnis: debate decision cost Geist
Altoona Mirror: Geist loss reduces area’s clout
Tribune Democrat: Pipeline project delayed
Beaver County Times: Critz’s Johnstown base too much for Altmire to overcome
Beaver County Times: Legislators taking precautions after Gibbons robbed
Beaver County Times: Critz went ‘old school’ and taught Altmire a lesson
Observer Reporter: One thing’s certain in 50th legislative district: uncertainty

NEPA
The Times Leader: Democrats have hope in the 11th with Stilp
Times-Tribune: Raising Kane: West Scranton native marching toward Harrisburg
Times-Tribune: Food-stamp asset test takes effect Tuesday
Citizens Voice: NEPA native eyes history
Pittston Politics: Analyzing Congressional Race: Party has no juice
Pittston Politics: PA five need Sciandra more than he needs them

Lehigh Valley
Express Times: Tom Palmieri, a Blairstown Democrat, to run write-in campaign for Warren County freeholder
Express Times: North Whitehall Township supervisor expected to resign next month
Reading Eagle: west Reading gets grants for streets work
Morning Call: Pennsylvania dog law enforcement under fire
Morning Call: Lehigh County ordered to pay $350,000 in back pay to unions
Morning Call: Salisbury says Allentown’s NIZ could be good for the township

South Central
Chambersburg Public Opinion: Regional races remain undecided
York Daily Record: Incumbents take primary not a surprise to some
Lancaster Intelligencier: Appeals drop assessments here by $75M
Lebanon Daily News: State continues to forge districts

North by Northwest
Erie Times- News: An express backing of Smith for Senate
Sharon Herald: Write-in votes add up on GOP ballots
Centre Daily News: Longtime district judge to hang up robe
Williamsport Sun Gazette: Official vote count begins in county today
Lewistown Sentinel: District receives $1.5M grant

Opinions
Post-Gazette: The voter ID trial run gets mixed reviews on a slow day
Post-Gazette: Mitt, meet my mum: Ann Romney worked hard, but she never faced hard times
Tribune-Review: Romney seizing Pa. opportunity
Tribune-Review: Commonwealth of corruption: more DeWeeses?
Altoona Mirror: Pay, perks still fiery election topics
Altoona Mirror: Act now on Social Security
Indiana Gazette: A case for Constitutionality on health care reform law
Indiana Gazette: Where is outrage over Corbett budget?
Standard Speaker: Op/Ed: Take the politics out of redistricting
Standard Speaker: Op/Ed: Regulations and technology bring area cleaner air
Standard Speaker: Op/Ed: Keep drones on ground in U.S.
The Daily Review: Op/Ed: Cuts to mental health are mentally disturbing
The Daily Review: Op/Ed: More efficient prison system will save money
Times News: Opinion: Government reform: Time to put PA legislature in order
Inquirer: The running-mate question
Pottstown Mercury: Voters to Pa. GOP bosses: Stuff your endorsement
Pottstown Mercury: Dems defect on pipeline

Blogs
Young Philly Politics: Should a starving child live within his means? What about a starving school district?
Commonwealth Foundation: States tap public-private partnerships in 2011
NEPArtisan: Observations
Water Cooler PA: Corbett’s colossal cockiness castrates his credibility
The LuLac Political Letter: The LuLac edition 2038-2040
PennPatriot: Rick Geist fails to make the fall ballot as the Democratic Party’s nominee
Keystone Politics: Zero Democrats should vote for the House GOP Student Loans Bill
Keystone Politics: Republicans tack hundreds of millions in corporate tax cuts onto bill closing the Delaware loophole
Keystone Politics: Obama still winning the blame game on the economy
Keystone Politics: The politics of reassessment

Blair GOP Chair: Geist is Done (Watch Video)

Rep. Rick Geist won’t be on the ballot in November. Blair County Republican Chairman A.C. Stickel tells PoliticsPA that Geist didn’t win enough write-in votes to be the Democratic nominee, nor enough absentee votes to close his 196 vote deficit.

Geist, a veteran lawmaker and Chairman of the powerful Transportation Committee, has served since 1979. He was challenged this year by John McGinnis, a finance professor at Penn State Altoona. McGinnis criticized Geist for his votes to raise legislative pay, as well as his frequent calls for more infrastructure spending (and corresponding taxes).

The video above is the ad by the Citizens Alliance for Pennsylvania, a conservative group that spent about $30,000 to topple Geist.

“The absentee ballots and write ins were counted yesterday and John [McGinnis] is ahead by 183 votes,” said Stickel. “I doubt that will change. On the Democrat side Rick received 172 write in votes and will not appear on the ballot. Richard Flarend received 306 write in votes which will put him on the ballot in November.”

Flarend is also a professor at Penn State Altoona; he teaches physics.

The outcome was confirmed by a consultant working with the McGinnis campaign.

In other ‘long time incumbent loses’ news, 14-term Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Phila) conceded her race on Friday. The liberal lion lost to LGBT advocate and attorney Brian Sims by just over 200 votes.

“My congratulations go out to the Democratic Nominee Brian Sims and all of his supporters,” she said. “Throughout many difficult, but successful races in my long service, I have consistently said that the voters are always right. I cannot change my tune now. I am truly grateful to the voters for allowing me to serve them for so long and for the opportunity to work with so many dedicated, talented, patient and professional colleagues, staff members and volunteers.

“I have always been about policy first, so I look forward to working with Brian Sims to represent the very special constituents of the 182nd. I will find other ways to contribute to my neighborhood, city, state, and nation.”

Who Won the “War on Women” Tuesday?

In today’s Morning Buzz, PoliticsPA linked to a post in the conservative national blog RedState. It had a rather unfavorable take on Planned Parenthood’s performance in PA’s elections on Tuesday. It cited three examples:

1. Ryan Mackenzie won his state house special election in HD-134 (Berks/Lehigh) despite Planned Parenthood’s national branch spending $100K on ads that hammered him over the GOP-sponsored ultrasound mandate (which he said he opposes). Mackenzie cruised to a 59 to 41 percent win over Dem Patrick Slattery.

2. Jason Altmire had gone hard after Mark Critz for his vote to defund Planned Parenthood in mailers and a TV ad, but Critz prevailed.

3. Anne Chapman defeated Helen Bosley in the Republican primary in HD-31 (to face Rep. Steve Santarsiero in the fall). Bosley had the Bucks GOP endorsement, but she’d also previously served as an executive at an area Planned Parenthood. Chapman blasted Bosley over her resume and won by over 25 points. GrassrootsPA has a copy of a mailer (PDF) from the PA Family PAC against Bosley.

Are these enough to call the night a loss for PP? Not so fast, says Planned Parenthood PA Executive Director Sari Stevens. The PA chapter spent between $30,000 and $40,000 this primary and counted their total at 6 wins of 9 races, she said.

On election night, the group sent out a press release claiming victory.

In the most exciting victory of the night, former Planned Parenthood employee Erin Molchany defeated the Democratic State Committee endorsed and anti-choice Mark Schmotzer by a significant margin in the democratic primary to replace former State Representative Chelsa Wagner in House District 22.

Women scored a victory in House District 126 in Reading, where Mark Rozzi, the only pro-choice candidate in the democratic primary, handily beat two anti-choice opponents. Planned Parenthood PA PAC was the only organization engaged on behalf of Mark.

Madeleine Dean was elected to fill the vacant seat of Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro and made support for women’s healthcare and opposition to the mandatory ultrasound bill a cornerstone of her campaign. Planned Parenthood played a significant role in all these races.

They also spent on behalf of Republican Rep. Duane Milne (R-Chester), who successfully beat back conservative challenger Joe Corrigan 64 to 36 percent.

Stevens notes that the group wasn’t involved in the PA-12 or HD-31 races.

“Planned Parenthood didn’t engage in the Bosley race, as we have endorsed Steve Santarsiero and do not distinguish between primary and general election endorsements. Had Planned Parenthood engaged in this district the outcome would have been much different – our Republican supporter base is significant in the 31st,” she said.

Nor did PP get involved in the primary between Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland) and Andrew Shaw. Vance, who is pro-choice, defeated pro-life Shaw, who had earned several favorable posts on RedState and support from national conservative groups like the Family Research Council.

The verdict?

For us, it comes down to cash. Planned Parenthood spent the most – $100,000 – in HD-134, and it barely made a dent. In perspective, that’s about as much as either the Mackenzie or the Slattery campaigns put on TV.

The defunct ultrasound mandate and the “war on women” are certain to play in the Philadelphia suburbs and a few other spots around PA in November. But Tuesday showed that the issue won’t be a silver bullet for Democrats.

Cook Calls PA-12 a Tossup

Mark Critz overcame the odds on Tuesday when he defeated fellow Rep. Jason Altmire. But he’s only half done. He now heads into a general election matchup with better-funded GOP challenger Keith Rothfus. The non-partisan Cook Political Report moved the district from “lean Dem” to “toss up” today.

The change mirrors PoliticsPA’s new congressional vulnerability ratings, published today, which named PA-12 the most likely seat to switch parties in 2012. Crit faces Allegheny County attorney Keith Rothfus in the general election. Rothfus finished the first quarter with about $385,000 on hand; Critz likely has around $100,000.

The National Republican Congressional Committee celebrated the news, emailing reporters and contending that President Obama’s polling struggles in southwest PA will translate into a tough race for Critz.

“With such a partisan record of supporting President Obama, it’s clear that Mark Critz is not the voice Southwestern Pennsylvania voters want in Congress,” argued NRCC Spokesman Nat Sillin. “This rating shift demonstrates the growing momentum against Obama’s anti-energy tax and spend agenda not only in Pennsylvania but also across the country. Mark Critz may have won his primary, but his chances of coming back to Congress grow dimmer by the day.”

Critz’s camp has been through tough races, even before Tuesday. He overcame a tough special election opponent in the race to replace the late Rep. Jack Murtha in 2010, and built on his win in the 2010 general election.

Spokesman Mark Critz dismissed Cook, and said Rothfus was too extreme for the district. He emphasized the same themes that helped his candidate prevail over Altmire.

“There are major differences in this race. Mark Critz opposes unfair trade deals that ship jobs overseas, Keith Rothfus supports them. Mark Critz is fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare while Keith Rothfus supports the Republican budget that will end Medicare as we know it. That matters a lot more to the people of Western Pennsylvania than what the Beltway insiders about this race,” Mikus blasted.

“Mark Critz has proven that he can win tough races. The pundits are saying the same things today that they were saying in December about the primary. Don’t count Mark Critz out, He’s proven the pundits wrong time and time again.”

Critz bested Altmire by a narrow 51 to 49 margin.

Update: The Rothfus campaign fired back at Critz over the rating. Said spokesman Jon Raso:

“The Cook score acknowledges what we already knew about PA-12, that the people of Southwestern Pennsylvania are concerned about the direction this country is headed, and that Keith Rothfus is primed for victory.  Indeed, there are major differences in this race.  Unlike Mark Crtiz who received only a 57% pro-life rating form the National Right to Life, Keith Rothfus will be 100% pro-life,” he said.

“Mark Critz supports President Obama’s reckless fiscal agenda.  Mark Critz represents the failed policies that have resulted in the unemployment rate being above 8% for 38 months.”

Primary Election Ups & Downs

This is our longest Ups & Downs ever! Here’s who really impressed us on election day, and who didn’t.

Simply winning or losing wasn’t enough to make this list. Nearly 300 people won primaries in PA on Tuesday; and about as many lost. Here are the people that really stood out.

The surprises. These are the candidates that outdid expectations on Tuesday, by their margin or even just their win. Kathleen Kane spent most of the AG primary as an underdog to Patrick Murphy. But her TV ads and Clinton endorsement gave her the momentum at the right time; she won 52.8 to 47.2 percent. Mark Critz faced a steep deficit to Jason Altmire in PA-12, but everything went right for him. His hometown turnout was stellar and unified, Altmire’s was low and somewhat fractured. Critz won 51 to 49 percent. Scott Perry emerged from a crowded, confused 7-way GOP primary to score 53.6 percent of the vote in PA-4. It wasn’t even clear he would win that seat on Monday, having been outspent.

Tom Corbett. His candidate in PA-4, Scott Perry, won handily. His Auditor pick, John Maher, won. His man for Attorney General, Dave Freed, had had his field cleared for months. So, as CW asks this week, did the primary – namely Steve Welch’s 3rd place finish – give Corbett a political black eye? We say no. Corbett endorsed Welch early on as part of a state committee calculation, but didn’t have much skin in the game. The people who hate endorsements will hate them regardless; likewise party insiders will continue to fall in line behind the Guv.

The gays. We thought endorsing against Babette Josephs was the wrong move, but PA’s LGBT rights groups committed and it looks like they will have their prize: PA’s first openly gay legislator. Brian Sims will replace Rep. Josephs next session.
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SDCC. The redistricting delay has given Pa. senate Democrats their widest field of pickup opportunities in a decade, and their campaign committee positioned itself well on Tuesday to benefit. Kim Villella cruised through the primary and will face Elder Vogel; Erie Hospital exec Sean Wiley cleared a four-way field for the Jane Earll seat; Auditor General staffer Rob Teplitz narrowly scored a victory in retiring Jeff Piccola’s district, and they even got a write-in candidate on the ballot against Raja in John Pippy’s seat.

Tim Holden. The congressman committed a series of unforced errors that resulted in the end of his career, but we look at the root of his problems: money. He raised just $480K in 2011, including a mere $100K in Q4. That’s less than impossible-to-beat Rep. GT Thompson, and far less than the $$ potential of the state’s most senior member of Congress. As one Democrat told PoliticsPA, “The only difference between the kind of money Allyson Schwartz brings in and the kind of money Tim Holden brought in, is the willingness to go out and get it.”

Joe Trippi. Holden’s vaunted media consultant deserves some of the credit for Tuesday’s outcome. The Congressman had the unenviable task of introducing himself to 80 percent of his constituent – nearly unprecedented for an incumbent – and his TV ads didn’t help. His first ad was basically a stale remix of his 2010 campaign. And ham handed attempts to go negative backfired badly.

ColdSpark Media. The GOP consulting group, formed by Toomey alums Mike DeVanney and Mark Harris, had a good night Tuesday. Clients Tom Smith, Tim Murphy and Raja won primaries for U.S. Senate, Congress (PA-18) and state senate (SD-37) – not a bad record. Their lone loss came in south central PA, when client Chris Reilly lost the race for Todd Platts’ seat by a wide margin to Long/Nyquist’s Scott Perry.

Bill Clinton. He’s still got it. The former prez went 2 for 2 in PA primaries, backing two candidates who were certainly not sure bets at the time of his endorsement. Kathleen Kane was barely on the radar in the Attorney General race; his backing (highly touted in her ads) made her a serious contender. Mark Critz was on the wrong side of a mathematical equation before he jumped on board (also highlighted in ads), and give the Johnstown congressman the momentum in the race.

Tea Party. Conservatives managed to oust one incumbent Republican on Tuesday, state Rep. Rick Geist (who may have made the Dem ballot by write-in). Even though they came close with Speaker Sam Smith, ultimately that fizzled. So too state senate and house challengers across the state. Sam Rohrer, who more than any other statewide candidate could claim the Tea Party moniker, fell a distant second (winner Tom Smith didn’t mention his status as former Tea Party leader at all in his paid media campaign).

Organized Labor. As high as the stakes were for Jason Altmire and Mark Critz, the onus was on labor to deliver. For years, they’ve dealt with conventional wisdom about labor’s decline. That was reversed on Tuesday, thanks to their successful GOTV efforts on Critz’s behalf. Picking the underdog in a member-vs-member primary was a risky proposition, but it paid off via tons of positive headlines about their effectiveness.

PoliticsPA. We were really proud of our election coverage. Thanks to you, our readers, we beat just about every metric in the history of the site. But what stands out to us most was the one we got wrong. At about 10pm on Tuesday, we tweeted, “WOW!! Report: Majority leader Sam Smith going to lose his GOP primary.” Where do we start? House Speaker* Sam Smith lost his home county* (Jefferson) by 107 votes, but won his primary by 458 votes. Oops.

Tweet of the week: Dave Freed for Attorney General. Link leads here.

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