Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko is weighing a conservative primary challenge to Rep. Tom Marino (R-Lycoming) in Pennsylvania’s rural northeastern 10th congressional district.
While he emphasized that he is not presently a candidate, McLinko told PoliticsPA that he is considering a run for the office.
“I’m not declaring I’m going to run, but I’m certainly seriously looking at it,” he said.
He added that he’d been approached about the possibility of running by several people.
“The way that I’ve served as Commissioner and Supervisor and handled myself in other matters that’s why they have approached me,” he said, noting his County’s Marcellus shale-driven job growth.
McLinko, 55, has owned and operated a variety of businesses including a trucking company, a family restaurant and a drive-in theatre.
He ran unsuccessfully for Pa. Senate in 2008, finishing in a tie for second place in the tough three way primary won by Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming). He was the conservative outsider in that race, calling for defined contribution pension reform, a 5 year waiting period before former state lawmakers are permitted to lobby, and an end to school property taxes.
His political consultants then were Churchill Strategies, the same team that helped oust Sens. Robert Jubelirer and Chip Brightbill and managed the campaigns of Sam Rohrer.
McLinko said that his objection was not to Marino specifically, but to Republicans in Washington generally.
“I supported him the first time he ran. It’s just evident we’re cut from a different cloth. At this point, I’m not going to take any shots at him,” he said.
“The direction our party’s going, they’re lost. Being a conservative is not a label you give yourself. It’s a label that’s given to you. And you look at Washington today, the way the federal government is being run from the Republican side, it is in disarray.”
A source close to the Marino campaign dismissed the threat of a McLinko primary challenge.
“It seems awfully foolish of Mr. McLinko to consider challenging Tom Marino. Tom is solid conservative who earned nearly 70% of the vote in the 10th District and in Bradford County,” he said.
“McLinko had been a reliable supporter of Tom’s but unfortunately sometimes politics, ambition, and poor advice lead people in different directions. Marino is rock-solid in that district and hasn’t let up a bit in his efforts to travel the district and connect with voters. Any attempt to run against him is nothing more than a fool’s errand.”
Just how much room exists to Marino’s right is debatable. Since ousting Democratic Rep. Chris Carney in 2010, Marino, 60, has been one of the more conservative members of the Pa. congressional delegation.
The former U.S. Attorney voted the majority of the GOP 95% of the time from 2011 to 2012 and 91% of the time so far in 2013 according to the Washington Post Votes Database.
Those figures may not be the most telling given the fractured nature of the House Republicans. Marino’s scores from conservative groups were further from 100%.
The 10th district sprawls across 15 counties in northeastern Pa., along the northern tier, and into central part of the state. Marino’s Lycoming County contains 16.5% of registered Republicans in the district according to Labels and Lists, compared to 9.9% in McLinko’s Bradford County.