Luzerne Dems Back Holden, Vinsko

Rep. Tim Holden won the bellwether Luzerne Dems endorsement Thursday night thanks in part to a strong speech on his behalf by his former colleague Chris Carney. Holden is being challenged by Lackawanna County attorney Matt Cartwright in the 17th district primary.

Though he’s been in office for 19 years, Holden is facing a very different district than he’s used to. He retained only 20 percent of his constituents after redistricting, and gained wide swaths of Democratic territory in northeastern Pa.

Cartwright, who resides in Moosic on the Luzerne/Lackawanna county line, is relying on strong support from his geographic base in order to topple Holden. Luzerne County accounts for 20 percent of the Democratic primary electorate in the district; Lackawanna County is 36 percent.

Why such a strong result?

“Experience,” said Luzerne Democratic Chairwoman Kathy Kane. “He has the experience we need. We lost [Rep. Paul] Kanjorski in the last election, and took a big hit losing his seniority. Tim can help us with that.”

That, and a helping hand from Carney.

“He did a wonderful job for Tim. He explained why Tim couldn’t make it – there was a meeting of the Transportation Committee – and why that’s so important to the area. He brought a number of people on board,” Kane said.

Northeast Pa. is accustomed to long-tenured members of Congress who can bring home the bacon. It just so happens that that is Holden’s specialty. He’s the second-ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, and the 10th-ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. And at 55, he has time to move up.

His weakness? He has the voting record of a Democrat representing a Republican district, which he has his entire career – until now.

Cartwright spoke second-to-last. He talked about his work as an attorney, representing working class northeastern Pennsylvanians. But most of his time was reserved for Holden.

“I am the Democrat in this race,” Cartwright declared. “I will stand up in Washington to the powerful lobbies of Wall Street and the insurance companies. I will fight against the polluters.”

They were indirect references to some of many votes where Holden strayed from Democratic party lines. He voted against the Affordable Care Act, aka ‘Obamacare,’ against a bill to amend foreclosure rules, and against a host of environmental regulations.

Cartwright also took direct aim at Holden’s strongest argument: his tenure. Holden is the dean of the Pennsylvania delegation – the longest-serving member of Congress from the Keystone State. Cartwright said anyone who’d driven on the bumpy roads in Schuylkill County had reason to doubt Holden’s sway on the Transportation Committee.

“I’m running against a person who’s been in Congress for 19 years. In 19 years, my opponent has authored exactly two bills that have passed into law. Both of them were to name post offices. Where’s the clout?”

Carney spoke last. He emphasized that Holden’s native Schuylkill County and Luzerne were one in the same, with the same interests. He strongly emphasizing Holden’s pull in Congress.

“Tim, because of his seniority, because the experience that he’s had, and because he’s able to work in Congress respectively, he’s the one who was asked to stay on tonight and work on the nation’s transportation bill,” he said.

“You don’t give that up easily. That’s why I will always support Tim Holden. Matt is a friend of mine, but Tim is the man we need.”

Carney won election to the northeastern Pa. 10th district in 2006, but lost to Rep. Tom Marino in 2010.

Holden also recently won the endorsement of three local Lackawanna County Democratic committees. The full county endorsement meeting is next Sunday, March 18.

Cartwright has been endorsed by State Rep. Phyllis Mundy as well as American Association for Justice – formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. His campaign said a complete list of endorsements would be forthcoming this week.

Clarification: The vote to endorse Holden was recorded as unanimous in the Luzerne County Democrats’ minutes. However, the initial vote was 23 for Holden, 8 for Cartwright. By rule, a vote can be recorded as unanimous by motion with two-thirds support. The vote for that motion carried 28 to 3. The headline of this article has been changed accordingly.


Bill Vinsko is an attorney from Wilkes-Barre. He had no trouble winning the backing of his home county.

“He’s the home town boy. He’s from the area, he’s a good man, and people trust him,” said Kane.

His opponent is Gene Stilp, a government activist who took the lead in the early stages of both Bonusgate and the backlash to the midnight pay raise. Stilp did not attend.

It appears to have been a gentlemen’s agreeement. Vinsko did not attend when Stilp, a native of Luzerne County who now resides in Dauphin County, won the Dauphin County Dems endorsement.

March 8th, 2012 | Posted in Congress, Front Page Stories, Top Stories | 15 Comments

15 thoughts on “Luzerne Dems Back Holden, Vinsko”

  1. Sabrina McLaughlin says:

    As a current Luzerne County Committeeperson (but not one who serves on the Executive Committee), I agree that it is grossly unfair that it is the Executive Committee only which votes on endorsements, and then the result is put forth as the endorsement of the Committee as a whole. This is not the way it is done at the State Party level where all State Committee Members have a vote on endorsements and endorsed candidates are not chosen solely by the Executive Committee of that statewide body.

    However, to the person who left the comment above at 12:51 am March 10–there is a sort of unwritten honor code among politicos (yes, don’t snicker, some of us do have an honor code), a set of “Marquess of Quennsbury Rules” if you will, and one of them is that it is generally NOT good form to attack a candidate’s staffers publicly. Say what you want about a candidate or an elected official–that is a burden they take on themselves when they run and/or take office–but it is not cool to disparage the staffs. Sure, there are show ponies in every rodeo, not everyone is a great warhorse/workhorse, but many of these people (political staffers) are incredibly hardworking people who sacrifice greatly in the line of work they have chosen. I have friends on both sides in this–friends who work for Holden, and friends who work for Cartwright–and they are fine people. So maintain civility please.

  2. Jpick says:

    Cartwright is a real Democrat, that just another way of saying he a far left San Francisco Democrat. Holden is the true N.E. Pa. Democrat.
    Ask the labor unions in his district what they think of Holden, ask the firemen, ask Bill and Hillary Clinton, or are they not real enough Democrat for you. Holden came from working class roots, Cartwright came from the elite and never looked back

  3. You're not that dumb... says:

    Warning to Luzerne County Dems:

    I am speechless at how dumb you are. Republicans created a bright blue district so that they could keep everything else.

    We’d rather not have you, the best thing you could do is register as an R.

    At this point I am thinking Rush is more sane than you. My assumption is you’re that idiot Hartman character, being paid by Holden and realizing you’re game plan is 20 years too late.

  4. Warning to Luzerne County Dems says:

    dandelion_wine — In 2010 you probably voted for the weaker Democratic candidate Joe Sestak instead of Arlen Specter and now as a result of that foolishness PA is now stuck with Pat Toomey as our Senator.

    Do you really think the the GOP will go through the trouble of gerrymandering PA-17 just so that an allegedly more progressive candidate coulf win that seat? OF COURSE NOT!!! The GOP wants to get rid of Holden and their hoping that you quacks Democrats in Luzerne County will do the job for them by backing a candidate such as Matt Cartwright who like Joe Sestak has no chance at winning the general election!

    Either way they won because by having a primary fight Holden is weakened because he has to spend a whole bunch of money fight off this idiot Cartwright instead of taking it to Cumming. Or its even better for the GOP if Cartwright can find a way to pull off the upset win in the primary because that will eventually result in Republicans picking up tha seat.

    In 2010 Democrats made a huge mistake by supporting Joe Sestak so let’s not repeat that same mistake in 2012 by supportung Matt Cartwright. There is only one candidate in this race who has a track record of beating Republicans and that’s Tim Holden. Any Democrat who says otherwise is just fooling themselves. I’m getting tired of seeing my party lose seats because people are too short sighted and they end up back candidates like Sestak who can’t win in the general.

    The only way PA-17 will stay blue is if Tim Holden is the nominee of our party. And anybody who says otherwise is an idiot.

  5. dandelion_wine says:

    Tim holden, go back to Harrisburg. we don’t want you here! Cartwright all the way!

    and to that “warning” guy, you must not live here or in the new district theres no way a GOPer could win. There is no tea party here we are a Dem district and we want a real Dem. and we need change on the committee maybe all committee people could have voted. If we all did and not just the big shots then Cartwright would have won right quick. someone has to make a change quick or else we will be stuck with the big shots calling the shots until someone steps up and does something. How do these big deal democrats get these jobs anyway on the committee!!!

  6. Warning to Luzerne County Dems says:

    Like Joe Sestak…..Matt Cartwright won’t be able to win the general election.

    I actually live in reality and all candidates like Joe Sestak and Matt Cartwright are good for is upsetting the party dynamics while helping to get more Republicans elected.

    Thanks to Joe Sestak we have Senator Pat Toomey and Representative Pat Meehan. And a vote for Matt Cartwright in the primary will only help to bring about Representative Cummings.

    The real DINOS are ones who vote for quack candidates who can’t deliver wins in general elections.

  7. Reality says:

    Warning To Luzerne Dems:

    Are you really that big of an idiot or are you a Holden staffer? Cummings is a kook and in a Presidential year in a Democratic district there is not a chance in hell a Tea Party loon wins.

    Either get back on the meds or go do your real job, trying to elect a DINO.

  8. Warning to Luzerne County Dems says:

    This PA-17 race is shaping up to look like 2010 all over again. Look at the mistake that Democrats made when they supported Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary over Arlen Specter. We ended up with Republican Senator Pat Toomey who is the absolute worst.

    So for those of you who support Matt Cartwright over Tim Holden in the primary. Just remember that you’ll also be punching the ticket for Republican Laureen Cummings.

    Smarten up Luzerne County Dems. Don’t make the same mistake as you did in 2010 when you vaoted for Sestak. Because just like Sestak a primary win for Matt Cartwright will end up being a general election win for the Republicans.

    When guys like Joe Sestak and Matt Cartwright take-on the party then Democrats lose seat….SMARTEN UP LUZERNE COUNTY DEMS!!! YOU’RE HELPING THE REPUBLICANS BY SUPPORTING MATT CARTWRIGHT!!!!


  9. dandelion_wine says:

    ok keegan it is no problem. the luzerne county democrats lost some of their pull last night. Don’t be surprised when Matt Cartright gets the nomination! He has much more support with actual voters than the party establishment. he is a good man and if a majority of our voting officers endorsed him that is okay as long as Matt’s supporters were still counted. that rule is horrible! talk about rubbing salt in fresh wounds! I would not vote for Tim Holden if he came to my front porch and begged me to after that disgrace and a lot of others think the same thing.

  10. Gladhearth says:

    Endorsements don’t mean snot.

  11. Thanks for the background, guys. I’ve updated the story and the headline accordingly. Those endorsement rules were news to me.

  12. dandelion_wine says:

    Yes I was also at the meeting at the Ramada tonight and while I couldn’t vote I support Cartwright and many people came out of their literal backroom complaining that they actually voted to say that they all voted for Tim Holden! Disgraceful! Never have I heard of this happening before ever. A few of them were really angry about it. This is politics at its worst Tim Holden should be ashamed and I spoke with others in the room and of seemed that the folks who aren’t voting members are going to rally for Matt Cartwright. How dare Tim Holden come into our city for the first time and steal the votes away from his opponents supporters!

  13. Reality says:

    Keegan, get your facts straight. It was a 23-10 vote. Congrats to Holden, who Carney said was hanging out with Boehner (shocker!), for winning the most corrupt county in the state. Wait a minute .. Corrupt politician .. Corrupt county .. Now I get it.

  14. Casey Evans says:

    It was not a unanimous endorsement. As a voting member of the Luzerne County Democratic Executive Committee, I and many others voted for Matt Cartwright. However, the vote was merely recorded as unanimous because another Committee member and Holden supporter made a motion that it be recorded as such, citing some “past precedent” that no Cartwright supporter seemed to recall ever being used before.

    Yes, the LCDC did in fact pass a motion to record the vote as unanimous — a measure in which at least ten of us voted “no” to.

  15. Small d Democrat says:

    I don’t really understand why this is being called a “unanimous” endorsement when it’s only the Executive committee of the Luzerne county Democratic party that votes on endorsements–the rest of the regular committee members don’t have any say in it. So something is being said in their name which they didn’t vote on since the committee as a whole doesn’t get to vote. But that’s backroom politics in Northeast PA for you.

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