Rothenberg Political Report: Costello, Fitzpatrick, Boyle Favored

Brendan-Boyle-2013Although we are still over three months away from election day, the Rothenberg Political Report has identified frontrunners for three key Congressional races in Pennsylvania.

6th District

Republican Ryan Costello is the “clear favorite” against Dr. Manan Trivedi in the 6th district. Both are fighting for the seat vacated by Republican Jim Gerlach. According to the report, this district leans toward the GOP.

Costello also earned a candidate profile in the report.

“Clearly a political junkie, Costello comes across as personable and astute,” writes Rothenberg. “He can discuss campaigns and policy with equal ease, and could become someone of influence within the House GOP. If elected, Costello will likely be a mainstream, pragmatic conservative Republican — definitely not a tea party caucus guy.”

8th District

In the 8th district, incumbent Republican Mike Fitzpatrick is currently looking “very strong” in his race against Democrat Kevin Strouse thanks to a competitive primary challenge from Shaughnessy Naughton. They rate the seat as “Republican favored” as opposed to PA-6’s “Lean Republican” status.

13th District

Democratic Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz left her position in Congress to run for governor, but the Rothenberg Political Report believes that the seat will remain in the hands of the Democrats. They are confident that State Representative Brendan Boyle will overtake Republican Dee Adcock in the 13th district, asserting that Boyle “will win the seat in November.”

PA-6: Internal Poll: Costello 35% Trivedi 30%

Dr-Manan-TrivediSo, just how competitive is the race for Pennsylvania’s Sixth Congressional District?

The Trivedi campaign believes victory is very much possible and released results from an internal poll that shows them narrowly trailing Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello.

The Lake Research Partners survey found 35% of likely voters prefer Costello, the Republican nominee while 30% chose Trivedi, the Democratic nominee. 35% were undecided.

Furthermore, it shows that as respondents learn more about the candidates they are increasingly likely to turn towards Trivedi, an Iraq War vet and physician.

When presented with a paragraph describing each candidate, the numbers shifted to a 38% to 38% tie. Moreover, when the pollsters highlighted the differences between the candidates, the numbers drastically flipped to a 43% to 29% lead for Trivedi.

“For us to be running even in such a swing district that Mitt Romney won in 2012 is good news both in terms of what we have done and where we need to go in the next 100 days,” said Trivedi campaign manager, Dylan Gaffney. “Whether it’s his service during the Iraq War, being a father of two daughters, or that as a doctor he understands the importance of using evidence, not political rhetoric, to solve problems, voters gravitate toward Manan because they have more in common with him. The hard work of our volunteers and supporters is paying off and now it’s up to all of us to turn the corner and win this.”

The results also found Tom Wolf leading Governor Corbett in the 6th district 49% to 30%. This is significant because Corbett’s name will appear on the ballot right above Costello’s. The Democrats believe (and hope) that the Governor, who currently has very low approval ratings, could be a drag on the ticket statewide.

Yet, there are several caveats to these numbers. First, this is an internal poll which should always be taken with a grain of salt. Second, while LRP provided the language that produced the 38-38 split, they didn’t unveil what wording they used to negatively describe the candidates. Therefore, we’re unable to tell if that titled the results.

Finally, 35% is a gigantic number of undecided likely voters. The district is R+2 which means Trivedi will have to win over Republicans during an off-year election, when more Republicans than Democrats tend to vote.

Not surprisingly, the Costello campaign is not buying the results.

“The Trivedi campaign’s release of this memo comes as no surprise – its right out of the playbook for desperate candidates,” said Pete Peterson, Costello campaign spokesperson. “Three-time Congressional candidate Manan Trivedi is trailing in the polls, his fundraising is far off the pace set in his prior races and the policies that are the bedrock of his campaign are being soundly rejected. Trivedi can push his work of fiction, but the reality is Ryan Costello is well-positioned to win this race with a sizable 13 point lead among voters and twice as much cash on hand as his opponent. Going forward, Ryan will continue to work hard to earn every vote.”

The 13-point lead Peterson is referring to comes from an internal poll that their campaign released last May. He also pointed out that two years ago, the Trivedi camp released numbers from the same firm that found a similar phenomenon during his race against Rep. Jim Gerlach. Nonetheless, Gerlach won 57% to 43% in November.

PA-10: Troiano Reaches Signature Requirement

nick-troianoNick Troiano, 25-year-old independent candidate for PA’s 10th congressional district, announced via press release today that he has collected more than the 3,600 signatures needed to be placed on the ballot in November.

He will be releasing the exact number in an announcement from the Capitol steps on July 30th at 10 a.m.

This news comes four days and three stops before the conclusion of his “Back to the Future” tour, in which he is traveling through the 10th district’s 15 counties in a 1981 DeLorean. With about a fifth of his tour remaining and sufficient signatures collected, he will likely well surpass the required number.

Once Troiano’s signatures, due August 1, are turned into and ratified by the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, he will become the 10th district’s first independent candidate in history. In addition, he will be the only independent and the youngest congressional candidate in PA in 2014.

In addition to announcing the number of signatures collected next Wednesday, he plans to discuss political reform that would break down barriers for independent candidates in running against mainstream candidates.

Jerry Kairnes and Jack Donson, Troiano’s Volunteer Petition Circulators, and Daniel Gallagher of the PA Ballot Access Coalition, which works to lower signature requirements in PA for independent candidates, will also be speaking.

Troiano was required to collect more than three and a half times as many signatures as Republican incumbent Tom Marino and Democratic challenger Scott Brion.

PA’s 10th congressional district consists of Bradford, Juniata, Lycoming, Mifflin, Pike, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union and Wayne counties and parts of Lackawanna, Monroe, Northumberland, Perry and Tioga counties.

Paul Ryan Discusses Poverty, Immigration with Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Paul RyanRep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is taking a different approach to poverty than most Washington lawmakers do, reports Salena Zito of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Zito spoke with the 2012 Vice-Presidential nominee and current House Budget Committee chairman about the future of anti-poverty programs in the United States. Ryan previously worked for the Housing and Urban Development’s Empower America program.

During his time with HUD, Ryan met Bob Woodson, Founder and President of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise. Woodson has been developing and coordinating national and community development programs in impoverished areas since the 1960’s.

Ryan began visiting low-income neighborhoods in February 2013 with Woodson, emphasizing in his speeches that government programs implemented in the last 50 years fail to combat poverty, and merely perpetuate it.

In his “The War on Poverty: 50 years later,” Ryan writes that the 92 federal programs enacted since President Johnson launched his “War on Poverty” have had little success.

“The federal government’s anti-poverty programs have reduced the incentive to work via the complex web of federal programs and sudden drop-off in benefits causing extraordinarily high marginal tax rates,” Ryan wrote.

Through his April House Budget Proposal entitled “A Path to Prosperity,” Ryan aims to reduce spending by $5.1 trillion over ten years.

Ryan wrote that, “this budget applies the lessons of welfare reform to other federal-aid programs.” Its long term goal is to “empower recipients to get off the aid rolls and back on the payroll.”

Woodson told the Tribune-Review he believes Ryan has visited more poor urban households than members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and that the Wisconsin Representative has been “giving validation and recognition to people that many times their own representative ignore.”

Ryan also briefly discussed his thoughts on the border crisis, as he is one of the GOP’s most high profile supporters of fixing our nation’s immigration policy.

Firmly believing that we need to secure our borders, Ryan favors accountability for illegal immigrants. The Congressman stated that if an undocumented worker is discovered, he or she must acknowledge that they broke the law, pay a fine, undergo background checks, and learn English and civics. This probationary learning period allows them the opportunity to earn a work permit.

Unfortunately, according to Ryan, immigration reform is a matter of “when,” and with the President and Congress in constant gridlock, it is unclear when, or if, any tangible legislation will be considered or approved.

Rep. Ryan is reportedly considering vying for the GOP nomination in 2016, and if he were to win the Presidential election, it is certain that poverty and immigration would be among his top priorities.

PA Lawmakers Take More Free Trips, Defend Legality

Charlie-DentThe Associated Press revealed in a report yesterday that, along with the entire House of Representatives, PA representatives approximately tripled their number of privately-funded trips between 2008 and 2013.

In 2008, PA representatives took 17 free trips. In 2013, they took 47, and so far this year, they have already taken 41.

Accepting free travel is allowed, but the House Ethics Committee must approve the trip in advance and representatives have to disclose all paid-for expenses within two weeks of their return.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-15) and his staff took the most privately-funded trips in 2013 and 2014. They together took seven trips last year and already eight trips thus far in 2014. Some costs are as minor as a $57 bus ride to Maryland and Delaware for one of his staffers to attend the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association.

However, a few trips have been significantly more expensive. He and his wife spent a $24,000 week in Japan on the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress’ (USAFMC) dollar. His reports to the House Ethics Committee claim meetings with the Japanese prime minister concerning trade policy as the reason for his travel.

He also spent some time in Germany in 2014, where he met with political and business leaders to “discuss trade, Ukraine, the National Security Agency and other matters.” This trip cost the USAFMC over $10,000.

Dent, who is a member of the House Ethics Committee that approves such travel, maintains that all of the trips he or his staff have taken were completely legal.

“None of the trips cost a taxpayer a single dollar,” he said. “All were promptly and properly disclosed.”

Although the AP’s report focused on the House of Representatives, it did state that Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), took just one less privately-funded trip than Dent in 2013 and 2014. However, Dent’s travel cost around $90,000, while Toomey’s cost only $12,000.

Monetarily, Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-7) seems to be the biggest spender after Dent, accepting over $23,000 in 2013 alone.

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) was listed as having received the least private travel aid of PA lawmakers. His office took just two trips in 2013 and 2014, neither of which he attended himself.

Media scrutiny of congressional travel gifts has become prevalent this month after the House Ethics Committee eliminated the personal financial forms made necessary in 2007 when lobbyist Jack Abramoff was convicted of bribing congressmen with gifts and favors.

Rep. Marino’s Press Secretary Arrested

GunOne of Congressman Marino’s staffers found himself in hot water today.

At 9:15 this morning, Ryan Shucard was arrested for attempting to carry a 9mm handgun and magazine into the Cannon House Office Building.

Shucard has been Rep. Tom Marino’s press secretary since May 2014.

Capitol Police discovered the gun and magazine during the routine search required to enter any government office building. Citizens, even those with government badges, must pass through metal detectors and place their bags on an x-ray belt.

Shucard was charged with the felony of carrying a pistol without a license.

In recent years, prosecutors have occasionally dropped high profile gun-possession cases in government buildings. Phillip Thompson, an aide to then Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) was arrested in 2007 for bringing a loaded gun into the Russell Senate Office building. Thompson was never convicted.

Marino’s Chief of Staff Bill Tighe commented that Shucard has immediately been placed on unpaid leave.

“That will last until we know more about the situation,” stated Tighe.

Shucard attended Columbine High School, George Washington University, and the University of Northern Colorado. In 2011, he worked as a staff assistant for Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT).

July Quarterly Fundraising Winners & Losers

Money-bagThe finance reports have been filed, posted and picked apart. See who made the list.

Winners:

Ryan Costello (R-6)

Ryan Costello has big shoes to fill if he wants to replace retiring Rep. Jim Gerlach. In the financial arena at least, so far he has been quite impressive.

The Chester County Commissioner had his best fundraising period to date, pulling in a spectacular $600,174.89. Costello now has over $800,000 cash on hand for the open primary race.

The ability to raise that much cash indicates that Costello has the Republican establishment in PA-6 already behind him. The district, which is competitive but leans towards the GOP, has already seen Democratic nominee Manan Trivedi twice so Costello will need money to build up his name ID. It now appears that will no longer be a problem.

Pat Meehan (R-7)

Unlike his compatriots in PA-6 and PA-8, Meehan’s Southeastern PA seat has not received much attention from political parties or prognosticators. Neither the DCCC or the NRCC have it as a race to watch and none of the major congressional observers believe the seat is in any danger.

Nonetheless, Meehan is still bringing in the cash with a $243,600.39 haul in May and June. More importantly, though, is Meehan’s COH total of $1,775,362 which should prevent PA-7 from becoming a serious contest.

Mike Fitzpatrick (R-8)

Filling out the SEPA trifecta is Rep. Fitzpatrick, who raised $428,563.43. The Congressman had the advantage as he could use May and June exclusively for fundraising while his Democratic opponent, Kevin Strouse, was occupied with winning and recovering from his primary.

Rep. Fitzpatrick has the most cash on hand of any PA member of Congress, a mammoth $1,906,830. Given that PA-8 may be the most contested race in the commonwealth, this both makes sense and shows that the incumbent has done a magnificent job of shoring up resources while waiting for his Democratic challenger.

Losers:

Mary Ellen Balchunis (D-7)

Elections are a two-way street so there is more to the contest for PA-7 than just Rep. Meehan’s fundraising. On the other side is the lack of any real urgency apparent from Democratic nominee Mary Ellen Balchunis.

Incredibly, the candidate raised just $15,310 this quarter and has only $9,976 COH. Those numbers would be anemic if they came from an incumbent in a safe seat. Coming from a first-time candidate running against an incumbent with $1.7 million in the bank, those results are downright catastrophic.

Erin McClelland (D-12)

Compared to her counterpart listed above, McClelland did phenomenally this quarter with a $78,694.36 haul. Unfortunately for her, however, she is running against Rep. Keith Rothfus who has over $1.2 million cash on hand.

Despite being a freshman in the historically Democratic 12th district, where Rep. Jack Murtha served for decades, Rothfus holds the distinct advantage as over time the makeup of the district has significantly changed. The Cook Political Report, for instance, now rates it a R+9. Therefore, McClelland will have to bring in a lot more cash if she wants to make the 12th district competitive once more.

Note: Because of the previous issuance of pre-primary reports, these quarterly reports range from just May 1 to June 30.

PA-6: Costello Outraises Trivedi in Second Quarter

CostelloBased on the quarterly financial reports released on July 15, Republican Ryan Costello has a significant cash advantage over Democrat Manan Trivedi heading into the third quarter. Both candidates are looking to claim the seat of retiring incumbent Jim Gerlach, who has been the representative for PA-6 for six terms.

Costello has just over twice the cash on hand that Trivedi does, with Costello claiming $808,986 and Trivedi only $357,664. Regardless of Costello’s cash advantage, both candidates are keeping spending low, with Trivedi spending only one-quarter of what he brought in and Costello spending only one-sixth of his contributions.

Contributions

Costello raked in $600,174 between May 1 and June 30, with just over half of it coming from PACs and just under half coming from individuals.

His largest contribution was $11,163 from, unsurprisingly, the Fitzpatrick Costello Victory Fund. This sizable contribution was closely followed by a $10,375 donation from Young Guns, a PAC started by a former aide to current Majority Leader Eric Cantor that has also endorsed Costello.

Trivedi was able to raise $236,469 during this financial period. Though this is less than half what Costello brought in, Trivedi may have a leg-up on grassroots support.

Nearly two-thirds of Trivedi’s contributions came from individuals, with only $83,500 coming from PACs. Costello still outraised Trivedi in regards to dollars from individuals, but Trivedi beat Costello in terms of quantity; he had almost twice as many donations from individuals, many of which were for $100 or less.

Trivedi’s largest contributions came from the New Democrat Coalition PAC and AmeriPAC: The Fund for a Greater America with $10,000 and $7,500, respectively.

Expenditures

Neither candidate had an opponent in the primary, which could explain why both seem to be saving their funds for the months leading up to the general.

Costello spent only $103,831 this quarter. Nearly $12,000 went to the Tarrance Group, a Republican polling firm, for field research. He paid Maria Diesel $10,124 in several installments for field consulting, and LN Consulting Inc. $10,000 for strategy consulting.

Trivedi spent even less than Costello, with just $61,069 coming out of his campaign account. His largest payment was $9,000 to Daren Berringer for communications consulting, followed by the Mammen Group, Inc. for direct mail services.

Costello has a very obvious financial advantage at this point in the race, and led in an internal poll conducted in May. However, the DCCC announced in March that it considers PA-6 an “Emerging District” capable of turning blue in November and showed its support for Trivedi when it announced in late May that has earmarked millions for an ad buy in this district in the fall. Then in June the DCCC added Trivedi to their “Red to Blue” list. Costello has also received support from the NRCC, including their own planned ad buy.

Reps. Murphy, Fitzpatrick Discuss Mental Health Act

Fitzpatrick Murphy

Reps. Fitzpatrick and Murphy

Rep. Tim Murphy, who has a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh, has investigated the allocation of federal funds toward mental health programs since the tragic Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, CT.

Through the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Congressman Murphy discovered that the federal government spends $125 billion per year on “mental health,” however most of those resources are not directed toward the most serious mental health illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression.

Finding many areas in need of improvement, congressman Murphy introduced the bipartisan Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act [H.R. 3717], and Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-8) is sponsoring the legislation.

The act focuses on delivering acute psychiatric care to those with the most serious cases of mental illness. It includes provisions to expand access to inpatient and outpatient psychiatric treatment, in addition to training for law enforcement officers and first responders concerning mental health crises. Finally, the act reauthorizes suicide prevention programs.

The two representatives discussed the act in a conference call today with Bucks County Commissioner Diane Marseglia, and members of the Bucks County Suicide Task Force.

According to Murphy, “the federal government’s approach to mental health has been a chaotic patchwork of antiquated programs and ineffective policies across numerous agencies. Sadly, patients end up in the criminal justice system or on the streets because services are not available.”

Congressman Fitzpatrick affirmed in that call that the country’s mental health system is in need of a comprehensive overhaul.

“Broken is an appropriate designation for our mental health system…we have millions of Americans who suffer from mental illness and many of their families are without the appropriate support systems. I try to be a legislator, as does Rep. Murphy, that works on both sides of the aisle to work on fixing the mental health system in the United States,” stated Rep. Fitzpatrick.

The proposed act has gained much attention across the nation, and many are in favor of Congressman Murphy’s efforts.

The Wall Street Journal Editors wrote that, “the alternative is Vice President Joe Biden’s proposal to throw another $100 million willy-nilly at a failed system. All the money in the world won’t help the mentally ill if it isn’t getting to them or is squandered on ineffective treatments. The Murphy bill is an informed attempt to overhaul a broken system. It might even prevent the next Newtown.”

Eight other Pennsylvania GOP representatives are co-sponsoring the bill, including Reps Glenn Thompson (PA-5), Patrick Meehan (PA-7), Bill Shuster (PA-9), Mike Kelly (PA-3), Jim Gerlach (PA- 6), Charles Dent (PA-15), and Keith Rothfus (PA-12). Rep. Michael Doyle (PA-14) is the lone Democratic sponsor from Pennsylvania.

PA-8: Fitzpatrick Has Big Cash Advantage on Strouse

mike-fitzpatrick2Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick holds a large monetary advantage over Democratic challenger Kevin Strouse according to the campaign finance reports for the July 15th quarterly period. In fact, Fitzpatrick has seven times more cash on hand than Strouse.

Strouse has $268,720.50 available while Fitzpatrick is sitting on $1,906,830.20. In addition, Strouse spent more than he raised during the last quarter. Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, spent only about 20% of his contributions.

Contributions

Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick raked in $428,563.43 with $194,749.15 coming from Political Action Committees (PACs) and $203,603 from individuals.

Pioneer PAC, the Fitzpatrick Costello Victory Fund, and the Laborers’ International Union of North America PAC were among Fitzpatrick’s largest contributors.

Strouse, who raised $201,139.29 during the quarter, received a large chunk of his contributions from unions, including $5,000 each from the Machinists Non-Partisan Political League PAC, the Plumbers Local #690 PAC, the United Steelworkers, the United Automobile Workers, and the Sheet Metal Workers International.

In a sign that the party establishment is behind him, Strouse received $1,000 from DWS PAC, the political action committee of DNC Chairwoman and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Of the $201,139.29, Strouse received $54,584.34 from PACs and $121,879.02 from individual contributors.

Expenditures

Strouse spent $348,223.47 during the quarter, which means that his total cash on hand declined by $147,084.18. The Democratic nominee had to spend that money in order to defeat Shaughnessy Naughton in the primary.

A large portion of his money, $161,905 to be exact, went to GMMB Inc. for broadcast media. Another $19,800 was given to the Global Strategy Group for consulting and polling, and $46,253.06 went to the Pivot Group for print media.

Fitzpatrick’s expenditures totaled $79,624.90. He used $18,528.88 for consulting by the Theodore Company, and $6,000 for consulting by KCC Consulting LLC. Kronco.com Inc. received $4,575.86 from the Fitzpatrick campaign for printing purpose.

Interestingly, Fitzpatrick also paid $2,500 to Ohio’s Republican Congressman Pat Tiberi’s Pioneer PAC, which also donated $9,000 back to Fitzpatrick’s campaign.

The numbers tell the story for the race in PA-8. Democrat Kevin Strouse showed some improvement after a tough primary but still faces an uphill financial battle. Meanwhile, the incumbent Rep. Fitzpatrick is sitting on over $1 million dollars thanks to a drama (and primary) free spring.

*Note: The July quarterly reports concern only May and June as April’s pre-primary reports were already released.

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