Never mind, it seems that the McGinty-Burn battle for State Chair won’t be happening after all.
In a surprising turn of events, Tom Fitzgerald of the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that gubernatorial nominee Tom Wolf has decided to “sidestep” a fight with Democratic party chair Jim Burn.
Instead a new PAC, The Campaign for a Fresh Start, will run parallel to the state party committee and Katie McGinty will serve as its chair.
“Tom Wolf is a different kind of leader, and this will be a different kind of campaign,” McGinty said in a statement. “We need to shake up the status quo, and that goes from everything to changing the way we campaign to changing the way we govern. We need to bring together and mobilize all Pennsylvanians concerned with jobs, education, and health care to and who know that Pennsylvania needs a fresh start.”
Fitzgerald wrote that the move was intended to avoid a fight and seek a separation from the “party bosses”. He later tweeted that Wolf will not be attending the committee meeting.
Senate and House Democrats are standing behind Wolf’s maneuver.
“We applaud Tom Wolf’s creation of a new campaign program that will help us take back the majority,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa. “I commend Tom Wolf’s focus on not only winning the Governor’s mansion but flipping the State Senate as well.”
“Tom Wolf could not have chosen a better candidate to chair The Campaign for a Fresh Start than Katie McGinty,” said Senator Vincent Hughes, Democratic Chair of the Appropriations Committee. “Katie has consistently been a team player for the Democratic Party, and we look forward to working with such an accomplished, intelligent leader as we work to turn Pennsylvania blue.”
The sudden reversal comes after Wolf publicly backed McGinty for the spot and deployed a team of advisors to push hard for her nomination. Allies of McGinty were pushing her candidacy as late as this afternoon.
While supporters of Wolf and McGinty insisted they had the votes to win and were merely trying to avoid a fight, others were not so sure. Several people in the Democratic party said that Wolf could not firmly secure the votes in Philadelphia and that Philly committee chair, and Congressman, Bob Brady may have been reluctant to choose. One source commented that Brady is the “ultimate dealmaker” and that this situation seemed like a “deal of last resort”. Calls to the Philadelphia Democratic County Committee went unanswered.
In one sense, for current Chairman Jim Burn this represents quite a victory as he was able to hold on despite Wolf wanting to replace him. On the other hand, however, the win may prove to be pyrrhic as the Wolf team seems intent to circumvent him with the new PAC. Numerous party observers feel that Burn is now effectively done in state politics in everything but name.
One insider even asserted that Burn was seeking some kind of deal with the nominee but Wolf wouldn’t bite. The Chairman did not respond to a request to comment.
Most intriguing of all, though, is what the move says about Wolf. Was he smart to avoid a potentially damaging fight or did he show weakness by pulling out of it? Will this allow him to more effectively run as an outsider or hurt him with the party faithful? Finally, if he wasn’t willing to go all the way and unseat Burn, why did he jump into the contest to begin with?
Update: The House Democrats are also backing Wolf’s decision.
“We are thrilled to work with both Tom Wolf and Katie McGinty to defeat Tom Corbett and Republicans in the House this November,” said House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody. “We need to elect Tom Wolf in order to rebuild our middle class, reverse the disastrous Corbett cuts to education, and move our economy forward. With this new team and Katie McGinty’s leadership, I know Tom will be successful in November. House Democrats are excited to coordinate our efforts with them and begin a new chapter in Pennsylvania.”
Update 2: Megan Sweeny, the Communications Director of the PA Republican Party issued the following statement:
“For the second time this year, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party has flatly rejected Tom Wolf,” Sweeney said. “Tom Wolf is a typical politician who tried to force his choice for Democratic Party Chairman onto a Party that doesn’t trust his judgment. While Tom Wolf may be able to create a nice television ad, he’s shown a serious inability to energize his Party’s grassroots network.
“Tom Wolf openly rejected Jim Burn, and now the Pennsylvania Democratic Party has returned the favor. Just weeks after holding a tightly-controlled unity breakfast with Jim Burn, Tom Wolf tried to fire him from his job. The fact that Tom Wolf’s running mate, Mike Stack, wouldn’t even support his choice for Chair serves as further proof that the people who know Tom Wolf best still have plenty of questions about his decision-making.
“The Pennsylvania Democratic Party is in disarray, and Tom Wolf’s failure to lead is making their numerous problems even worse.”
Update: Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto also endorsed Wolf’s move today:
“Tom Wolf today showed a strong commitment to reform and to opening up the political process. He is showing the independent leadership that makes me proud to be a strong supporter of Tom Wolf and the change that he will bring to Pennsylvania,” Peduto said. “To truly shake things up in Harrisburg and bring meaningful change, we need to see reform at all levels. The creation of The Campaign for a Fresh Start with McGinty at its helm is a meaningful step in that direction.
“Progress for Pennsylvania requires change, and Tom Wolf and Katie McGinty are demonstrating that they are willing to do the work to make reform a reality.”