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Chairman of the State Democratic Party Considers Stepping Down

Jim-Burn-HardballAfter five years as chairman of the PA Democratic Party, Jim Burn is seriously contemplating the possibility of resigning from his post.

According to Chris Brennan of the Inquirer, Burn has already talked to regional party leaders about stepping down.

This news comes five months before the Nov. 3rd general election and 13 months before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, where the party will announce their presidential candidate.

Burn has had a complicated year, as Wolf wished to install his own party chair after his primary win for governor last year. Although Wolf asked Burn to step down, Burn declined his request.

Wolf explained his desire to replace Burn by noting in an email last June that Governors traditionally get to build their own “team.”

In an email of his own in response to those of Wolf and McGinty, Burn beseeched committee members to retain him. “I am respectfully asking for your support to serve another 4 year term as your State Chair. 4 years ago, together, we charted a course that has made this Party one of the best State parties in America.”

To avoid a fight, Wolf created a new political action committee for Katie McGinty, the woman he wanted to take over as party chair in 2014. After Wolf’s victory in November, he ended up making McGinty his chief of staff.

As Gov. Wolf seeks a possible successor for Burn, Burn is contending that nobody in the party has tried to force him out.

“Nobody came and put a finger in my face. People in this state know better than to do that,” said Burn.

Philadelphia Democratic Party chairman U.S. Rep. Bob Brady said that Wolf called him last week in an effort to seek support for Marcel Groen, an attorney who has been chairman in Montgomery County since 1994, if Burn decides to step down. Brady noted that he will support whoever Wolf wants.

Groen believes that he has enough party support to win the chairmanship should it become vacant.

“If the governor would like me to serve in that capacity, I’d love to do it,” Groen said.

38 Responses

  1. Bluto – What the h does P-diddy have to do with any of this? And does this make me Popeye?

  2. People posting comments about our State Party Chair should identify whether they are members of State Committee. And people need to understand that State Committee is not the organization paid to elect our legislature, we have a separate entity for each, who’s sole purpose is to get Democrats elected. As someone who actually worked to get a candidate elected, I can say that HDCC is a failure, and SDCC is not much better, but that has NOTHING to do with State Committee. Many that I know on State Committee (and I am a member) are happy with the direction we are going. We have added at least 4 new caucuses (Latino, Senior, Rural, and Progressive) and have had a quorum at every meeting (that didn’t happen under TJ Rooney) and have moved very important resolutions, (marriage equality, fracking moratorium, protection of Social Security & Medicare, and gun control) all of which should be in our Party Platform!
    And it is petty and selfish of our Governor, who most of us worked hard to get elected, to boycott the people who helped get him elected. Rendell had his time, but times have changed and what was good then but we do not want to go back to those days, where rank and file members had no say. And the time to make the change was in 2014. We don’t need this distraction now. We need to work to elect our great judicial candidates. Let’s stop this circular firing squad and get to work

  3. Without getting into all the arguments for or against Burn, I do think the urban legends that the State Party is responsible for the disaster in the state house and senate in 2012 needs to be addressed.

    Thinking that Wolf’s coattails and money would carry them, the leaders of the state house and senate committees latched on to Fresh Start (remember them) which turned out to only be about Wolf. The huge loses fall to the feet of the Fresh Start organization and its leader, Katie McGinty.

    Any blaming of the State Party on this is rewriting the facts. Don’t fall for it and you will see eventually where all these strings lead to.

  4. Insane…. You must be from Philadelphia. Jim Burn should have stepped aside for party unity, but understand Chairman Burn doesn’t have the call to support State a Representatives. That is entirely on the HCC of the House of Representatives. They always protects the incumbent city Representatives. They spend 95% of their money doing this. Rural Representatives votes count the same as a city Representatives. The Republicans started 10 years ago targeting these rural districts. Soon they will start on the suburbs of city Representatives. While the Philadelphia guys just keep that Philadelphia at all cost attitude. Jim Burn is a class act. You are way out of line saying he is the reason we are not winning rural districts it is fully on the GOOD OLD BOY CLUB IN THE HOUSE THAT RUNS THE HCC.. Burn at least knows where Rural Pennsylvania is located.

  5. It seems to me that Gov. Wolf should be spending more time trying to get his budget through the legislature and getting his nominees confirmed, rather than trying to run the PA Democratic Party. The Party is running extremely well under the leadership of our UNANIMOUSLY RE-ELECTED Chair, Jim Burn. If Wolf wants to propose someone else for State Chair, we will be glad to consider that person… IN 2018.

  6. State Democratic Chairman Burn has been unable to produce vegetables or bear fruit from his 5 year attempt at growing the Democratic Party. Yes, he and his followers have traveled the state “on the dime of the Democratic Party” chatting it up with all the small rural areas that haven’t elected a Democrat since Christ walked on water, while visiting he has brought drinks and dinners, but failed to produce even a single carrot.
    Chairman Burn has managed to totally destroy all working relationships that the Party needs to win. His Merry men continue to dance around the garden believing “if I say it enough people will be believe me” Gosh darn it, people like me…
    Meanwhile back in the reality of the real world – the party is getting its butt kicked. The largest separation of Democrats and Republicans in the house in over 40 years. Mr. Burn and his followers continue to attack The DEMOCRAT GOVERNOR Tom Wolf. Hmmm somewhere I thought the party should support Their Governor… But oh no not these group of fellers.
    When picking a new leader, first look at their resume. . Have they ever run a party? 2. Are they able to raise money? 3. Are they winning races in their county? 4. Do they have working relationships across the State? 5. Have they increased Democrat registration in their counties? 6. Do they just talk the talk or do they walk it.
    For those 10 people that think the State Democratic Party is wonderful, I suggest you buy a bar call it wonderland and be happy.

  7. The Party hasn’t won the legislature but once in the last 22 years and it wasn’t able to encourage the average voter to vote by this top down approach to electing just heroes (who cannot function without back up in the Legislatures).
    Thus, it is time to remember the statement that true craziness is when one keeps doing the same thing over and over again despite the fact that it didn’t work.
    Money and hero candidates gets singular heroes elected – but real progress comes when people are actually benefiting from a strong Party and a group of elected officials the follow the needs of the party as well as their own needs to be re-elected.
    We just lost a new State Police Commissioner because while Governor Wolf was able to win he had no backing in the Legislature.
    We now need to elect strong Judicial candidates and we have a great set of Candidates and they will be elected as the issue is fair judicial oversight to overturn the present Gerrymandering that has caused such uneven representation and insane districting.
    But, if we had been able to be effective at servicing needs instead of just making promises that can’t be filled without just the executive branch we wouldn’t be so desperate about judges.
    No one i have spoken to is not going to fully support the Judicial races and this excuse that this supposed resignation is going to interrupt this would not be here except for those who chose to bring this matter forward instead of concentrate on these races.

  8. I’m new to this state. So far, I am very unimpressed with the Party. I don’t see where Burns has been affective. The chair of the county party I am in seems more of a DINO the a real demo leader. My understanding is the state org has advised rural committees to run candidates who don’t sign off on even the state party platform, let alone beong in line with the national platform. It doesn’t matter what the back story or current intrigue is – Burns has to take the hit and go. This party, under his leadership, has a poor record of supporting sufficient, viable women candidates, developing a new class of candidates in rural districts and pushing super-conservative county leaders to get into the 21st century. The state apparatus must change and must be more effective in developing candidates the disenfranchised PA Demo’s are looking for.

  9. The reason I would like new leadership at State Party comes down to fundraising and professional staffing. Since Kevin Washo, Aubry Montgomery, Fadia and others left the state party, under Jim’s watch, the party has lost races left and right. There is no organization or leadership. Sure, Burn shows up at every chicken dinner or corn roast, but democrats keep losing elected officials and judge races. Burn has not replaced those highly successful professionals with anything approaching quality. That’s on him and in my view worthy of being replaced. As much as democrats hate Citizens United the only way you win in today’s environment is with $. Those that say that the party is doing are blind. The HDCC and SDCC transfer funds in and that gives the impression of financial wellbeing. And blaming fundraising wows on a county party not showing up for state committee dinners is foolish and shortsighted. I’m not advocating for Groen here. I would actually like to see a chair like Erie’s Bill Cole or a chairwoman that has grown their county party. Jim had his chance and it’s time to move on.

    Ps The reason why I said the party needs to win the Supreme Court races for the parties future is due to the fact that we won’t win the house back by 2020 when the next re districting takes place. The court will decide the fairness of those new lines. If GOP controls the court democrats will continue to be the minority party in the house and senate.

  10. The Democratic State Committee must be both an election mechanism and a grass roots organization that represents its electors. It has at times been considered by many in the political world to be pliable and easy to manipulate. That is because our past members had some confusion about it being subject to the will of electing officials first. Thus, we members must have leadership that is able to articulate direction as well as get proper funding for the Party that extends beyond just electing the Governor. Only once in 22 years has our majority registered party been able to control the legislature and the Governors office. That has indeed allowed us to elect executives but we have failed to inspire the people to elect a congress and legislators that allow our principals to be heard and understood.
    In the last few decades, many of us believe our elections have been about electing personal heroes that is because we have been weakened and inarticulate about the basic principals of our party platform.
    We have failed to select candidates based on our State and Nations deepest needs and who can help our Governors and Presidents fill those needs. We have favored the perception instead of actually helping the people who need to be serviced.
    Because of this tilt in priorities there should be no wonder why more and more money is poured into campaigns to elect people and fewer people come to the polls. It is also no wonder that many consider our committee to be a servant of the establishment instead of a strong philosophical and ethical influence on the people we help to pick and elect. It comes down to whether we are manipulated or we participate
    This is not about any elected official or any one set of financial contributors it is about filling the needs of real people in real ways. It isn’t about Chairman Burn nor is it about Governor Wolf! It is about whether we are to pretend to be a State Party Committee or be one that is concerned about its own structure and forms its own leadership. To elect a new set of leaders every time a new candidate for governor is put up for election is just plain silly as it interrupts the basis for our being the most effective Party we can be. This cannot be a battle about who wins but what we must do to become stronger as a Democratic State Committee and grow no matter who the officials we put forth are. It is not only about contributors because those who contribute lose if we aren’t able to elect more than a chief executive.
    If Mr. Burn resigns as it is rumored we will still be insisting on picking our own Party leader. If he stays we will be supporting the one who was elected by the majority and expect the elected officials to work with our Party. This party must be designed to go past a four or eight year period and grow on the basis of a strong and ethical interaction between ourselves and those we help elect.

  11. People do not seem to understand one very important point: Wolf does NOT get to pick the party chair. The members os the Democratic Party pick the state party chair.

    No effort to reach out to the party faithful has been made by Wolf. In fact, the state party was required to pay $5000 just to attend his Inauguration activities!

    The party is running beautifully. We are growing. We are more inclusive. We have racial and ethnic diversity in our staff. We are raising wonderful money.

    The ones who are creating the problem are the ones who can not accept the results of our last state committee election. There is no will for change in the state party other than by those who want the old Rendellian top down approach where the rank and file, grass roots are held in contempt.

    Shame on those folks for being so obstructive to the state Democratic Party. Shame on you! Don’t expect the rest will fall in line. You began this, and it is far from over.

  12. Jim Burn has been a good party chairman. The rural counties that no one in HCC pays attention to really like Burn. Why? Jim shows up in rural counties. Should Burn have stepped aside when Wolf asked him to? Yes he should have, but then he should have been given a part to play in the Administration. No one knows what was said or offered. Rural Chairman will have a tough time working with Philadelphia connected arty Chairman. Burn has been trying to help these rural counties. In case no one is paying attention Democrats are down to 81 members in the State House. The HCC only worries about protecting City Incumbent State Representatives. The rural counties Representatives have been picked off one by one since 2008. This has to change. The Republicans are on a march for a veto proof House. If achieved Wolf is a one term Governor and Pennsylvania gets closer to being the Eastern version of Oklahoma. Whoever the new Chairman is he has to work hand and hand with the Governor to help rural counties ability to elect Democratic State Representatives again. I am not sure anyone from Philadelphia can do this. Hoping for a new Chairman who understands the whole State.

  13. A question for the folks who are either celebrating this news, or simply thought this was inevitable: why did Jim Burn survive the battle with Wolf for as long as he did? Did Nominee Wolf give Burn one more round of muni primary elections, to see something? Or did Governor Wolf somehow gain a leg up this spring? Or did he just finally get around to it?

  14. So much for democracy under the “new kind” of governor Tom Wolf. His so called Fresh Start is really getting stale! Well Tom Wolf (and Rendell or whoever is pulling his strings) you better pay attention because I don’t give a damn how much money Marcel Groen can raise I am not voting for him. I might not even vote for YOU next time; you can be the next One-Term-Tom unless you stop being a dictator. I am not alone in feeling this way. Burn was duly elected and if you force (or bribe) him out of office you are going to have a lot of pissed-off State Committee members and other pissed-off Democrats on your hands. Who wants to go back to the days of TJ Rooney!?! Paige you said it, “Groan” is unlikeable, and unelectable (unless Dictator Tom cuts all the other candidates off at the knees and clears the deck.) “Groan” is just a sour unfriendly old man. If you’re not a millionaire donor from SE PA he won’t even look at you, let alone speak to you. I hope Burn sticks it out and stays in, but if he quits I pray to God someone else, anyone else steps up to run against Marcel “Groan.”

  15. @ Sick and Tired, So the rest of State Committee does nothing? Groan will be a disaster and less Committee people will come to the meetings under his leadership. (If he is elected but I have my doubts) Have you ever worked under him he’s a dictator with no people skills at all.

  16. Only one word comes to mind, Quiter!
    He could have saved everyone a lot of grief and quit when he was asked. No wonder PoliticsPa labeled him last years biggest loser.

  17. The Pennsylvania Democratic State Party is NOT a Kingdom. It is simply a member of a Team. Other members of that TEAM are the following
    Democrat Governor Wolf
    Democrat US Senator Bob Casey
    Democrat Congressional Committee
    Democrat Senatorial Committee
    Democrat House Committee
    Democrat State Row Offices
    We MUST have a leader that is a proven Team leader, a person that currently has a working relationship with all members of that TEAM.
    A proven leader that can/does raise money, a proven leader that can/does organize successful state races, a proven leader that understands the word TEAM.
    2015 is a must win for the Democratic Party and the residents of Pennsylvania. We cannot go into this year broke, and with a member of the team that has NO relationship with any of the other TEAM members.
    We have only ONE Proven Leader in the State Democratic Party and yes his name is Marcel Groen. This is not a time for “I want to be” is a time for Reality. It’s Time to stop this insane game and move forward and get back to electing Democrats.
    It’s time for Mr. Burn to stop embarrassing himself and the State.

  18. FINALLY!! It’s about time!! Burn has been “burning” the party to the ground for long enough!!

    Groen for Chair!!

    Katie McGinty for US Senate in 2016!!

  19. watcher-

    That is interesting. I don’t think the state committee has the stomach for another fight, and Montco and Philly have a lot of votes (and Delco will probably follow whatever they do). I can’t think of a viable alternative to Marcel who would have the votes to challenge him.

    Happy Valley-
    I don’t know what he’s been offered.

  20. Burn has been trying to extort a Cabinet post or judgeship as his price for stepping down. He’s holding state committee hostage, looking for a better deal than the several jobs he’s been offered.

  21. The real question is whether Marcel will be able to get the votes to be elected chair when there is clearly a large number of state committee members who will resist anything that looks like an outcome that certain “power” people want. The other question is whether the Burn faction puts its own candidate up against Groen.

  22. To be complete I believe Sestak muttered something about Bracey being acceptable to him or something like that. The problem was that she wasn’t acceptable to anyone else except Rendell. Sestak refused to say that any of the 3 candidates were acceptable to him and just said he would work with whoever won. Which of course we know the history of that.

  23. No…you’re referring to Kim Bracey, the mayor of York. She was being pushed by Rendell, not by Sestak. True enough that she got nowhere and withdrew. After that all 3 candidates tried to get the public support of Rendell, but he remained neutral. Sestak was neutral too.

  24. CIE LA VIE-

    Without Onorato pushing the way Wolf did, I can’t agree with your analogy. An “impression” is a far cry from the full-court press that Wolf engaged in.

    Sestak wanted some woman from York county. I can’t remember her name. She got nowhere and didn’t make it to the final three.

  25. Onorato didn’t push Burn, but Burn created the impression that he was, to his own benefit. He fostered the idea that the “tradition” should be followed. That impression was helped along by Rooney deciding to step down in part to give the guv candidate his pick.

    Who did Sestak try to push in 2010? There were 3 candidates and all of them had supported Specter over Sestak.

  26. CIE LA VIE

    How is that the same thing?

    1) In 2010, it was an open seat.
    2) Onorato didn’t push Burn the way Wolf pushed McGinty
    3) Sestak was claiming that he was the top-of-the-ticket and leader of the party, not the Gov candidate, and he tried pushing his own pick for chairman.
    4) How do you think it would have gone if Wolf didn’t express a preference and McGinty just threw her hat into the ring? (My point here is that the committee did give a lot of weight in deference to Wolf, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the perceived deficits real/imaginary of McGinty)

  27. The Party has been rudderless and ineffective under Burn over the last year. Now he has made himself a lame duck, guaranteeing that he now can accomplish nothing. Instead of leaving and having a transition at the meeting over the weekend, we now wait for him to leave on his own selfish timetable, which is leaving the court candidates in limbo.

    It’s always been about Jim Burn and his ego over the interest of the party…and it still is.

  28. Going with McGinty may have been a mistake, but if so it resulted in a bigger one. People keep forgetting that Burn was elected in 2010 over Groen and Pascal by convincing people he had support of the gubernatorial candidate, Onorato, when he really didn’t. That “tradition” was okay then, I guess. A matter of convenience.

  29. This “tradition” of going with the Governor’s choice is a lot of nonsense and not the rule. The rule is that the state committee people are elected by the voters and then the committee people pick their chairman. And the Governor should have respected their choice, and not acted like a petulant child by refusing to show up at state committee events.

    From the committee people I talked to who supported Burn, the complaint was McGinty as the pick. The progressives, especially the environmentalists, didn’t trust her. They felt she was a energy industry shill, and they used the term “green washer”. Others I spoke to didn’t like the way she ran her campaign. (Personally, I’ve never had a problem with McGinty and I’m not a committee member with a vote. But, I’m relaying what I heard on the ground.) Had Wolf requested Groen instead of McGinty, he might well have gotten his choice.

    The “Fresh Start” campaign got Wolf elected, but also didn’t do a lick for the state house/senate races, and Wolf avoided endorsing, helping, coordinating with the down-ticket candidates. The strategy was “appeasement” to the Republicans by not having Wolf speak out against their candidates in support of the Dems. That strategy has left Wolf with greater Republican majorities.

    The knock I hear against Burn is that he hasn’t raised enough money. Well, the problem with that knock is that groups like the Montco Dem committee have boycotted state committee fundraisers in protest of Burn’s chairmanship. So, this is like the Republicans under-funding schools, then complaining that the schools are under-performing. It’s more than a little hypocritical.

    The HDCC has been a mess and a total cluster-f*ck for a while now. I haven’t met the new executive director/leadership, but I’m hoping for some more aggression going after GOP seats.

    Of course, the elephant in the room is the DNC convention and the lucrative contracts, favors, spotlight, and nepotism that can be obtained through state committee’s role in the convention and assigning delegates. If PA didn’t have the convention, I doubt there would be this strong effort to push Burn out.

    Marcel has been a very effective and powerful leader turning Montco into a beacon of hope for the Dems. He’s a good fundraiser and has lots of organizational experience as well as great staffers to call upon. If Marcel can expand/replicate his success into other parts of the state, that would be a great boon to the PA Dems.

    The silver lining for Burn is that he won’t have to deal with Sestak’s campaign next year. 🙂

  30. This effort is being led by the chairs of the largest counties, Brady and Mills, as well as DNC members, labor (the state AFL-CIO), Hillary’s people, as well as those who filed the challenge to Burn’s delegate selection plan represented by Chuck Pascal –note Bloomingdale, Mills, Pascal et al were among the challengers).

    If you don’t have the support of any of these people it’s time to go.

  31. Just my observation…Jim Burn needs to go. The Party is listing under his “leadership.” Mr. Groen appears to have done a decent job in Montgomery County raising money, recruiting candidates, running campaigns, winning races and having an organized and fully functioning County Party…Doing that at the State Level would be a great improvement…hopefully my home County of Delaware County will get some competent leadership next so we can win something!

  32. Pittsburgh Observer, the job of a party chair isn’t to oversee a politician, just to get them elected. Nice try in blaming Jim Burn for the disasters foisted on us by Ed Rendell, the same guy who wants to replace Burn with Marcel Entitled Groen.
    Jackb’s comments have no basis in reality. The party faithful have had enough of the Rendell-Isenhour-Rooney model of “we know better, because we know better” politics. How do I know? Because we re-elected Burn despite the intense pressure the Wolf team put on all of us. You couldn’t buy us then, you can’t silence us now.

  33. I hope this happens. Burn has done very little as chair and the party has suffered because of it. The only chance the party has to come back will be the Supreme Court races this year. Democrats need to win all 3 and Burn can’t lead that effort. The state party is not run by professionals but party hacks right now. If he has any decency he will step down.

  34. Jim Burn listed one of his greatest accomplishments as a Democratic sweep of the offices of Auditor General (Eugene DePasquale); Treasurer (Rob McCord) and Attorney General (Kathleen Kane). How does that accomplishment look now?

  35. “Observer” blames Burn for the State House??? Laughable! Blame Wolf who created a shell organization run by shell operatives with shell money. Blame Frank Dermody and Rich Fitzgerald, and their overlord Ed Rendell, who put a lazy pseudo-operative named E. S. as executive director of the HDCC.

  36. This would be an absolute travesty. Jim Burn has the confidence of the rank and file – despite Governor Rendell, uh, I mean, Wolfe’s best attempt at railroading a guy who has worked hard but won’t yield to their every whim. I really question whether this is true.
    And who would we replace him with? The unlikable, unelectable, and ever so special Marcel Groen? What an endorsement for elitism and cronyism.

  37. “Best state parties??” Does he not remember the series of historic losses? Has he LOOKED at the state house lately? The Congressional delegation? His job wasn’t to win a couple of easy state-wide races, it was to build a strong state-wide machine. He failed, miserably.

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