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Corbett Pulls the Trigger for Welch

But GOP’s SEPA Caucus Declines Vote

By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor

King of Prussia — Governor Tom Corbett called southeast Pennsylvania GOP leaders Wednesday afternoon to ask for their support for U.S. Senate hopeful Steve Welch, several county chairmen and Republican state committee members told PoliticsPA.

It follows weeks of speculation over who, if anyone, Corbett would support in the crowded primary.

But his decision to back Welch – made the same day as the southeast Pa. caucus meeting – was too fast for many state committee members in the region. The caucus declined to hold a straw poll vote during their meeting Wednesday night.

If they had weighed in so closely to the Governor’s decision, said Chester County chairman Val DiGiorgio, it would look too much like the caucus was a rubber stamp.

“We have to respect the integrity of the process,” he said, and take more time to consider.

“It’s too early,” agreed Delaware County chairman Andy Reilly. He said Wednesday night’s meeting was the first time the caucus got to hear from all of the candidates.

Over a dozen state committee members PoliticsPA interviewed confirmed Corbett’s support for Welch. Many believe it is, in part, a peace offering from the Governor.

Last week, Corbett effectively pushed John Rafferty, a Pa. State Senator from Montgomery County, out of the Attorney General primary. He made known his support for Rafferty’s opponent, Cumberland County District Attorney Dave Freed. Several committee members, particularly those from Montco, bristled at that choice – and at the last-minute nature of the Governor’s U.S. Senate decision. (The AG kerfuffle followed a few years of bad blood between Corbett and Rafferty). They felt that a native son and a promising statewide candidate from SEPA was blocked from competing for the endorsement.

In exchange, the thinking goes, Corbett decided he would throw his support behind another SEPA candidate: Welch, an entrepreneur and former congressional candidate from Chester County.

But while Rafferty has been around the block and come up through the party in SEPA, Welch is a relative newcomer. Many don’t see it as a fair trade. Chief in that camp is Montco Chairman and Rafferty ally Bob Kerns. His delegation had threatened to boycott any vote Wednesday evening.

Kerns declined to comment.

Side note: some Rafferty supporters, apparently Republicans disaffected by Corbett’s decision, launched a website encouraging Rafferty to run for AG as an independent.

It also did not go unnoticed that each of the Governor’s three picks so far (Freed, John Maher for Auditor General, and Diana Irey for Treasurer) are clients of Brabender-Cox, a consulting firm that employs longtime Corbett aide and 2010 campaign manager Brian Nutt. Welch would be number four.

Correction: Maher tells PoliticsPA he is not a client of Brabender-Cox.

However, an arranged marriage is still a marriage. If Corbett continues his push for Welch, it will most likely yield a state committee endorsement on January 28. Most of the SEPA crowd will fall in line with Corbett, if not out of love for Welch (though there was considerable talk about the possibility of an open primary).

“He’s the leader of the party,” said PAGOP Chairman Rob Gleason said of Corbett. “He gets it. He came up through the committee process.”

Will the Guv’s choice carry the committee?

“Probably,” Gleason said confidently.

Party leaders are keen to endorse someone they believe can defeat former coal company owner Tom Smith in the primary, because they see Smith as too inexperienced a candidate to take on Senator Bob Casey. They know they need to coalesce around one person sooner than later; Smith reported $4.4 million cash on hand, and it would be difficult for any candidate to compete without the full resources of the state party.

The two most electable candidates, they believe, are Welch and Tim Burns, a businessman and former congressional candidate from Washington County. PoliticsPA reported last Saturday about the emerging Burns v. Welch dynamic; Welch’s campaign has been handing out anti-Burns fliers, and Burns spent some of his speech at Wednesday’s SEPA meeting blasting Welch directly.

The candidates travel next to the sizable southwest and northwest caucuses – home territory for Burns and Smith – where Burns will have his last opportunity for a statement win in time for state committee.

Odds and ends:

Burns said the battle was not about the endorsement, but against Casey and Obama, reiterating that it would be almost impossible for him to run against an endorsement. He laid into Welch, saying “When times were tough, when George W. Bush was unpopular, Steve Welch ran from the Republican Party.”

Welch has clearly had practice answering those charges, and for good reason: the subject dominated the question and answer portion of his remarks. He said when he switched – at age 28 – from GOP to Dem, it was in protest of the GOP’s lack of conservative direction despite controlling the White House, Senate and House.

“At no point was I a Barack Obama supporter,” he said, saying his infamous vote for Obama in the 2008 primary was motivated by a fear of “Hillarycare.”

He parried a question from the audience – and from this reporter – about the Governor’s endorsement. “I’d love to have the support of Tom Corbett, Pat Toomey,” he said, but, “I don’t think either one is public on where they are.”

He, too, implied that he would not run against an endorsement.

Tom Smith gave a fairly well-delivered, boilerplate speech about the economy and reiterated his intent to stay in the race all the way until primary day. He subtly inoculated himself against criticisms that he was a registered Democrat until August by noting that Ronald Reagan was a union guy and a Dem before he became President.

The buzz was that Smith made some headway with the Montco delegation.

After the no-vote was declared, Smith’s camp spun the decision as a loss for Welch.

“We commend the Republican State Committee members of the Southeast Caucus for tonight taking a bold step to suggest that that this process should play out, and that voters should have the opportunity to select the strongest candidate to defeat Senator Casey in the fall,” said Smith for campaign manager Jim Conroy.  “This unprecedented action in Steve Welch’s home caucus certainly demonstrates a lack of support for his candidacy.”

David Christian delivered passionate remarks and had the highest high moments of any speaker, including a Welch punchline that he cribbed re: Casey’s 98% record of voting with Obama – something like, spouses and children don’t agree that often!

Outsiders Sam Rohrer and Marc Scaringi performed well, but SEPA caucus members are the insiders’ insiders. It wasn’t their crowd.

28 Responses

  1. I voted for Sam Rohrer for Governor. Met him at the local firehouse at that time.
    Last night he and his wife were at a local Restaurant and WOW – Sam is the man !!
    He said he doesn’t normally do politics on Sunday.
    Mostly he spoke about the importance of God in our Country. And from William Penn to our Founders to G.Washington, etc..
    He has the grasp of what is wrong and wants to help get our Country back on track.Audit the fed.(it is unconstitutional in the first place), eliminate obamacare, repeal NDAA, get rid of TSA (goons), get rid of EPA, etc. etc. He answered a lot of questions regarding areas that affect all Americans concerns now, not just locals.
    I could go on but that is the gist of it. He is a real conservative.

  2. and These were posted before the Corbett Cabal this past Saturday. Tom Corbett had better start worrying about being primaried after the crap he and his henchmen pulled this past Saturday. They went into each room and publically said that any person who stood and seconded or nominated any candidate other than Steve Welch, they would no longer be considered committeepersons. Gee, the people’s republic of Pennsylvania, led by Comrades Corbett and Welch. Isn’t Welch the former Republican that changed his party so he could vote for Barack Obama and held fundraisers for Democrats as well? And, Isn’t Corbett the former Pa. Attorney General who refused to prosecute Jerry Sandusky when the Penn State sex abuse case was brought to his attention? And, whatever happened to Ray Gricar, the local prosecutor on the case. According to newspaper reports, Gricar disappeared, his car was found as was his laptop, but without it’s hard drive and only recently his family had to petition the courts to have him declared legally dead. Hmmm, here’s an idea Governor. Why don’t you appoint Welch to the position of State Undertaker so he can bury anymore of your screw ups that are uncovered. Based on your act so far, let’s face it, a lot more are going to be found. Once a Governor screws up and endorses a supporter of Barack Obama, is there anything you would not expect from either of them? And, after Welch loses the primary, it will be time to start recruiting people to get rid of Corbett. Pennsylvania does not need anymore losers and we certainly don’t need anymore Obama endorsers.

  3. I’m tired of hearing this thing of who is the most electable. We need true conservatives in the Republician party. It should be a open primary not one where the state committee people choose who wins by endorsing someone. Welsh voted for Obama. That should say it all. We all need to stop holding our nose and voting for anyone we think is the most electable and vote for the best candidate. Just to vote so a Republician wins is not really winning if the person who wins is progressive. The state committee members should share all information on the candidates with the public so the people can make the decision on who to vote on.

  4. and to me it is far more important that a candidate understand Constitutionally limited government, not just someone who has “business” sense.

  5. I wish more people knew about Agenda 21. There is even a democrat group out in CA out against this plan once they discovered what it was all about. ( for all those that think this is some “right wing conspiracy”.

    Corbett should butt out. He’s another go along to get along Repub establishment. Tinker around the edges, but no real changes. He won’t buck the unions, which are destroying our state financially. Just coasted through the contract negotiations. I wish more people paid attention and vetted these candidates themselves. Attend candidate forums and find out for yourself who aligns most with your principles. I liked Tom Smith a great deal and have always like Rohrer. I don’t know much about Tim Burns, yet. As far as Welch goes, I cannot for the life of me understand how being disgusted with overspending, unprincipled Republicans would turn you to vote and support the most liberal of liberal Democrats. It makes no sense to me. And I watched a candidate forum where he explained it. I understand his disgust with the Republican party, but I would NEVER vote for candidates like Obama or Sestak out or retaliation to a party that let me down. NO way.

  6. Saw the debate, thought All were absolutely superb, was so proud.

    Tom Smith, flat out like the down home quality and coal connection.
    Sam Rohrer, reminded me of John Adams, smart, quirky.
    Marc Scaringi, seem very capable.
    David Christian, two great lines “oil means war” and “free trade means fair trade”.
    Steve Welch, seems like the youngest and most eager, but very impressive, quite the talker!

    p.s. One of main reason the anti frackers are up in arms about nat gas drilling here is because drilling goes in the face of local agenda 21 action plans. We ALL love the environment, but wait until you read these plans. This incideous plan has slowly but surely been implemented all over the country at local levels. Look for now commonplace phrases “sustainable dev” “smart growth” “redevelopment” “greenways” “open space”. I found an wonderful site on this nonsense, – tell your friends/family and fight it. Short term it is a power and land grab; long term it is about control of population.

  7. Steve Welch is so disgusted that Republicans are not being fiscally conservative in 2008 (which is so true) that he decides to support not big spender H. Clinton but B. Obama –someone with a voting record to the left of Bernie Sanders (self-described Socialist Party) in the Senate. Makes sense doesn’t it. And if you told me he did this 25 years ago when he was 18 I would say people change.

    Steve Welch has a vanity book out that only he and his mother have bought and maybe read. Same thing, if this happened twenty years ago I would say people change.

    He did not have the gumption to stand up to the establishment to run for whichever musical-chairs congressional seat he wanted that week so now he is Senate material. If someone bumps him out of the way for the establishment blessing for Senate will he be considered for Vice President?

    A guy with a lot of money and little discernable resume and no discernable beliefs.

  8. I agree completely with an open primary. Let the people decide who the best candidate is. The governor should stay out of it. The process is obviously corrupt. The candidate that has gotten my attention is Frank Pinto for Auditor General. The thing I like the most is that he has not backed down since the gov endorsed Maher. Frank is a passionate speaker and highly qualified for the job. The democrats will be able to take Maher down quickly. Maher voted for his own pay raise, his own pension increase, is running two campaigns at the same time (he is also running for his state rep post) and doing it all on the taxpayers dollar…. He is the exact opposite of who we need to represent the party. Frank Pinto has my vote.

  9. The party rammed Specter down our throats against Toomey Did State Committee endorse Specter then? can’t remember To ram Obama Welch democrat through now is an infamy

  10. Sam Roher pricipled guy but call it ??? has a platform that says the Republican establishment rigs things against Republican voters. He has campaigned on that before. Primary face-up Roher saying the bad establishment endorsed Obama Democrat Steve Welch. Please don’t let this train wreck happen. The party needs to broaden base to all and giving Roher ammo by endorsing Obama/ Welch is stupid/ We need to be united to defeat Casey and endorsing an proven Obama Democrat in a primary battle divides the party

  11. Hooray! Steve Welch is indeed the best candidate..with the best skills. He is a problem solver.

    It is nice to finally get a candidate who understands small business ….but even better yet future businesses……. and ever better than that, new technology businesses – the kind which are going to transform our nation.

    Seeing the SOPA arguments in DC and watching Congressional members admitting that they have no clue about the Internet is a disgrace. Lets get a guy into office who walks the walk and talks the talk in starting and investing in businesses which are the future of America. GO STEVE!

  12. Who the hell cares whether or not Smith or Welch happened to be registered Democrats? Don’t Republicans–who lag far behind the Democrats in statewide registration–need to attract people who are either registered Ds or leaning away from the Ds? I’m not really supportive of Smith or Welch, but using their former Democrat registration as a weapon against them is truly idiotic. As a Republican, I welcome them with open arms.

  13. “…he switched – at age 28 – from GOP to Dem, it was in protest of the GOP’s lack of conservative direction…”
    That would only make sense if he didn’t run into the arms of Joe Sestak. I’ve got to call his bluff on this.

  14. There is a debate in Doylestown tonight. A nice chance for the general public to hear from them all. I look forward to hearing from Rohrer in particular since he impressed he when he ran in the GOP Gov. primary. Let’s focus on Casey!

  15. I’m a SE PA Committeeman and definitely NOT an “insider”. The refining fire of a primary will yeild the best candiate to beat Obama lackey Bob Casey. Anyone labled the “establishment candidate” is destined for failure. I will do everything I can to advocate for an open primary. Let the best man or woman win. I say that as a friend of Steve Welch, a guy I respect and would ultimately support.

    Corbett wasn’t elected king. Someone should remind him of that fact. Stick to Governing for now. There’s plenty to do.

  16. State GOP wants someone that they can control … electability argument is BS. Can’t control Tom Smith, so need to prop up some party puppet with State GOP cash. Pennsylvania, where the Republicans are not that much different from the Democrats.

  17. Tom Smith will focus on jobs and, in particular, jobs from the energy sector.

    Tom Smith is INDEPENDENT OF LEADERSHIP, like Pat Toomey, and this independence is what can change the course of the country.

    Keystone XL is a job creator that Democrats oppose. Sen. Casey is non committal.

    SOPA/PIPA are Big Hollywood initiative opposed by those, Left and Right, who value Internet Liberty and Free Speech. Sen. Casey is on the wrong side of this. Left Wing Keystone cites Left Wing Philadelphia Philadelphia Weekly in opposition and Right Wing RedState’s Neil Stevens Tech at Night AND makes the Limited Government case

    Tom Smith is on the side of Internet Liberty. Bob Casey is on side of Big Hollywood censorship.

  18. Rob Ciervo- I am from Bucks County and was impressed with Steve Welch when I saw him at the Bucks County TARS Senate Forum. Most of the audience was Rohrer supporters.


  19. Rob Ciervo: You’re a joke and so are all of your whiny, crying, Sam Rohrer is god, and were morally better than you and were going to take our ball and go home Republicans in the Lower Make area. You ran a race in a Republican District in the most Republican of years and you lost to an extreme leftist State Rep that isn’t even liked by his own party. Your thoughts and those of that RINO Guzzardi hurt the party as a whole. We should have had that seat. Now, Turzai cut a deal with Dermody and Santarsiero and screwed all of the Republicans in Bucks County.(something that poprik agreed to by the way. word on the street is santarsiero was going to be moved into northampton and that scumbag komelasky fought it. so she agreed with komelasky so their bond work wasn’t hurt) So do us all a favor. Go back and screw up some more on the Newtown Board of Supervisors. That’s as far as you will ever go Doctor. And get down of your podium. You’re not any better than the next guy despite what you think.

  20. The Governor and State Committee ought to show some respect for the Republican electorate by allowing them to choose all of the party’s nominees this year. Bossed primaries ought to be a thing of the past. Let’s hope there is still a shot at an open primary.

  21. Who cares if someone is a newcomer? How much time devoted to the Party equals time ready to be a candidate? No chapter in Politics 101 on that. None of the above comments even touch what any of these candidates can do, as US Senator for Pennsylvania! So wrapped up in process that the goal is being missed. What can they bring to us? Platform anyone?

  22. I have yet to hear one Republican in Bucks County mention Steve Welch’s name. He is know to no one hear. Meanwhile all of the Republicans who are actively involved in the Senate race at this point are backing Sam Rohrer.

  23. We have to note that the Governor failed to pass any kind of School Choice or Voter ID. Jake “Penn State” Corman who inherited his Senate District from his dad is a Union Republican.

    Union Republicans are undermining the effort to help Democratic Unions steal votes in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh because vote stealing is what is needed to win. Only Democrats (like Jake Corman, a Democrat in Republican clothing) resists common sense reform like Voter ID.

    It seems that Democrats and Liberal Elitist Educated Intellectuals think the poor, Hispanics, Blacks and other minorities are too stupid and ignorant to get a Voter ID. They aren’t too stupid or incompetent when it comes to getting ID to buy beer or get welfare, though.

    Jake Corman is, singlehandedly, giving Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Democrats and selling out rank and file Republicans throughout the state.

  24. The underlying theme is that the Corbett BrabenderCox Hacks have antagonized the County Hacks in MontCo and BucksCo.

    It is probably better that BrabenderCox choose the very flawed Republican losers than Jake ” Penn State” Corman’s loser consultant Ray Zabourney. Steve Welch made far wiser choice in hacks he employed than Tim Burns.

    Dave Freed is so severely compromised with his conflict of interest with his father-in-law and patron LeRoy Zimmerman who siphoned money from the iconic Hershey Trust for disadvantaged kids to himself getting rich from bad government. and what do golf courses have to do with protecting disadvantaged kids. LeRoy Zimmerman is a kind of fiscal Jerry Sandusky.

    Note that neither the State Police nor Attorney General Corbett seemed to have allocated sufficient resources to the investigation of the rape of a 10 year old, or perhaps, multiple rapes of children.

    Harrisburg Patriot-News ( 13 November 2011 Sara Ganim) “Despite the fact that Sandusky might continue to have contact with young boys through The Second Mile, despite the explosive possibility that a legendary Penn State coach might have committed repeated sexual assaults, only one state trooper was assigned to the case.”


    Tom Smith has made headway in the southeast.

    Tom Smith has the commitment and the money to run a primary and he expected, from the beginning, to have to run a primary against the endorsement. Meet him and decide for yourself if he means what he says.

    Sam Rohrer and Dave Christian will stay in the race, I expect. I can’t think either expected to get endorsement and Dave Christian has support in BucksCo and Sam Rohrer with Tea Party.

  25. Why shouldn’t Corbett get to pick who the loser is going to be? He wanted to be the boss. Sticking it to the incompetent fat baffoon from Montco Bob Kerns is just a secondary goal. You have to hire Brabender/Cox to win elections in PA? Well, it is PA after all. Corrupt and contented.

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