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Democratic State Committee Wrap-up & Rumors

PA Dems Fall 2013 meetingValley Forge, Pa. – Hundreds of committee members, candidates, operatives and more gathered this weekend at Democratic State Committee. Here’s a rundown of the leads and rumors of the weekend.


Most of the gubernatorial candidates gave remarks at Friday’s dinner to mixed reviews. Most agreed that McCord and Schwartz stood out.

John Hanger: The former DEP Secretary has made his mark as the wonkiest candidate in the field, and reviews of his Friday speech confirmed it. Attendees said he went on at length about medical marijuana in a speech that fell flat.

Jo Ellen Litz: The Lebanon County Commissioner donated a glass and chocolate in the shape of an Academy Award statue for use as a raffle. The statue later went missing.

Rob McCord: The State Treasurer gave the final speech of Guv candidates Friday night and signed off to a standing ovation. He had minimal staff at the event.

Katie McGinty: Several attendees said the former Secretary of the DEP had a decent showing. She was accompanied by 3 or 4 staffers.

Ed Pawlowski: The Allentown Mayor hosted the best party of state committee, according to attendees. His suite was crowded all Friday evening.

Allyson Schwartz: Committee members said the Congresswoman had a strong showing. Her campaign had no fewer than 12 staff/volunteers working the crowd all weekend. All of them were wearing campaign t-shirts over their business casual outfits and offered forests-worth of literature.

Tom Wolf: Attendees said the former Secretary of Revenue delivered a fairly dull speech Friday.

Jack Wagner: The former Auditor General has been floating a potential Guv bid and was on hand Friday night (though he did not give a speech). Word was that he is planning to make a decision by the end of the year and is open to Lt. Governor.

Lieutenant Governor

Many attendees said they expect one of the current gubernatorial field to drop down into the LG race as some kind of deal. Who might drop was anyone’s guess.

Neuman barFormer Congressman Ron Klink is apparently considering a bid. So is Erie attorney Ron DiNicola. A perennial name on Democratic recruitment lists in northwest Pa., he represented Muhammad Ali and ran for Congress against Phil English in 1996.

State Rep. Brandon Neuman is looking even more certain to run (he told PoliticsPA point blank in February that he would). He passed out chocolate bars with his name and face printed on them.

Based on an informal survey of campaign stickers, Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski boasted the widest support from committee members in attendance.

Critz jeered out of caucus meeting

In the summer of 2012, to a crowd of 150 women of the Pennsylvania Federation of Democratic Women, then-Congressman Mark Critz apparently made an elaborate joke which included the sexual assault of a married couple.

Critz is presently running for Lieutenant Governor. This morning when he took the podium at the South Central Caucus meeting, past PFDW president Michelle Lellito was in the audience. She called him out again for the joke, saying he was unrepresentative of the Democratic Party. According to several people who were in the room, Critz fumbled through an apology and left the room without completing his speech.


The candidates for Schwartz’s open seat had the chance to speak to committee members at the event, held just a mile away from the district line. Physician Valerie Arkoosh, State Rep. Brendan Boyle, state Sen. Daylin Leach and former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies attended, although Boyle and Margolies didn’t stay late.


Danny Bauder was elected President of the Young Democrats of PA.

260 people attended Friday’s dinner.*

The party’s nominee for Pa. Superior Court, Pittsburgh judge Jack McVay, took lumps in the southeast caucus meeting. Apparently he admitted he hadn’t yet spoken to Congressman and Philly Dem Chair Bob Brady.

Official meeting

225 committee members attended the meeting of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party at the Valley Forge Casino Resort.

At the non-voting meeting, Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro kicked things off with a rousing speech about the Democratic party.

“We need to build and we need to grow. It’s not a top down party,” he said. “Bringing people together around common sense solutions is a Democratic principle.”

Another Montgomery County official, Bruce Hanes, also received a loud response from the crowd including three standing ovations. The County’s Register of Wills, Hanes earned national headlines this summer when he began issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. A state judge recently ordered him to cease.

Local and judicial races were the flavor of the afternoon, as Max Baer and Jack Panella took the stage and Democratic Chairman Jim Burn talked about the importance of the local races, saying, “There’s no such thing as an off-year in Pennsylvania.”

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale came on stage to a standing ovation, and he explained his work in enforcing Pennsylvania’s dog laws in kennels and inspecting amusement rides. He also encouraged the audience members to prepare for a long gubernatorial primary fight, but asked for unity in the end.

“When the votes are counted on that primary night, I ask that we all rally behind that candidate,” he said.

It was a non-voting meeting; no definitive action was taken in response to calls by some for the party to reverse a policy position it endorsed at the summer meeting. The party officially voted in favor of a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing pending further impact studies, a position that Republicans have loudly criticized. Democratic elected officials and candidates have almost universally sought to distance themselves from the party’s position.

The Pennsylvania State Democratic Committee will convene again in February, at a location to be determined. Rumor has it that their original venue choice (Hershey) is hosting an NRA rally on the same weekend.

Keegan Gibson contributed to this report.

*The original version of this story incorrectly reported that the party brought in around $260K during the dinner. 260 people attended. The amount raised has not yet been determined.

13 Responses

  1. Hanger has the best policies but may not be able to raise the millions to get his message out. McCord seems to have the momentum. Can he hold it for 7 months?

  2. Also the JJ dinner was very successful and the desert reception benefiting the College Dems seemed to be well attended and great for them!

  3. 2 Points: As the Caucus chair for the South Central Caucus I can tell you the Critz DID finish his speech. I can also tell you, however, we left suddenly and with no applause. All other candidates received applause on their entrance and their exit. The “joke” was not his only show of bad judgement. More on that at another post.

    As to the Wagner bid: If he wanted to be Governor, I think it was a very bad decision to run for mayor of Pittsburgh last year. Especially since he lost so bad. Now it just looks like he’s looking for a job. Time to move on and let the next generation move up.

  4. Dear John L. Micek: Were you auditioning for Dennis Roddy’s job in your column today? Just stay on message. When are you going to write about the deep conflicts the Brabender/Corbett administration has in health care policy, the imbedding of K12 inc into the Corbett administration in the personage of Charles B. Zogby or the smearing of Former Ed Secretary Bill Harner? POLITICAL NECROPHILIA IS ALL GOOD, but it will not keep Tom and Sue in the Governor’s Mansion.

  5. Mr. Critz had complete poor taste telling the joke to a room full of Democratic women. (I was there) He is not fit to serve anyone from the Commonwealth – anywhere. I don’t think a Repugnican would tell that story anywhere.

  6. Wagner should retire. He’s lost how many races now for gov. LG, and most recently mayor and is a great guy but a perennial candidate.

    I don’t think the women vote will be inspired
    by CentPA Dems selection. Actually, quite the opposite.

  7. Tom Wolf was far from dull. You weren’t listening to the seriousness of the issues he raised. Neither were those people you interviewed. Brittany, pay attention to what’s at stake for Pa. Get your facts right. Wolf’s campaign had numerous staffers and a table with tons of literature. A professional presentation. Of those I spoke with Wolf’s speech was seen as smart, educated and relevant. Way ahead of the others. Your sample was way too narrow and partisan and parochial. Look beyond Montgomery and Delaware counties for the leadership that PA needs.

  8. I would like to comment on the Critz story as the headline says above Wrap-up and Rumor mostly the Rumor. Mr. Critz did not fumble through the apology it seemed to me that he was sincere. He took question at the end of his speech and did not walk out without completing his speech. I WAS THERE.

  9. McCord / Wagner – that is the ticket that will swamp Corbett. Balanced ticket that will hold their own even in rural north central PA. McCord will pull big votes in Philly and SE and Wagner will bring in Pittsburgh. Corbett has no areas that would go huge for him and Cawley isn’t going bring any votes. If ends up with Schwartz, she will win Philly big, but will likely have problems in other areas of the state making a close race. And we know Corbett’s campaign against her will be all about abortion.

  10. That’s interesting about Wagner considering a bid a Lt Gov. I actually joked with him that if he and McCord were on the ticket, neither would have to cross the center of the state for their campaigning. Jack, quick on his feet, joked back about which one of them would be at the top of that ticket. 🙂

    Forests of literature? So much for the environmental vote. I guess her campaign never heard the expression: “less is more”. They realized their vibe comes off as “more is less”. 🙂

    Pawlowski had a crowded party? How small was the suite, and how many there were his own staff?

    Hanger is an intelligent guy who seems to understand the issues. He probably could benefit from a speech coach to add more “pop” to his presentation. I hope the candidates command of the issues and solutions are the primary criteria used by voters to judge them.

    I actually did meet Critz as well last night. He was cordial/pleasant for our brief conversation. He seemed to feel that he could balance the ticket out in the West. Also, he looked like someone else, but I couldn’t think of the name at the time. Later, it came to me that he looks a bit like Bill Kristol.

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