DSC Roundup: The Campaign for Chair
Democratic State Committee officials have the chance to install a new leader for a four-year term today.
But there is also a possibility they could punt, delaying a decision until after the election.
Four candidates are in the running: Sheri Morgan of Franklin County, Chuck Pascal of Armstrong County, Jacque Whaumbush of Philadelphia and current Vice Chair Nancy Mills of Allegheny County.
Mills is running on an unofficial ticket with vice chair candidate, state Sen. Sharif Street of Philadelphia, and treasurer candidate Alex Reber of Dauphin County.
Mills has long been considered the party leaders’ choice.
She has promised to be an independent chairwoman if elected, but some within the party feel her ties to the governor are a weakness and could give the state’s No. 1 Democrat too much power.
Interim Chairman Jack Hanna is moving out of state and had agreed to take the leadership position only on a temporary basis after the resignation of former chair Marcel Groen.
Groen was ousted by Wolf for inadequate handling of sexual harassment allegations against other top state Dems. Groen’s predecessor, Jim Burn, made waves after he refused to step aside for Wolf’s first pick, Katie McGinty.
Democrats said they want to move beyond these issues, but some expressed concern that hard feelings over Saturday’s vote could derail down-ballot campaigns, especially at a time when Democrats look to capitalize on building momentum heading into the fall.
“And some are just upset they’re being told what to do” by Wolf, one member said.
While there are whispers of a resolution asking for a delayed vote, some see the upside: Postponing a vote for a new chairperson would make Mills the interim chairwoman without giving her a four-year term. This would keep the governor happy and would give the committee a chance to make their selection for a permanent chair after election season ends and the committee meets in winter.
Some said this option might be appealing, especially considering a large portion of the state party’s membership is new — one attendee estimated as high as 35 to 40 percent — and those members do not know much about any of the people running to lead them.
While some see the benefit of this plan, the four candidates drew a large and enthusiastic crowd to their forum Friday evening.
Some of those in attendance said they were aware of the possibility of a delayed vote, but there were also those who want to focus on the big picture for November and urged members to get beyond past personal disputes.
Sen. Street, for his part, said he believes the Pa. Dems will move forward.
“They’re more concerned that if we don’t come together, if we don’t get our act together, we’re going to miss an opportunity,” he said. “We could have a little Trump sitting in the governor’s mansion.”
Some committee members agreed the governor has not “played politics” well as the state’s top Democrat, and has tried to exert too much control.
But there is also overwhelming support for his performance as governor.
Some said they believe this weekend is a chance for a collective airing of grievances before they come together to support a new chairperson, and that will help the party as a whole moving into November.