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GOP Establishment Keen on Pileggi Bid; Welch Vows to Stay in

By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor

Talking to Republican party leaders, it’s hard to tell that Pa. Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi floated his name for U.S. Senate for the first time just a few days ago.

Around the state, insiders are talking about a “game changer” in the crowded GOP primary to take on Senator Bob Casey. But a big assumption by Pileggi’s supporters – that Steve Welch, a Chester County entrepreneur and former congressional candidate, will get out if the Majority Leader gets in – may be too large a leap.

PA GOP Chairman Rob Gleason spoke well of Pileggi on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday morning.

“I welcome Senator Pileggi to the race. He’s a proven leader and a winner,” said Gleason, who had tried unsuccessfully for month to recruit a member of Pa.’s congressional delegation into the race. “Having Senator Pileggi in with a proven record of accomplishment would be a good thing.”

He added that he was pleased at the field in general, and thought any one of the candidates would defeat Sen. Bob Casey.

“I think that if he gets in, he will definitely be the favorite,” said Allegheny County Republican Chairman Jim Roddey. “I think I could almost predict that he would be the endorsed candidate.”

Roddey says he would support the Senator if he gets in.

Pileggi would enter the field as the candidate with the highest political rank, and the only one currently holding elected office. Supporters argue that his connections in Harrisburg – along with the built-in network of Senate GOP colleagues – would translate into a state committee endorsement.

“The candidacy of Sen. Pileggi offers the Republican Party in Pennsylvania a very positive option as a candidate for the U.S. Senate,” GOP powerhouse Bob Asher told the Associated Press.

A GOP source with intimate knowledge of the situation confirmed that Pileggi has retained the consulting firm of Long/Nyquist for his U.S. Senate bid, as well as fundraiser Christine Thomas Costello.

“The moment Senator Pileggi announces, he becomes the front runner,” said Mike Long, a long-time consultant for the Pa. Senate GOP. “The moment he announces he becomes the nominee. He is Bob Casey’s biggest nightmare.”

Pileggi is known for holding his cards close to the vest, so going public at all with the possibility of a bid is a sign of legitimate consideration. But will he actually get in? Several insiders PoliticsPA spoke to say they aren’t sure.

“Majority Leader of the Pa. Senate is one of the best jobs in politics. There are few in the state who play a bigger role than that,” said one GOP consultant based in Washington DC. Pileggi is up for re-election this year, and could not run for both offices simultaneously.

Furthermore any incumbent – let alone one in leadership – has plenty of votes for conservative challengers to criticize. Pileggi would take heat for his support of the 2005 midnight pay raise, as well as the contents of any budget he ever supported.

Perhaps he is waiting to see how clear a path he would have at the nomination, said several others.

Pileggi’s supporters universally make the same basic assumption about the field: if the Senator gets in, Steve Welch will get out. “The day he announces, Welch is done,” said one Republican, noting that the two would draw from the same geographic and fundraising base.

It wouldn’t be unprecedented. Welch put his 2010 congressional aspirations on hold twice when he withdrew from the race in Pa-7 to make room for Pat Meehan, and again in Pa-6 for Jim Gerlach.

But this time, Welch and his team say he won’t be forced out of the race.

“Steve Welch will be in this race until the day he defeats Bob Casey, and he will have the financial resources to get that done in both the primary and the general,” said campaign manager Peter Towey. “Steve got into this race because he believes that Washington is full of career politicians and is lacking people that have real world experience creating jobs.”

Welch is making his own bid for establishment support. His General Consultants, John Brabender and Brian Nutt, have worked for every Pa. Republican under the sun including Governor Tom Corbett. Towey was Pat Toomey’s political director in 2010. They recently brought on Carey Dunn and Amy Petraglia, two of western Pa.’s top GOP fundraisers.

And though he’s relatively new to this race, Welch has done consistently well in front of crowds of Republican grassroots and Tea Party activists. Perhaps most importantly, he has emerged as the default GOP candidate in the national press. Looking for local Republican reaction to Casey’s absences from President Obama’s Scranton visit this week, several news outlets ran quotes from Welch or his campaign staff.

If Welch gets out, the math becomes much easier for Pileggi. However, if it looks like he will stay in the race, the presence of a SEPA self-funder might dissuade the Majority Leader from pulling the trigger.

Nonetheless, if Pileggi gets in, Welch will have to rely laregly on his own organization and his own financial support.

It goes without saying that the other candidates in the race stand to gain from a SEPA showdown, namely: Tom Smith, a wealthy coal industry veteran and former Tea Party leader from Armstron County; Sam Rohrer, a former State Rep. and 2010 gubernatorial candidate from Berks County; and Tim Burns, a businessman and 2010 congressional hopeful from Washington County.

A spokesperson for Pileggi said the Senator will make his decision within the month.

21 Responses

  1. I don’t know what kind of weirdness occurs at your 12th Street Gym, but own up to the fact that you’re part of the Open Borders Movement because it’s good for your bottom line. Add as many illegals, who are willing to be paid under the table, the labor pool so there’s more money in your pocket. And if Philly workers get the shaft – so be it.

  2. There are certainly some union members–especially in the Southwest–who would consider Pileggi over Casey. Southwestern PA Democrats have been trending Republican, but Casey has always done quite well there. Why not make a genuine stab at stealing some union voters away from him in that part of the state? How else do you think we can win this race? Running a far out Tea Party person will not do anything other than allow Casey to win in 60-40 landslide.

  3. Keegan Gibson reports that AFL-CIO will spend $170K promoting Sen. Casey. Would you think that AFL-CIO would give any support to any Republican challenger no matter how much they pandered and humiliated themselves?

    As for hiring illegal aliens, how about underage children for the sex trade? As long as you are lying, you might as well go all out.

  4. Pileggi is the only Republican in the field as of now who could possibly beat Casey. I’m glad to hear that he’s meeting with the union folks as it is necessary to turn a certain number of union voters away from Casey if there is any chance of defeating him.

  5. Pileggi SPOKE to members of a trade union?!? How offensive! He must resign NOW. Of course a real estate developer like Buzzard hates labor unions; they prevent him from hiring illegals at bottom-dollar wages.

  6. Union money goes to Sen. Casey as it should. He has been 100% solid supporter of Unions all his political life.

    Steve Welch had a very compelling mockumentary which made the point that Casey and Obama were separated at birth.

  7. Senator Pileggi better relish his time where he is. He has been outed as a legislative black hole for real reform in Harrisburg. His position today is only due to his union cronies and backroom deals. The majority of the TEA parties understand this or will if the RCC is so intent with making it so. This decision is giving the Senate slot to Casey the Commie again. How pathetic. A trained seal should be able to beat this guy.

    This is not good for the Republican Party in Pennsylvania. When does the RCC start to not shooting itself in the head with bad selections and sneaky deals?

  8. I have a comment awaiting moderation that sources Sen. Pileggi’s Union support and his support for taxing Marcellus Shale, the number one job creator in Pennsylvania which is lowering cost of energy in Penna.

    Sen. Pileggi has not moved Voter ID as, I think, a favor to the unions in Phila.

  9. Senator Pileggi is bought an paid for by the unions. He has done nothing with his power in Harrisburg except pander to special interest groups. If the GOP endorses Pileggi, it will again prove that they have not principles. He is nothing but an Arlen Specter with an “R” by his name. This goes beyond the teaparty. Any common sense Pennsylvanian knows Pileggi is a corrupt, self-serving, arrogant politican. Is this the best the Republican Party can do for Pa? Let’s hope they think twice before making this mistake!

  10. Read Tea Party Lisa Esler’s expose of Sen.Pileggi’s less than Tea Party record.

    I would add that Sen. Pileggi has facilitated everyone of former Gov. Ed Rendell’s ever escalating budget spending and borrowing. Dominic Pileggi is “The Establishment’s Guy.”

    February 2, 2011 – Senator Pileggi spoke to members of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Executive Council about legislative priorities in the 2011-12 session during a meeting at the Harrisburg Hilton.

    How does Sen. Pileggi get a 100% from NFIB and 75% from AFL-CIO

    Pa. Sen. Dominic Pileggi wants a Marcellus Shale gas extraction tax with funds going to property tax freeze for seniors PennLive June 3, 2011

  11. If the recent “separated at birth” sendup by B/C is any indication, the consultants are trying to front load this campaign and get their money now, well in advance of when it would make any logical sense for their wealthy client to spend that money. Are thet afraid of him being forced out? You bet….

  12. Seems everyone is only looking at a Primary election and forgetting about November. Who will the democrats vote for?

    Peliggi has baggage, Smith has baggage, Rohrer has baggage, Welch has baggage, Burns has baggage, Scaringi has baggage, all which the democrats will use against them in October.

    Most don’t know but Toomey was 8 pts. ahead in September. By election day he was barely 1 Pt. ahead. If the election had been a week later we would have Senator Sestak. What issue responsible for his crash – his position on outsourcing.

    All these candidates have the same message – limited government, stop spending, repeal Obamacare, pro-life, pro-2nd amendment. The only candidate to win in November will have to have something different to offer. Something that stands out above the crowd and no political baggage.

  13. Mr. GOP how does Peliggi plan to get democrats to vote for him?

    Welch always had too much political baggage because he was a republican, then a democrat to help Obama and Sestak, now he is back in the fold????

  14. Go for it, Tea Party guys. Continue marching towards oblivion. Pileggi would be a good nominee and could beat Casey. Then again, such things are irrelevant to you. You’d rather prove an ideological point by running someone who will talk about birth certificates, flying saucers, Karl Marx, Sharia Law, and other random craziness. Casey would win with 67% of the vote, but then again, it wouldn’t matter because you blocked the electable guy from winning the primary. Good luck. Beam me up!

  15. The Tea Party will do everything in it’s power to see Pileggi defeated. Clear enough for you?

  16. Welch can’t survive with Pillegi in. Welch is the moderate, establishment candidate and he needs the hacks to be for him. If the hacks are for Pillegi he is done. Welch drop out watch begins…

  17. There’s no way Welch is going to drop out. He bent over backwards to accommodate the GOP in 2010 when he was running for Congress, changing the district that he was running in to give Pat Meehan a clear path to the Republican nomination in the 7th District. This time there’s no alternative office for him to run for. No way he drops out unless the polling/voters tell him to…

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