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Maher Wins Central Caucus Straw Poll for Auditor

Irey Finishes Strong for Treasurer

By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor

Pinto sent one of these to every County Committee Chair

John Maher won the support of the GOP state committee’s central caucus members by a comfortable margin on Saturday. The final tally was 41 for Maher, 32 for former Pa. Community Bankers CEO Frank Pinto, and 24 for Chester County Treasurer Ann Duke.

In his speech to the caucus, Maher emphasized his resume. He co-wrote a book on government auditing in the 1990s and was a leader of GOP resistance to Ed Rendell’s budgets.

He also boasted of his central Pa. roots: he was born and raised in beautiful Carlisle, Cumberland County.

Auditor General is a low-profile office that that gains little media attention. It is difficult to imagine anyone running against the party’s endorsement, particularly in the GOP which has a strong record of endorsed candidates winning the nomination.

Incumbent Jack Wagner is term limited, so the office will be open.

Pinto, 68, was the surprise of the vote. Having made his candidacy official only shortly before the meeting, he scored points with a populist message that emphasized accountability. According to several committee members in the room, his presentation was strong and entertaining. Indeed, the Dauphin County resident handed prop, wide-rimmed glasses that he tied into his promise to be a fiscal watchdog. We’re not sure what thematic tie-in was with his personalized bobblehead dolls, which he handed out at his table (manufactured, a campaign aide quipped, before his hair turned grey).

Duke’s tally was a surprising letdown for the campaign, and puts the burden on her to perform in the bellwether straw polls this Saturday in northeast Pa. and the Lehigh Valley.

Meanwhile a spokesman for Joe Watkins, the MSNBC pundit who also heads up pro-vouchers group Students First, confirmed that Watkins has ruled out a bid for Auditor.

Treasurer

Diana Irey Vaughn won the straw poll despite not being present at Saturday’s meeting. She defeated Wyoming County optometrist Dr. Davis Haire 40 votes to 15.

Irey explained that her husband is serving in Afghanistan and Saturday was his last day stateside before redeployment, hence her absence.

She challenged Rep. Jack Murtha for Congress in 2006 and was just elected to her fifth term as Washington County Commissioner.

Before the vote Haire, who ran for Congress in Pa-10 briefly in 2008, said his experience leading a major health care provider qualified him to check the state’s numbers. His optometry firm serves over 10,000 patients, he said.

Several Republican committee members that PoliticsPA spoke to expect a hard slog in the Treasurer race, due to the strength (and personal wealth) of incumbent Rob McCord.

McCord is widely expected to run for Governor in 2014. One committee member suggested that fielding a strong challenger to him was worthwhile if for no other reason than to “bleed his war chest.”

At 117 members, the central region is the largest of the state committee’s caucuses and among the most diverse – stretching from Bedford County to Lancaster, and north to the New York border.

Saturday’s caucus meeting represents the first in a statewide series. Next weekend, the candidates will travel to northeast Pa. and the Lehigh Valley; then, southeast Pa.; after that, southwest and northwest Pa. and finally, the state committee endorsement meeting on January 28: southeast Pa.

One Response

  1. “Auditor General is an office which deals with math which makes reporters’ heads hurt and so they don’t cover it.” Of course, the problems facing the world, the country, the states and the localities all involve math, particularly Enron accounting math. America does not have a literacy problem, it has a numeracy problem. Case in point: the PA. Press Corps.

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