McGinty, Zappala Put Up Strong Showing, But Fall Short of Endorsement

Dem Committee WolfIt’s quite a period of turmoil for the PA Democratic Party.

They hold the Governorship, but are vastly behind in the legislature. They have another popular statewide elected official in the Auditor General, yet also must deal with the never ending scandals of the embattled Attorney General and disgraced ex-State Treasurer.

It was in that context that the state committee met his weekend to decide which candidates to endorse in this April’s primary.

Incumbent Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and sole Democratic State Treasurer hopeful Joe Torsella were unanimously praised.

Governor Tom Wolf was also enthusiastically received although his address was full of familiar lines about the budget stalemate.

The question on everyone’s minds, however, was whether there would be endorsement votes in the contested primaries for Senate and Attorney General.

New Chairman Marcel Groen made clear that he wanted the party to remain non-committal while former Chairman Jim Burn spoke passionately for an open vote.

It was an intriguing contrast, Groen up at the podium for the first time unable to corral the party on this question. Meanwhile, Burn patrolled the back of the crowd (right in front of the media area) and got a standing ovation when he took the mic.

After it became clear that enough participants wanted a vote, the three Democratic Senate candidates in attendance each got one final chance to pitch themselves to the assembled.

Those pleas likely didn’t make a huge difference, though, as the assembly was already starting to vote.

334 members and proxies were in attendance and a two-thirds majority of 223 was needed to secure an endorsement.

On the first ballot, McGinty received 163 thanks to a plurality among the Allegheny delegation and a huge advantage in Philly. Sestak finished second with 137, taking support from the other areas of the state. Fetterman came in a distant third with 34 votes and one member abstained.

Fetterman and Sestak shake hands as the ex-Congressman exits the stage and the Mayor prepares to take the mic

Per party rules, Fetterman’s name was dropped and the party proceeded to vote again in a straight McGinty vs. Sestak matchup on the second ballot.

McGinty came out ahead 173 to 149 with one abstention. Interestingly, most of Fetterman’s support seemed to go to Sestak except in the Southeast. Nonetheless, neither candidate came close to the endorsement.

The AG race, however, was a different case. The Zappala people were the main drivers for a vote and it appeared that they felt their forces might just have the two-thirds majority.

Stephen Zappala and Josh Shapiro both spoke to the committee (John Morganelli wasn’t there and asked beforehand that his name not be placed in nomination) as ballots were passed around and filled out.

Zappala swept Allegheny and did surprisingly well among the Philly delegation yet Shapiro carried a strong majority in the Southeast.

The Allegheny County DA came up just short of the 223 threshold, ultimately earning 208 votes. Shapiro finished with 121 while there were two abstentions.

While neither candidate got the endorsement, it’s clear McGinty and Zappala are the choices of the party faithful. It’s still very much unclear, though, whether that will matter on April 26th.

29 Responses

  1. Two hours spent on the endorsement episode was not a burden especially since Dems were following their own bylaws. It they want to skip the endorsement exercise then change the bylaws. Point by Chairman Groen that endorsements are not binding on county committees lends support for reconsideration of the purpose of the process. The open primary will give Dems a better chance to be unified against a GOP whose brand has been damaged.

  2. David – what are these amazing resources of which you speak??? – “Zappala getting the endorsement, which would have entitled Zappala access to state party resources that Josh wouldn’t have.”

  3. After two years serving on this committee I have come to realize a number of things. Most of us are sick of political bosses, power politics, strong arm tactics, and back room deals. We are Democrats after all. There are too many back room deals. There are too many big egos on our state committee. Let’s all check our egos at the door. Jim Burns is the most transparently self-serving egomaniac I have ever encountered. He has played our small counties and rural areas and had held the entire committee hostage to his own personal ambitions. Endorsements don’t work and don’t mean squat. They usually break down along regional lines, serve to divide us and rarely lead to an election win. Less than half of the candidates endorsed have gone on to win their contested primaries. With a track record like that I would prefer to NOT get an endorsement were I a candidate. If there was ever a time in our nation’s history for people of good will to unite for the common good, it is now. This is not a time for petty spats among people who largely share a common set of ideals.

  4. Observant-

    Sestak is a popular as a toothache. Once the ad wars start, McGinty should pull ahead.

  5. Phillyforbernie…the S.E. Caucus vote is Marcel’s base vote and also Shapiro. They are both aligned with McGinty because of Wolf. The Delco and Chesco members were overwhelming for Sestak…Joe Sestak wins in April. McGinty goes back to the Frackers.

  6. Rollo thomassey-

    It was. Everyone got to vote, instead of Marcel having the only vote.

  7. Rollo thomassey- I bet you’re the dope with the “Groen” button still on your shirt.
    What a maroon.

  8. Senator Rutherford B. Cattywampus-

    From my vantage point at the back of the room, it appeared to met that at least 3/4th of the membership was standing. If you are who I think you are, you would have been with the people not standing, and thus not be able to see over the heads of everybody to tell what the count was like.

    From Marcel’s elevated standpoint it was so obvious that he immediately acknowledged his motion was defeated.

    Much of the “2+ hours later than otherwise” was due to Wolf speaking and other extraneous stuff. It was a full hour before the voting was ready to begin and Marcel tried to short-circuit it.
    As soon as the endorsement issue was settled, about 20% got up and headed to the bathrooms.

    Also, Marcel front loaded the votes (and speeches) for Treasurer and Auditor General. If Marcel had done the AG vote FIRST, then the Senate, most of the members would have left, than stay for a vote that was a slam dunk. (though, would there have been 2/3rds left to vote?)
    Also, if he had scheduled Wolf to speak AFTER the votes, the members could have left or stayed.

    Montco PA Dem-
    No. Marcel is terrible at math because he thought he could get away with suspending the rules, when he had NO SHOT. But, he did know that Josh wasn’t going to be endorsed, so he had to try something.

    The Zappala folks were VERY confident they had the 2/3rds (and it was pretty close).

    What went wrong, you ask?
    I can only speculate since they didn’t share their count details with me, but here are the most likely reasons:

    1) There were a few more total members present, raising the denominator for the 2/3rds, and the additional members didn’t come with enough Zappala votes.

    2) Some people lied to them about how they were going to vote to make them over confident and sabotage their count.

    3) The vote was the last vote and some people left early.

    4) Josh gave a strong speech, and may have swayed a few to his side.

    But, let me be clear, the Zappala team really thought they had it, and Marcel was at least very nervous about his boy Josh being spanked by a Zappala endorsement. (Josh was still pretty spanked by the overwhelming vote, particularly out of Philly delegation.)

    Mary Beth-

    You say: “89% of the committee had no clue who Z is”. Well, 63% of them voted for him, and only 37% picked Josh.
    So, it could be that most of them did know who Josh was and thought he wasn’t qualified for the job, due to his lack of court-related experience.

    1) Jim had a “proxy” badge on, so he had as much right to vote as all the Marcel/Josh proxy voters that were dragged there from Montco.

    2) Considering the way Jim was forced out, he deserves a vote at every meeting that covers what should have been his complete 4-year second term.

    3) This was the first State committee meeting that Wolf attended since he won the May 2014 Primary. He boycotted the meetings since then because the committee rejected his choice of McGinty as chair.

    Mob alive and well-

    I didn’t see any goons. However, Zappala had a nice wine/cheese/snacks event before the dinner on Friday night.


    Once the first vote occurred, the second was a matter of procedure to follow through. If Sestak got up and withdrew, McGinty wouldn’t. LOL. And, even if he thought McGinty would go along, he would be essentially “surrendering” and the “Admiral” prefers to go down with his ship.

    And McGinty wouldn’t offer to withdraw, because she got the majority and “bragging rights”.

    So, there was no incentive for anyone to do as you suggested.

    I disagree. The pre-count was too close to call and Marcel knew Josh wasn’t getting endorsed either way. He didn’t want to take the chance of Zappala getting the endorsement, which would have entitled Zappala access to state party resources that Josh wouldn’t have.

    Not Ready-
    You started your post with my three favorite words. LOL

    Rollo thomassey-
    Roberts Rules of Order and state committee rule prohibit secret ballots except in extreme circumstances.
    How does ex-Chairman Burn “scare” up votes when Marcel has his iron-fist on the gavel?

    McGinty’s revolving door to $$$-

    Fetterman has better claim to the title of the NOT ESTABLISHMENT candidate. Sestak would have loved to get that endorsement and would have pretended the committee had “seen the light” and “corrected” their previous endorsement of Specter (which I’m pretty sure that Marcel pushed for an endorsement vote at that meeting).

    For all Sestak’s claims that the party rejected him after he won the 2010 primary, he’s simply lying. Sestak refused to work with the party, and refused to pay worked provided by the party minimum wage.

    And, BTW, cheapskate Sestak didn’t chip in to subsidize the State committee dinner Friday night, though Fetterman and McGinty did. Given the money Sestak raised, compared to Fetterman, it’s clear that the “bigger man” is a two-fold honor for Fetterman.

    At least, Sestak didn’t attend the event. He never socializes. He didn’t have staff there. Someone said he won’t cover more than $50 per diem for staff at events. Sestak had his suit & tie on Friday evening for the candidate forum and disappeared before the dinner. He reappeared in his flight-jacket prop/costume Saturday morning. We were inside. Joe was the only person in the room wearing a coat.

    We’ll see how the advertising goes reaching the voters. I don’t know how presidential primary turnout will affect the race if Bernie is still in it (though, Fetterman has clearly endorsed Bernie).


    Sestak’s march across the state has earned him little more than ridicule for the goofy stunt it was.

  9. Thanks H.D.E. You really have Zappala fingered out…at least the dummy part.

  10. Observant

    If you’ve ever paid attention to State Committee you would know the “establishment” far from controls it. Sestak’s March across Pennsylvania could have very well earned him the endorsement or at the very least the majority of the votes.

    To me the biggest surprise was the Southeast caucus (Delaware Bucks Montgomery Lancaster Berks and Chester) I thought Sestak would have a wide margin but he only had 2 more votes that McGinty

  11. Pretty week showing by McGinty. Barely beats Sestak despite having all party establishment behind her. But for Brady holding a grudge against Sestak and his cajoling Allegheny to back his play, Sestak wins endorsement easy. She gets smoked in Primary. ..and of she wins Primary, Toomey roasts her in November. She is a weak candidate and not very impressive.

  12. If Groen thought McGinty could have been endorsed, he’d been all for it. He knew she had no chance—even with Philly giving her 50 votes to 4 for Sestak. In spite of the Philly fix, Sestak did great. In fact, does an endorsement actually hurt candidates? I’m glad Sestak didn’t get it—he can freely run as the NOT ESTABLISHMENT candidate. An endorsement would have looked funny to the public at large. I believe more of Fetterman’s 36 votes went to Sestak, not McGinty, in the second round of voting. PCN TV did a nice job covering this.

  13. You can ‘fear the Z’ but you don’t have to vote for him. That’s why God and Thomas Jefferson gave us a secret ballot. When that little Z-man Jim Burn can scare up a vote for anybody, it’s time for state committee members to start voting from under their beds.

  14. Diano is right. Groen didn’t want a vote because he knew Shapiro would not win the endorsement. If you can’t win the endorsement, force an open primary.

  15. On the comment about Senate candidates not withdrawing their names–they were under the impression that the determination had been made by the vote to proceed with a nomination vote, so saying they should have seen through all that and they wasted our time isn’t the case–they got the idea we wanted to vote.
    As to the article saying that “It’s clear that McGinty and Zapalla are choices of the party faithful,” I’d say what’s clear is that those who drafted McGinty did a good job in making sure the party representatives in Philadelphia & Pittsburgh voted for her. Note that McGinty got polite applause at best, way down the applause meter from Sestak’s applause, both befor eand after.
    As to comment about shaking hands, Joe did after. He didn’t make rounds of the room out of deference to voting process.
    What would have been better is if the candidates had time to do a town hall and respond to questions.

  16. Party chairman Marcel Groen urged an “open primary” with no endorsed candidate.
    Because Groen could count!!!!
    Groen was right!
    He knew that No one had enough votes.
    To bad Zappala and Burn can’t count. Over played your hand. Came out looking like fools.
    Every candidate Except Zappala agreed to leave it open. Maybe they don’t teach math in the Burn/Zappala law school.

  17. Burn and Lund both quit Why where they even there? Why did they speak? They are sour grapes trouble makers

  18. In the case of the US Senate vote, it was clear that neither McGinty or Sestak were anywhere close to the 67% threshold after the first round. Even if all of the 34 Fetterman supporters would have went to McGinty, she still would have only been at 197 and I don’t believe anyone thought that 36 of Sestak’s supporters were going to flip to McGinty. The best thing that these two could have done was to have walked to the podium, shaken hands and jointly withdrew their nominations. CANDIDATES – Next time think about the committee members and their valuable time.

  19. Attorney General prosecute major crimes, including drug rings, organized crime, child predators and public corruption; handle conflict-of-interest.
    Now we know why the Goons were all there. Their shot at protecting their interest. Check out Zappala and his record and relatives that are funding his race. Disgrace for Pennsylvania

  20. Why was Burn even there? He is not a member of state committee? His hate for the party and Governor is over the top… Burn get help. You need to get help.

  21. Bunch of Political goons ran around state committee strong arming Members to support a person that he had never met. “Z” as he likes to be called was a political payback for his father supporting Philly Goon Doc for a political ad last year.
    State Committee members were played for fools. 89% of the committee had no clue who Z is or they would have never supported him. His money all comes from Cash for kids. Or the death of Black kids in his county.

  22. Echoing the Senator, could it be that Marcel is just pretty good at doing the math and was trying save everyone from a few hours of fruitless effort?

  23. But the real point is that the Dems ended up with an open primary, as Marcel asked for. It just took place 2+ hours later than otherwise, after everyone got an opportunity to demonstrate that there weren’t enough votes to endorse in an exercise in avoidable and unnecessary futility.

  24. The vote on having an endorsement vote was not 75-80%. Not even close. The South central, southeast and North West caucuses, voted for an open primary, as well as scattered votes elsewhere.

  25. The attempt to prevent an endorsement vote required a vote to “suspending the rules”. Jim Burn’s call to object to the motion was voted on by people standing in opposition (literally standing). By my eye, it looked as though Jim had 75% to 80% on his side. That was a serious rebuke to the new chair, who needed 2/3 on his side to suspend the rules.

    The attempt to prevent a vote was widely seen as the chair trying to save Josh from losing the endorsement to Zappala. (Note, Jim Burn is a Zappala supporter, but isn’t controlling the gavel).

    My view of party leadership is to express your preference, but trust the membership to express their preference after hearing both sides of the argument. A good leader can convince the members to follow him, or lead them to achieve their collective will when they request a different course.

    A leader afraid of his members voting isn’t going to thrive in the role.

  26. Fetterman’s votes were almost equally divided between McGinty and Sestak on the second ballot.

Comments are closed.

  • Reader Poll: Have You Requested a Mail-In Ballot?

    • Yes. I enjoy mail-in voting. (50%)
    • No. I am going to the poll. (50%)

    Total Voters: 121

    Loading ... Loading ...
Continue to Browser


To install tap and choose
Add to Home Screen