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PAGOP Endorses Welch

By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor

Hershey – Tom Corbett asked, and he received.

The Pennsylvania Republican Party endorsed Steve Welch for U.S. Senate in its first ballot Saturday. The victory followed several heated days of vote whipping by the Corbett and his political team.

“It’s an incredible honor for to stand before you as the Republican Party endorsed candidate for the United States Senate,” Welch said. “I can promise you that I will make you proud of the decision you made here today.”

As he has done for much of the campaign, Welch hammered U.S. Senator Bob Casey, the man he hopes to replace.

“I won’t ever let him get away with telling Pennsylvanians he’s an independent voice.  Bob Casey is nothing more than a rubber stamp for Barack Obama and Harry Reid’s big government, job killing liberal agenda,” Welch said.

The Chester County entrepreneur scored a surprisingly quick win after intense rumors of a move for an open primary. The question whether to endorse in the Senate primary won approval 201 to 140.

The final vote tally for the endorsement (169 votes were required) was:
Steve Welch: 182
Tom Smith: 51
Tim Burns: 46
Sam Rohrer: 33
Marc Scaringi: 6

In the end, aside from a handful of defections in Montgomery County, almost all of the southeast Pa. caucus fell in line behind Welch.

Burns, a businessman from Washington County, had the most disappointing day of any candidate. His final total at state committee was lower even than the total of straw poll votes he received at various regional caucuses in January. Much of his support from southwestern Pa. migrated to Welch, at least in part thanks to the Governor’s lobbying efforts.

Burns and his campaign left quickly after the results; he has previously said it would be “very hard to run against an endorsement.” A spokesperson said Burns was in the race for now, and that a statement would be coming shortly.

Rohrer, a former state Rep. and 2010 gubernatorial candidate from Berks County, actively campaigned against holding an endorsement and will continue in the race.

Next step

In his remarks, Welch preempted what is likely to be a central theme of the primary going forward: his 2006 party switch and 2008 vote for Barack Obama in the Democratic primary (he voted for McCain in the general election).

“From the very first day I launched my candidacy, I’ve been completely open with the voters and with the people in this room about my own partisan history,” he said.

“But when I took one look at the extreme agenda coming from Obama, Casey, Reid, and Pelosi, I came back to the Republican Party with a vengeance.  But I didn’t just commit to being a Republican.  Partisanship is not what matters most to me.  I dedicated myself to making sure our party never again strayed from our principles.”

Indeed immediately after the meeting adjourned, Smith consultant Mark Harris went on the offensive.

“This race is now clearly now a race between an Obama-Sestak liberal, and a consistent, lifelong conservative,” Harris said.

“…a consistent, lifelong Democrat,” quipped Brian Nutt, Tom Corbett’s 2010 campaign manager who is a consultant for Welch. He was a member of the Governor’s political team whipping votes late into Friday night.

“That’s fine, we can have that argument,” Harris replied. “The gloves are off now.”

Welch’s campaign manager Peter Towey echoed Nutt’s criticism that Smith, too, has a long history in the Democratic party. Smith was a registered Democrat until 2011, and briefly served as a Dem county committeeman (he was kicked off for supporting Republicans).

“This is a clear contrast between one candidate who has been a lifelong Democrat and would rather not talk about it; was a Democrat elected official in 2010, and another candidate who has been very open and upfront about his political past, and how he got to this point of getting involved.”

Smith, meanwhile, celebrated his second place finish.

“I’m happy we did as well as we did. We’ve only been at this for three and a half months in earnest. To come in second place – I think that’s terrific. We’ll build on that and we’ll go from there,” he said.

“It’s their process. I’m just a candidate and I’m just gonna run my campaign.”

Welch was equally direct in his gratitude for Corbett.

“Governor Corbett will not get an ‘I love you,’” Welch said after thanking his family, “but he certainly will get a ‘thank you.’ His support has been incredibly important in this process.”

Earlier in the process, Welch said he would respect the process “if it is organic.” Asked about criticism that the Governor’s strong lobbying efforts were inorganic, Welch deferred.

“This had everything to do with people supporting the candidate they want. I think that’s a great process,” he said. “We are fortunate; certainly the Governor’s endorsement is a big help because people respect the Governor.”

Corbett’s take

Nutt and Corbett speak in advance of a vote Saturday

Corbett, who endorsed Welch a few weeks ago and personally lobbied state committee members on his behalf Friday night, implored the party to make an endorsement.

“I strongly believe in the endorsement process, and I urge you to support candidates today,” he said to state committee.

“I wouldn’t be here without the endorsement process. Jim [Cawley] wouldn’t be here,” he told an earlier caucus meeting.

He rebutted critics who said the party was seeking to run the process from the top down. An array of Tea Party groups who held an anti-endorsement counter press conference across the hotel, and they congregated in the back of the room to loudly cheer for committee members who spoke against endorsing.

“It is an open primary. Anyone can sign up.”

As to why he backed Welch, Corbett repeated cited geography.

“They’re qualified,” Corbett said of his ticket. “There are a lot of qualified candidates. The differences is, who can win in November.

He said he wants a ticket that could be supported by Democrats, independents, and “liberal or moderate Republicans, when they vote for President Obama – although I don’t think they’re going to.”


David Christian, a veterans’ advocate from Bucks County, and John Kensinger, a pharmacist from Bedford, were not nominated on the floor. Each has said he will remain in the race.

Scaringi, too, has said he will remain in the race – though his consultant Jason Fitzgerald is leaving the campaign and will support Welch.

Cumberland County District Attorney Dave Freed was unanimously endorsed for Attorney General; likewise Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughn for Treasurer.

State Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny) easily won endorsement over former Pa. Community Bankers CEO Frank Pinto, 270 votes to 46. Pinto said he would stay in the race, and even said he would refuse the endorsement if it were offered him.

26 Responses

  1. To the State Committee, as usual, you people are so dim that you can’t see the forest for the trees.
    What part of the primary process do you not get?
    We want to elect who we want to represent us, not let a bunch of self-serving individuals that think they know better than the people, endorsing their idea of a Candidate.
    You are the reasons why the TEA Parties are going to continue to grow and eventually take over the GOP or start another Republican Party.

  2. State endorsements don’t guarantee the nomination. At the beginning of 2010 Arlen Specter was ahead of Joe Sestak by a margin of 53-30. There is still time in this race for a lot of changes.

  3. Kitchen Table Patriots Anastasia Pryzbylski and Ana Puig are outstanding advocates for Constitutional Limited Government.

    An affiliation with FreedomWorks is hardly an indictment. In fact, an affiliation with FreedomWorks demonstrates both competence and commitment.

    This thread is about Establishment endorsements, not other activists. How does attacking KTP advance the cause?

  4. First of all, KTP was on MSNBC and, secondly, the entity established a precedent two years ago [coadopted by Mike Fitzpatrick] of supporting open-primaries.

    Thus, they aren’t hypocrites and one must question the motives of the above letter-writer…who undoubtedly knew this information.

  5. Having the Kitchen Table Patriots call for an open primary was wholly disingenuous. How can KTP fight for an open primary in the US Senate race – when both of the co-chairs (Anna and Anastasia) are going to the Bucks County GOP screening meetings to try and get the party endorsement for State Delegate so their names could be on the Bucks GOP Sample Ballot on primary day? Can you say hypocrite? If they do get the endorsement, you know there was a backdoor deal and they should both quit the KTP and officially join the Bucks GOP – at least then they would be honest about what they are about.

    Want to see what a credible conservative group does? Take a look at the NEPA Tea Party group – they are going to respond to this garbage endorsement of Welch by actually getting behind one of the non-Establishment candidates and trying to help him beat Welch at the primary. Will you see KTP do this? Of course not. With Anna and Anastasia both being paid lobbyists (good job on School Choice) and with Anna having been appointed to an Education board by Corbett, you know that they are not going to support a non-Establishment candidate at the primary because it would interfere with their paid lobbying business. And don’t give me, you have to respect the process or we need to win over hearts. That’s garbage and sounds like Romney rationalizing how Romney-care is different from Obama-care, or Santorum explaining why he did not support Right to Work legislation as a US Senator … hint, there is no good explanation. Only in PA will the tea party groups be as screwed up as the state GOP party. Lobbyists masquerading as tea party leaders – good grief.

    Hey KTP, man-up (or woman-up) and get behind Rohrer, Smith, Burns, or whoever. Do something other than host a silly forum or protest, or get on Fox News. Help a non-Establishment candidate get elected. That’s how the necessary change will happen. Sad to see conservatives sell out the second Chuck McIlhinney or Pat Poprik throw them a small bone that the Establishment does not want anymore.

  6. TOM SMITH was a Democrat, a Union Coal Miner, who became a Coal Miner Owner, with the old fashioned values of work, save and invest.
    TOM SMITH is the classic Reagan Democrat who saw the light, like Ronald Reagan, and registered Republican to run as a Republican. Like STEVE WELCH, TOM SMITH’s political contributions tell us who he is.

    TOM SMITH is Reaganesque and can defeat Obama Democrat Sen. Bob “98%” Casey.

    TOM SMITH is near impervious to the Marxist Alinsky’s Class Warfare campaign that Democrats will use in 2012.

  7. The idiots in the Republican State Committee may have just handed the seat back to Bob Casey for 6 more years. The average Republican voter WILL NOT rally behind a guy who voted for Obama and held fundraisers for Joe Sestak. Not like Tim Burns would be any better; he’s already proven twice that he can’t win an election no matter how much he cheats.

    The best choice by far is Marc Scaringi. He’s never been a Democrat, he’s never voted for a midnight payraise, and he isn’t beholden to the RINO establishment. It’s not too late to surrender our US Senate seat back to the Democrats!

  8. Tim Burns say he is planning to stay in the primary but given his chances against TOM SMITH and STEVE WELCH and their willingness to fund in the millions, one has to think he may not conclude that the cost is worth the benefit.

    Tim Burns’ inept Senate Establishment consultant Ray Zabourney (contesting for the Charlie “GID” Gerow trophy for overpaid and under-performing phony ) is has convinced Tim Burns he has a chances and is likely that like GID’s clients, TIM BURNS will spend a fortune on political consultants adept at taking money from a rich man who wants to run for public office.

    One might, cynically, think that Ray Zabourney’s role, as an agent of the Republican Leadership, is to convince, from the southwest, to stay in to pull votes from the consistent conservative TOM SMITH INDEPENDENT OF LEADERSHIP. With the principled, but ineffective, SAM ROHRER staying in the anti-Leadership vote is divided.

    The Establishment is not the Establishment because it does not know how to manipulate and maneuver an ill-informed electorate, even grassroots Principled Tea Party electorate which is more focused on ideas and theories than on practical real world tactics. Ideas are good; they are not enough to win an election. Money and Organization are needed. I hope the Tea Party Patriots figure this out before they get shellacked again.

  9. In my view, SAM ROHRER, a good man with real family values, will not be able to put together an organization nor raise the money to compete with Sen. Bob “98%” Casey.

    SAM ROHRER has some vulnerabilities that don’t poll well, particularly with the fiscal conservatives of either party: Sam Rohrer voted for 2001 Pension Increase which has led to the present pension funding multi-billion dollar deficit. Sam Rohrer has taken what many think is the unconstitutional defined benefit plan and is receiving that pension now.

    SAM ROHRER voted for the 2005 Pay Jacking. Sam Rohrer did not have one piece of legislation passed in ten years. Sam Rohrer never spoke out against the leadership of the now convicted felon John Perzel which allowed the Republicans to steal $20,000,000 from the very taxpayers that Sam Rohrer says he wants to protect. See Penna. Attorney General indictment November 2009 page 1 paragraph 3

    In fact, SAM ROHRER serially voted in each session of the House for John Perzel as Majority Leader or Speaker. Personnel is policy and the policy we got was more and more government and more and more corruption. Everyone in the House who served under John Perzel as Majority Leader or Speaker has to be considered compromised by corruption. SAM ROHRER has a most disturbingly disappointing record in this regard.

  10. STEVE WELCH is entwined with the Establishment as his campaign contributions demonstrated. If further evidence that STEVE WELCH is entwined with the Establishment, his choice of BrabenderCox/Brian Nutt, with its very, very close ties to Corbett Administration. Tom Corbett endorsed every one of BrabenderCox/Brian Nutt’s clients, which were rubber stamped by Republican State Committee. Governor Corbett also arranged to have BrabenderCox/Brian Nutt’s dad, Roger E. Nutt, hired as the well paid CEO of the multi-billion dollar government monopoly Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. BrabenderCox/Brian Nutt, political insiders, getting rich from government.
    STEVE WELCH proves himself to be a Team Player, Team Republican Establishment, as his campaign contributions demonstrate; everyone to a party endorsed candidate. $10K to Corbett for Governor and $2,500 to Lancaster Republican Party and $1,000 to Lehigh County Rep. Committee and $3,000 to ChesCo Republican Committee.

    TOM SMITH is INDEPENDENT OF PARTY LEADERSHIP and because he can self fund by committing a significant portion of his personal fortune, he can run a credible and effective primary. His consultants are independent of the party apparatus.

  11. Now the state committee has had it’s say.

    In Pennsylvania, quite to the chagrin of the power brokers who would like us to cower to their coronations, we still have a primary election.

    The state committee and the governor do not elect the candidates, THE PEOPLE do. So instead of wasting valuable time in lamenting, let us now recharge our batteries and realize the work that lies ahead.

    In 2010, Lt. Gov. Cawley eeked out a win in a crowded field in the Lt. Governors race. He was beaten in several counties by grass roots people energizing the base to both support the candidate that represented their values and send a clear message of rejection of the endorsement process. Many were shocked at how many voters rejected the state party and voted for whom they wished to represent them.

    So now, let’s have a primary..

    Clarification on an earlier remark about the three principled men in the race. The three men noted were those that have proven their track record of dedication to the constitution, freedom and the rule of law vs. party politics and participated in the majority of the debates and forums statewide.

    There is JNO angst or personal disparagement against the candidates who chose to step out of their comfort zone and run for office.. We respect and thank each of these men for stepping forward .

    Primary on!

  12. I’m not sure that the conservative republicans will vote in droves for this guy. Quite frankly,I think Casey will get alot of GOP votes. ESP. W someone like this.

  13. Man I know it’s early and anything can happen. A comment from the outside…. The republicans openly endorsing welch who left the party and supported Obama over McCain (a historically moderate republican) tells me this guy shifts which way the wind blows. I don’t think the base will accept this guy.

    It will be a trounce in the general. Looks like Irey is your best statewide candidate out of the field.

  14. It looks like the whole weekend was a joke. They can’t get their act together like the redistricting maps thats in court how thats another joke. I wonder what the voting public thinks now.

  15. Diana Irey:


    You must be at least this tall to run for statewide office.

  16. There are three very principled men in this race. In alphabetical order: Sam Rohrer, Marc Scaringi and Tom Smith.

    Sam Rohrer’s vote on pensions and pay raises he has given open explanations on and said they were a mistake. 18 years of a solid legislative history. Marc Scaringi is a man of principle and has been in DC, in the very office that Casey now occupies. Tom Smith has donated to republicans for years. In fact, I believe Tom intentionally didn’t change parties when he was in Tea Party Leadership to counter the idea that tea parties were merely fronts for the GOP.

    Jim Cawley got knocked off in more than 10 counties and barely won the primary. This took many people by surprise. In fact, we were instrumental in two of the counties promoting another candidate. In our neighboring county another non-endorsed candidate won.

    During the primary, party leadership won’t have the luxury of pressuring the weak-kneed to vote in a “card check” fashion. The booth is off limits.

    Everyone who disdains the endorsement process should vote for a non-endorsed candidate in the Senatorial and Auditor Generals race. Otherwise, it will be business as usual.

  17. Scaringi refused to accept a deal from the Gov. I wonder how much Welch will pay Fitzgerald for his last minute change of heart?

  18. @Sean: so the pay raise is bad and voting for Joe Sestack is ok? Spare me. Rohrer is a true conservative. He deserves a good look and an open Primary would have allowed that. As a committee man I will not hand out PA GOP ballots. And I’m not the only one.

  19. Sam Rohrer is a fraud. He supported and voted for the midnight pay raise. The morons who support him should try vetting their candidate.

  20. Well said Navy Steve, I can’t wait to vote against this “disgrace” in 2014.
    Recall Corbett!!

  21. Well now we know, everyone is good at something. Tom Corbett can’t get free enterprise to be the rule in PA liquor sales; he can’t get any type of significant reform to state pensions (unlike many states, even ones run by Democrats) and this will ultimately drown the taxpayers; he can’t try to stop voter fraud (and basically did nothing about it as Attorney General) and this cheapens real votes; he can’t give our children a choice for schools; and I could go on and on. But like I said, everyone is good at something. He is good at getting spineless people who believe in nothing to support someone who seems to be a Democrat (and a liberal one at that) for Republican candidate for senate. Congratulations Tom Corbett!

    This shouldn’t be a Tea Party-or-not issue, it should be an issue of what is supposed to be the ideals of the Republican Party. Welch insulted our intelligence with his “explanations” for supporting two of the most liberal, statist candidates around. Either he is just an opportunist or he is clueless. Either way, he is sure not the candidate for a party of constitutional, limited government, free-enterprise ideals.

    A disgrace

  22. Here we have Mr. Smith with a democrat party affliction as does Mr. Welch. In the mean time we have a REPUBLICAN named SAM ROHER in the race. The primary endorsement occurs at the PRIMARY by the PEOPLE. These kinds of games by the “Party” is what disgusts registered Republicans.
    Way to go PAGOP. You wonder why more people go Independent registration.

  23. Having the Kitchen Table Patriots call for an open primary is/was wholly disingenuous. How can KTP fight for an open primary in the US Senate race – when both of the co-chairs are going to the Bucks County GOP screening meetings to try and get the party endorsement for State Delegate so their names could be on the Bucks GOP Sample Ballot on primary day? Heard there was a backdoor deal. Yeah, don’t endorse Welch but if you want to endorse me, that’s fine. But that’s par for the course for this do-nothing unless it helps get us on Fox News group.

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