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Welch gets GOP nod for U.S. Senate

Published by Laura Olson on .

With just over 50 percent of the Republican State Committee members' vote, Steve Welch gets the party's endorsement for U.S. Senate.

Here's the vote breakdown: Welch, 182; Tom Smith, 51; Tim Burns, 47; Sam Rohrer, 33; and Marc Scaringi, 6.

The immediate reaction from Rohrer and Scaringi in particular focused on Welch's former Democratic leanings, with Rohrer describing the vote as setting up a battle between "a voice for the people" and the establishment.

Meanwhile, Burns' campaign consultant said they will be making an assessment of their campaign, though noted that the committee vote doesn't change that Burns thinks "he is the best candidate to take on Bob Casey."

From our breaking news site:

Welch's candidacy was significantly boosted by aggressive support from Gov. Tom Corbett, who declared his backing for the southeasterner a little more than a week ago.

That selection by the governor brought pushback from portions of the party committee membership - including some of the southwestern delegation - and from various grassroots groups, who urged an open primary instead.

"[Gov. Corbett] advocated Steve Welch, simply because he's from Philadelphia," said Jim Means, a committee member from Allegheny County. "I think we need a much stronger reason to vote for somebody than just because they're from the Philadelphia area."

Still, Corbett's personal lobbying of committee members appeared to have an impact, with one round of roll-call balloting resulting in the governor's hoped-for outcome.

Previously, Welch twice considered bids for U.S. Congress in two southeastern districts. While he later stepped aside for the party-backed contenders, his earlier support of President Barack Obama and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak has drawn scorn from some conservatives.

His current race is being managed by BrabenderCox and Brian Nutt, the political firm and campaign manager that Corbett used in his gubernatorial bid.

Despite his party backing, Welch will still face a crowded spring primary. The winner will face U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., in the November general election.

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