Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman (and Allegheny County Council President) Jim Burn is in D.C. today meeting with members of the Pennsylvania delegation and national party leaders pumping up the party's first-of-its-kind 67-county strategy ahead of the 2012 elections.
In an interview with The Pennsylvania Newspaper Washington Delegation, Burn said -- despite a sleepy-so-far Senate race -- that "Pennsylvania will be the battleground state. It's going to be make or break for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." PA is not exactly tops on the national radar, but you can't really expect Jim Burn to come down here and declare that Ohio is the state to watch next year.
But there are plenty of battles to be fought in 2011.
Burn singled out the Allegheny and Montgomery county executive races as key for the party this year to establish "control of the courthouses" with Democrats who can help create the infrastructure for better Dem engagement next year. When Burn was mayor of Millvale in 2000 -- no doubt rocking out at Mr. Smalls -- it really ground his gears to see a Republican County Executive Jim Roddey bring in George W. Bush for campaign appearances in Allegheny County.
Also percolating this year is the redistricting fight, for which Burn is mostly powerless, as Republicans control all the levers of power and can go nuts in drawing districts for political reasons -- as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last time. But Burn hopes that the public will sour on a blatantly political redistricting map, and party spokesman Mark Nicastre pointed out that the new North Carolina Congressional map knocked approval ratings of its legislature down a peg.
Just because political redistricting is legal "doesn't mean we're going to crawl under a desk and let them do it," Burn said.
The unset lines are an inherent challenge for Congressional candidate recruitment, but Burn said the party has had a lot of interest. He made no news on candidates, though: former Erie Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper and Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan remain on the fence, Burn said.
What about Joe Sestak? Burn said they had to cancel recent plans to meet because of a scheduling conflict but "our relationship continues to grow" and "the Admiral is still looking at public service."