Rendell blasts Burn

Published by James O'Toole on .

Former Gov. Ed Rendell was sharply critical of the Democratic State Committee and of its chairman, Jim Burn, in the wake of an aborted leadership battle that briefly pitted Mr. Burn against a candidate backed by the party‘‍s gubernatorial nominee, Tom Wolf.

Invoking an informal prerogative of the party nominee, Mr. Wolf had asked state committee members to install Katie McGinty as the party chair at their organizational meeting Saturday.  But Mr. Burn refused to bow to Wolf preference and battled to hold onto the post.  He contended that it was important of the state committee members to make their own choice instead of  accepting the dictates of party leaders.  Rather than press the dispute, Mr. Wolf, in conjunction with his party‘‍s state House and Senate campaign committees, decided to form a new campaign committee separate from the party organization.  Ms. McGinty, a former secretary of environmental resources in the Rendell cabinet, and one of the candidates defeated by Mr. Wolf in the primary, will lead the new committee after dropping her bid for the party post.

Mr. Rendell, the last Democrat elected governor, was scathing in his assessment of the party infighting.  Of the state committee, which comprises members elected from state senate districts across the state, he said, “They have no significance, no political power, no  punch.  They can only raise money if the governor raises money for them.’'

He predicted that the breach over its leadership would marginalize the group through the current election cycle and professed to be baffled by Mr. Burn’‍s intransigence in the face of a candidate who won the nomination in a landslide.

 ”God only knows why he decided to do this," he said of the former Allegheny County councilman.  “He now presides over an organization with no money, no power, no resources."

Mr. Burn, who appears to be about to win a second four-year term as chairman, responded to Mr. Rendell‘‍s criticism with a text message saying, ”The state party is coming off of a successful and historic four-year cycle.  We look forward to building on that success as we move forward, starting with the election of Tom Wolf this November."

In an email to state committee members Friday, he was similarly conciliatory toward the Wolf campaign.  

“Please bring to the meeting your Tom Wolf/Mike Stack [the lieutenant governor nominee] yard signs, window stickers, an any other items which bear the names or our next governor and lieutenant governor,’‍‘‍ he wrote.  ”Please also remember that in every gubernatorial cycle, a committee is formed by the candidate(s) similar to what our Nominee has done.  Therefore, if you have not done so already please reach out and extend best wishes to Tom Wolf and Katie McGinty, letting them know that we, the Pennsylvania Democratic Committee, stand with them in Democratic solidarity as we move to the November election."

Mr. Wolf won’‍t see those signs, however, as he‘‍s decided to skip the party meeting outside Harrisburg.

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McGinty heads new committee, bypassing DSC

Published by James O'Toole on .


   Avoiding a showdown over the leadership of the Democratic State Committee, Katie McGinty has abandoned her candidacy and will instead preside over a new, independent committee to coordinate fundraising for Democratic campaigns this fall.
    Ms. McGinty, a former candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, had been Tom Wolf's choice to lead the party organization.   In an email last week, the nominee asked the committee members to support her.  But Jim Burn, the current chair, refused to defer to Mr. Wolf and insisted that he would remain a candidate for re-election in the group's organizational meeting this weekend outside Harrisburg. As late as Wednesday, speaking at a campaign event in Oakmont, Mr. Wolf maintained that Ms. McGinty remained his choice to head the state party. 
   But Thursday afternoon, Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, who had been Mr. Wolf's choice to be vice chairman of the state party, predicted that the state committee issue would resolved before the day was over.  Mr. Wolf, who was appearing at the same campaign event in Pittsburgh, said he didn't know anything about it.  But within a few hours his campaign had announced the new campaign organization and the recast role for Ms. McGinty.
   The development also means that Mr. Wheatley will not be a candidate for the vice chairmanship.  Assuming that Burn, who is now unopposed, is re-elected, that would preclude Mr. Wheatley's eligibility as party rules specify that if the chair is a man, the vice-chair should be a woman.
   On one level, the development is a win for Mr. Burn who, is poised to hold onto the committee gavel.   But the victory could prove hollow if Wolf and other party leaders bypass him and the traditional DSC organization in fund-raising and other campaign logistics.   In what would inevitably be interpreted as a calculated rebuff, Mr. Wolf's campaign said he would not appear at the committee meeting over the weekend.  One veteran committee member said that it would be the first time in recent memory that a Democratic gubernatorial nominee had failed to show at the party's regular post-primary meeting.

"I would like to congratulate Katie on her new position.  She brings a dynamic personality and skill set that will certianly help Tom Wolf as we move forward," Mr. burn said in a statement.  "We in the state party are happy for Katie and Tom.  We pledge our support and all of our energy to work with Katie and Tom Wolf to remove Tom Corbett, America's least popular governor, from office."

  Ms. McGinty, through the Wolf campaign, released a statement that made no direct reference to the state committee fight.

    "Tom Wolf is a different kind of leader and this will be a different kind of campaign,'' Ms. McGinty said in a statement released by the Wolf operation.  "We need to shake up the status quo, and that goes from changing the way we campaign to changing the way we govern.''

   State Sen. Jay Costa, the leader of Senate's Democratic caucus, welcomed the new entity and called it an asset to the party's effort to recapture the chamber's majority, a goal that's eluded Democrats for decades.
   "I commend Tom Wolf's focus on not only winning the governor's mansion, but flipping the Senate as well,'' he said.
   The state Republican Party issued a statement characterizing the Democratic infighting as a rejection of the candidate who won its nomination in a landslide.
   "For the second time this year, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party has flatly rejected Tom Wolf,  Megan Sweeney, the GOP's communications director, said in a statement.  "Tom Wolf is a typical politician who tried to force his choice for Democratic Party chairman onto a party that doesn't trust his judgment.  While Tom Wolf may be able to create a nice television ad, he's shown a serious inability to energize his party's grass roots network.''
   She referred to the fact that state Treasurer Rob McCord ran ahead of Mr. Wolf in the state committee's winter endorsement vote.  The defeat didn't prove much of a problem for the York businessman, who far outdistanced Mr. McCord and the rest of the Democratic field in the May 20 primary.


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WSJ/NBC poll: Obama nadir

Published by James O'Toole on .

The latest survey from The Wall St. Journal and NBC finds that perceptions of President Barack Obama are hitting record negative territory for his administration.  The data suggests problems for his party up and down the ballot amid pessimism about Washington in general and continuing frustration about the economy

"The results suggest Mr. Obama could weigh on fellow Democrats in midterm elections this fall, particularly in the conservative states that will play a large role in deciding whether his party retains its Senate majority.

"Mr. Obama's job approval ticked down to 41% in March from 43% in January, marking a new low. Some 54% disapproved of the job he is doing, matching a previous high from December, when the botched rollout of his signature health law played prominently in the news. The latest survey also showed the lowest-ever approval in Journal/NBC polling for Mr. Obama's handling of foreign policy.''


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McCord hits Corbett on pensions

Published by James O'Toole on .

State Treasurer Rob McCord fell short in his bid to be the Democratic nominee for governor, but he hasn't retreated from the public debate in Harrisburg.  In an essay in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the second-term treasurer warns against a pension overhaul proposal that's been embraced by the Corbett administration in the context of the current budget debate. 

"The bill, which is authored by Rep. Mike Tobash (R., Schuylkill) and championed by Gov. Corbett, would affect only the pension benefits of new employees, not the benefits promised to retirees and current employees. The confusing proposal would do little to reduce our unfunded pension liability and nothing to address the next fiscal year's looming deficit,'' Mr. McCiord argues.  "Yet, if passsed, it would weaken the retirement security of thousands of Pennsylvanians and harm our state's economy. The real "benefit" of the plan is that it would allow legislators to claim they "did something" about pensions.''

You can check out the entire op-ed piece here.

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Midterm grades

Published by James O'Toole on .

                                                       By James M. Perry

 Barack Hussein Obama is a mixed-race American. He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961.  He was graduated from the private Punahou School, where he played on the basketball team. He attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, then transferred to Columbia University in New York City to earn his degree. He was a community organizer in Chicago before attending the Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Law Review. He taught at the University of Chicago Law School for a dozen years before entering politics. He was elected to the state Senate in 1996, to the U.S. Senate in 2004, and to the presidency in 2008. .

He is the 44th president of the United States and the commander-in-chief of its armed forces.

These are the basic facts, but some of them are still disputed by a hard core of Americans who refuse to accept Obama as the country's legitimate president. They say he was born in Kenya and, as a closet Muslim, wants to impose Sharia blasphemy laws on unsuspecting Americans. They blame him for Benghazi, for Iraq, for the Veterans Administration, for the Internal Revenue Service. These are pretty much the same people who believe God created man 10,000 years ago and that climate change simply isn't happening (and that, even if it is, mankind has nothing to do with it).

The one thing Obama-haters and their allies in the Republican Party cannot admit is that President Obama has sometimes been a crashing success in his second term in office.

"The truth is," Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times the other day, "that these days much of the commentary you see on the Administration -- and a lot of the reporting too -- emphasizes the negative, the contrast between the extravagant hopes of 2008 and the prosaic realities of political trench warfare" with the Republicans in 2014.  

The accepted thing," Krugman says, "is to portray Mr. Obama as floundering, his presidency as troubled if not failed."  Now, truth to be told, there was a good bit of floundering in Obama's first term, as a somewhat bewildered president tried to reach workable compromises with Republicans in the Congress, without seeming to realize that most GOP members had no interest in racking up congressional victories for the man so many in their party love to hate.  

But this is all wrong, Krugman says. "Mr. Obama is having a seriously good year. In fact, there's a very good chance that 2014 will go down in the record books as one of those years when America took a sharp turn in the right direction."

Well, I'm not so sure of that. But victories there have been. I'll mention just one. Obamacare. It works, and it will be working even better 100 years from now. Obamacare is a magisterial achievement.   

Obama is working on other serious matters that should be supported enthusiastically by almost everyone, but are routinely dismissed by his angry opposition. He is, for example, the first president to take global warming seriously, but his efforts to clean up the country's power plants are ridiculed by his ignorant disbelievers.   

Not enough good people seem willing to stand up to Obama's angry critics.  Even the Washington Post's edit page, once a celebrated liberal pulpit, seems to have converted to neoconservatism, with all its interventionist foreign-policy ideas (remember George Bush and Iraq?).  "Why Does the U.S. Stand Idly By in Syria?" Fred Hiatt, the neocon editor of the edit page, asked the other day. Or, in another piece, "Is There Change President Obama Can Believe In"?

Where's Herblock, the Post's great editorial cartoonist, when we need him? Where, in fact, are all the rest of us? Barack Obama is no Franklin Roosevelt, but he's showing some promise.

James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, is contributing regular observations for  Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement.  Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.


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