Jim Burn, the Allegheny County Democratic chairman, believes he’s in a strong position to succeed T.J. Rooney as head of the state Democratic organization.
The members of the Democratic state committee will meet on June 19 to elect a new chair. Mr. Burn and Marcel Groen, the Montgomery County chairman, had expressed interest in the post. But the handicapping on the Democratic succession was clouded last week with the emergence of reports that Mr. Rooney might be interested in holding onto the party gavel, at least until after the November election.
Mr. Burn said that he spoke to Mr. Rooney Monday, however, and reported that the incumbent would be moving on and planned to Mr. Burn as his successor. Mr. Burn said his name would be placed in nomination at the party meeting by Rep. Bob Brady, the influential chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic organization. He said he had also secured endorsements from the leaders of six of leaders of the state party’s regional caucuses.
Mr. Rooney did not return a call for comment on the succession. The former state representative was Gov. Ed Rendell’s choice as party leader. In the May primary, he was an outspoken advocate for the unsuccessful candidacy of Sen. Arlen Specter, saying at one point that the election of Rep. Joe Sestak, the veteran lawmaker’s successful challenger, would be “catastrophic,’’ for his party’s chances in the general election.
The state chairman is officially selected by a vote of the elected committee members, but the group traditionally defers to the choice of party leaders, particularly its gubernatorial nominees. County Executive Dan Onorato has been publicly neutral in the maneuvering over the party leadership but he is a longtime ally of Mr. Burn, a fellow graduate of North Catholic. The Allegheny county councilman is also a former mayor of Millvale. Members of council are barred from campaigning for other public offices, but they are permitted to hold political party offices.