Getting weird: Altmire and Dem leadership

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Jason Altmire is proud of his independence and often says he serves Western Pennsylvania when he's in Congress, not the leaders of his party. That will be especially true if he's still in office next year because Democratic leaders are breaking ties with him too.Awkward

House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer is again criticizing Altmire -- and supporting fellow Democrat Mark Critz -- for Altmire's ads in the PA12 primary defending his vote for a GOP Balanced Budget Amendment measure and another against an ultra-conservative budget proposal. Altmire says a balanced budget would provide more secure funding for Medicare and Social Security but most other Democrats contend it would force cuts to the entitlements held dear by seniors, and he voted against the GOP budget to further protect them.

"I am disappointed that negative advertisements continue to mislead Pennsylvania voters," Hoyer said in a statement released by the Critz campaign. "The fact is that Mark Critz stood with Democrats in an effort to derail the extreme Republican budget that would have ended Medicare. Mark also opposed the Republican Balanced Budget Amendment that would have gutted Medicare and Social Security."

It's pretty clear why Hoyer is angry: Altmire has gone from just breaking with party leadership on go-nowhere bills to giving Republicans political cover during a critical election year. One of the main reasons Democrats fought against the BBA and tried to embarrass the GOP with a vote on a conservative budget was to make the case that Republicans were extremists who would put entitlements at risk. 

The McCandless Democrat, who has been in office since his party's 2006 wave year, bristled this week when a reporter from The Hill asked him about the ads and the complaints from fellow Dems:

Altmire had been happy to talk about the race while walking out of the House of Representatives, but when asked about the ad, he stopped in his tracks.

"It's 100 percent accurate. My ad says he did not vote against the Tea Party budget, and he didn't," he said with an edge to his voice, leaning in and punctuating his words with sharp hand motions.

When pressed if any members had approached him about it, he said, "absolutely not."

As The Hill began a follow-up question, Altmire grew agitated and cut the reporter off.

"No. It's not technically correct. It's 100 percent correct. My ad says he didn't vote against the Tea Party budget. He didn't. Thank you, good talking to you," he said before walking away.


Murphy's pulpit comes to Pgh

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Shadow Lounge
His Democratic opponent criticizes him for it, but Patrick Murphy sure isn't shy about his ambitions or what he thinks he can accomplish as Pennsylvania's attorney general.

At a rally Thursday night in East Liberty, joined by Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa and Allegheny County chief executive Rich Fitzgerald, he talked about the state's responsibility to crack down on gun crime, but also addressed environmental violations by Marcellus Shale drillers, homophobia, his service in Iraq with the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps and Corbett administration public education cuts.

"We have to be tough and smart, not just on crime but the causes of crime. When you cut $1.2 billion from education that is a crime bill," he told about 75 supporters at the Shadow Lounge, after a performance by the Dilworth Traditional Academy band. "And I know I don't have the budgetary authority [over education]. I get it. But [I want] to use the office of Attorney General as a bully pulpit, to testify in Congress, to be a partner with people like Jay Costa, to say 'this is wrong.'"

Murphy's opponent, former Lackawanna County prosecutor Kathleen Kane, has a good deal of traditional Democratic support in the campaign, from the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton to her family's longstanding ties to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. Murphy, who served the Philadelphia suburbs for two terms in Congress before losing in 2010, has the support of Obama advisor David Axelrod and liberal (aka, "progressive") Democrats such as Pittsburgh councilman Bill Peduto, who hosted Thursday's rally.

"What we need in this state is somebody who is independent, courageous and strong as our attorney general, and who has proven it," said Peduto. "At this time, in what's happening in this state, when you think about things like Marcellus Shale drilling and how it will effect the water that we drink, do you want somebody who will make sure corporations are being responsible? Do you want to take a risk, or do you want somebody who's proven it?"

Mercifully, Murphy didn't make standard Philadelphian-in-Pittsburgh jokes about the Flyers or Eagles, but did go into his standard lines about being the "1987 altar boy of the year," his wife and two kids, and being one of the lead voices in opposition to the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy on gays and lesbians.

The boxlike Shadow Lounge can be a loud place -- especially with more than a dozen elementary school kids all playing drums, or squirming through a political speech -- but it went dead silent when Murphy wrapped up with a story about a gay soldier in Afghanistan who received a "Dear John" letter from his boyfriend back home. Regular protocol is for soldiers to meet with their commander and chaplain when that happens, but this soldier had to stay silent, and he wrote Murphy saying he was holding his 9mm pistol and thinking of shooting himself.

"He said the only thing giving me hope is this Iraq war veteran Patrick Murphy that I know is fighting for me," Murphy told the crowd. "That is why we fight so hard. That is why we do what we do."


In 24th, Preston & Gainey talk Preston

Published by Karen Langley on .


(Ed Gainey, left, campaigns door-to-door near a home with one of his yard signs.)

Knocking on doors ahead of the Democratic primary, state Rep. Joe Preston and challenger Ed Gainey were talking about one thing: Preston's years representing the 24th District in Harrisburg.

Gainey, who fell 93 votes short of Preston in the primary two years ago, spent last Saturday morning walking the neighborhood of Homewood, telling voters it was time for a change.

"Joe Preston's been in for 30 years," he said to one woman. "I was 13 when he took office. Thirty years later, I ask people do they know what Joe Preston's done in the last 30 years?"

In the afternoon, Preston, 64, climbed to the wide porches on several blocks in Wilkinsburg, where he signed pieces of campaign literature and lodged them by mailboxes. When he caught a voter home -- fewer of them were -- he didn't mention Gainey.

"I'm Joe Preston, your state representative," he said at one home. "You tell him I stopped by personally, OK?"

The race made news when more than half of the signatures on Preston's nominating petitions were withdrawn by the campaign or thrown out by a Commonwealth Court judge after challenges by Gainey. From 806 names originally submitted, Preston was left with 308 valid signatures -- just enough to meet the 300-signature requirement.


Wagner: time for female AG candidate

Published by Laura Olson on .

From the lovely Tim McNulty, here's what the auditor general had to say about the attorney general candidate he's backing:

Auditor General Jack Wagner endorsed former Lackawanna prosecutor Kathleen Kane at a small press conference at PPG Place this afternoon, lauding her prosecution credentials (particularly on sex crimes) and saying it's time for the state to have its first female attorney general candidate. (Current Attorney General Linda Kelly was appointed.)

"It's about time after 32 years that we have a very competent, qualified person who incidentally is a woman, a professional woman, running for this position," Wagner said. "And I firmly believe also as a Democrat that she is the person most competent and most qualified, not just to serve but to win to serve. And that's been a difficult task for Democrats."

Kane's campaign released an internal poll Thursday showing her with a 9-point lead in the race, and said that supported her argument that she's better qualified than Murphy.

"People are really looking for qualifications. We saw what does not work in the office of Attorney General, and that's playing politics and ambitious politicians looking for their next job. It doesn't work. It colors prosecutions. That's not me," she said.

She also pushed back on Murphy's attack point on fights between her husband's trucking firm and organized labor, a key Democratic constituency. Murphy has been airing a negative ad reiterating that point, which he's also made in interviews and appearances, and pointing to her husband's significant donation to her campaign as making the labor disputes fair game.

"I do not talk about my opponent's spouse and I don't believe it's appropriate for him to talk about my spouse. I am not a shadow of my husband, "she said. "I think his message of bashing my husband does not resonate well with voters, particularly women."



Dem write-in campaign for Pippy seat

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Democrats are launching a write-in campaign to get a former Pleasant Hills councilman on the 37th District state Senate ballot to face the winner of the nasty Sue Means, Mark Mustio, D. Raja GOP race in the South Hills.

Democrats didn't nominate a Democrat for outgoing state Sen. John Pippy's seat, so the state Democratic committee is sending mailers to South Hills Democrats urging them to type in the name of Greg Parks next Tuesday. Parks, a former teacher and Air Force vet, needs at least 500 valid write-ins for a chance to make the ballot.