Out on the Weekend

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Good morning. Catching up from the weekend . . .

In Harrisburg, House Democrats are looking to flip 11 seats this tumultuous year. (Laura Olson)

Democrats may also file suit against the GOP-supported voter ID law. (Drew Singer)

Rick Santorum was elegiac in Wisconsin over the weekend. He's coming back to greater Pittsburgh and giving the national press great datelines with a Tuesday night election party in Mars. (Jim O'Toole)

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl does not support gay marriage and isn't signing on to a Mayors for the Freedom to Marry pledge. Philadelphia's Michael Nutter has endorsed the effort, and locally John Fetterman of Braddock and Adam Forgie of Turtle Creek have signed on too. Ravenstahl faces reelection next year. (Annie Siebert)


Friday roundup: incumbents in peril

Published by Laura Olson on .

Your Harrisburg reporters were hard at work today wrapping up some stories for this weekend's newspapers, but before we leave you, a little catch-up on the day's political headlines:

- Pennsylvania's congressmen named Tim -- Republican Tim Murphy of Upper St. Clair and Democrat Tim Holden of Schyulkill County -- made The Washington Post's list of incumbents most likely to be defeated in the upcoming primary contests. The paper writes:

Holden was one of few Democrats who survived in a conservative district last election, and Republicans appeared to do him a favor by ... giving him a much more Democratic district in the process. But that new territory also drew new intra-party opposition, and lawyer Matt Cartwright has reportedly put together $600,000 for his primary challenge April 24. 

And of Murphy:

27-year-old former Senate aide Evan Feinberg — has been endorsed by Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.). (Feinberg used to work for Paul.) Murphy's campaign, meanwhile, is touting polling that shows him with a massive lead, but the Campaign for Primary Accountability has pledged to spend $200,000 on ads hitting Murphy.

- After Congressman Mark Critz's tele-conference rebuttal yesterday to opponent U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire's latest ad, Critz will be up on TV beginning this evening with a video response, featuring logos of the union and seniors groups that have endorsed him. (Hat-tip to PoliticsPA)

- And closer to home, residents of state Rep. Joe Preston's East Liberty district whose names were forged on his ballot petitions spoke out yesterday. The Allegheny County elections bureau says they've turned over affidavits from people who said they never signed Mr. Preston's petitions to county police for investigation.


Altmire attacks Critz in new campaign ad

Published by Tracie Mauriello on .

Technically, Congressman Jason Altmire is right: his colleague-turned-political-opponent, Rep. Mark Critz, didn’t vote against last year’s Tea Party budget that would have dismantled Medicare and Social Security.

But what Mr. Altmire’s new attack ad doesn’t say is that Mr. Critz didn’t vote for it, either.  Rather, Mr. Critz – along with all but 16 Democrats – voted “present,” essentially abstaining from the decision.

The “present” votes were part of caucus leadership’s plan to get Republicans to pass an ultra-conservative budget, which had no chance of passing the more liberal Senate, thereby killing another GOP budget proposal that stood a better chance of being enacted. Ultimately, the Tea Party budget failed by a vote of 119 to 136.

“What we were trying to do was choke both these bills,” Mr. Critz said in a conference call with reporters today.

Caucus Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland explained the strategy in a statement this evening. 

"House Democrats stood together and voted 'present' on the extreme ... budget in order to expose its radical policies. Doing this showed the American people just how extreme House Republicans are and how devastating their policies would be for our nation," Mr. Hoyer said. "This was a vote to protect Medicare and derail the Republican budget."

The attack ad is the latest in a rare and increasingly bitter primary between two sitting lawmakers of the same party. Mr. Critz of Johnstown and Mr. Altmire of McCandless are squaring off because newly drawn voting maps put them in the same district.

The Altmire campaign stands by the commercial. Lawmakers should stand firm on the issues, not abstain, the campaign said in a written statement this afternoon.

“The last thing we need are more politicians playing insider games, failing to take a stand and putting partisan politics ahead of protecting seniors’ benefits. If you’re against something, you vote no,” Altmire spokesman Richard Carbo said in a written statement this afternoon.

But Mr. Critz called the ad “completely false” and “exactly what people don’t like about politicians when they misrepresent what the facts are.”

Reps. Bob Brady, D-Philadelphia, and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., joined Mr. Critz on the conference call to confirm the caucus strategy on the budget vote and to reinforce the Johnstown Democrat’s support of seniors.

“Mark is a stalwart on behalf of older Americans and Medicare and opposing the dismantling of medicare,” said Ms. Schakowski, a leader of the House Task Force on Seniors.

Scroll down to find the commercial posted in an earlier post by Early Returns contributor and Harrisburg bureau chief Laura Olson. 


RNC chair: Referendum on liberty

Published by Karen Langley on .

Arguments over the federal health care law have concluded at the Supreme Court, but Republicans want you to remember they still really and truly oppose the law.

So the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, traveled to Harrisburg today to speak against the overhaul. He was joined by Senate candidate Steve Welch, the GOP-endorsed candidate who must defeat four other Republicans, GOP National Committeewoman Christine Toretti and Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.

Both Priebus and Welch reminded listeners that "Obamacare," as they put it, recently had its second anniversary, and Welch noted the challenge to the law's constitutionality -- evidence, he said, against U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, the Democrat he hopes to replace.

"These grim events are a reminder that President Obama and Bob Casey have hurt our health care system and hurt our economy," Welch said.

Asked about one of the questions before the high court, Priebus said he doesn't see how the requirement that people carry insurance can be separated from the rest of the law, though he said lawmakers could join together on aspects of the law that both parties support.

"What you're seeing though, here in the Supreme Court, is an affirmation that this president and his policies are not squaring with the concepts and ideas that have been laid out in the Bill of Rights and James Madison and America," he said. "This will be a referendum on liberty, freedom, the Constitution and how big Obama world is going to get."

In concert with the visit, the RNC released a TV ad in Harrisburg attacking the cost of the law.


Kane up with TV ads in AG race

Published by Laura Olson on .

Both of the Democrats in the attorney general's race are now on television screens near you.

Former Lackawanna prosecutor Kathleen Kane is airing her TV spots (the one released today is above) in every Pennsylvania media market except Philadelphia. 

Her opponent, former Bucks County congressman Pat Murphy, went up in Pittsburgh last week with a $50,000 media buy.

Kane's new ad focuses mostly on her biography, describing her as "the first woman in Pennsylvania history to run for attorney general" and stating that she mopped floors to pay for law school. It also heralds the endorsement she received from former President Bill Clinton earlier this week.

Her other ad, spotted last night on a Harrisburg cable channel, aims to paint the image of a tough prosecutor by noting a case where she received a threat from the brother of a defendant. "He's a thug ... we prosecuted him too," Kane says in the ad.