Potter: South Hills shifting lines, alliances

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Molchany mailer

Nobody knows South Hills politics -- and its parking lots -- like the City Paper's Chris Potter. Today he writes about a new alliance between Pgh councilwoman Natalia Rudiak and a 2009 council opponent Anthony Coghill in their support of Erin Molchany for the 22nd District state House seat formerly held by Chelsa Wagner. As usual, its about 19th ward kingmaker Pete Wagner (Chelsa's dad) and his competing support for House hopeful Marty Schmutzer, but there's more to it than that, Chris writes:

As you probably have heard, we're in the midst of a protracted battle over redrawing the lines of state legislative districts. And there's been some kvetching about how the GOP-led legislative redistricting runs roughshod over the North Hills, divvying up communities between districts to serve political ends. What's gotten less attention is how redistricting could affect Wagner's own political fiefdom.

The 19th is a sprawling district; while centered on Beechview, it also encompasses portions of Brookline and Mt. Washington. Previously, it has been contained solely within the 22nd legislative district, where it was joined by the outlying suburbs of Baldwin, Whitehall and Castle Shannon. But the redistricting plan carves the 19th into three separate legislative districts. One chunk of the 19th will end up in the 27th district, where it will be lumped in with the city's western neighborhoods and the adjoining suburbs of Green Tree, Crafton, Ingram, McKees Rocks and Thornburg. Another chunk will be fused with portions of the city's South Side, Mt. Oliver, Brentwood and portion of Baldwin. The third part of the 19th will be merged into district 42, joining Dormont, Castle Shannon, and parts of Baldwin and Mt. Lebanon.

Now there's an obvious question here: How much sense does it make to split up Beechview and Brookline, and pair them up with suburbs? What possible rationale could explain divvying up two working-class city neighborhoods that way?

One suspicion, popular in some South Hills circles, is that these lines were drawn precisely to dilute Wagner's influence, by spreading it across three separate districts. It's no accident that when I interviewed Schmotzer himself a few weeks ago, he said that if elected, he'd do everything he could to preserve the district -- and the integrity of political wards and boundaries.


Weds: Critz closing, Dems reserve ad time

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Good morning.

Democrat Mark Critz has the momentum in his 12th district faceoff with Jason Altmire, closing to within 4 points of his McCandless opponent within a week of Tuesday's primary, according to a Tribune-Review/Susquehanna Research poll.

Whoever wins that race, the DCCC has reserved more than $2 million in Pittsburgh/Johnstown TV advertising space post Labor Day to defend the seat and go after the PA18 seat incumbent Republican Tim Murphy holds (though he too faces challenger Evan Feinberg Tuesday). It's part of a $32 million effort by the congressional campaign committee to counterbalance huge GOP-friendly spending by SuperPACs in the fall, Politico reports.\

UPDATE: Keith Rothfus -- the Republican facing either Altmire or Critz in PA12 -- released a statement on the DCCC ad buy:

“I am emboldened by this news because it shows how desperate the Democrats are in trying to convince us, the hard working people of Southwestern Pennsylvania, that their failed economic policies, continued addiction to spending, and big government agenda is the right choice for the PA-12.  I look forward to continuing my message of empowering the people and the job creators rather than the government and the bureaucrats, and letting the people of Southwest PA know they have a choice.  The Washington bureaucrats are turning off the lights in Pennsylvania and across the country, we intend to keep them on.”

There are still two other Republicans in the presidential race (including Newt Gingrich, who showed at last night's GOP dinner in Lancaster) but the party brass in Pa is getting behind Mitt Romney. Gov. Corbett got on board yesterday and today it's state chairman Rob Gleason. From a statement:

“Today, we are proud to join Governor Tom Corbett, Senator Toomey and other top Republicans in endorsing Mitt Romney as our next president and the candidate who will get our country back on the path to fiscal security and prosperity.  Mitt Romney is the leader our nation needs to restore Americans’ faith in their government and put our nation back on a path of lasting prosperity.  Governor Romney has the experience needed to balance the budget, reduce our debt, lower taxes, reign in government and create an environment where business can thrive,” Chairman Rob Gleason said.


Toomey to unveil alternative spending plan

Published by Tracie Mauriello on .

He doesn't like President Obama's budget and he's said he's disappointed that Democrats, who control the Senate, haven't put forth any alternatives so now Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is ready to put his own spending plan on the table.

The only trouble with that is that Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad has so far prohibited the introduction of alternative budgets. Mr. Toomey will try anyway. 

The senator plans to explain his plan tomorrow during a briefing with Washington reporters. 

"The American people ... want a serious and substantive budget that puts our country on a path to balance. Is that too much to ask?" Mr. Toomey said in a statement released late this evening.



Same war, different battlefield

Published by Tracie Mauriello on .

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy already has been pressing the Air Force and Pentagon to reverse an administration decision to close the 911th Airlift Wing and reduce forces at the 171st Air National Guard station at Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon.

Today he brought his fight to the House Armed Services Committee, where his comments were well-received by Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif. Mr. McKeon particularly agreed with Mr. Murphy’s assertion that the proposed cuts are the NFL equivalent of firing all the starters in order to save money.

The Air Force’s planned closure is part of a military realignment plan aimed at troop reductions and cost savings.  Closing the 911th would save $354 million over five years, according to the Department of Defense, but Mr. Murphy and other Pennsylvania lawmakers say the analysis is flawed.

"The Air Force is making a quick and easy decision rather than an economical one," Mr. Murphy testified today.

He asked the Armed Services Committee to consider his bill preventing the Air Force from transferring any planes from the 911th until Congress reviews the matter. Additionally, he asked the committee to order a cost-benefit analysis that compares the two local bases with other installations that have similar missions.

"Decisions of this magnitude should be made in the best interst of the taxpayers and the military -- not because it's the easy option," Mr. Murphy said.


Corbett: "Clearly he's going to be the nominee"

Published by Karen Langley on .

Gov. Tom Corbett said in a brief interview that he hopes to help Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania through his endorsement.

"Clearly he's going to be the nominee of the party," Corbett said while leaving the Capitol. "I'm just giving him the support of my name here and hope to help him here in Pennsylvania."

Corbett said he was waiting to endorse for the decision of former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, Romney's last main challenger, who withdrew last week from the race.

And how does Corbett plan to help Romney campaign?

"Let me have discussions with him first and then we'll tell you," he said.

Corbett took off in his state-issued black Suburban, which was soon parked outside the Harrisburg Hilton, where sources close to the governor said a Romney fundraiser was scheduled. I went inside to have a look, and a young man in a blazer asked if I was there for the Romney event.

The schedule for meeting rooms had a "Business Meeting -- Initiate the Campaign"listed from 4 to 6 p.m., so I walked over and saw dozens of dark-suited people, one with a Romney name tag, lined up to go through security. Then a Hilton security guard told me to walk no further, and after consulting with another man, told me to leave the premises until 6:30 p.m.

Now en route to the annual dinner of the Lancaster County GOP, where Romney and Newt Gingrich are scheduled to speak.