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Primary takes off

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Good morning.Tribune Democrat

Democrats Jason Altmire and Mark Critz had their first of two debates last night, and the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat and Keegan Gibson of PoliticsPa was there to see them square off on their socially conservative credentials.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl used to blow off complaints about South Side quality of life complaints but now he's backing a $100,000 improvements study. He faces reelection next year, Joe Smydo reports.

The PA presidential primary takes off in earnest today with multiple events (see UPDATE) by Rick Santorum and one evening one by Mitt Romney. Their schedules are after the jump:

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Axelrod endorses Murphy for AG

Published by Laura Olson on .

Democratic attorney general candidate Patrick Murphy sees opponent Kathleen Kane's endorsement from former president Bill Clinton, and raises them a top advisor to the current commander in chief.

The former Bucks County congressman added senior Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod to his list of supporters this afternoon following an event at a Philadelphia law firm. 

In a phone interview after his appearance, Axelrod said his trip was a showing of personal backing and that the president likely will not make formal endorsements during the primary.

But he did emphasize that Murphy, who was an early Obama backer, was an "extraordinarily talented" ally of the White House during his second term on Capitol Hill.

"Patrick has been a friend and supporter of President Obama," Axelrod said. "In the Congress he was really a go-to guy when we were trying to handle the war in Iraq responsibly. When we wanted to end the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, Patrick took that on."

Murphy was the only Pennsylvania candidate to receive some political assistance from Team Obama during the quick trip, with Axelrod calling it an "exceptional case."

He declined to say whether others, like U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, may get some support this fall. Axelrod described Casey, who will be taking on one of the five Republican contenders, as "a stalwart" for Pennsylania: "He's got great values. He's another person for whom I have such high regard and the president does as well."

As for the president's own political battles, Axelrod said Pennsylvania will again be a key state in the general election, and that he expects a closer race than the 54-44 win they tallied in 2008. He touted the president's efforts toward boosting the sluggish economy and aiding the auto industry as policies aimed at helping the middle class to grow again.

He also said he expects to see the Republican primary here continue the patterns seen elsewhere, in which Romney's "super PAC wrecking crew" outspends the rest of the GOP field "four or five to one and then they muscle through with marginal victories." (That muscle can already be seen, with reports of the Romney campaign's $3 million ad buy here being called a "blitzkrieg.")

"I think they are desperate to end this race," he said, adding that the May primaries "will not be great for Romney."

Photo: AFP

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Altmire, Critz debate Mon & Tues

Published by Tim McNulty on .

This week features two debates between PA12 Democrats Jason Altmire and Mark Critz, one of which will be broadcast live in the Pittsburgh market.

The candidates square off first tonight at the Pitt-Johnstown campus at 7 p.m., in a forum being broadcast by WJAC-TV. At the same tomorrow tomorrow night they'll appear again on WPXI-TV in a private debate in the Channel 11 studios.

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Daily Santorum: Detente for a day

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Just a quick Daily Santorum today as we await the restart of campaigning tomorrow:

The Romney camp has halted a negative ad in Pennsylvania (above, via PoliticsPa) while the Santorums suspend campaigning to care for daughter Bella (NYT)

With Santorum's poll numbers down in Pa (the WashPost examines them here) everybody's wondering when or if he'll drop from the presidential race. At Politico, Bill Schneider writes about why that won't happen (because Santorum's a true-believer conservative who thinks Romney is an imposter).

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Fake bake sale protests budget

Published by Karen Langley on .

A group of parents led by a Democratic candidate for the state House held a mock bake sale at the Capitol this afternoon to protest Gov. Tom Corbett's proposals for education funding.

Mock_bake_sale

With platters of apparently real cookies in the foreground and small, poster-holding children behind them, a couple of speakers made the case that the budget proposal would cut public-school funding too much for parents to make up the difference through bake sales and car washes.

"There are simply not enough cookies in Pennsylvania to stop the irreparable harm being caused by the state budget cuts," said Erica Burg, one of the organizers. 

Whether Corbett's proposal amounts to a funding cut is a matter of disagreement. The administration says its plan would send each district at least as much money as it currently receives, while House Democrats argue the budget would cut funding. The difference lies in how to account for two areas of funding, one related to federal stimulus money and the other to the state contribution to the pensions of school workers.

On the steps of the main rotunda, parents led their children in singing a "This Land is Your Land" takeoff, which went, in part:

No politician can ever stop us, as we seek knowledge and strive for justice. We have the power, we have the courage, 'cause these schools were made for you and me.

Susan Spicka, a Shippensburg Democrat running for the state House, said the administration could find money for public schools by closing the so-called Delaware loophole, imposing a larger tax on natural gas drilling and ending the subsidy to the horse racing industry from casino revenue.

The group plans similar protest bake sales across the state, including one at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh on Saturday.