PA-Sen: The Potential Democratic Primary Pool (with poll)

With conservative former Congressman Pat Toomey set to challenge incumbent Arlen Specter in the 2010 Republican Senate primary, I think it’s safe to assume that we’ll see a bloodbath in which Specter is labeled a convictionless flip-flopper and Toomey is dubbed an unelectable right-winger.  No doubt both Specter and Toomey will spend the bulk of their resources just to get through the primary, leaving the eventual Republican nominee politically battered and financially near-broke, having to re-build a bankroll from almost scratch.Naturally, this raises the question: who do you want the Democratic nominee to be?  With the Republican nominee starting the general election in rough shape from a bloody primary, and with Pennsylvania Democrats continuing to grow their voter registration edgeover Pennsylvania Republicans, Democrats are in the driver’s seat.  Without further ado, here is the cattle call of potential candidates, in alphabetical order:District Attorney Lynne Abraham
During late-December of last year, both KYW Newsradio 1060 Philadelphia and CBS-3 Philadelphia reported that District Attorney Abraham was considering a bid.  As for bio, she was head of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority in the 1970′s and subsequently a judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.  She has been District Attorney of the City of Philadelphia since 1991 and has won four elections during her tenure – but she has already announced that she is not running for re-election to the post this year.  A knock on her as a candidate, though, is related to the strength of her resume: in 2010, she will turn 69-years-old.  I don’t imagine she’d plan on seeking several six-year terms to build her seniority.

State Representative Dwight Evans
The 54-year-old State Representative is a powerhouse in the state Legislature as the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, having served in the state House for nearly thirty years, but has also had his share of electoral losses.  He finished third in the 1986 Democratic primary for Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor, finished third in the 1994 Democratic gubernatorial primary, and had fifth-place showings in two crowded Philadelphia Mayoral runs in 1999 and 2007.  Still as the Democrats’ Appropriations chief for nearly twenty of his thirty years in the state House, he has wielded considerable power for a long time.  The Executive Director of the PA-Dems was talking Representative Evans up this past January as a possible 2010 Senate candidate.  Representative Evans has done a great deal to improve Philadelphians’ lives, but has had difficulty translating that success in bids for higher office.

Congressman Patrick Murphy
At only 35-years-old, Congressman Murphy, an Iraq War veteran now serving his second term in Congress, is considered a rising star in the Party.  Some of his pluses are quite obvious: his military experience brings unique perspective and his relative youth would allow him to build seniority over the years for Pennsylvania.  According to the National Journal’s 2008 Vote Ratings, Congressman Murphy was the 187th most liberal member and the 240th most conservative member – in other words, he was fairly centrist.  Given the political carnage that is expected at the end of Specter-Toomey: The Sequel, PA-Dems may want to elect someone more liberal than Congressman Murphy has been.  Also, while Congressman Murphy appears to be a more-than-decent fundraiser, as of the end of 2008, he had just under $150,000 on hand, with just over $100,000 in debt, which means he’s starting from nearly scratch on the money front.

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz
Now serving in her third term, Congresswoman Schwartz is one of only two women in Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation.  Her bio includes: executive director of the Elizabeth Blackwell Center, a Planned parenthood clinic in Philadelphia, ’75-’88; acting Deputy Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, ’88-’90; State Senator, ’91-’04; Congresswoman, ’05-present.  According to the National Journal’s 2008 Vote Ratings, Congresswoman Schwartz was the 112th most liberal member and the 316th most conservative member, i.e.she was a bit to Congressman Murphy’s political left.  Also, known for being a strong fundraiser, she closed out 2008 with just under $2 million on hand and no debt.  On Election Day 2010, Congresswoman Schwartz will be 62-years-old, suggesting perhaps only a tenure of two-terms tops if she ran.

Congressman Joe Sestak
The 57-year-old military veteran is in his second term in Congress.  After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1974, Congressman Sestak picked up an M.P.A. and a Ph.D. from Harvard before embarking on an impressive naval career.  According to the National Journal’s 2008 Vote Ratings, Congressman Sestak was the 150th most liberal member and the 277th most conservative member, putting him in between Congressman Murphy and Congresswoman Schwartz in the ranking.  Also a very solid fundraiser, Congressman Sestak ended 2008 with over $2.9 million on hand and no debt.  Back in December, Congressman Sestak’s office suggested that he wouldn’t be a candidate for Senate in 2010; however, with the new political dynamic of the combative Republican primary, perhaps Congressman Sestak might reconsider.

State Representative Josh Shapiro
Like Congressman Murphy, Representative Shapiro is only 35-years-old.  He is in his third term in the state Legislature, and was named Deputy Speaker of the House in his second term.  Prior to his time in the state Legislature, Representative Shapiro spent about eight years on Capitol Hill working for several elected officials, including service as Chief of Staff to Congressman Joe Hoeffel, Arlen Specter’s last Democratic opponent.  Representative Shapiro has met with the DSCC to discuss a possible bid; and, he has begun an aggressive outreach campaign to determine whether or not he’ll run.

State Board of Education Chairman Joe Torsella
The 45-year-old Torsella has worn many hats: state Board of Education Chairman, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center, and Deputy Mayor for Policy and Planning for the City of Philadelphia under then-Mayor and now-Governor Ed Rendell.  He also ran for Congress in 2004 and narrowly lost the Democratic primary to now-Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, who won her first term in that election cycle.  He is also the only announced candidate for Senate in 2010 on the Democratic side, though he has yet to launch a campaign website (that I can find, anyway) despite having announced two months ago.  It is rumored that Torsella enjoys the support of Governor Rendell’s political machine behind the scenes.  Through contacts from his numerous civic roles and possible assistance from the Rendell machine, Torsella was able to raise a respectable $600,000 in Q1 (having only started campaign fundraising in mid-February).  The amount is enough to demonstrate capable fundraising, but far from strong enough to scare off primary challengers, especially members of Congress with seven-figure campaign bankrolls.

State Auditor Jack Wagner
Auditor Wagner began serving as a statewide official in this capacity in 2005, succeeding Bob Casey Jr., who, of course, defeated Republican Rick Santorum for Senate in 2006.  Prior to his tenure as Auditor, Wagner spent a little over a decade in the Pennsylvania state Senate.  Auditor Wagner is also a Purple Heart recipient from his time with the Marine Corps in Vietnam.  Auditor Wagner is the only person on this list from western Pennsylvania, which could provide a geographic advantage.  On Election Day 2010, Auditor Wagner will be 62-years-old, like Congresswoman Schwartz, suggesting a limit to his possible tenure in the Senate.  Additionally, it’s been reported that Auditor Wagner has told friends that he will not run for the Senate seat.

Former State Treasurer Robin Wiessmann
Former Treasurer Wiessman had a largely financial services background before filling the remainder of Bob Casey’s Treasurer term after he ascended to the U.S. Senate.  She spent the 90′s as President of Artemis Capital Group and went on to serve as a Vice-president at Goldman Sachs.  She also put in a stint as Deputy Director of Finance for the City of Philadelphia.  If Wiessman was interested in a prolonged political career, one suspects that she would have run for Treasurer last year instead of ceding the office, though.  If she does decide to run, fundraising won’t be as difficult as it would be for other first-time candidates as her husband is reportedly a major Democratic fundraiser.

With Governor Ed Rendell serious about retiring from electoral politics and with current state Treasurer Rob McCord in only his fourth month in the role and having expressed no interest in a Senate bid thus far, this appears to be the pool from which a Democratic nominee will arise.  The poll is after the jump.  You’re encouraged to make your case for your candidate in the comments.  If there is someone you would like to see as the Democratic nominee in PA-Sen who hasn’t been listed, share your thoughts in the comments, as well.


Who do you want as the Democratic nominee in PA-Sen?

District Attorney Lynne Abraham State Representative Dwight Evans Congressman Patrick Murphy Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz Congressman Joe Sestak State Representative Josh Shapiro State Board of Education Chairman Joe Torsella State Auditor Jack Wagner Former State Treasurer Robin Wiessmann


I like Schwartz for this one.

She’s always been pretty progressive and is a pretty dynamic presence IMO.  She did screw up and vote for the bankruptcy bill, but there’s a lot of blame to go around on that one sadly.  Still, I can’t imagine us finding a stauncher advocate for the right to choose, which would more than compensate for Bob Casey’s position on the matter.  Plus she’s already got the fundraising advantage and with Specter vowing to vote against EFCA she’s secured the support of labor.  All that combined would make her incredibly formidable even if Specter somehow won, and damn near unbeatable against the likes of Pat Toomey.

Check out Blue Arkansas:

by: ARDem @ Wed Apr 15, 2009 at 11:58:14 AM CDT

You aren’t concerned about Schwartz’s …

DLC ties?

by: Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle @ Wed Apr 15, 2009 at 13:39:50 PM CDT

Lol, for once, no.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of the DLC and certainly not of Blue Dogs.  If there was a vialbe, great progressive candidate in the mix believe me I’d be all for him or her.  That said, I do rather like Schwartz from what I know of her and I think she fits Pennsylvania nicely.  All things being relative, she’s well to the left of Bob Casey Jr. on a number of issues and it would be great to have a staunch defender of the right to choose balancing him out in Pennsylvania, especially considering she’d be the first woman elected to the office from the state.

Check out Blue Arkansas:

by: ARDem @ Wed Apr 15, 2009 at 17:39:42 PM CDT

murphy all the way

I live in pa in sestaks’s district. on presence murphy is terrific on issues good and on the president great. Sestak and Schwartz where disgusting during the pa primary a sestak staffer told me obama was a muslim, and schwartz paid for robo calls to say obama was pro-life. schwartz was openly dismissive of obama all fall. her campaign would tell people obama was going to lose. she is an embarassment. peronally when ever possible i do not vote for hrc supporters because of their actions last spring i know I well remember next year two

by: suburbanliberal @ Wed Apr 15, 2009 at 15:41:48 PM CDT

That’s pretty damning.

Can you give us some links to articles/video on that sort of behavior?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that your wrong, I just want some hard evidence on that first before I consider shifting support.

Check out Blue Arkansas:

by: ARDem @ Wed Apr 15, 2009 at 17:41:37 PM CDT

that’s pretty daming

i do not have video the muslim comment came from a sestak staffer or vol at the st patricks day parade in my town. the emails followed one was a forward where they never removed the handle. the schwartz thing came from caller id on push poll call that my mom got 2 days before the primary it came form an office schwartz used for her re-election. I give sestak the benefit of the doubt since i never saw the staffer after the parade in mar and he served as a surragaotte for obama in the fall. schwartz i know never lifted a finger my obama region included part of her district. another one of her staffers after a comittee meeting at a bar pontificated on obama in the fall.

by: suburbanliberal @ Wed Apr 15, 2009 at 22:18:51 PM CDT

That sucks.

I hate to say it, but pretty much everyone in Arkansas was in the same boat until waaayyy late in the campaign, and then it was only half hearted.  I’ve got to give it to Hillary though, she was a much bigger person than many of her supporters…not to mention her husband.

Check out Blue Arkansas:

by: ARDem @ Thu Apr 16, 2009 at 00:00:48 AM CDT

that sucks

you 100% right and sometimes i forget that. hillary was gracious and did get 110% behind obam in the fall and has been doing a bang up job as sos. you making me rethink the line i drew the thank you for your sanity

by: suburbanliberal @ Thu Apr 16, 2009 at 11:16:04 AM CDT


That’s a first.  Usually I’m the crazy liberal that refuses to listen to the “sane people”.I look at it this way.  No one’s going to be perfect, and a lot of times our support has to be more about alliances of convenience rather than whole hearted endorsement.  That said, each move we make should be a step in the right direction towards more progressive government.  In Pennsylvania I think, Schwartz is the best option, though I’d gladly dump her for a better one.  Despite being tied to the DLC, most of her votes have been pretty good.  I also love that she has a background in reproductive rights, something that would help a lot in the senate in some hypothetical future moment where the right to choose is suddenly under assault again.  I’d also love to see a woman elected to the Senate from Pennsylvania-she’d be the first and that body is in desperate need of more representation for women and minorities.

Check out Blue Arkansas:

by: ARDem @ Thu Apr 16, 2009 at 13:31:11 PM CDT

i’m not from pa

but just reading the descriptions, sestak seems like he is the perfect candidate – at least on paper.assuming pa is a moderate state (and certainly its statewide officials and mix of liberal philly, pro-choice former republican philly suburbs, & gun rights/pro-life rural democrats suggest it is)  sestak’s centrism, impressive education and unassailable service are tailor-made for a run for the senate.  he also has the most serious bankroll.

i’ve heard schwartz rumored to run for years and she may be very good campaigner, but she certainly looks like an ultra-left-wing candidate (working for an abortion clinic and being a liberal congresswoman from philly seem like they’d be lightning rods) in a state which again seems moderate from afar anyway.

by: st paul sage @ Wed Apr 15, 2009 at 17:04:07 PM CDT

Very solid group of candidates

Not to hot about Abraham, Evans or Sestak but other then tha tI’d be happy with any of them. I voted for Torsella though beacuse he’s achually had the courage to jump right in the race and get campaigning and we’re going to need someone that works hard to win this seat. He raised a pretty impressive sum considering that a lot of major candidates are still thinking about it and he got in halfway through the quarter. If the others pass and get unified behind him he could easily raise enough money to win. My mind could still easily be changed but as of now I’d go for him.

Click here for the new senate guru blog…

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