Clout: Two of Guv Ed's faves headed for big-time jobs?

Posted: September 03, 2010

PHILLYCLOUT hears that two of Gov. Rendell's favorite people are up for big-time policy jobs in New York and Washington, though neither was interested in talking about it.

Let's start with Joe Torsella, the Rendell-appointed chairman of the State Board of Education who twice served as president of the National Constitution Center and was deputy mayor for policy and planning when Rendell was mayor of Philadelphia.

We hear that Torsella, who briefly ran for the U.S. Senate last year, is up for a high-level job at the United Nations, in New York City.

Torsella dropped out of the senate race after U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter - at the urging of Rendell and President Obama - switched from Republican to Democrat in what became a failed bid for re-election.

Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., donated $1,608 to Torsella's Senate campaign last year and later got a refund after he dropped out.

Rice and Torsella were Rhodes Scholars together at Oxford University, in England, in 1986.

Rendell, through a spokesman, this week said that he had not heard about the U.N. job but has "recommended Joe to the White House for a number of positions."

Torsella and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.

And we think we know why.

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak stirred up controversy during his successful challenge to Specter in the May 18 Democratic primary election by announcing that the White House tried to lure him out of the race with a job offer. The White House, after weeks of refusing to explain, finally said that it had former President Clinton offer Sestak an unpaid post on an intelligence advisory board if he would remain in the U.S. House.

We're sure that some Republicans will claim a United Nations job is payback for Torsella dropping out of the Senate race last year.

The post-Rendell job hunt

There may be no Philadelphia homecoming in the near future for Donna Cooper after serving two long terms as Rendell's secretary of policy and planning.

PhillyClout hears that Cooper may be headed for the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C. run by Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta.

Cooper, known for her direct approach to all things, surprised us with coy answers. She said that she doesn't currently have a new job and has been talking for some time to many people about her next step, not just the Center for American Progress.

The think tank is big on education policy, which should be right up Cooper's alley, since she led the nonprofit Good Schools Pennsylvania after working for Rendell's administration in City Hall and before Harrisburg.

The Center for American Progress declined to comment.

The debate about debates

The candidates in the race for governor are sticking closely to their designated debate roles.

State Attorney General Tom Corbett, the gaffe-prone Republican front-runner, has had little to say about debates in the run-up to the Nov. 2 general election.

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, the Democratic nominee, called in June for 14 debates in every corner of the state and then issued several news releases when Corbett didn't meet that demand. Onorato, who trails Corbett in crucial name recognition, could use the exposure.

Corbett and Onorato have committed to one debate on Sept. 27, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, in Hershey.

Corbett this week said that he would consider two more debates.

"I think one in the west and one in the east are probably pretty good," Corbett said. "Beyond that, I don't know if it's necessary. I don't know that people want to watch that many debates." Onorato campaign spokesman Brian Herman said that voters deserve more than three debates.

"I can understand him not wanting to debate," Herman said of Corbett. "He doesn't like being challenged. He doesn't like having to explain his positions, because he doesn't really understand them."

GOP dispute gets a hearing

A small delegation from Republican State Committee is visiting Philadelphia next week, trying to unravel a leadership dispute inside the local GOP organization.

The state party's credentials committee, led by Cumberland County attorney Richard W. Stewart, is considering a challenge from party dissidents who cite multiple irregularities when the party's ward leaders voted in June to keep Vito F. Canuso Jr. as city Republican chairman.

Some newly elected ward leaders were improperly barred from voting, while others were allowed to vote in spite of pending challenges, according to a petition filed by one of the excluded ward leaders, Kevin Kelly, and his lawyer, University City ward leader Matthew Wolfe. Many of the challenges resulted from City Committee's decision to require at least 10 votes for write-in candidates to become committeemen - a change in party rules that appears to violate state law. Stewart said that the panel hopes to reach a decision before the Sept. 23 State Committee meeting in Harrisburg.

Staff writer Bob Warner contributed to this report.

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