Wolf names McGinty for independent campaign committee

Katie McGinty , a former rival for the Democratic nomination, will lead the campaign committee handling some party functions.
Katie McGinty , a former rival for the Democratic nomination, will lead the campaign committee handling some party functions.
Posted: June 21, 2014

Tom Wolf, the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania governor, short-circuited a nasty fight for control of the state party Thursday by announcing an independent campaign committee to take over many of its functions.

Katie McGinty, a former rival for the nomination, will head the Campaign for a Fresh Start, Wolf said. The organization will handle communications, research, voter turnout efforts, and coordination with the campaign committees for Democratic legislators.

Wolf had named McGinty as his choice to lead the party. But the incumbent, Jim Burn of Allegheny County, was fighting to keep his job, raising the prospect of a floor fight at Saturday's state-committee meeting near Harrisburg.

"It became clear that the best way for Tom to move forward and get his message out was through this vehicle," said Mark Nicastre, a spokesman for the Wolf campaign. He said the candidate would not attend the Democratic State Committee event.

By custom, a party gubernatorial nominee's pick for chairperson is ratified by the committee at the first gathering after the primary. At times, the rank and file has balked at a choice, but those disputes rarely play out as publicly as this one has.

McGinty said she had the votes lined up to win.

Burn, who has deep pockets of support on the state committee, was upbeat about his prospects.

"The state committee asked me to stay in February," Burn said in a statement. "They asked me to stay now. I serve them and I said yes."

Burn added that the Democrats are a "happy, united fleet" aimed at defeating Gov. Corbett, and he congratulated McGinty on her new position.

Some saw the move as a defeat for Wolf. Republican spokeswoman Megan Sweeney called him "a typical politician who tried to force his choice ... onto a party that doesn't trust his judgment."

Wolf advisers and political analysts said his decision prevents a distracting intra-party fight and enables the candidate to avoid seeming beholden to party bosses.

"In an ironic way, this helps Tom Wolf, because it positions him as even more independent," said Larry Ceisler, a Democratic consultant in Philadelphia who is not involved in the campaign.

Wolf, a York businessman and former state revenue secretary, spent $10 million of his own money in his primary campaign. He had nearly 60 percent of the vote and won all 67 counties.

"Tom Wolf is a different kind of leader, and this will be a different kind of campaign," McGinty said in a statement. "We need to shake up the status quo."


215-854-2718 @tomfitzgerald


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