Wecht mulling bid for governor
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Dr. Cyril H. Wecht confirmed yesterday that he is considering a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor.
Dr. Wecht declined to discuss his plans in depth but said that he is close to making a decision on a candidacy that would make him the sixth candidate in his party's field.
For connoisseurs of Pennsylvania political history, the prospect of a Wecht candidacy presents a tangled pattern of coincidence and connection between the prominent pathologist and a variety of other figures whose names could appear on the May 18 primary ballot.
Last May, after a rancorous, years-long effort to prosecute Dr. Wecht on charges of using public resources for his private work, former U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan was forced to drop her plans to retry the case. After a mistrial, a judge threw out the bulk of the government's evidence. Throughout the battle, Dr. Wecht and his attorneys denounced the prosecution as a political vendetta.
Ms. Buchanan, a Republican, is considering a bid for Congress. She has already had conversations with prospective campaign consultants, and senior state Republicans expect her to decide soon on a challenge to Rep. Jason Altmire, the Democratic incumbent in the 4th Congressional District.
Sen. Arlen Specter, the born-again Democrat defending his record tenure in the Senate against a sharp challenge from U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Delaware County, is another former Wecht foe. Mr. Specter, as a senior aide to the Warren Commission, was the prime proponent of the "single-bullet theory," which explains how one bullet caused wounds to President John F. Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally as the president was assassinated in Dallas.
While Dr. Wecht and Mr. Specter have since reached an amicable entente, Dr. Wecht was one of the most prominent critics of the Warren panel's conclusions.
This would be the second time that Dr. Wecht followed a courtroom triumph with a bid for statewide office. In 1981, the then-county commissioner was acquitted of charges that he had mingled public and private work while serving as county coroner. Dr. Wecht challenged the late Sen. John Heinz in the 1982 Senate race. Mr. Heinz, one of the state's most popular office-holders, easily won re-election.
Dr. Wecht is perhaps best known for his high-profile forensic pathology work, but he is also a former Allegheny County Democratic party chairman as well as former commissioner and coroner. He also won the 1999 Democratic nomination for county executive before losing in the general election to Republican Jim Roddey. Mr. Roddey, in turn, was defeated by one of Dr. Wecht's prospective rivals in the governor's race, County Executive Dan Onorato. Mr. Onorato appointed Dr. Wecht as the county's first medical examiner.
Beyond its echoes of recent political history, the forensic pathologist's entry into the race could complicate the candidacies of two other Western Pennsylvania contenders. It could further split votes in the southwestern Pennsylvania base he shares with Mr. Onorato and state Auditor General Jack Wagner. Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty and Tom Knox, a Philadelphia businessman, are also seeking the Democratic nomination.
First Published January 14, 2010 12:00 am