Primary interest: Both parties have a need to choose well on Tuesday
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One thing's for sure. Tuesday will not be one of those sleepy, ho-hum primaries in which incumbents grab all the nominations. The Pennsylvania governor's race is wide open for both Democrats and Republicans, since two-term incumbent Ed Rendell must leave office after this year. The U.S. Senate race has competitive fields in both parties, with the Democratic contenders in a dead heat as of last week's polls.
The May 18 ballot also invites major-party voters to nominate candidates for lieutenant governor and, in various districts, for the U.S. House of Representatives, the state House and the state Senate.
Adhering to its long-standing tradition, the Post-Gazette Editorial Board interviewed candidates this spring in the competitive races statewide and in Allegheny County in order to make recommendations for nomination. What follows is a recap of our endorsements, which were published here over the past three weeks.
All eyes, including many outside Pennsylvania, will be on the 11th hour dogfight between incumbent Arlen Specter and upstart challenger Joe Sestak. After three decades in the Senate as a moderate Republican, Mr. Specter made the pivotal decision last year to change his registration to Democratic, providing a boost to both President Barack Obama and the senator's re-election cause (or so it seemed at the time).
Now his opponent is striving to portray the move as a negative, when, in fact, Mr. Specter is probably more at home in his new party than in the one that left him, little by little, over the past 10 years or so. His clout continues on Capitol Hill and his service to Pennsylvania has been unswerving. That's why Democrats should stick with Arlen Specter.
The race is not so heated on the Republican side, where former congressman Pat Toomey, who nearly toppled Sen. Specter six years ago, is better organized and better funded than the competition -- and deserves the nomination.
The Democrats have four contenders for the nomination, but Dan Onorato has distinguished himself as the most effective campaigner and as the candidate with the best resume to make a run for governor. His practical experience as Allegheny County executive with keeping a lid on taxes, bringing budgets under control, cutting the payroll and using innovative ways to maintain services would make him formidable in the fall election.
This is not to say that the Republicans lack for a strong nominee. That person deserves to be state Attorney General Tom Corbett, who has built a solid reputation as a prosecutor not only in Harrisburg, particularly with the Bonusgate investigation, but also as the U.S. attorney in Western Pennsylvania. While his views are at home in the GOP, he speaks with a voice of moderation that would be a vote-getter in November.
State Rep. Scott Conklin, a former Centre County commissioner, comes well-qualified for the Democratic nomination in a three-way field, while Bucks County Commissioner Jim Cawley would be the best of the nine Republican contenders to pair with a gubernatorial candidate.
U.S. House: 4th District
In the two-way race to challenge Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire, who has no primary opponent, Republican newcomer Keith Rothfus brings no baggage to the race and would give the party a chance to run hard on the issues in the fall.
U.S. House: 12th District
These constituents face a series of choices, with both parties nominating respective candidates for the fall campaign and all voters choosing a new congressman to serve out the rest of the term of the late Rep. John Murtha.
In the Democratic primary, the party's best choice in a three-way field is Ryan Bucchianeri, a businessman from Monongahela. The Republicans would have a promising nominee in Tim Burns, a business consultant from North Strabane. In the special election to fill the seat immediately, voters would be best served by Mark Critz, the Democrat from Johnstown who was Mr. Murtha's district director.
In the 20th District, based in Pittsburgh's North Side and northern suburbs, Rep. Don Walko left office after being elected judge last fall. That led to a four-way Democratic primary and a special election to choose a representative immediately to complete his term. Democrats would be best served by nominating Dan Keller, a mortgage broker who's been active in the community, and all voters would do well to elect Adam Ravenstahl, the mayor's brother, to hold the seat for the next seven months.
Democrats have primaries in three other districts and should nominate Jake Wheatley in the 19th, Joseph Preston Jr. in the 24th and Richard Dodaro in 34th. Republicans seeking a challenger to Democratic Rep. David Levdansky in the 39th should go with Rick Saccone.
First Published May 16, 2010 12:00 am