Tuesday's choices: Both parties have critical nominations to make
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Rick Santorum suspended his presidential campaign at a curious moment, just before Republicans in the state where he was a senator could say if he deserved their nomination.
Although that took the steam out of the GOP battle at the top of the ballot in the Pennsylvania Primary, Republicans and Democrats still have plenty of intraparty contests to settle Tuesday. No one should refrain from going to the polls.
In March, Post-Gazette editorial writers began interviewing candidates for the April 24 primary. In the ensuing weeks, the editorial board made 18 recommendations in contested races for statewide, congressional and legislative offices.
What follows is a recap of the Post-Gazette's endorsements this spring.
Pennsylvania fell short of being a battleground for the Republican presidential nomination, but the party faithful will still find four candidates on the ballot here. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, represents the GOP's best chance to deny President Barack Obama a second term.
At a time when much of the party has swung sharply to the right, its prospects for capturing the White House have not been helped by the intraparty strife. Mr. Romney has the funding, organization and crossover appeal, however, to mount a competitive campaign in the fall.
Although he will have the challenge of defining himself, once and for all, as either the genuine conservative he proclaims to be in 2012 or as the moderate state executive he was in 2003-07, the businessman is the party's strongest hope for selling voters on an economic revival based on free-market principles.
Democrats will be surprised to find a challenger to incumbent Bob Casey, but they should ignore the token candidate, who isn't mounting a serious campaign, and stick with the senator.
Republicans have a more difficult choice to make. In the party's five-way battle, the top two candidates are desperately trying to demonstrate who is more conservative, except when it comes to dumping millions of dollars on dueling ads showing one was previously a registered Democrat (for shame!) longer than the other.
All that said, Steve Welch of Chester County, with the backing of Gov. Tom Corbett and the state committee, stands apart. The founder of a medical device company and, later, of a business incubator, he is a smart, well-informed candidate who is also a job creator. Even though he did leave the party briefly, to protest the big spending of the Bush administration, he can mount the strongest challenge to Sen. Casey in the fall.
Only Republicans have a race for the nomination to become the state's next fiscal watchdog. John Maher of Upper St. Clair is a certified public accountant and founder of a firm that specializes in auditing for government agencies and nonprofits. Although he is no longer part of the company, Mr. Maher has valuable experience that is unmatched by his opponent. As a member of the state House of Representatives since 1997, he also knows a thing or two about public service.
Democrats are the ones who can choose a nominee to seek the state's top law enforcement job. In a spirited campaign played out in a blizzard of TV commercials, Patrick Murphy of Bucks County holds the upper hand. The former congressman and military prosecutor served in Bosnia and Iraq, where he earned a Bronze Medal for meritorious service.
He supervised the administration of military justice in seven battalions and five companies during combat operations and coordinated the investigation of alleged crimes. He tried Iraqis in Baghdad's criminal court and prosecuted multiple felony courts martial at jury and bench trials. To win the attorney general's race, something no Democrat has done since it became an elected office, the party will need both a prosecutor and politician. Mr. Murphy brings the whole package.
• 12th District: Two Democratic incumbents were pitted against each other in the redesigned district after the 2010 census. Jason Altmire of McCandless is the one who should advance to the general election. The three-term incumbent disappointed many fellow Democrats with his vote against the president's health care overhaul, but he has been protective of the law ever since and is more in line with the party mainstream than his opponent on other key issues.
• 14th District: Democrat Mike Doyle of Forest Hills has been a member of Congress for 18 years and, while his challenger for the nomination cares about the community, she agrees with him on many issues. There is no reason for the party to switch horses, given the incumbent's wealth of experience and service.
• 18th District: Republican Tim Murphy of Upper St. Clair faces a young upstart in the Tea Party mold. The challenger alleges that the five-term incumbent is not really a conservative -- a hollow claim easily debunked by Mr. Murphy's extensive voting record. The GOP should stick with the man who has served the district for a decade.
The three-way GOP contest in the 37th District has been as mean and nasty as they come. Then Mark Mustio of Moon, whom we initially endorsed, crossed a line last week in making a racist appeal for votes. So we have shifted our support to businessman D. Raja of Mt. Lebanon. It's an important choice for Republicans because their nominee could become the next senator since no Democrat is on the ballot.
• 16th District Republicans:
• 20th District Democrats:
• 22nd District Democrats:
• 24th District Democrats:
• 25th District Republicans:
• 39th District Democrats:
• 39th District Republicans:
• 45th District Democrats:
All voters in the South Hills' 22nd Legislative District -- Democrats, Republicans and others -- can elect someone to fill the final eight months of the term of Chelsa Wagner, who left the House after being elected Allegheny County controller. Chris Cratsley, an engaging and well-informed Republican from Overbrook, would represent the district well.
First Published April 22, 2012 1:06 pm