Former Gov. Ed Rendell was sharply critical of the Democratic State Committee and of its chairman, Jim Burn, in the wake of an aborted leadership battle that briefly pitted Mr. Burn against a candidate backed by the party’s gubernatorial nominee, Tom Wolf.
Invoking an informal prerogative of the party nominee, Mr. Wolf had asked state committee members to install Katie McGinty as the party chair at their organizational meeting Saturday. But Mr. Burn refused to bow to Wolf preference and battled to hold onto the post. He contended that it was important of the state committee members to make their own choice instead of accepting the dictates of party leaders.
Rather than press the dispute, Mr. Wolf, in conjunction with his party’s state House and Senate campaign committees, decided to form a new campaign committee separate from the party organization. Ms. McGinty, a former secretary of environmental resources in the Rendell cabinet and one of the candidates defeated by Mr. Wolf in the primary, will lead the new committee after dropping her bid for the party post.
Mr. Rendell, the last Democrat elected governor, was scathing in his assessment of the party infighting. Of the state committee, which comprises members elected from state senate districts across the state, he said, “They have no significance, no political power, no punch. They can only raise money if the governor raises money for them.”
He predicted that the breach over its leadership would marginalize the group through the current election cycle and professed to be baffled by Mr. Burn’s intransigence in the face of a candidate who won the nomination in a landslide.
“God only knows why he decided to do this,” he said of the former Allegheny County councilman. “He now presides over an organization with no money, no power, no resources.”
Mr. Burn, who appears to be about to win a second four-year term as chairman, responded to Mr. Rendell’s criticism with a text message saying, “The state party is coming off of a successful and historic four-year cycle. We look forward to building on that success as we move forward, starting with the election of Tom Wolf this November.”
In an email to state committee members Friday, he was similarly conciliatory toward the Wolf campaign.
“Please bring to the meeting your Tom Wolf/Mike Stack [the lieutenant governor nominee] yard signs, window stickers and any other items which bear the names or our next governor and lieutenant governor,” he wrote. “Please also remember that in every gubernatorial cycle, a committee is formed by the candidate(s) similar to what our Nominee has done. Therefore, if you have not done so already please reach out and extend best wishes to Tom Wolf and Katie McGinty, letting them know that we, the Pennsylvania Democratic Committee, stand with them in Democratic solidarity as we move to the November election.”
Mr. Wolf won’t see those signs, however, as he’s decided to skip the party meeting outside Harrisburg.
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