Archive

ShareThis Page
Western Pennsylvania lawmakers eye leadership positions | TribLIVE.com
News

Western Pennsylvania lawmakers eye leadership positions

The Associated Press

HARRISBURG — You won’t see TV ads about them, but the votes for leadership positions in the Legislature that will follow Tuesday’s election will determine much of what will happen in Pennsylvania.

The biggest race is the selection of the fourth speaker of the state House of Representative in just four years, an opening caused by the impending retirement of Speaker Keith McCall, D-Carbon.

The House is split 104-99 in favor of the Democrats, a margin close enough to give both parties a realistic hope of majority status next year. In the Senate, Democrats will choose a successor for Minority Leader Bob Mellow of Lackawanna County, who is retiring after 40 years.

Allegheny County legislators from both parties are leadership candidates.

Minority Leader Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, is considered a shoo-in as speaker if the GOP gains control of the House. Under that scenario, Minority Whip Mike Turzai, R-McCandless, would move up to floor leader.

House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, D-Luzerne, is trying to fend off an aggressive challenge from GOP nominee Tarah Toohil. Eachus might seem to be a prime candidate to move up to speaker if the Democrats maintain their majority, but his spokesman has ruled that out.

Democrat Reps. Nick Kotik of Robinson and Curtis Thomas of Philadelphia are openly campaigning for speaker; Majority Whip Frank Dermody of Oakmont is widely viewed as a candidate but has not confirmed his interest.

Kotik, who has battled within his own caucus over tax votes as a leading member of the conservative Democratic “blue dog” caucus, said he has about 25 votes lined up, or roughly half what he will need. He wants House Democrats to stake out less liberal positions in their negotiations with the Republican-controlled Senate.

“If the Senate is going to be Republican, you’ve got to deal with them — you can’t put up an agenda that’s always confrontational,” Kotik said. “If you can get half a loaf, be happy with half a loaf.”

Thomas said he wants to restore the public’s confidence in the General Assembly as an institution and cut the Legislature’s running surplus of about $200 million.

Dermody has not told anyone whether he plans to run for speaker, spokesman Bill Patton said. “He’s told everyone it’s a discussion to take place after the election,” Patton said.

Another potential candidate for speaker is Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia. Evans spokeswoman Johnna Pro would not rule him in or out.

An aide to Rep. Pete Daley, D-Washington, said Daley is considering adding his name to the list of candidates for leadership.

In the Senate, Republicans are almost certain to maintain the leadership team of President Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, and Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware.

Among Senate Democrats, two candidates have emerged to succeed Mellow: Sen. Jay Costa of Forest Hills and Sen. Mike Stack of Philadelphia.

Costa confirmed his interest in the job, but declined to talk about it before Tuesday’s election. Stack said he has the votes to win.

House Republicans will reorganize on Nov. 9, followed by House Democrats on Nov. 16. Both parties will choose Senate leaders on Nov. 17. The House will elect a speaker in January.


TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.