Madonna: Rohrer write-in should worry Corbett

Rohrer with Pittsburgh-area supporters on Primary Day

A group of conservative voters has launched a write-in gubernatorial campaign for Berks Country Representative Sam Rohrer, who lost in the spring primary. One analyst says he can envision a scenario where the movement has an impact on the fall election.

Rohrer and his hard-line conservative platform won 31 percent of the vote in May. The lawmaker hasn’t endorsed Republican nominee Tom Corbett, and indicates he doesn’t have any plans to. Pennsylvania law bars primary losers from running on third-party ballot lines, but a small group of Rohrer supporters have launched a website urging voters to write in Rohrer’s name in this fall.

Franklin and Marshall College political scientist Terry Madonna says the Corbett campaign should be worried. “I mean [Corbett] has, not arguably, somewhere between a seven to ten point lead,” he says.  “But what happens if they end up absorbing 7 to 10 points of his lead? I don’t think that’s out of the question, for Rohrer to get up to ten points.” Madonna says if nothing else, the campaign creates more hassles for Corbett. “You don’t want to be there if you don’t have to be,” he argues.

Rohrer is keeping the write-in campaign at arms-length distance. He didn’t return calls for comment, and Representative Gordon Denlinger, a Lancaster Country Republican who’s close to Rohrer, says the representative isn’t endorsing the movement. Denlinger isn’t fully backing the effort, either, but says it’s wrong to tell conservatives to vote for Corbett, just to put a Republican in the governor’s mansion. “, I would certainly not ever encourage someone to say, set aside your beliefs, let that take a back seat and just move forward with some type of a political calculation,” he argues.

Rohrer centered his primary bid around reduced government spending. He argues Pennsylvania is on the verge of insolvency, and increased spending and dishonest budgeting are putting the state billions of dollars in the hole each year. Rohrer actively courted “Tea Party” voters, appearing at 9/12 Project and Tea Party meetings across the commonwealth.

Organizers of the write-in campaign say they just don’t trust Corbett. One of the main collaborators, Sue Nelms, says the Attorney General lost her support when he called the Constitution a “living document.” She’s also skeptical, because Corbett didn’t deliver a clear answer to the hypothetical question of whether he’d seize Pennsylvanians’ guns, if ordered to d0-so by the president. “If he was governor of our state, I think he would not follow the Constitution,” she says.  “And I think that’s sad.”

Corbett endorsement not a given, says Rohrer camp

State Representative Sam Rohrer isn’t sure whether he’ll endorse Republican nominee Tom Corbett – but Corbett says he’s not worried about securing the support of Rohrer’s conservative backers.

Rohrer’s base of supporters ended up being comparatively small – he garnered 31 percent of the Republican primary vote. But the conservatives, many of them Tea Party and 9-12 Project members, are devoted, and Rohrer say it may take some convincing to get them to vote for Corbett.

Speaking at an Allegheny County polling site on Tuesday, Rohrer said Corbett and the State Republican Party have some fence mending to do.

Rohrer campaign advisor Jeff Coleman says the campaign’s backers have “wide philosophical differences [with Corbett] of some of the more deeply held issues, like the Constitution.” “Those are difficult to reconcile,” he added.

At an Allegheny County Airport press conference this afternoon, Corbett insisted he reached out to conservative activists and grassroots groups throughout the primary. “So we’ve already begun that process. So I would disagree with Mr. Rohrer. I think many of his supporters and many of the independents out there will be coming on board with us.”

Corbett also says he’s also confident he can appeal to the Tea Party voters, while still wooing the state’s moderate independent and Democratic voters.

Cawley goes on offense…against Rohrer

Republican lieutenant governor candidate Jim Cawley is taking sides in the GOP’s gubernatorial primary.

Cawley, the endorsed candidate in the nine-way Republican lieutenant governor primary, took a not-so-veiled shot at state Representative Sam Rohrer during a Tuesday morning interview.

Just an hour before our interview, Cawley told PoliticsPA, “I adopt Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: Thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican. …And I haven’t.”

Cawley has made his support for Attorney General Tom Corbett clear from the beginning of his campaign. The Bucks County commissioner refers to the Attorney General as his “running mate” in a television ad, and has already reserved the domain name www.corbettcawley.com. When asked to explain why he calls Corbett a “running mate” before either of them have won a contested primary, Cawley said he uses the phrase because both men are the Republican Party’s endorsed candidates.

Cawley also defended himself against attacks he’s too liberal. A recent mailer from Chet Beiler’s campaign charges Cawley with supporting Planned Parenthood and raising taxes. Cawley says that’s not true.

He says some of the attacks are due to the fact he’s from Bucks County.

During the session, Cawley twice ducked the question of whether he thinks Pennsylvania can balance its budget without raising taxes, saying, “I think what we need to do first is figure out where the money is that people are sending us now. Once we’ve identified how money is being spent, where it’s being spent and whether it can be spent better elsewhere, then we can broaden the discussion.” He returned to the topic later on, though, saying, “increasing taxes is not the answer. Period.”

Here’s Cawley’s tv ad:

Gun rally draws GOP candidates

A shaded Metcalfe MCs the 2nd Amendment rally

Pennsylvania’s two Republican candidates for governor stood shoulder-to-shoulder with 2nd Amendment advocates during a pro-gun rally at the state Capitol today.

Several hundred people crowded the Capitol’s front steps for the event. Suzanna Gratia Hupp, a former Texas legislator and the survivor of a mass shooting she says she could have stopped had she been armed, expressed the group’s sentiments during her speech.

Many of the speakers called for the passage of the “castle doctrine” bill – a measure that would reinforce a person’s right to defend his or her home with deadly force, without the obligation of trying to retreat first. After the event, Attorney General Tom Corbett said he couldn’t directly support the legislation without reading it first, arguing there are three different measures before the General Assembly. He did side with its general goal.

State Representative Sam Rohrer backed the measure without qualifications.

The event was MCed by Republican lawmaker  Daryl Metcalfe, who’s running for lieutenant governor.

Rohrer paid Joe the Plumber $4,000 for February appearance

Remember Joe the Plumber? This blog sure does.

Well, Laura Olson of Capitolwire has done some digging through Sam Rohrer’s latest campaign finance report,  and discovered Rohrer paid Joe $4,000 to appear at his February rally, where Joe (aka Samuel J.Wurzelbacher) endorsed the Berks County representative.

Campaign manager Jeff Coleman defends the payment, saying it “was not part of any agreement. …The endorsement was something he offered on his own.”

Coleman notes conservatives like Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee typically request speaking fees, as well.

The $4,000 payment is only slightly less than the amount of money the Rohrer campaign has left in the bank, as of March 29th.

The 9/12ers and Rohrer

Rohrer speaks to voters after the event

Here’s a longer piece I put together on this week’s 9/12 Project candidates’ forum in Jim Thorpe, Carbon County. The focus: every single audience member I talked to came away from the event with a strong impression of State Representative Sam Rohrer.

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Tea Parties and other conservative grassroots groups are rapidly becoming a major force in Republican politics.

As an indication of the movement’s clout, gubernatorial candidates Tom Corbett and Sam Rohrer trekked out  to Carbon County earlier this week to appear at a forum sponsored by a local 9/12 Project.

Scott Detrow reports.

GOP candidates face the 9/12ers

Jim Thorpe — Sitting in front of a three-story tall American flag at a mountaintop Carbon County concert venue, Tom Corbett and Sam Rohrer made their case to a group of 9/12ers tonight. As sleet and snow fell outside of Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, about 200 conservative grassroots activists sat and listened to the two Republicans, who were joined by Hazleton Mayor and Congressional candidate Lou Barletta, as well as lieutenant governor hopeful Steve Urban.

Corbett’s anti-health care lawsuit dominated the early portion of the forum. Corbett insisted, once again, that the suit isn’t politically motivated. “What we are doing is protecting the individual’s right to choose,” he said. “The individual’s right, in this case, to do nothing. Not to engage in commerce.” Afterward, Corbett told reporters he would stop discussing the lawsuit if Democrats halt their partisan attacks on the motion.

But Corbett spent much of his opening statement talking about the matter, and he singled out the legal challenge when a questioner asked how he’d respond to overreaching by the federal government.

An unusually fiery Rohrer backed Corbett’s decision to join the effort.

Rohrer was clearly playing on his home turf tonight. (More on that tomorrow.) He received round after round of applause from the audience, especially when he laid out his signature effort to eliminate Pennsylvania’s property tax. He says the levy is simply unconstitutional.

Corbett pushed back on the issue, saying Rohrer’s plan to fund school districts with Marcellus Shale royalties, gambling revenue and a broadened sales tax base wouldn’t be able to pass the General Assembly. He also questioned whether Rohrer’s math added up. Corbett called property taxes a serious issue, and promised to look into the matter, but Rohrer said that isn’t enough.

Rohrer momentarily lost his footing at the end of the forum, when a questioner brought up the 2005 pay raise, and asked whether it was “legally or morally right” for lawmakers to vote for it and take the hike. Rohrer, who voted for the pay increase, skirted the answer. “For me, on that issue, I said the taking of it is unconstitutional and immoral,” he explained. “I think I was one of few members who didn’t take it. The court said it was ok. All the members had to deal with that appropriately.”

Corbett alluded to Rohrer’s pro-pay raise vote at the beginning of his answer, calling it “the big elephant in the middle of the room.” But he didn’t specifically tell the audience his opponent voted “yes,” or Rohrer after he failed to bring up the vote himself. Corbett did bring it up when talking to reporters after the session, though.

Rohrer has said he committed to supporting the pay raise before he realized the full scope of the measure, and that he regrets the vote.

I’ll have more on the 9/12er forum – specifically the audience’s reaction to Corbett and Rohrer – tomorrow.

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