On Thursday night, the Republican party of Pennsylvania will hold a conferee meeting at 7 p.m. at the Fred M. Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College to nominate a candidate to fill the GOP position on the ballot for the upcoming May 18 special election to fill the vacant seat in the 12th congressional district.
Any registered Republican, 25 years or older, who is an inhabitant of Pennsylvania and has been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years may seek the GOP nomination, but the two candidates who were interested in the seat before Rep. John Murtha’s death are Tim Burns and Bill Russell.
The knock on Russell from those who prefer Burns is that Russell only moved to the district in 2007, with the intent of running against Murtha. In Burns supporters’ minds, Russell gave it his best shot and came up short, and it’s time for some new local blood. Burns is emphasizing his deep local roots; he “kicked off his bid for the special election for the 12th Congressional District at a Johnstown restaurant where he was a busboy years ago.”
The knock on Burns from those who prefer Russell is that the retired lieutenant colonel has earned his stripes in more ways than one; he gave Murtha the toughest race of his career, and deserves a chance to take on the Democrat over a self-funding first-time candidate. At the very least, Burns should have to earn the nomination in the primary, not have the nomination handed to him by local party officials.
Of course, the special election for the remainder of Murtha’s term is held the same day as the state primary; thus, whoever loses the party’s selection process could still win the nomination and appear on the ballot in November.
* “It’s not the Murtha seat, it’s the people’s seat.”
UPDATE: A reader sends along the geographic breakdown of the conferees who will make the selection; it is weighted by number of votes for McCain in the general election in 2008.
There are 134 total conferees who will be participating in the meeting. Each county is allotted the following number of conferees:
Allegheny County – 1
Armstrong County – 10
Cambria County – 26
Fayette County – 19
Greene County – 8
Indiana County – 4
Somerset County – 8
Washington County – 20
Westmoreland County – 38