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PA-Sen: The Potential Democratic Primary Pool

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{Originally posted with poll at my blog Senate Guru. Head over to vote in the poll.}

With conservative former Congressman Pat Toomey set to challenge incumbent Arlen Specter in the 2010 Republican Senate primary, I think it's safe to assume that we'll see a bloodbath in which Specter is labeled a convictionless flip-flopper and Toomey is dubbed an unelectable right-winger. No doubt both Specter and Toomey will spend the bulk of their resources just to get through the primary, leaving the eventual Republican nominee politically battered and financially near-broke, having to re-build a bankroll from almost scratch.

Naturally, this raises the question: who do you want the Democratic nominee to be? With the Republican nominee starting the general election in rough shape from a bloody primary, and with Pennsylvania Democrats continuing to grow their voter registration edge over Pennsylvania Republicans, Democrats are in the driver's seat. Without further ado, here is the cattle call of potential candidates, in alphabetical order:

District Attorney Lynne Abraham
During late-December of last year, both KYW Newsradio 1060 Philadelphia and CBS-3 Philadelphia reported that District Attorney Abraham was considering a bid. As for bio, she was head of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority in the 1970's and subsequently a judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. She has been District Attorney of the City of Philadelphia since 1991 and has won four elections during her tenure - but she has already announced that she is not running for re-election to the post this year. A knock on her as a candidate, though, is related to the strength of her resume: in 2010, she will turn 69-years-old. I don't imagine she'd plan on seeking several six-year terms to build her seniority.

State Representative Dwight Evans
The 54-year-old State Representative is a powerhouse in the state Legislature as the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, having served in the state House for nearly thirty years, but has also had his share of electoral losses. He finished third in the 1986 Democratic primary for Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor, finished third in the 1994 Democratic gubernatorial primary, and had fifth-place showings in two crowded Philadelphia Mayoral runs in 1999 and 2007. Still as the Democrats' Appropriations chief for nearly twenty of his thirty years in the state House, he has wielded considerable power for a long time. The Executive Director of the PA-Dems was talking Representative Evans up this past January as a possible 2010 Senate candidate. Representative Evans has done a great deal to improve Philadelphians' lives, but has had difficulty translating that success in bids for higher office.

Congressman Patrick Murphy
At only 35-years-old, Congressman Murphy, an Iraq War veteran now serving his second term in Congress, is considered a rising star in the Party. Some of his pluses are quite obvious: his military experience brings unique perspective and his relative youth would allow him to build seniority over the years for Pennsylvania. According to the National Journal's 2008 Vote Ratings, Congressman Murphy was the 187th most liberal member and the 240th most conservative member - in other words, he was fairly centrist. Given the political carnage that is expected at the end of Specter-Toomey: The Sequel, PA-Dems may want to elect someone more liberal than Congressman Murphy has been. Also, while Congressman Murphy appears to be a more-than-decent fundraiser, as of the end of 2008, he had just under $150,000 on hand, with just over $100,000 in debt, which means he's starting from nearly scratch on the money front.

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz
Now serving in her third term, Congresswoman Schwartz is one of only two women in Pennsylvania's Congressional delegation. Her bio includes: executive director of the Elizabeth Blackwell Center, a Planned parenthood clinic in Philadelphia, '75-'88; acting Deputy Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, '88-'90; State Senator, '91-'04; Congresswoman, '05-present. According to the National Journal's 2008 Vote Ratings, Congresswoman Schwartz was the 112th most liberal member and the 316th most conservative member, i.e.she was a bit to Congressman Murphy's political left. Also, known for being a strong fundraiser, she closed out 2008 with just under $2 million on hand and no debt. On Election Day 2010, Congresswoman Schwartz will be 62-years-old, suggesting perhaps only a tenure of two-terms tops if she ran.

Congressman Joe Sestak
The 57-year-old military veteran is in his second term in Congress. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1974, Congressman Sestak picked up an M.P.A. and a Ph.D. from Harvard before embarking on an impressive naval career. According to the National Journal's 2008 Vote Ratings, Congressman Sestak was the 150th most liberal member and the 277th most conservative member, putting him in between Congressman Murphy and Congresswoman Schwartz in the ranking. Also a very solid fundraiser, Congressman Sestak ended 2008 with over $2.9 million on hand and no debt. Back in December, Congressman Sestak's office suggested that he wouldn't be a candidate for Senate in 2010; however, with the new political dynamic of the combative Republican primary, perhaps Congressman Sestak might reconsider.

State Representative Josh Shapiro
Like Congressman Murphy, Representative Shapiro is only 35-years-old. He is in his third term in the state Legislature, and was named Deputy Speaker of the House in his second term. Prior to his time in the state Legislature, Representative Shapiro spent about eight years on Capitol Hill working for several elected officials, including service as Chief of Staff to Congressman Joe Hoeffel, Arlen Specter's last Democratic opponent. Representative Shapiro has met with the DSCC to discuss a possible bid; and, he has begun an aggressive outreach campaign to determine whether or not he'll run.

State Board of Education Chairman Joe Torsella
The 45-year-old Torsella has worn many hats: state Board of Education Chairman, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center, and Deputy Mayor for Policy and Planning for the City of Philadelphia under then-Mayor and now-Governor Ed Rendell. He also ran for Congress in 2004 and narrowly lost the Democratic primary to now-Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, who won her first term in that election cycle. He is also the only announced candidate for Senate in 2010 on the Democratic side, though he has yet to launch a campaign website (that I can find, anyway) despite having announced two months ago. It is rumored that Torsella enjoys the support of Governor Rendell's political machine behind the scenes. Through contacts from his numerous civic roles and possible assistance from the Rendell machine, Torsella was able to raise a respectable $600,000 in Q1 (having only started campaign fundraising in mid-February). The amount is enough to demonstrate capable fundraising, but far from strong enough to scare off primary challengers, especially members of Congress with seven-figure campaign bankrolls.

State Auditor Jack Wagner
Auditor Wagner began serving as a statewide official in this capacity in 2005, succeeding Bob Casey Jr., who, of course, defeated Republican Rick Santorum for Senate in 2006. Prior to his tenure as Auditor, Wagner spent a little over a decade in the Pennsylvania state Senate. Auditor Wagner is also a Purple Heart recipient from his time with the Marine Corps in Vietnam. Auditor Wagner is the only person on this list from western Pennsylvania, which could provide a geographic advantage. On Election Day 2010, Auditor Wagner will be 62-years-old, like Congresswoman Schwartz, suggesting a limit to his possible tenure in the Senate. Additionally, it's been reported that Auditor Wagner has told friends that he will not run for the Senate seat.

Former State Treasurer Robin Wiessmann
Former Treasurer Wiessman had a largely financial services background before filling the remainder of Bob Casey's Treasurer term after he ascended to the U.S. Senate. She spent the 90's as President of Artemis Capital Group and went on to serve as a Vice-president at Goldman Sachs. She also put in a stint as Deputy Director of Finance for the City of Philadelphia. If Wiessman was interested in a prolonged political career, one suspects that she would have run for Treasurer last year instead of ceding the office, though. If she does decide to run, fundraising won't be as difficult as it would be for other first-time candidates as her husband is reportedly a major Democratic fundraiser.

With Governor Ed Rendell serious about retiring from electoral politics and with current state Treasurer Rob McCord in only his fourth month in the role and having expressed no interest in a Senate bid thus far, this appears to be the pool from which a Democratic nominee will arise. You're encouraged to make your case for your candidate in the comments. If there is someone you would like to see as the Democratic nominee in PA-Sen who hasn't been listed, share your thoughts in the comments, as well.

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