Race to Succeed Murtha Divides Republicans

By
Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 6:00 am
The late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and candidates Bill Russell and Tim Burns (house.gov, Bill Russell for Congress, Tim Burns for Congress)

The late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and candidates Bill Russell and Tim Burns (house.gov, Bill Russell for Congress, Tim Burns for Congress)

In the final weeks of the 2008 campaign, Lt. Col. (ret.) Bill Russell got a taste of political superstardom. He’d been running against Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) for a year, inspired by the congressman’s opposition to the Iraq War. In a bad year for Republicans, he’d struggled to get traction. And then, two weeks out of the election, Murtha told a newspaper’s editorial board that he represented a “racist area” that wouldn’t support Barack Obama for president.

Online donations flooded in to Russell’s campaign. Polls showed him on the verge of knocking out Murtha, the chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee and one of the senior members of the House. National media trekked into the rural, southwestern 12th district of Pennsylvania looking for a ray of Republican hope. In the end, Murtha rallied and won by 16 points — his lowest margin in decades, but enough to make the Russell surge seem like a mirage.

[GOP1]On February 8, Murtha died unexpectedly, setting up a May 12 special election in his district — the only one in America that voted for the Kerry-Edwards ticket in 2004 and the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008. It’s the sort of largely white, largely pro-life, conservative area where political reporters once found ticket-splitting “Reagan Democrats,” and the sort of district that needs to flip if Republicans are to take back the House of Representatives in 2010.

But taking this seat, say Republicans, won’t be as easy as it looks on paper. Democrats interested in the race include former state Treasurer Barbara Hafer and former Lieutenant Governor Mark Singel, as well as Murtha’s plugged-in district director Mark Critz. Republicans, however, are grappling with Russell and one other candidate — elected Republicans in the district have, so far, begged off on the expensive-looking race.

Some local party leaders, who will choose the nominee on March 11 in a private vote, are looking past Russell at Tim Burns, who has more personal wealth and deeper ties to the district. Russell isn’t budging, telling TWI that he’ll wage a primary campaign for his party’s nomination — also on May 12 — even if denied the special election endorsement. Base Connect, the campaign firm that has managed Russell’s fundraising in both cycles — taking a substantial amount of it back in fees — is working to convince conservative voters across the country that denying Russell the nomination would be tantamount to a betrayal of the base.

State Republicans aren’t buying it.

“Bill has, the last time I checked, $216,000 in the bank,” Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Rob Gleeson said in an interview with TWI. “You and I know that’s not a lot of money for a House race.”

Russell, in an interview with TWI, said that Gleeson had always written him off because, despite their partisan differences, he was “directly beholden financially to John Murtha” thanks to business that Gleeson does in Johnstown, the district’s biggest city and Murtha’s old political base.

“In the last campaign, he did nothing for me,” said Russell. “The party produced a slate card for voters with the names of the candidates on the Republican ticket, and my name was left off. When the presidential campaign stumped here — three times — I was never invited to speak at the rallies. So I have very little trust and very little faith in the state committee. I’ve been busy building support with the people of the district.” Having moved to the district after retirement, Russell argued that his work has erased the “carpetbagger” charge that Murtha clubbed him with.

Gleeson shrugged off the criticism. “Bill’s always had a chip on his shoulder,” he told TWI. “I knew John Murtha for 38 years, and he weakened our Republican ticket by being larger-than-life. I lost a state legislature race in 2008 because Russell was surging in the polls and Murtha turned out his forces to come out for the Democrats. He hurt me!”

Nonetheless, Russell’s campaign team has been driving home the message that to nominate another candidate would be to throw the seat to liberal Democrats. At last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Base Connect employees handed out “No NY-23 in PA-12″ buttons, comparing Russell’s race, and his quest to win over local Republican leaders, with the mess that ended up sparking an intra-Republican Party war and electing Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.). Freedom’s Defense Fund, a 527 group which shares office space with Base Connect and works for the same candidates, showed conference attendees an ad campaign it was running in the district, selling Russell as a tried and true conservative who deserved the nomination. The 527 group even paid Zogby and Associates for a poll — it revealed Russell as the choice of Republican voters by 30 points, although most voters had heard of neither candidate.

Neither the poll nor the ad has done anything to dissuade Tim Burns, a small businessman and Tea Party activist who told TWI that he was confident of lining up the Republican leadership support he needed to grab the special election nomination.

“Bill Russell sat in my house,” said Burns, “and told me that the reason he got into race was that he was upset about what John Murtha had said about the Marines at Haditha.” Murtha had accused eight Marines of complicity in a 2006 massacre in that Iraq town; seven were later cleared. “He moved into district to take on Murtha. I grew up in the district, in Johnstown. And I will outwork the competition. There’s no doubt in my mind.”

At CPAC, some Russell allies told TWI that the local party committees backed Burns, who made a fortune in pharmacy technology before selling the business in 2003, because he could spend enough money to help the rest of the ticket. Gleeson didn’t knock down that speculation.

“Tim Burns has indicated he can be a self-funder, to a certain point,” said Gleeson. “I told him he’d better get ready to cut some checks. Raising the money you need for a race like this in two months is, like, impossible.”

The possibility of a self-funded race by Burns appeals to Republicans who worry that Russell’s fundraising might not translate to expenditures in the district. According to FEC reports, Russell has raised more than $2.8 million in this election cycle but only has, as Gleeson pointed out, $216,000 in the bank. Base Connect — which changed its name from BMW Direct in 2009 — is well paid for its work. In the final quarter of 2009, Russell’s campaign paid $85,542.83 for “direct mail – creative” to Base Connect. It also paid $2490 to Electronic Reporting Systems, $64,017.79 to Legacy List Marketing, and $18,400.70 to MacKenzie and Company. All are headquartered at Base Connect’s offices at 1155 15th Street NW in Washington. But Russell told TWI that he had built on their work to find more than 5000 donors and 1700 volunteers inside the district.

“Base Connect has raised a lot of money with direct mail,” Russell said, “and in our district that’s the best way to get your message out. It’s incredibly gerrymandered.” There are, he pointed out, five different TV broadcast areas covering the district.

Typically, races for open seats draw more candidates than challenges against incumbents. But the absence of Murtha — despised by conservative activists, dogged by investigations for his relationships with lobbyists — has cooled down national enthusiasm for this race. Russell, who’d been a conservative hero at blogs like HotAir.com in 2008, isn’t attracting much attention for his new bid.

“He’s an appealing candidate,” HotAir.com blogger Allahpundit told TWI in an e-mail. “But between the loss of anti-Murtha sentiment and the fact that there’ll be so many more races attracting attention and conservative dollars this year, I’m skeptical that he’ll do especially well. I haven’t heard any chatter about him in awhile, either; the buzz around GOP veterans who are running for House seats all seems to belong to Lt. Col. (ret.) Allen West.

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Comments

11 Comments

triathlon
Comment posted February 25, 2010 @ 3:41 pm

STRATEGIC BATTLE ROYAL

[Kicking the Oval Office Door In]

Now, we all knew that the political wedding between the Imperial Media Messiah President and Park Ridge Bee-Itch, was one made in Swell, and we all knew that sooner or later the Battle Royal would ensue, and here it is. The Office of the President is an open battlefield between former Clinton employee Rahm Emanuel, whom Hillary Diane Rodham-Clinton had fired over his involvement in the Monica Lewinsky affair that got Bubba Impeached, and Hillary once again is planning to have Rahm fired, kicking in the door to the Oval Office. The Jewish Mob from Chicago, are engaged in a fight to the death of political careers, with the Clinton Crew, or maybe not, but a planned Strategic Battle Royal, with the White House the prize, in [2012]

[The Blame Game]

The Clinton Crew have been players on the Beltway scene for a long, Long, LONG, time, they know where the skeletons are buried and they know when to lay down the [IOU] chip, for favors given and just who’s looking for favors to be done, hold out their hand for their rings to be kissed, if I do this thing for you, when I call upon you to do a thing for me in return, there can be no refusal. And, the boys in the press always pick sides in a fight and those who have survived in the [DC] District of Clowns have a nose to which way the wind is blowing. The Imperial Media Messiah President has warfare in the Executive, The Party is split between Socialist Democratic and Capitalist Democratic [Blue Dog], Hillary is running the State Department, and has Gates the Secretary of Defense answering to her, while directing the fight in the oval office like a Field General, pushing her enemy Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Jewish Mob, on to Desperate Ground were the only option is battle. All the while the finger of Blame for the pickle the Democrat are in, in the Blame Game is pointed directly at Rahm Emanuel, and the Messiah.

[The options]

* Option One: The Messiah does nothing and lets Clinton and Rahm continue their fight in the open media and Hillary Diane, resigns in a huff, blaming the Socialist Agenda on the Chicago Jewish Mob.

* Option Two: The Messiah fires Hillary, and once again Hillary Diane, blame’s the failing Socialist Agenda on the Chicago Jewish Mob.

* Option Three: The Messiah fires Rahm, Hillary has her Clinton Crew continue with the Socialist Agenda, but distances herself with work in the State Department, but leaves the Messiah surrounded with the Crew, and after the mid-term elections and before the last year of the Messiahs term in office she resigns in a huff, again, she tried to stop his Socialist Agenda but the Messiah simply wouldn’t listen.

Now, as one can see in all [3] three options Hillary Diane resigns or is fired in [1] One, but the blame is always placed upon the Messiah. When [2011], arrives the Clinton Crew shifts into campaign mode, with the Democratic Capitalist, Centrist Hillary Diane, presenting herself as the only one able to put things in order, Israel should never have been given [Special Relationship] Status nor any other nation, but treated equally among the Community of nations as can be see with Bubba’s talking to Yasser Arafat, almost closing a Middle East Peace agreement. Hillary always did know how the game was played, a Strategic Battle Royal.

HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN


ebrayton
Comment posted February 25, 2010 @ 8:40 pm

..


Race to Succeed Murtha Divides Republicans » Latest Information On All
Pingback posted February 26, 2010 @ 1:48 am

[...] here: Race to Succeed Murtha Divides Republicans Related [...]


Angela
Comment posted February 26, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

Perhaps the reason there isn't so much chatter about Russell this year is that Tim Burns has attracted quite a bit of support. RedState endorsed Tim because of his firm grasp of the issues among many other things. You can read about the endorsement here http://www.redstate.com/erick/2010/02/25/tim-bu…

Tim is a native son of the PA-12 congressional district, and knows the issues of the district backward and forward; not only that, he has a keen sense of what it takes to improve the economy both on a local and national. Tim's solid principles are attracting momemtum for his campaign, and I think he'll be the nominee for both the special election and the regularly scheduled primary.


This Gleason Quote Really Grinds My Gears | PAWaterCooler.com
Pingback posted March 1, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

[...] The Washington Independent reports (bold italics added): “In the last campaign, he did nothing for me,” said Russell. “The party produced a slate card for voters with the names of the candidates on the Republican ticket, and my name was left off. When the presidential campaign stumped here — three times — I was never invited to speak at the rallies. So I have very little trust and very little faith in the state committee. I’ve been busy building support with the people of the district.” Having moved to the district after retirement, Russell argued that his work has erased the “carpetbagger” charge that Murtha clubbed him with. [...]


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Lawyer Don Hecker Narration » Blog Archive » Open seats: Dem field narrows as GOP tensions rise in PA-12; Phoenix Mayor won’t run in AZ-03
Pingback posted March 22, 2010 @ 2:55 pm

[...] nominee to be the former, mainly because he could self-fund part of his campaign, but Russell is making it clear he would not step aside. In other words, even if party leaders choose Burns to represent them in [...]


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Comment posted July 26, 2010 @ 4:51 pm

Option Two: The Messiah fires Hillary, and once again Hillary Diane, blame’s the failing Socialist Agenda on the Chicago Jewish Mob.


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Comment posted August 1, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

Tim is a native son of the PA-12 congressional district, and knows the issues of the district backward and forward; not only that, he has a keen sense of what it takes to improve the economy both on a local and national. Tim's solid principles are attracting momemtum for his campaign, and I think he'll be the nominee for both the special election and the regularly scheduled primary


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Comment posted August 20, 2010 @ 2:27 am

I think he'll be the nominee for both the special election and the regularly scheduled primary


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Comment posted September 4, 2010 @ 8:05 am

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