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June 13, 2014

Democratic chairman says he’ll oppose Wolf’s pick for governor seat

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn said Thursday he is prepared to defend a challenge from Katie McGinty, the hand-picked candidate of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom Wolf for the job.

Win or lose, Burn said he’ll accept the decision of the state committee when it chooses a new chairman at its June 21 meeting in Camp Hill, but argued that the party has prospered under his four years of leadership and is highly regarded in national political circles.

He said he wants to give the committee a choice.

“We have a stable operation with a proven record of success and I see no reason to mess with a successful formula,” Burn, a 51-year-old Pittsburgh lawyer, said in a telephone interview.

His comments come after Wednesday’s disclosure by Wolf that he was endorsing McGinty, a former state environmental protection secretary who finished fourth in the four-way Democratic primary race, for the party chairmanship. He also endorsed state Rep. Jake Wheatley of Allegheny County for the vice chairman slot.

Wolf is challenging Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s re-election bid in the Nov. 4 election.

In his email to committee members, Wolf said he appreciates “the great work Jim Burn has done building the party and electing Democrats” and promised that he would be involved in future party activities.

“Katie and Jake are the people who I want by my side, fighting for our values and enthusiastically defending the Pennsylvania Democratic Party,” Wolf said.

The upcoming vote on a new chairman is comparable to the competitive situation that led to Burn, then the head of the Allegheny County Democrats, taking the party’s helm in 2010.

Multiple candidates expressed interest in the chairmanship, including one favored by gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato, then the Allegheny County executive. In the end, Onorato remained neutral and the other candidates dropped out.

“The party chose for itself and they elected me,” Burn recalled.

A Wolf campaign spokesman said Thursday it had no comment on Burn’s candidacy.

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