Katie McGinty is challenging current PA Democratic Party Chair Jim Burn, with freshly-nominated Tom Wolf’s encouragement, and we’re all for it.
That’s no slight to Burn, who came on as Chair in 2010 to oversee multiple tough cycles for Democrats. I’m sure others will have different assessments of his tenure in the comments, but he seems to have done a decent job holding things together with the crap fundamentals.
The trouble with Burn is that he’s only a former Allegheny County Councilman. He was the President of County Council, which is great, but he’s lacking a statewide profile. When I shared the above photo of the Unity Breakfast on Facebook, with Bob Brady making the mafia Don face at the head of the table, people were like “who’s that guy on the end?” Nominating party insiders to the top post seems like a great idea to party insiders, but it’s really not. Nobody knows who the fuck Rob Gleason is, for example.
By contrast, Katie McGinty is fresh off a statewide run, she ran TV ads, and her favorable ratings are pretty high. More people are going to know who she is, and are primed to like what she has to say about politics.
This is also an opportunity for a change in the way the party conducts business. PA Democrats need to become a stronger political party that takes an active role in primaries. In HD-36, a strong party would have backed Erin Molchany over Harry Readshaw. Molchany stands for what the party platform stands for, and Harry Readshaw doesn’t. The party needs to back candidates who contribute to a coherent message about what the party stands for to the voters, and then be able to credibly deliver primary wins for endorsed candidates. This is something the PA Democrats are currently quite bad at, and a leadership change is exactly the right occasion to take inventory of the organization’s strengths and weaknesses and make necessary changes.