by Chris Potter
The 19th Ward holds its organizational meeting tomorrow night, where Anthony Coghill's efforts to unseat Pete Wagner will come to a head.
And guess who'll be on hand? A couple representatives from the Allegheny County Democratic Committee ... including chair Jim Burn.
At tomorrow night's meeting, returning and newly elected members of the Democratic Party's 19th Ward committee will vote to determine the party's officers, including the post of ward chair. The gathering, which takes place at Brookline Elementary School, will start at 7. Coghill hopes to topple Wagner, a former ally who is now his nemisis.
Jim Burn confirms that he and another commitee representative will be on hand, "to make sure all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed." The commitee's bylaws allow Burn to "designate in writing a representative to preside at and to conduct ... election meetings in any Ward."
Burn says his presence was also requested, and no wonder. You may recall some unpleasantness surrounding the party's endorsement in a city council election where Coghill was a candidate.
Only committee members are allowed to vote for a ward chair, of course, and the election is to be by secret ballot. But as the bylaws make clear, "the general public shall be permitted to observe the election." And I've already heard a couple committeefolk suggest that as a fundraising tool, the party ought to be charging admission.
By the way, you read it here first, but last week the Morning Call of Allentown had a story about Burn's ambitions to chair the statewide party. The Morning Call notes that there's some chatter about trying to keep the current state chair, T.J. Rooney, in his post until after November. (There are also a couple other Dems said to be weighing a bid.)
The story portrays the desire to hold onto Rooney as a matter of not wanting to change horses in midstream -- there is, after all, a pretty significant Senate election and the governor's office at stake this November. But another factor to consider: Rooney, a former state legislator, hails from Bethlehem, and is thus much closer to vote-rich Philadelphia than Burn is. In fact, both Burn and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato hail from Allegehny County, so no doubt some Dems are worried about the geographic balance here. Ordinarily, that's the sort of thing that you hope your lieutenant governor can address. But Jonathan Saidel, a former city controller from Philly, lost to Scott Conklin of Centre County.
The state chair will be chosen at a party gathering on June 19. In the meantime, Allegheny County Dems will be choosing their own county chair next week, at a June 13 gathering at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Burn confirms he's seeking both positions -- and in fact he's running unopposed at the county level.
But in the meantime, he says, "We're all 19th Warders now."