Cornell in for a seat fight

Campaign Bits
By Tom Waring

State Rep. Sue Cornell last week won the endorsement of the Republican Party, but she won’t get a free ride in the May 16 primary.
If she wins renomination, she might face an old foe in the general election.
Three Republicans sought the endorsement at a Jan. 17 meeting at Hatboro’s Café LaFontana. The 152nd Legislative District includes portions of Somerton and eastern Montgomery County.
Cornell prevailed with 42 votes, followed by Tom Murt with 17 and Mike Paston with three.
Murt, assistant coordinator of the counseling and advising center at Penn State-Abington, will not step aside.
"I am staying in this race because I’m clearly the most qualified candidate," he said.
Paston, a member of the Upper Dublin School Board, dropped out of the race.
"My campaign lasted all of an hour and a half," he said.
A 45-year-old married father of three, Murt is a former Upper Moreland Township commissioner and member of the Upper Moreland School Board. He has a master’s degree in education and once taught at Archbishop Ryan High School.
Murt served as a township commissioner until January 2003, when he resigned after being called to active duty with the U.S. Army. He served for a year in Iraq.
The challenger understands that it won’t be easy to knock off an incumbent in the primary, but he points out that he unseated incumbents in races for commissioner and Montgomery County Republican Committee.
Murt believes he’s a good candidate because of his past leadership on issues such as balancing budgets, negotiating labor deals and preserving open space. He faults Cornell for voting for the legislative pay raise just 16 months into the job. Democrats perceive a weakness and will go after the incumbent on the issue, he thinks.
"I’m the best chance we have to keep the seat Republican," he said.
Cornell easily won a special election in March 2004 to replace her dad, Roy Cornell, who died two months earlier. She defeated John Weinrich, 59 percent to 37 percent, in a three-way Republican primary that year, then received 57 percent of the vote in beating Democratic challenger Ross Schriftman in the general election.
Weinrich is back, this time as a Democrat. He switched parties in September, sensing that he could not beat Cornell in a primary because she would have too much of a financial edge.
Like Murt, Weinrich criticizes Cornell for supporting the pay raise, a vote that took place last July after 2 a.m.
"The public is being shortchanged by having Sue Cornell as the rubber stamp for the Republican Party," he said.
A Realtor, Weinrich wants to focus on issues such as SEPTA funding, high property taxes and the medical malpractice crisis.
Weinrich, who wrote letters of support to Richard Nixon when he was a kid, differs from many Montgomery County Democrats on key issues. In his 2004 race in the GOP primary, he ran as a pro-life candidate who supported a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. He remains pro-life, but he doesn’t plan to focus on the marriage debate.
"That issue is not on the front burner for me," he said.

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Patrick Murphy, a Democratic candidate in the 8th Congressional District, supports an ethics reform bill authored by Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Reps. Marty Meehan of Massachusetts and Rahm Emmanuel of Illinois.
Murphy said the package is necessary in the wake of scandals surrounding some Republican members of Congress.
The legislation would, among others things, enhance the disclosure requirements for trips paid by lobbyists.
Murphy criticizes Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick for accepting campaign contributions from former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who has been indicted for allegedly using corporate donations for state legislative races in his home state of Texas.
"The people I talk to here in Pennsylvania all are sick of what they are reading and watching on TV about Congress: scandals, people convicted of bribery, influence peddling, Tom DeLay, the list goes on and on," Murphy said. "They want real reform, and they want real change in the right direction."

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John Dougherty easily won an unscientific Web site poll on the 2007 mayoral race.
A total of 759 people voted on philly.com over a one-month period. Dougherty, business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, received 450 votes, or 59 percent.
Former City Controller Jonathan Saidel finished a distant second with 173 votes, or 23 percent.
Other candidates and their vote totals were businessman Tom Knox (43), City Councilman Michael Nutter (31), U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (20), Councilman Frank Rizzo (19), state Rep. Dwight Evans (nine), Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell (five), state Sen. Anthony Williams (five) and lawyer George Bochetto (four).
"We’re not planning the inauguration just yet," said Michael Neill, co-chairman of the Draft John Dougherty 2007 Committee, "but this landslide margin of victory for John is extremely encouraging to all of us who believe he is the city’s best choice for mayor in 2007.
"The results speak to John’s enormous popularity across the city and his growing base of support’s ability to mobilize quickly and very effectively. John Dougherty will be a force to be reckoned with in the 2007 mayor’s race." ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twaring@phillynews.com