Nobody Knows Who Jim Burn Is. Pick Katie McGinty for PA Democratic Chair.

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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.

This entry was posted in Elections.

20 Responses to Nobody Knows Who Jim Burn Is. Pick Katie McGinty for PA Democratic Chair.

  1. Julieann Wozniak says:

    When I met Ms. McGinty at an environmental conference at ISU, she was pretty sure that building more coal fired power plants would improve our air quality. This was a few years before my mother died of chronic lung disease from living between two of the beasts, and our air quality, in rural Greene County, is still deplorable. We had an air quality action day in February! I use a rescue inhaler! I hope her views are more grounded in science, and less influence by the corporate donor class.

  2. Progressive says:

    Basically agree with this post. However, the argument goes down in flames when it comes to Wolf’s choice for Vice Chair, State Rep. Jake Wheatley. Wheatley has voted, and continues to vote for vouchers, expanded charter schools with less accountability, expanded use of standardized tests, etc., etc., and last week voted to eliminate seniority as a factor for teacher layoffs. This guy is a tool of the corporatist charter thieves, akin to Anthony Williams. We would never make someone who is anti-choice or anti-LGBT the chair or vice chair of the party, why would we make someone who is anti-public education vice chair. Vote NO on WHEATLEY.

    • Don't Dump Burn says:

      Thanks for the good info. on Wheatley. He’s been getting a pass in the 14th Ward in Pittsburgh–time for a closer look. Re: Burn, I’d rather have someone working in the trenches on the party’s behalf than someone angling for her next campaign opportunity.

  3. PA Dem Cmte Member says:

    Jim Burn has worked to empower committee members and counties. That being said, I’m open to Katie McGinty, but need to hear her plan. Has she committed to the State Party backing more progressive candidates?

  4. Another PA Dem State Committee Member says:

    Wolf ran as a different kind of candidate but this is nothing more than a continuation of top down party machine politics. Back to the days of bosses forcing their will on committees. Business as usual as it has been for 100 years. No thanks! I am solidly for Jim Burn and will vote for him next week. Burn has worked hard, involved all 67 counties in the party, and made sure every voice is heard. He strongly deserves reelection.

  5. rplinpa says:

    The author of the above article has astonishing criteria for who should be state committee chair. I am sure he is a fan of other celebrities as well: perhaps we should have a Kardashian as State Party Chair!

    The truth is this humble, hardworking guy has managed to make the party financially stable during a 4 year term with no governor. That is no simple task and yet he accomplished it. He has allowed progressive agenda items like marriage equality and a fracking moratorium come to the floor. Both of them passed, but Burn was,well, burned by the former powers of the state for allowing such a vote. Burn rules from the bottom up, not the top down and many old timers view that as weakness. It’s a position of strength in my book.

    I respect Tom Wolf and will donate and work my butt off for him, but the truth is he, McGinty and Wheatley have ZERO experience with State Committee. None. Nada. Zilch. Do we really wish to take the chance of blowing this election by putting a rookie team in? As an elected voting member of this body I say “no.”

  6. LoyalDem says:

    Wolf has every right to support his own person for party chair. There is a reason the party reorganizes every four years after the primary for governor, so that the best team can be put into place. Onorato pushed Burn into the job, or some may say he was forced to push Burn into the job.
    This goes a lot deeper. Guys like Peduto and Fitzgerald don’t like Burn. They mean much more to Wolf then Burn. Also, Wolf needs Rendell and Rooney behind him, and this will help that.

  7. Jeanne Clark says:

    Here’s an actual quote from Jim Burn to the Pittsburgh City Democratic Committee:
    “The Democratic Party is a paramilitary organization with a strict chain of command.”

    I don’t know how any self-respecting progressive can support someone with this underlying philosophy

    • Jon Geeting says:

      The language is too heavy on the testosterone, but yes, we do need strong political parties. My problem with the current PA Democratic Party is that it’s not strong enough. It doesn’t do enough to police primaries in defense of the party platform, and it doesn’t have the infrastructure currently to deliver wins for endorsed candidates.

  8. end the corruption says:

    Every time I look at this photo I see one person who was honest enough to let his freak flag fly and I see another person who told us he was not a politician. Well, for someone who claims not to be a politician he plays some dirty, stupid politics. Who benefits by making McGinty State Party Chair? Certainly not the State Party! Jim Burn is being punished by the old guard because he has allowed more democracy in our Democratic Party than what these crony capitalists can handle. Keep pushing back State Committeemembers! Remember why you were elected….to represent your constituents not some Philadelphia mob. Let’s work to get PA off the 10 most corrupt states list.

  9. steventodd says:

    Geeting bemoans that no one recognizes Burn or Gleason, except Committee insiders. The average rank and file Dem couldn’t name or pick Debbie Wasserman Schultz out of a photo array to save their lives. And yet Obama won nonetheless.

    Party bosses need the recognition and acceptance of underbosses. That’s it. Katie McGinty’s job will not be, as Burn’s isn’t now, to go out and knock on doors. It won’t be to make commercials (although McGinty would be great at that, but so would Burn). The party boss must energize the troops. The troops of either major party are the very few, very committed enough of us to run for or accept Committee seats and offices.

    I surely recognize McGinty quicker than Burn. I’m OK (not thrilled) with her policy-wise, and know nothing about Burn’s policy leanings. Neither matters. I love both Katie McGinty and Jim Burn personality-wise, and maybe her a little more. That matters, but not critically. Who can roust the troops, herd the cats and keep the donors confident they are doing both? THAT is who the PA State Democratic Committee members should choose.

    Steve Todd
    Chair, Derry Twp (Dauphin County) Democratic Committee

  10. In Support Of the Party says:

    Jon– Harry Readshaw WAS the endorsed candidate, and got no help from the party. Erin Molchany was not endorsed, and got much help from the party.

    I agree with you that the party needs to help out the endorsed candidates much more strongly. While you probably think Readshaw should not have gotten the endorsement, we can at least agree that as the endorsed candidate, a strong party– like you say you want– would fight for his reelection.

    My real question is this: most progressives, myself included, would say we need to allow the grassroots to choose who the party endorses, like they currently do. Yet, it appears you disagree with that– otherwise, you wouldn’t be upset that Readshaw was soundly endorsed by a wide margin. How would your endorsement process go down?

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I really only have a problem with who they endorsed, not the process. Molchany was clearly the better standard-bearer, because she supported more tenets of the party’s platform. Obviously you have to weigh electability in the mix, which people can disagree about in good faith, but generally I think the person who most closely supports the Democratic Party’s issue agenda, as defined by the state party platform, should get the endorsement. Electability wasn’t a concern here, since Molchany was also an incumbent, so endorsing Readshaw was just a bad call from every possible angle.

      • In Support Of the Party says:

        Just to be clear, this is how I see your argument: strong parties should work to elect their endorsements, and they should endorse the candidate that converges with progressivism and electability.

        So either: 1) the party should have done more to help Harry get elected, as he was endorsed, or 2) the party should only help the endorsements that Jon Geeting agrees with, and should work against the endorsement when Geeting disagrees with it.

        You cannot have it both ways. I am wondering what happens to your argument when, in your eyes, the wrong person gets elected. Because it happens often.

        • steventodd says:

          @InSupport has identified the hypocrisy of Feldman’s column, of Geeting’s support of it, and often of the disconnect between the only teams allowed at the table and a growing amount of American electorate. The answer always seems to be: “tough. We’re doing our best, now show up and pull the lever to help us.”

        • Jon Geeting says:

          I’m not trying to have it both ways. If they endorsed Readshaw they should’ve worked hard to elect Readshaw. I’m only saying that they shouldn’t have endorsed Readshaw because he’s basically a Republican.

          • In Support Of the Party says:

            I can’t let this go, because I see a big problem with your logic. You’re a smart guy, so I need some clarity.

            In the article you write that “a strong party would have back Erin Molchany over Harry Readshaw,” so you are either advocating for a top-down party endorsement process instead of an endorsement at the grassroots level, or for a “strong Democratic party” to support the progressive candidate, regardless of the endorsement.

            You can see where I am coming from, I hope. In the article, you did not write that the party should have endorsed Erin Molchany– though I know you believe that. You write that a strong party WOULD have endorsed her, which is, of course, logically very different.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            A strong state party – the PA Democrats – would have looked at this primary as I described: who is the best standard bearer to uphold the state party platform in this primary? Is there a general election electability concern, or is it just the platform? And then they obviously would have picked Erin Molchany, because she supports more of the party’s official positions than Readshaw does.

          • In Support Of the Party:
            They endorsed someone, regardless of what Jon thinks, right? So endorse who actually believes in the party, not a DINO.