Scranton Wins One on the Road

The horse race to receive the Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2006 is heating up with every passing day and with yesterday’s fundraising breakfast at the Omni William Penn downtown Pittsburgh, the odds on Bill Scranton increased significantly. If big name endorsements equal legitimacy then Scranton is well on his way to becoming the GOP favorite in this race.

A considerable slice of the state’s political past gathered in pursuit of its future yesterday as former Govs. Dick Thornburgh and William Scranton Jr. urged hundreds of Republicans to rally to the gubernatorial campaign of Mr. Scranton’s son, Bill.

More than 700 people crowded into the Omni William Penn Hotel’s main ballroom for the fund-raising breakfast, which was an elaborately choreographed portrayal of the younger Mr. Scranton as the logical successor to the line of Republican governors who have alternated with Democrats in Harrisburg over the last four decades.

In addition to Mr. Thornburgh and his father, Mr. Scranton was endorsed in absentia by former Gov. Raymond Shafer, whose daughter, Diane Shafer-Graham, conveyed his support.

Some say that the candidate with the best chance to unseat incumbent Governor Ed Rendell is the former Pittsburgh Steeler and current broadcaster Lynn Swann. So it is noting that this breakfast, held in Swann’s backyard, is being seen as an offensive move in Swann’s territory.

Yesterday’s breakfast, hosted by former Republican National Committeewoman Elsie Hillman, was a show of strength for Mr. Scranton in the home territory of the candidate generally regarded as his strongest rival. Mr. Swann, the former Steelers wide receiver, is a Sewickley resident who, while a political neophyte, has been active in community affairs in southwestern Pennsylvania.

So what is Swann to do? Scranton just traveled across the state and bitch-slapped him in front of his home crowd. The way this one is shaping up I would not be surprised to see Swann open up his next event with the declaration “we must protect this house!

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