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EXCLUSIVE: Meehan mulling a run for Sestak’s Congressional seat

EXCLUSIVE: Meehan mulling a run for Sestak’s Congressional seat


Former U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan is seriously considering a run for Congress, eyeing the 7th District seat that Joe Sestak seems increasingly likely to vacate in favor of a Senate bid, according to a Republican operative familiar with Meehan’s thinking.

“He’s talked with high-ranking Republican officials and is strongly considering a potential run,” said the Republican, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “He’s definitely interested and I know there’s a lot of peopole who would like to see him do it.”

Meehan has been preparing a campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination for months. But with the governor’s race widely seen as the GOP’s best hope to make a political comeback in the state and some party leaders eager to see Attorney General Tom Corbett coast through a primary, Meehan has been under quiet but consistent pressure to consider other options.

If Sestak does indeed run for Senate, the Delaware County Congressional seat would in some ways be a natural fit for Meehan, a former District Attorney in the county. And it could prove to be Meehan’s most viable way of leaving the governor’s race.

“This would be a good exit for him, to switch over to a high-profile race like that,” said the Republican operative, who is not affiliated with Corbett’s campaign or with any of Meehan’s other potential opponents. “Delaware County is his base, and I think he would do very well there.”

Meehan spokeswoman Virginia Davis said that nothing had changed about Meehan’s plans.

“Pat Meehan continues to build an exploratory committee for Governor,” Davis said. “While he has received calls from party leaders to consider other races, his focus is on building an exploratory committee for governor.”

The Meehan campaign has for weeks been batting down speculation that he will eventually pursue a different race. After Senator Arlen Specter switched parties last month, some encouraged Meehan to run for Senate. But as a longtime ally of Specter’s—Meehan ran his 1992 campaign—a run against his old boss has never been taken seriously by people who know Meehan.

There has also been speculation he could opt for the Lieutenant Governor spot, but it’s highly unlikely he would choose to be second fiddle to Corbett, the man he still hopes to beat.

A run for Congress, by contrast, could be politically viable, in more ways than one. He has established political relationships in Delaware County, and if Sestak doesn’t seek reelection, a district where Republicans still outnumber Democrats would be hugely competitive, likely drawing significant national attention and money. Sestak unseated incumbent Republican Curt Weldon in 2006.

“He’s the perfect guy to run in that seat,” the Republican operative said. “It could potentially be a really good pickup for the Republican Party.”

County GOP chair Thomas Judge told that candidates had approached him about running, but wouldn’t name names.

“Even if Joe Sestak stays there, we do have people who have said they’d be interested in running,” Judge said.

Much depends on Sestak. Meehan is unlikely to make any moves until Sestak makes his intentions clearer, which could take weeks or longer. But if Sestak pursue higher office and Republican leaders continue to back Corbett, Meehan could find himself under increasing pressure to find a different race.

One logistical obstacle would be financial. Meehan has had a successful fundraising stint as a potential gubernatorial candidate, raising over $700,000. But any money raised for a state campaign would have to be returned if he ran for federal office. And unlike state law, which doesn’t cap campaign contributions, a run for Congress would force Meehan to expand his fundraising base, with federal donors legally limited to $2,400 for the primary and $2,400 for the general election

Even so, the Republican operative said, “Meehan could raise some good money.

“Now that a Sestak run seems more likely,” he said, “there’s a growing feeling that Pat Meehan would be a great candidate to put that seat back into the Republican column.”

UPDATE: See my blog posting on this story.

UPDATE: Davis gives Capitol Ideas a succinct “no” when asked if Meehan is considering the race, going a step further than in her statement to

May 28, 2009 at 5:34 pm

--Dan Hirschhorn

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