Attorney announces his Pa. candidacy, triggers possible Democratic primary

Attorney Tom Myers announced his House bid in Pennsylvania’s 3rd district yesterday, giving Democrats a second significant challenger to Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.) and setting up a potential primary next year.

Myers joins Kyle Foust, an Erie County councilman who announced an exploratory committee last month.

A seasoned campaigner who ran unsuccessfully to become chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) this cycle, English said neither challenger is a first-tier candidate.

Under-funded Democrat Steve Porter has fallen to English in consecutive elections, but the Democratic wave held the seven-term congressman to less than 54 percent of the vote in 2006 and made him a prime target in 2008.

In announcing his candidacy, Myers said the district needs someone new and cited English’s voting record on the Iraq war and his ties to President Bush. He also made a clear reference to the lack of strong candidates who have run against English in recent years.
“Phil English is part of the problem in Washington, not part of the solution,” Myers said. “The Democrats in our area are eager for a strong candidate with the ability to go toe-to-toe with Phil English.”

Democrats wrested four of their 30 takeovers from Pennsylvania Republicans in 2006 — not to mention one of their Senate seats — and they continue to focus on the state in their effort to expand their majority. English and fellow Keystone State Republican Reps. Tim Murphy and Charlie Dent join battle-tested Rep. Jim Gerlach as the new set of targets for Democrats.

Republicans are hoping to recapture the seats of freshman Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire, Joe Sestak, Patrick Murphy and Chris Carney, who all defeated incumbents last year.

Porter, an author and composer, spent less than $250,000 on each of the last two elections against English and won 40 percent and 42 percent of the vote, respectively. He self-financed about three-quarters of his campaign both times.

Myers and Foust should pack more fundraising punch and appeal to the national party.

In a phone interview with The Hill, Myers said he thinks Foust would serve the community better by remaining in his current post.
“But if he’s going to officially enter the race, I look forward to a good debate,” Myers said.

English said Myers’s entry shows two things: Foust hasn’t “caught fire,” and there are no real first-tier Democratic candidates available.

At the same time, he said, he is taking his Democratic opposition seriously.

“The environment right now, nationally, is bad, and it’s fairly clear from the people I talk to that they’re very dissatisfied with Congress,” English said. “But people have had no trouble differentiating me from what’s going on nationally.”

English singled out Myers’s contention about his ties to Bush, calling it “silly” and saying that he has been “freely breaking with the administration” on the troop increase in Iraq, illegal immigration and the minimum wage. English said he has never publicly supported NAFTA and has actually called for its renegotiation.

Republicans indicated they are confident in English’s prospects no matter who the Democratic nominee is.

“While the Democrats fight to figure out who will be on the ballot next November, Congressman English will continue fighting for jobs in Pennsylvania and a stronger economy,” said NRCC spokeswoman Julie Shutley.