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Familiar name surfaces in lt. governor's race

Saturday, March 02, 2002

By James O'Toole, Politics Editor, Post-Gazette

The Flaherty name has been good to any number of Pennsylvania politicians. Shawn Flaherty wants to see if it can work its magic one more time.

Flaherty, the son of former Pittsburgh mayor and county commissioner Pete Flaherty, is considering a bid for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. The Fox Chapel attorney, who has just started circulating his nomination petitions, has lots of company.

More than a half-dozen other Democrats have expressed interest in the race. State Sen. Allen Kukovich, D-Manor, has waged the longest and most aggressive campaign for the office, drumming up statewide support and collecting an extensive list of party and union endorsements for more than a year.

Former state Treasurer Catherine Baker Knoll is the best-known of the Democratic candidates, and, while her campaign has been much less active than Kukovich's, she is regarded as a formidable front-runner based on her name recognition and years in office.

Also courting votes for the second spot on the Democratic ticket are state Rep. Ralph Kaiser, D-Brentwood; Ron Panza, a Green Tree councilman; Rep. John Lawless, D-Montgomery, and John Morganelli, the district attorney of Northhampton County.

Earlier this year, after endorsing Auditor General Bob Casey Jr. as their choice for governor, the Democratic state committee, at his request, stepped back from a scheduled endorsement vote for lieutenant governor.

Casey said then that he wanted time to weigh his choice as a partner on the ticket. Since then, Casey has been reticent in discussing his potential choice, declining to identify a short list of contenders and saying that he might end up not recommending anyone.

There had been speculation that Casey might take the unusual step of joining with his rival, former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, in identifying a preferred nominee. That scenario was viewed as an anyone-but-Knoll strategy, favored by some Democrats who believe that Knoll, despite a string of strong showings in statewide elections, would be vulnerable to GOP attacks because a federal investigation of some of her associates dating from her tenure as treasurer. Knoll was not implicated in the controversy but it did occur on her watch.

Among Democrats viewed as potential choices for Casey are state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills. Costa said he had been told he is on a short list of potential partners, but emphasized that he has received no offers from the Casey camp and hasn't made up his mind on what he would do if an offer came.

Rendell's aides say that they planned to leave the choice up to the voters.

The Democratic picture should become clearer shortly. March 12 is the deadline for the submission of ballot petitions.

The Republican situation is more straightforward. The GOP state committee has endorsed state Sen. Jane Earll, R-Erie, as Attorney General Mike Fisher's running mate. Fisher is the only GOP candidate for governor, as Earll is for lieutenant governor.

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