McCarthy Aide Leaves Door Open to Primary Challenge

Posted July 14, 2003 at 3:14pm

Phil Scaglia, who resigned Friday as chief of staff to Rep. Karen McCarthy (D-Mo.), would not rule out a challenge to his longtime boss Monday.

Scaglia, who served as McCarthy’s top aide since 1995, would only say he “doesn’t have any specific plans” to run against the Missouri lawmaker, adding that “pursuing public office may well be in my future. Currently I don’t have any specific plans.”

“If the question is, ‘Today, am I running against my boss?’ the answer is no,” Scaglia later said. “Who knows what the future holds.”

McCarthy, first elected in 1994, recently returned to Congress after spending time recovering from alcohol dependency.

McCarthy spokesman Matt Nerzig said that to his knowledge the topic of a challenge has never come up, including when the Congresswoman spoke with Scaglia about his resignation Friday. He said McCarthy, like Scaglia, characterized that session as positive.

One well-placed Democratic staffer said Scaglia might be waiting to make a decision until after he leaves the McCarthy operation. While gave his two weeks’ notice Friday, speculation has been mounting for several weeks within the Democratic Caucus that Scaglia may challenge McCarthy in the primary next year.

“My understanding is he’s not made public nor has he informed anyone of his political intentions or job future,” said the aide. “He’s leaving it up in the air.”

But one Democratic strategist said it is highly improbable that Scaglia would make a bid against McCarthy, adding that it wouldn’t be smart move for him politically: “I’d be very surprised if he ever did anything like that.”

Scaglia said it was time for him to move on.

He said he plans to focus on public affairs consulting and electing Democrats to office through two ventures: Powerful Performance Solutions LLC and PAC Builders of North America.

“I’ve been planning for a number of months to pursue other options and challenges,” Scaglia said. “When the Congresswoman had the acknowledgement of alcohol dependence, I felt it was my duty to stay on and assist. Now that she’s returned from rehabilitation it seems like the timing is right.”

“I am not evaporating,” he said. “I was born on an Election Day. I was either blessed or cursed from birth.”

Scaglia is the son of Phillip Scaglia, a well-known Missouri politician who served in the state House for more than a decade.