Politically, Sherwood Weathers Storm

Posted May 11, 2005 at 6:37pm

As Rep. Don Sherwood continues to weather the controversy surrounding an alleged affair with a 29-year-old Maryland woman, there appears to be little, if any, early indication that the Pennsylvania Republican will face a real fight for re-election back home.

At this point, national and state GOP strategists agree that Sherwood is not likely to see an aggressive primary challenge next year if, as is currently expected, he chooses to run again.

Sources also said that Sherwood and his political allies have done a good job of reaching out to key supporters in his northeastern 10th district seat in an effort to quell their concerns — along with any talk of a serious challenge.

“I don’t think at this point we anticipate a primary from any credible challenger,” said one Republican strategist in the state.

Pike County GOP Chairwoman Kathleen Hummel echoed that sentiment, adding that she believes most of the district’s residents will stand by Sherwood.

“I think people feel like this will pass,” Hummel said. “I know that they feel he has done a good job representing the area. Hopefully this is something that he and his family will be able to work out.”

Sherwood’s difficulties began on April 30, when the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader first reported that the Maryland woman, Cynthia Ore, called police in September 2004 from the bathroom of Sherwood’s Capitol Hill apartment and claimed that the Congressman had “choked her for no apparent reason” while giving her a back rub.

No charges were filed in the incident after police arrived and found that neither party was willing to reveal what really happened. The police report from the incident also states that there was no reasonable cause to believe Ore was assaulted.

Ore, a native of Peru now residing in Rockville, Md., has since alleged that she and Sherwood carried on a years-long affair and admitted that she was in love with the 64-year-old lawmaker. She has also hired a lawyer and has threatened to take legal action against the Congressman.

Sherwood, who is married, issued a brief apology “for the pain and embarrassment I have caused my family and my supporters,” but has not elaborated on the incident in any detail.

If Sherwood were to decide not to seek another term, there is a short list of Republicans mentioned as possible successors. For now, though, there is little being said both publicly and privately about that hypothetical race.

State Rep. Jerry Birmelin (R), a social conservative who has served in the state House since 1984, would likely look at running under an open-seat scenario. Birmelin currently represents two counties in the eastern part of Sherwood’s nine-county district.

State Rep. Brett Feese (R), chairman of the state House Appropriations Committee, is also mentioned, although he might be reluctant to give up his powerful perch in Harrisburg.

Tom Marino, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, is another possible contender if the 10th district seat becomes available. Marino, a former Lycoming County district attorney, passed on running in the 1998 open-seat race that Sherwood eventually won.

And while Sherwood weathered two fierce election battles in 1998 and 2000, after the last redrawing of Congressional boundaries the district now solidly favors Republicans and, barring further damaging revelations, he is not likely to face a general election threat in 2006.