Ambitious Republicans Start Eyeing Platts’ Seat

Posted November 30, 2009 at 6:33pm

Republicans will likely keep the seat held by Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.) if the five-term House Member is appointed to lead Congress’ top watchdog agency.

Platts applied in October to head the Government Accountability Office ­— and the appointment process could take several months before it is complete. But if Platts is selected to be comptroller general, his reliably Republican House seat will be open for the first time since 2000.

And while it’s unclear whether Platts is even a frontrunner for the GAO post, at least one local Republican has already expressed interest in representing the south-central Pennsylvania district if the Congressman moves on. State Rep. Scott Perry, who is serving in Iraq until January, is eyeing Platts’ seat, according to his chief of staff, David Brinton.

“He would certainly be interested if Todd would get the new position with the federal government,— Brinton said.

Brinton said Platts’ office told him that the Congressman expects a special House-Senate committee to recommend its top three picks for the GAO post to the White House by the end of the year or mid-January at the latest.

Platts slipped his name into the interview process for the 15-year appointed post in October, he said, after one of the committee’s top officials, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), encouraged him to apply. The White House can pick anyone for the comptroller general position, but the Senate must confirm the appointment.

If Platts was appointed to the position in the near future, local officials would schedule a special election and Republicans would have a nominating convention to pick their candidate. Regardless, if Platts leaves the House and the race is wide open, many Republicans are expected to seek the seat.

Republican state Reps. Stan Saylor, Will Gabig, Sheryl Delozier and Glen Grell could run for the seat, as well as state Sens. Pat Vance and Mike Waugh. However, many of these legislators, such as Vance, Waugh and Gabig, might not be interested because they hold leadership positions in the Pennsylvania House.

Several other local elected officials would also be potential candidates to succeed Platts, such as Cumberland County Commissioners Gary Eichelberger and Barbara Cross, and Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed. It’s unlikely, though, that the next Member of Congress from the district will be from Cumberland County, which is divided between Platts’ district and the 9th district, which is represented by Rep. Bill Shuster (R).

Platts comes from York County, which is the most populous part of the district.

That’s one reason many local Republicans are watching one of Platts’ 2000 primary opponents, York County Commissioner Chris Reilly, to see whether he will get in the race.

“I’m not ruling it out,— Reilly said Monday. “We need to have to this conversation once this situation plays out and if he indeed receives the appointment.—

Pennsylvania Republican strategist Charlie Gerow, who also ran in the 2000 primary with Platts, said he believes most potential candidates are waiting to see whether the Congressman actually receives the appointment.

“I think that generally the view within the district is ‘wait and see,’— Gerow said. “If he gets the appointment, then I think there would be a significant number of candidates.—

Gerow himself would not rule out another bid for the seat, although he said he had not really given much thought to a campaign. Meanwhile, the man Platts defeated by a 3-point margin in that 2000 GOP primary, Al Masland, won a local judgeship last month and cannot run for Congress.

“Al’s probably kicking himself,— Gerow quipped.

Businessman Greg Rothman, a longtime GOP donor in the Keystone State, has also been approached about running for Platts’ seat but so far has not expressed any interest.

Emily Yehle contributed to this report.