GOP-Tea Party Turmoil: PA-06 Primary Heats Up With Gerlach Back In The Race

January 12, 2010 4:36 a.m.

The race for Pennsylvania’s sixth Congressional district was turned on its head with Rep. Jim Gerlach’s decision to seek reelection. Thanks to the turmoil, a candidate once backed by the Republican establishment is reaching out to the tea party movement.

PA-06 sparked our interest last week as several GOP contenders sought to identify with tea partiers and portrayed businessman Steve Welch as the National Republican Congressional Committee favorite.

But when Gerlach ended his gubernatorial bid and said he wants to keep his seat, the NRCC decided it had to support one of the Republican party’s leaders, leaving Welch in the cold.

State Rep. Curt Schroeder, the candidate who seemed to reach out most to the tea partiers ended his bid last night and Welch is charging ahead, with a top aide wanting us to know Welch likes the tea party, too.An NRCC aide told TPMDC this morning the committee supports all members of the House Republican Conference and reiterated they don’t want to get involved in GOP primaries.

NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) issued a statement last week welcoming Gerlach back to the race, saying his decision was “evidence” that he shares the minority party’s goal of winning back control of the House.

Sessions recruited Welch to run and elevated him to the NRCC’s “Young Guns” program, which still features Welch’s Web site despite the withdrawn support.

Meanwhile, Schroder told supporters last night he’s out, calling it a “bitter disappointment.”

Schroder said his fundraising was strong and he was about to receive an endorsement from the Chester County Republican Committee but that Gerlach’s reentry was a “new and potentially insurmountable obstacle.”

He sounded an anti-establishment message and said his grassroots supporters have asked him to soldier on:

“The bigger problem though is how to raise the money needed to run against an incumbent Congressman who will have the complete financial resources of the Washington DC establishment behind him. After speaking with many donors and people I highly respect such as Congressman Bob Walker and Pat Toomey, it became clear that the prospect of adequate finances to convey my positions and strong convictions to the public were diminished. While I know for certain that I have the passion, energy, and commitment to do the job, I cannot answer the question of where the resources would come from to win this campaign in light of this development.”

Guy Ciarrocchi, the co-chairman of the Welch campaign, wrote in over the weekend to tell us that Welch “shares many goals of, and support among, tea-party activists.”

“In fact, Steve has met with the leaders and has met them at their bus trips; offering coffee & donuts, as well as words of encouragement,” Ciarrocchi told us.

Another candidate, Pat Sellers, leads the local tea party group in the Downingtown/Coatesville area, Ciarrocchi said.

For his part Welch is not budging,

He said in a statement his candidacy is aimed at rebuilding the economy and “bringing decision making back to our local communities and business leaders and away from Washington bureaucrats.”

He praised Gerlach and said he looks forward to “a professional, spirited debate on the best way to revive the American Dream and stop burdening our children with mountains of debt.”

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