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Early Returns Blog


If polls represent the horserace for the Republican presidential nomination writ large, straw polls are the race at its smallest, most elemental level. In Iowa and New Hampshire, the race is often won with handshakes in hamlets rather than statewide television ads. So all the Donald Trump mania should be couched with the fact that he has yet to attempt a ground game in those states and it's rather hard to picture The Donald mingling with commoners.

So how did Rick Santorum straw up this weekend?

Our Former Senator was in New Hampshire, getting his tea party on in honor of tax season, and he placed sixth in a tea party straw poll taken at the big rally in Concord won by Tim Pawlenty. But later on, Santorum tweeted the news that he won a tea party straw poll in Rochester with 26 percent of the vote. More importantly in Twitter news, a fact that shockingly was not mentioned in the local coverage of the Rochester event, Rick won the mini golf competition by shooting a 43 (according to a tweet from state director Mike Biundo).

Santorum's press shop also passed along word that he placed second in the Dorchester County, S.C., GOP Convention straw poll and third in the Charleston County, S.C., GOP Convention straw poll.

The Schedule: Nothing today, but he'll probably be on the move this week at some point.

It falls short on the irony scale from closing down due to rat infestation, but the state Capitol is closed down today due to water problems, just as the state is wrestling with worries about Marcellus Shale and wastewater.

Here's a brief I on the main site:

HARRISBURG -- The state Capitol complex in Harrisburg is shut down for the day due to a water main break in the city.

The governor's office sent employees home at 9:30 a.m. and Capitol Police are turning employees and visitors away from the main entrance. At least five busloads of visiting schoolchildren have also been denied entrance.

An 11 a.m. press conference called by Common Cause on tax issues was moved to the Capitol steps.

Jane Orie is taking the appeals of her retrial on corruption charges to the state's highest court. (Where her sister sits.) If the trial goes forward with jury picking April 26, her lawyer also wants jurors from her senatorial district chosen.

UPDATE: Trial judge Jeffrey Manning today pushed back jury selection until Oct. 3.

From Vivian Nereim on the PG's main site:

A lawyer for state Sen. Jane Orie appealed her case to the state Supreme Court today, asking the court to halt her retrial on corruption charges to review whether an Allegheny County judge erred when he declared a mistrial for her and her sister last month.

In the emergency petition for review, lawyer William Costopoulos argued that the court should bar Ms. Orie's retrial on the grounds that it would constitute double jeopardy. He also asked the state Supreme Court to review whether Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning erred when he refused to remove himself from hearing the case.

Jury selection for the new trial had been set to begin April 26.

Ms. Orie, a McCandless Republican, and her sister, Janine Orie, are charged with using public resources and employees in campaigns for the senator and a third sister, state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin. Justice Melvin has not been charged.

Jane and Janine Orie's first trial started in February before Judge Manning. It ran for nearly three weeks, but shortly after the jury began to deliberate, a prosecutor raised concerns about documents entered into evidence by the defense.

Judge Manning declared that signatures on the documents were obviously doctored, and after they were reviewed by an expert, Judge Manning ordered a mistrial.

The sisters' new trial was initially scheduled to start April 11, but her lawyer appealed to the state Superior Court, effectively delaying it. The Superior Court denied that appeal, setting the stage for today's Supreme Court appeal.

If this appeal were accepted for review, it would bring the Ories' case before the same court their sister sits on.

Also today, Mr. Costopoulos filed a motion requesting that if Jane Orie's retrial goes forward, all prospective jurors in Allegheny County be considered for inclusion in the jury. Previously, jurors from her legislative district had been excluded.

Tomorrow marks four weeks to the May 17 primary. To wit:

Joe Smydo's setup on the Dowd/Ceoffe City Council matchup in District 5 7 (Highland Park, Stanton Heights, Lawrenceville, PHill, etc.).

Smydo -- his nose to the grindstone -- has a front-pager on legislation from councilman Doug Shields (a district judge candidate) on massage parlours he says are fronts for prostitution. Shields + sex trade + city council discussion should be one for the ages.

Len Barcousky has a setup on Mark Patrick's Flaherty's Democratic bid for county exec. REMINDER: Flaherty has a fiscal photo-op with (compadre?) Luke Ravenstahl.

Nice video above by PG videographer Doug Oster on Friday's Tea Party in Market Square. Full story by yours truly and visiting journalist Malak Shaher from the Yemen Times here.


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