A three-way split in the Democratic primary was not a risk Paul Walsh wanted to take in his run for state representative. Walsh, a Burgettstown attorney, announced Tuesday he will drop out of the 46th District race and endorse his opponent, Tom Casciola, in hopes of defeating incumbent Jesse White.
Walsh has begun the legal process of removing his name from the ballot with assistance from the House Democratic Caucus. Walsh missed the March 26 deadline to withdraw from the May 20 primary, and the decision to remove his name from the ballot will now be made by Commonwealth Court.
Regardless of whether his name stays on the ballot, Walsh said he will actively campaign on behalf of Casciola, a longtime Cecil Township supervisor running as a Democrat against White, the four-term incumbent from Cecil.
“Tom and I share a lot of the same values when it comes to family and community and pursuing the very best for the community,” Walsh said by phone Tuesday from a Bridgeville Starbucks, where he and Casciola convened to field media questions.
Casciola said he and Walsh have discussed the possibility of combining efforts for several weeks leading up to the withdrawal deadline. That date came and went, but Walsh said he ultimately decided to sacrifice his campaign because “there was this deep concern that three of us would split the vote” and White would be re-elected.
“I’m a person by nature who looks at the big picture and acts accordingly,” Walsh said. “To me, in this case, the big picture is we have to have new leadership in the district. We have to have a new direction.”
News of Walsh’s withdrawal from the ballot leaked early and was a topic of discussion among residents at Cecil Township’s Monday meeting. White has been an outspoken critic of some Marcellus Shale industry practices in Cecil Township, which partly accounts for the stark divide between his supporters and opponents. White also faced criticism last year for posting anonymous comments online attacking drilling advocates.
After hearing the news of Walsh’s withdrawal Tuesday, White issued a news release calling the discussions between Walsh and Casciola “back room deals.”
White, also an attorney, said, “I’m looking forward to putting my record up against whoever is put up to run against me.”
Walsh thanked his supporters for backing him, saying, “I’m deeply grateful to them for their confidence and support.”
Casciola said he and Walsh were running on comparable platforms, and both feel Casciola now has a better shot at gaining the Democratic nomination. Whoever is nominated will face off against one of two candidates running for the Republican nomination.
“To me that gives the district a choice between two entirely different candidates,” Casciola said. “This 46th District, no one will have to go to the polls conflicted or unsure about who they want to decide to vote for.”