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State GOP chief warns of overconfidence

Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Robert Gleason told a group of Westmoreland County party faithful Thursday to ignore recent polls showing GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett and U.S. Senate hopeful Pat Toomey both leading their respective races.

"There's 19 days left until the election. This is not a time to sit back and watch," said Gleason, of Cambria County.

"I'm worried. This is going to be a turnout election, and right now we are down across the state in party registration to Democrats by 1.3 million -- that's the most ever we've been behind in registration," he said.

Gleason was the keynote speaker at the county Republican "Road to Victory" dinner. About 200 people attended the event last night at Ferrante's Lakeview Banquet facility in Hempfield.

The state's GOP boss for the past five years did point out that Pennsylvania voters could play a key role in Republicans possibly picking up 39 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to gain control from Democrats.

Gleason said at least eight seats in Congress now held by Democrats "are in play this election" for Republicans.

Among those seats, Gleason included two that stretch into Westmoreland -- the 12th District, where Republican businessman Tim Burns of Eighty Four is trying to oust Democrat Rep. Mark Critz of Johnstown; and the 4th District, where Republican Keith Rothfus, of Edgewood, is challenging incumbent Democrat Jason Altmire of McCandless.

Gleason noted that Democrats already are pulling funding "out of the 3rd District," which is now held by freshman Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper. He said Republican car dealer Mike Kelly of Butler appears to be heavily favored to win the district, which covers an area from Butler County to Erie.

"We have a real opportunity this election to send a message to the liberal leaders in Washington and Harrisburg. But we haven't won anything yet ... that's why we've got to continue working and get our people to the polls Nov. 2," Gleason said.

Bucks County Commissioner Jim Cawley, who is the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, also told supporters not to pay attention to polls.

"This election is not ours yet," Cawley said. "Leads in polls mean nothing, and we've got to remain vigilant."

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