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Clintons bank on popularity in Pennsylvania with fundraiser at Consol

| Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
In this Oct. 24, 2015 file photo, former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, wave to supporters after the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner in Des Moines, Iowa.
In this Oct. 24, 2015 file photo, former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, wave to supporters after the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner in Des Moines, Iowa.
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton encourages the press corps to join her in shopping for Christmas items in a gift shop at Community Orchard in Fort Dodge, Iowa December 4, 2015.
REUTERS
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton encourages the press corps to join her in shopping for Christmas items in a gift shop at Community Orchard in Fort Dodge, Iowa December 4, 2015.

Former President Bill Clinton will be in friendly territory Thursday when he hosts a fundraiser for his wife's campaign at Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center.

He and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton won presidential races in this state, largely through the support of voters from Western Pennsylvania.

“A Conversation with President Bill Clinton,” costing supporters at least $500 per plate, is set to start at noon. The invitation refers to “a momentous event in support of Hillary Clinton” but shrouds the venue in mystery, saying only donors will be given the location.

A Democratic source confirmed the site as the luxury Lexus Club in the Uptown hockey and concert venue. The invitation lists Penguins CEO David Morehouse, who once worked for Clinton, as a co-host. However, the team announced Monday that Morehouse is scheduled to undergo heart valve repair and bypass surgery on Tuesday.

Contributors who pledge $2,700 to the fundraiser — the maximum allowable individual donation for a primary election — can get their photo taken with Bill Clinton, according to the invitation circulated by email and posted to the campaign website.

The former president will headline at least 20 fundraisers for his wife's campaign across the country this month. A popular speaker since leaving the White House, Bill Clinton won the 1992 and 1996 presidential races.

The former first lady and secretary of State scored a nearly 10-point victory in Pennsylvania over then-Sen. Barack Obama in the April 2008 primary.

The Clintons are well-liked by many in the Pittsburgh area because “like the voters around here, they are pragmatic and practical on economic and security issues,” Allegheny County Democratic Committee Chair Nancy Mills said.

“They are not overly reactionary and can work with people ... for the greater good of the community or the country,” Mills said. “That is why you saw voters from here come out strong for both of them when they ran for president.”

This marks the third Pittsburgh visit by a Clinton family member since Hillary Clinton began her second campaign last spring.

On the day of her announcement in April, she boarded a van with staff members and set off from her Chappaqua, N.Y., home for Iowa. They spent the first night at Hotel Monaco in Downtown Pittsburgh.

She returned in July for a private fundraiser, starting at $1,000 per person, hosted at the Fox Chapel home of Cindy Shapira. That visit was part of a blitz of fundraisers dubbed “Conversations with Hillary” that took her to Scranton; Detroit; Raleigh, N.C.; and other cities.

The Democratic National Committee will hold its convention in July in Philadelphia.

With $77.5 million, Clinton leads in fundraising among Democrats seeking the party's nomination in 2016, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont ranks second with $41.5 million, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is a distant third with $3.3 million, FEC reports show.

This year, Clinton's campaign set a goal of accumulating $100 million for the primary election. Based on finance reports through the third quarter, the team needs to collect nearly $30 million from October through December to meet the goal.

Clinton often refers to Pennsylvania as her second home. Her father, Hugh Rodham, was born in Scranton, where she and her brothers were baptized at Port Street Methodist Church. She spent summers with family at nearby Lake Winola in Wyoming County.

The Clintons are not alone in seeking support in Western Pennsylvania.

O'Malley held a fundraiser in Pittsburgh in September, and Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie hosted recent fundraisers in Pittsburgh.

Salena Zito is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at szito@tribweb.com.

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