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Rendell being Rendell?

| Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011

The head wuss has spoken.

Gov. Ed Rendell 's remarks earlier this week about America being a "nation of wussies" were dismissed by many as the off-the-cuff grumblings of a soon-to-be-former governor who craves the spotlight.

Or as the rantings of a man who loves his NFL football just a tad too much, snowstorm be damned.

Or as Rendell's way of prepping for a future television career as a political pundit or sports broadcaster.

Rendell is nothing if not a political animal, and while it is true that he has at times fumbled his words into a touchdown for the other side, he most frequently has been a pretty calculating fellow.

So when Rendell declared that the NFL's postponement of the Vikings-Eagles football game from last Sunday to Tuesday due to an expected blizzard was the result of a "nanny state" mentality, we suspected a political agenda.

Rendell-watchers will recall that in 2006, when Democrats were fending off charges that they somehow lacked religious values, the governor injected so many references to the Bible and Jesus into what should have been an ordinary stump speech during a visit in Greensburg that he came off sounding like evangelist Billy Graham .

"I became very frustrated after 2004. We (Democrats) ceded the morality issue to the Republicans," Rendell later explained.

Or maybe it was just Rendell being Rendell.

REGION HAS RISING STARS. S everal Southwestern Pennsylvanians are exerting political influence behind the scenes, according to the website PoliticsPA.

Among them:

Corey O'Connor , 25, community development director for U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle , D-Swissvale. O'Connor, son of the late Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O'Connor , directs federal funds into Doyle's district. Word on the street is that O'Connor is preparing to run for Pittsburgh City Council.

Rachel Heisler , 27, of Pittsburgh, was the campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire , D-McCandless, helping raise a nifty $2.5 million for him. She works on Altmire's staff.

Matthew Mazonkey , 27, formerly of Lower Burrell, went from press secretary for the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha to chief of staff for Murtha's successor, U.S. Rep. Mark Critz , D-Johnstown. Mazonkey also has responsibilities as Critz's press secretary and overseer of appropriations and defense legislation.

Ben Wren , 25, of Irwin, is a field organizer for the state GOP. He has "street cred" as a man who can get things done for the party.

LISTEN UP. The state's business community lobbied incoming Republican leaders against the appointment of Rep. Gene DiGirolamo as chairman of the House Labor Relations Committee.

DiGirolamo, R-Bucks County, was in line to become the committee's majority chairman in the 2011-12 session after serving as minority chairman during the past session, when Democrats controlled the House.

DiGirolamo is considered a pro-labor Republican. Some business leaders believe it would be difficult to move the pro-growth agenda of Gov.-elect Tom Corbett and incoming House Republicans with DiGirolamo at the committee's helm.

Somebody must have listened to the business community.

Rep. Ronald Miller , R-York County, was named chairman of Labor Relations. DiGirolama was appointed to the Human Services Committee.

GET ON BOARD. Hempfield Supervisor Doug Weimer is starting to sound like a candidate, though he hasn't officially declared that he will run for Westmoreland County commissioner.

Weimer entered the war of words between Democrat Commissioners Tom Balya and Ted Kopas and Republican Commissioner Chuck Anderson over the 2011 county budget. In a statement, Weimer criticized Balya and Kopas but never mentioned fellow Republican Anderson.

WILL HE OR WON'T HE? Speculation is rampant about whether Westmoreland Commissioner Tom Balya will run again.

He has said in the past that he would not seek re-election in the same year when his wife, Westmoreland County Common Pleas Judge Debra Pezze , is up for retention.

Some Democratic Party officials say Balya won't announce his intentions until the last minute so he can limit the list of potential candidates as Commissioner Ted Kopas runs for a full term. Kopas, a former Balya staffer, was appointed to replace Tom Ceraso , who resigned as a commissioner last year.

-- compiled by Tribune-Review staff

Have some dirt to dish• A tip to flip• E-mail the intrepid Whispers desk at: whispers@tribweb.com.

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