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Orie says she's no longer interested in Specter's seat

| Tuesday, July 14, 2009

State Sen. Jane Orie on Monday said she will not run for U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter's seat in next year's election.

Her announcement comes less than a week after she publicly acknowledged she was considering a bid for what likely will be a hotly contested race.

Orie, R-McCandless, said she is "honored and humbled" by those who encouraged her to run, but plans to focus on the state's budget impasse.

"I must put any personal ambitions aside and focus on the crucial task at hand," said Orie, the Senate's majority whip.

State leaders are two weeks past the constitutionally mandated deadline to pass a budget. Lawmakers and Gov. Ed Rendell are negotiating how to close a $3.3 billion budget deficit.

Orie met with top Republican leaders in recent weeks to discuss the possibility of her candidacy for Specter's seat. She would have faced former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey of the Lehigh Valley and conservative activist Peg Luksik of Johnstown for the 2010 GOP nomination.

Orie spoke with National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn last week and with state GOP Chairman Rob Gleason previously.

A spokesman for Cornyn's committee said he met with any "credible" candidate for U.S. Senate, but that didn't guarantee his support.

Although Cornyn hasn't endorsed a candidate, he donated $5,000 to Toomey's campaign through his political action committee.

Gleason had said Orie would be a "great candidate." He said the state party would endorse whichever candidate had the best shot of wresting the seat from Specter.

The race for Specter's seat heated up in April when he switched parties; he now is a Democrat.

In next year's Democratic primary, he will face state Rep. Bill Kortz of Dravosburg and very likely U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak of Delaware County.

Gleason had said if either Orie or Luksik earned the party's nomination, it could help narrow the gender gap among voters who defeated Rick Santorum, the party's last candidate.

According to CNN exit polling of the 2006 vote, women voted for Democratic Sen. Bob Casey by a 2-to-1 margin.

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