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April 24, 2013 | By | Posted in WatchBlog

WATCHBLOG: Conservative campaigners put key state senator on notice

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – State Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, has the future of the liquor privatization bill in his hands.

And a group of conservative activists have McIlhinney in their sights.

KEY PIECE: State Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, plays a big role in the liquor privatization debate

KEY PIECE: State Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, plays a big role in the liquor privatization debate

The Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania, which has made a name for itself in conservative circles for challenging – and defeating – Republicans that the group judged to have moved too far to the left, began airing television ads in southeast Pennsylvania on Wednesday encouraging constituents to pester McIlhinney about the liquor bill.

Why McIlhinney?  A few reasons.

For one, the liquor privatization bill  passed last month by the state House is currently sitting in the Senate Law and Justice Committee, which McIlhinney chairs. His support is crucial if the bill is to make it to the Senate floor.

Second, McIlhinney has never been a huge fan of privatizing the liquor stores. Like other members of the state Senate leadership, he’s seen as preferring “modernization” that would leave the state in control of the liquor system but would make some superficial changes.  He wrote an op-ed last month that seemed to throw some cold water on the privatization plan.

And third, as CAP puts it, McIlhinney “has a long history of siding with Big Government special interests,” including the unions that oppose liquor privatization and the beer distributors that aren’t too excited about the prospect of a more open market.

Here’s the ad:

It should be noted that McIlhinney said Tuesday he intends “to put forth a proposal to privatize the state stores,” during an appearance on a popular Philadelphia radio talk show.  His campaign has now shot back at CAP for placing the ad, according to PoliticsPA.

Leo Knepper, executive director of CAP, said Wednesday the ads will remain up for now.  The group has the resources to “to support the ad campaign through the entire summer and beyond,” and potentially expand it to include other targets in the state Senate, he said.

The liquor privatization bill is a major priority for Gov. Tom Corbettwho issued a clear message to the state Senate on Friday afternoon – and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny. Selling off the liquor stores is expected to raise around $800 million in one-time revenue, which Corbett wants to use to create a new, four-year block grant program for school districts.

This post was updated to correct the name of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania

Boehm can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

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Eric Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent. He can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com or at (717) 350-0963.

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