Soon-to-be-former GOP Rep. Tom Marino
On Thursday, after just two weeks of his first-ever taste of the House minority, GOP Rep. and failed drug czar nominee Tom Marino announced that he would resign effective Wednesday to take an unspecified job in the private sector. Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, a conservative seat in the central part of the state, backed Donald Trump 66-30, and the GOP nominee will be heavily favored to win the special election that will be called to fill this new vacancy. Under state law, there will not be a primary; instead, party leaders will select nominees.
Marino, who had served as a U.S. attorney under George W. Bush, made his way to Congress during the 2010 GOP wave by defeating Democratic Rep. Chris Carney 55-45 for a seat (numbered the 10th District at the time) that John McCain had carried by a similar 54-45 margin two years before. Republicans then gerrymandered this district two years later, making it even redder, and Marino never again faced a competitive race.
Marino was a pretty low-key House member, though he appeared to earn some brownie points with Trump by co-chairing his successful Pennsylvania campaign. In early 2017, there were reports that Trump had chosen him to serve as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a post often referred to as the nation’s drug czar. However, in May of that year, Marino announced he was withdrawing his name because of “a critical illness in my family.” In September, though, Trump announced that his nominee for drug czar would indeed be none other than Marino.
Marino’s nomination seemed to be on track … for a few weeks. The next month, a devastating report from the Washington Post and “60 Minutes” revealed that Marino had pushed legislation through Congress at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry to deliberately hobble the DEA’s ability to crack down on the black market flood of prescription narcotics. Marino soon withdrew from consideration as drug czar nevertheless decided to seek re-election. But despite asking voters to send him back to Congress for another term just two months ago, Marino seems to have decided soon enough that life in the minority was no life for him.
As for what happens next, there’s no word yet on the timing of the special election to replace Marino. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will need to issue a writ of election within 10 days of when Marino steps down; the race can take place no fewer than 60 days after that proclamation. A GOP source tells Roll Call that state Rep. Jeff Wheeland is considering running, and it’s likely we’ll see many more Republicans eye this race, especially since they won’t need to go through a potentially expensive and bruising primary.