POLITICIANS from across the state head to Manhattan today for the 113th annual Pennsylvania Society gathering, a power-packed weekend started by 19th-century money men who would not have minded being labeled the 1-percenters of their age.

A topic of much discussion and furious fundraising will be the April 24 Republican primary election to select a challenger to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr.

With 10 candidates, this shapes up to be a battle of statewide name recognition versus major campaign cash.

The leg-up on name recognition goes to to former state Rep. Sam Rohrer, of Berks County, who last year ran for governor against his party's endorsed candidate, now-Gov. Tom Corbett.

The lead in the money race goes to Armstrong County's Tom Smith, who gave his campaign $750,000 in October and spent just under $150,000 of it this week running a campaign ad on Fox News on cable and on broadcast channels from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh.

Rohrer, who will appear in a debate today in Manhattan with six other GOP candidates, hopes now to work with the party powers he challenged last year.

"Tom and I had a good relationship," Rohrer said of Corbett. "Still do. That didn't change it. It's there to be built on."

Candidates must file 2,000 signatures on nominating petitions by Feb. 14 to appear on the ballot.

Pennsylvania Republican chairman Rob Gleason said that committee members would meet during the last weekend in January to decide whether to endorse a candidate or have an open primary.

While Gleason conceded that Rohrer's political brand grew with last year's primary campaign, he didn't exactly sound ready to embrace the candidate who held his own political rally in a Harrisburg hotel while the party was meeting in the next room to endorse Corbett.

Instead, Gleason praised as "pretty robust this early in the game" Smith's commercial, the first in the GOP primary.

Smith and two other candidates will not appear in today's debate, being sponsored by the Pennsylvania Business Council.

D.A. lends moral support

A courtroom can be intimidating for the accused, even when the infraction at issue is just a motor-vehicle moving violation.

It can help to have a friend ready to lend support. And if that friend happens to be Philadelphia's district attorney?

Well, even better.

And, so, District Attorney Seth Williams rolled up to traffic court last Friday, flanked by his usual security detail.

He met for about 10 minutes with the 65-year-old woman before she appeared in the courtroom of Traffic Court President Judge Thomasine Tynes. The judge tossed the ticket during a busy morning court session, after Williams had departed.

Through a spokeswoman, Williams yesterday declined to identify his friend but said that she was the victim of a crime that he prosecuted years ago as a young assistant district attorney. Williams has remained friends with her and her husband, spokeswoman Tasha Jamerson said.

"It was her first time in court," Jamerson said, adding that Williams had never spoken with the judge about the ticket. "He was there to lend her moral support."

Tynes said she heard after she left the bench that Williams had been in her courtroom.

Tynes added that she would have handed off the case to an out-of-town judge if she had known that the district attorney had taken such an interest.

"It can come back to bite you in the ass," Tynes said, of even the appearance of a conflict of interest in a Traffic Court case. "And I don't need to be bitten in the ass. I've been here 22 years."

A treasurer trumpeted

State House members run for re-election every two years. So it seems they are in perpetual campaigns. As such, they don't tend to make a big deal about adding campaign treasurers.

But not state Rep. Babette Josephs, who has represented the 182nd District in Center City since 1985.

Her campaign issued a news release last week touting the addition of lawyer Andrew Chirls, noting that in 2005 he was the first openly gay chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Could this be related to a Clout item in September, when we noted that Brian Sims was challenging Josephs in April's Democratic primary election? Sims, who was treasurer for Josephs' re-election campaign last year, is a lawyer active in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender policy issues.

"Every couple of election cycles there's someone who says: I'm the new and exciting brand around here," Chirls said of the challengers who have failed to unseat Josephs. "She has a resiliency because she has a record."