GOP’s Chances To Unseat Bob Casey? Good Luck

You would think that with Pennsylvania’s Republican roots, which have run especially deep over the last several decades, freshman Democratic senator Bob Casey would be vulnerable in 2012. 

You would be wrong, and the reason is simple civics.  Incumbents don’t lose unless they’re challenged by viable, first-tier candidates, as the senate elections in Nevada and Alaska proved.  And, as of now, there are none to challenge Casey. Whether that changes in the next year is anyone’s guess, but the mere fact that the GOP finds itself in this position speaks volumes about how it builds its “bench.”  Translation:  it doesn’t.


Pennsylvania’s Republican power was on full display when Ronald Reagan chose three cabinet officials not just from the same state, but the same county! Montgomery County produced Drew Lewis (who fired the striking air traffic controllers), Alexander Haig, and Richard Schweiker.  Since then, it’s been all downhill for the Montco GOP, with infighting and strife resulting in minority status in the state’s third largest county.

In 1994, Pennsylvania could boast that it was the most Republican state in the nation.  The GOP controlled the two U.S. Senate seats, the Governorship, both chambers of the state legislature, all the statewide row offices, and a majority in the congressional delegation.  But the Party lost its way, and, by running untenable candidates, gave up huge chunks of the political landscape— all reasons the state hasn’t voted Republican in a presidential election in what will be, at the minimum, a quarter-century.

In a resurgence that culminated last month, however, the Keystone State was one of the epicenters of the GOP political wave.  Five congressional seats flipped, Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett became Governor by trouncing Democrat Dan Onorato by ten points, the state senate stayed firmly Republican, and the State House, which had been Democratic, saw an almost incomprehensible thirteen seats move to the GOP, giving them a ten-seat majority.

And yet, with all that momentum, there is no first-tier, “go-to” frontrunner candidate to challenge Casey.

Why?  Because much more often than not, the GOP has chosen its candidates not on merit — as in, who can best defeat the Democratic opponent —, but instead, on whose “turn” it is.  In the mold of choosing Bob Dole and John McCain, Pennsylvania’s nominees may look great to Party insiders, but fare dismally when put before the voters.  Just look at the last several elections for governor, treasurer and auditor general.

And because there has been little effort to groom candidates for the future, and absolutely no effort to stop the hemorrhaging from Philadelphia, where Republican statewide candidates routinely face half-a-million vote deficits, the Party is now in the strange position of sitting on massive gains, but potentially passing on the Casey seat.

The subject of that race was one of the hot topics discussed at last weekend’s Pennsylvania Society gathering in New York, the annual event in which the state’s premier political and business elite exchange thoughts, predictions and gossip, most of which has no basis in reality.

To cut through the insider-speak, Freindly Fire turned to longtime Pennsylvania political observer Michael O’Connell for his thoughts on how the GOP got itself into its current position, and what it could do to be viable in 2012 — when there will be races for U.S. Senate, Attorney General (which has never been held by a Democrat), State Treasurer, and Auditor General (an open seat).

“Pennsylvania Republicans are at a generational turnover, just as they were in the late seventies.  There is scarcely any bench of obvious statewide candidates, although there are any number of talented Republicans holding office.  The next several years will see more than a few of them try to make the always difficult transition from the General Assembly or local office to the big time.”


Depending on the speed and efficiency of GOP Party-building efforts, made infinitely easier after the recent gains, several quality candidates may arise from the ranks, but currently, the field is weak, and the list short.  Following is a brief analysis:

First-tier:  None.

Second-tier: Congressman Jim Gerlach, who has defied the odds by winning in the Democratic waves of 2006 and 2008.  But Gerlach will be under pressure to not vacate the seat, as 2012 will be a tougher year for the GOP.  And given that he is now back in the Majority, how realistic is it that Gerlach will leave an almost-sure thing for a difficult race in which the odds are not in his favor?  Slim.

Third-tier: State Senators Jake Corman and Kim Ward.  Both are well-respected legislators, but are completely unknown outside their districts.  Given that neither represents a large population center, they would have to show a remarkable ability to raise money in order to increase name recognition statewide — not an easy task, since federal rules limit contributions to $2400, a far cry from the state level where there is no limit.

 “Both are prototypes of what I mentioned,” O’Connell stated. “Talented players in offices largely out of the public eye, who will have to demonstrate that they can move on to a brutally difficult statewide contest.  There is no training school for that–it is a credential one only earns by running and winning a race.”

Often-mentioned but no virtually chance: Congressman Charlie Dent.  Dent was reelected by a wide margin, and will clearly enjoy serving in the Majority, which is exactly where he’ll stay for one simple reason: he is pro-abortion, and in Pennsylvania Republican primaries, that’s a killer.  The only remote shot Dent would have is to be part of a five or six candidate field, with all his opponents splitting the Pro-Life vote.  Otherwise, he’s not going anywhere.

There are wildcards, to be sure. Former congressmen Phil English and Melissa Hart, while neither has publicly expressed intent, would match up well with Casey.  Both of these seasoned pols hail from western Pennsylvania (compared to Casey’s northeast base) and both served effectively in Democratic-leaning districts, though they lost tough races in the Democratic waves of 2008 and 2006, respectively.  But don’t count on either one taking up the challenge.

Interestingly, perhaps the candidate with the best chance for victory would be …..

Read the rest and post a comment at Philadelphia Magazine’s Philly Post:


Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau,

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

Freind, whose column appears nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a guest commentator on Philadelphia-area talk radio shows, and makes numerous other television and radio appearances, most notably on FOX.  He can be reached at

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December 14, 2010 at 11:06 am Comments (0)

Re: Beiler vs Cawley

Alex Roarty grabbed an interview with Commissioner Cawley.

GrassrootsPA on Tuesday prominently featured a mailer the Lancaster County man sent to voters, which called Cawley a “progress/liberal” and cited statistics that showed the commissioner helping grows Bucks County’s government.

Cawley said during the interview he thinks government needs to “live within it means” and become a better partner with the private sector to help the state’ economy grow. That’s the message he takes to voters, he said, not criticism of his opponents.

“I adopt Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: Thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican,” he said. “And I haven’t.”

Cawley has several key advantages that likely make him the favorite to win the nomination. He’s the only lieutenant governor candidate to hit the airwaves thus far and, because of the endorsement, will have the institutional support of many party members statewide. Perhaps most importantly, he’s the only one from the southeast.

April 27, 2010 at 5:29 pm Comments (0)

Beiler vs Cawley

GrassrootsPa has a copy of a Beiler vs Cawley mailer that will be sent out before election day.

I can’t help but notice how similar it looks to, the anonymous anti-Cawley blog.

April 27, 2010 at 11:14 am Comments (0)

Election Day!

I felt that today was a good day to start writing again. This is because today is the day I say I’m done helping the Republican Party. This isn’t because I’m not a Republican, but because more to the point that I have No Idea what the Republican Party stands for anymore. I’m a conservative on a ship of moderates, which if you translate that to English means that they don’t stand really for anything except the next sound bite that will move that “Party” forward toward power again. The new song today is the same song from yesterday. This is truly one of the clearest moments in all of American History to clearly delineate the differences between Socialist principles and the Conservative values the Republican Party once stood for, what Ronald Reagan once spoke about and lived and breathed everyday proving to the world, Freedom of the Individual versus the Social Justice of the Collective. The chance to succeed or fail based on our own merits and hard work Vs. being just “too big” to fail and it’s our duty to “spread the wealth around”.

Never has there been a time to make such a clear distinction between two differing mindsets….and they fail to do so. And now I know why they have failed to do so: because the “Party mentality” of the Republicans OR the Democrats is not different at all. All they care about is power, and collecting more of it in their hands and not in ours…where it belongs.

Therefore, I now believe that I have no choice but to come to the conclusion of this: There really is no difference between the “Party” mentalities any longer. The Leadership of the Republican Party is not here to espouse my principles, which they “SAY” they believe. They don’t, and now I know it, and now I’m done helping the Party. The party is dead in my heart now.

I now have decided that I will only help individuals in the future. As soon as a Leader steps up to the plate and says “Here I am, with the bumps and hard edges and flaws and foibles of a real human being, and I believe in the Conservative principles of our Founding Fathers” I will be in there corner. This is why I believe that it was a stroke of Pure Genius that Sarah Palin left the Governor’s position in Alaska and tout the Conservative values to everyone that will listen to her. This allows her to get away from what is toxic in the Republican Party, which is the Republican Party, and maybe come back as a leader to show the way back to the principles and values that this great nation, the greatest nation ever, was founded on.

I didn’t join the military, serve my country and potentially risk my life if asked, to serve a “party” or an individual…but the Constitution of the United States of America. That is the oath all service members make. We made an oath to the Constitution. And it’s about time that I uphold that oath once again.

So, I hereby resign my position as a member of the Republican Committee here in Cumberland County, PA, effective immediately. I also re-pledge my oath to the US Constitution, like I did as a member of the US military. The next real candidate that upholds and believes those conservative values and principles espoused in the Constitution steps forward, I will be standing right behind them and helping them move our country back to sanity again, but the moment they forget the principles and values is the moment I leave them in the dust. You are either for our Constitution as the Founders created and intended it, or you’re not and that will determine whether my allegiance is with you OR I’m done with you. You choose.

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November 3, 2009 at 12:50 pm Comment (1)

Auditor General: We Dont Need TaxHike

Perhaps stimulated by a future gubernatorial run, Auditor General Jack Wagner says we dont need to raise taxes to balance our budget (now eight days overdue).

July 9, 2009 at 3:36 pm Comments (0)

What Do Chesco GOP Primary Results Mean?

So the question is this: Are the leaders of the Chester County Republican Party becoming more conservative? Are they listening to the grassroots, and changing? Or were conservative voters just fooled yesterday?

Because yesterday, Chester County GOP primary voters elected Frank McElwaine over Teena Peters for Clerk of Courts, and Ann Duke over Alan Randzin for Treasurer. Alan and Teena, fairly or not, were both seen as Republicans of the more moderate sort. They were also both incumbents, and according to some had less support from the party leadership.

Ann Duke was definitely seen as more conservative. Perhaps some saw Frank as more conservative. I don’t know. His major qualification seemed to be that he was a great older guy who has served the party for a long time. Everyone likes him. I favored Teena for the office, but if I could build from scratch the most entertaining old-school pol to chat with at a fundraiser, the result would probably look a lot like Frank.

There is an informal tradition within the Chesco GOP that incumbents shouldn’t be kept around for too long in row offices. Perhaps this motivated some voters. This tradition is selectively enforced by the leadership, though. Our great Sherriff for example, Bunny Welsh, doesn’t seem to have trouble with this tradition.

Whether or not this tradition comes into play is at least partly at the discretion of party leadership. And that brings us to perhaps the most important point: Frank and Ann were seen as both having the support of the county GOP leadership. I make no assertions as to the accuracy of this perception, but it’s what people thought. I do know at least one prominent Republican that explains Ann Duke’s success at least partly to the fact that she may be more compliant to the County party chair than Alan was.

Again, I don’t know if this is so, or not. Ann did assure me personally that county financials would be as transparent as a mountan spring. Speaking for myself, I found Ann to be a charming person, and potentially a great candidate. And Alan sent out a highly negative attack in the mail right before the primary that turned MANY people off. He may have nobody to blame more for this loss than whoever thought that piece of mail was a good idea, and Jim Gerlach, a moderate who was pretty clear about how he preferred Duke.

All in all, this is an odd state of affairs. Conservatives in Chester County always bellyache about the party leadership. Part of this is probably temperamental. Sometimes conservatives just ain’t happy unless they’re kvetching.

Nevertheless, arguably the conservative candidates won their primaries yesterday. By a LOT. And these were also the candidates some say had the support of the leadership.

I know more people suggesting that conservatives were fooled by the leadership, but that is no doubt due to selection bias. I run with a pretty cranky crowd. But I am an idealist myself, and never ascribe to Machiavellian machinations that which is more simply explained otherwise. So I would like to believe we are just seeing the slow rotation of the gears of Democratic Republicanism.

[Note: Can’t enable comments. Please e-mail if you have anything to add.]

May 20, 2009 at 3:40 pm Comments (0)

Chesco Row Office GOP Primary: One Gets A Little Ugly

[Chesco inside baseball below. Apologies our readers outside of SE PA.]

We all know what it’s like. We walk into the voting booth, see a competitive race for some office like prothonotary, and don’t even know who does the job now, or what the job is, let alone who the people are running for it and how to select one over the other. Lot’s of times, I’ll just skip it, and wonder why these roles are subject to election in the first place. If I don’t have a clue, I reason, what business do I have making a choice? Frankly, I wish more voters took this approach.

Tomorrow’s Chester County primary will have two such headscratchers: Clerk of Courts, and County Treasurer. I’ve been paying attention to them so you don’t have to. My insider account of the GOP nominating convention that led to these competitive primaries can be found here.

The race for Treasurer has gotten surprisingly testy. The incumbent, Alan Randzin, is widely acknowledged to move in circles outside those of the County party Chairman. His challenger, Ann Duke, is a former West Chester councilwoman who eschewed potential offices in her Borough, where the GOP has a notable dearth of candidates, and instead decided to run against an incumbent GOP Treasurer who has already proven he can win countywide against the anticipated Democrat opposition.

Oddly, while Alan has cheesed off party leaders in the past, generally catnip for Chesco conservatives, it is Ann who has garnered some of their grassroots support. Her campaign has been pretty long on platitudes and short on discussions of the job itself. But she does talk the talk on broader conservative themes more comfortably than Randzin, even if most of those themes have little to do with the job of running the Treasurer’s office.

Alan was apparently feeling some pressure from Ann, though, so he decided to go negative with a direct mail piece implying Ms. Duke pays her property taxes with the frequency and enthusiasm associated with Tim Geithner.

This is a pretty damning accusation: The woman who wants to run the office responsible for collecting property taxes cannot be bothered to pay her own obligations to the county on time. Problem is, Ms. Duke’s explanation seems to hold water. Her mortgage company, she says, screwed up. While resolving the issue she waited for the relevant funds to be forwarded to her so she could cover that large check. Upon the arrival of those funds she paid up, including a small penalty. No liens were issued, and Ms. Duke is completely square with all relevant taxing authorities.

Randzin counters that she should have been aware of this problem well before the winter of 2009, especially if she has banking experience and understands the process well enough to administer it. Coincidentally, she decided to pay up at about the same time she became a recommended GOP candidate for Treasurer.

My guess is most people will interpret this as a shady last-second smear, and it will backfire on Randzin. Most of us at least know someone who has had a similar cock-up with their mortgage company and escrow funds. I may be in the middle of one right now myself! But there has been a recent rash of potential DC political appointees who apparently can’t be bothered to pay taxes, and this has disgusted people. So who knows?

All the while, the Clerk of Courts race, while competitive, has been fairly quiet. The issues have remained the same since the nominating convention. Incumbent Teena Peters has been doing the job well– managing the record-keeping and administration of the criminal division of the Court of Common Pleas– at least according to all the relevant lawyers with whom I’ve consulted. Her challenger is a long-time GOP party man under the impression he can do better. I have yet to hear a specific example of how he purports to improve the office.

So congratulations GOP voters of Chester County. Now when you walk into the box tomorrow you will at least have a vague clue of how to assess those sometimes nebulous row office races, and you can vote with a clear conscience.

May 18, 2009 at 10:55 am Comments (0)

Lehigh County Commissioner’s Race Update

Mike Welsch

Mike Welsch

In District 4 former State House candidate Mike Welsch is considering running against incumbent Democrat Dan McCarthy.

Welsch made his first run for Political office last year against Democrat State Representative Jennifer Mann. Despite waging a spirited campaign based on cleaning up Allentown Mike came up short in November. He was largely ignored by the local Media who seemed bent on making sure the incumbent kept her seat even as she ignored the needs of her district and continued her quest for higher office in a failed bid for State Treasurer.

Now, Mike appears to be ready to step back into the ring and take on a Commissioner who just supported a budget with a massive operating deficit. Hopefully, Mr. Welsch will be more successful in 2009 but he will again face tough odds in a district with a large Democratic voter registration advantage. In 2005 McCarthy won re election over a relatively well funded opponent in Dean Browning by a 57-43% margin. Dean went on to become Lehigh County Republican Party Chairman in 2006 and ran successfully for Lehigh County Commissioner At-Large in 2007, coming in first place in an 8 candidate field.

January 9, 2009 at 11:02 am Comments (0)

Lehigh County Commissioner Race Preview

Last night, 32 year veteran of the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners Sterling Raber (R), announced he would not seek re election. This is the latest development among several that will shape the race for the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners 5 district races next year.

The Board is now currently closely divided with 5 Republicans and 4 Democrats. 2 Democrats (commissioners McCarthy and Jones) are up for re election as are 3 Republicans (Eckhart, Dougherty, and now the open seat for Raber). Challenging Jones will be Allentown School Board President Robert E. Smith Jr. who has made several unsuccessful runs in the past. This year Smith was named Board President and if he can successfully hold the line on taxes, he may have a chance. It is not yet clear who, if anyone, will challenge either Commissioners McCarthy or Eckhart though Republican Glenn Eckhart has a target drawn on his back by Democratic County Executive Don Cunningham after being the sole dissenting vote against Cunningham’s deficit Budget. Cunningham is himself up for re election even though he already has his eye cast on the Governor’s Mansion in 2010.

Now it gets interesting…

Republican Commissioner and Board of Commissioners President Percy Dougherty is under fire from the right for passing Cunningham’s Budget and approving an additional $100k in spending. He’s looking at a primary from East Penn School Director Mark Prinzinger. Prinzinger however is having his own problems with Conservatives as he supported a Collective Bargaining with the East Penn Education Association (our Teacher’s Union) granting a 4.9% pay increase. While this seems a bit outlandish, it’s not the sum of Director Prinzinger’s Problems. The contract was voted on without ever being seen by the Board. outlines the problems here. It appears Mark is planning on simultaneously seeking to oust Commissioner Dougherty and seek re election to the East Penn School Board. Possible Democratic candidates include Emmaus Borough Councilman Wes Barrett and Lower Macungie Township Commissioner Deana Zosky.

As for Commissioner Raber’s now open seat, 3 Republicans have all been mentioned as possible replacements. Former Commissioner At-Large Marc Grammes, 2 time State House Candidate Allen Cerullo, and Lynn Township Supervisor David Najarian. I know and like all 3 men but Cerullo and Najarian are the real Conservative options.

[Editor’s Note: Julian Stolz is also an East Penn School District Director. Mark Prinzinger responds here.]

Joe Hilliard posts on the Contract here.

December 18, 2008 at 4:40 pm Comments (2)

Rendell, His Political Friends—And More State Contracts

Rendell, His Political Friends—And More State Contracts
By Chris Freind, The Bulletin

Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa., has come under increased fire as more information comes to light regarding his relationships with campaign donors.

Awarding contributors with lucrative state contracts is nothing new in Pennsylvania, but the frequency, large-dollar amounts and the number of secretive no-bid contracts awarded to political friends are perceived by many to have crossed the ethical line. As a result, numerous bills aimed at reforming how state contracts are awarded will be re-introduced in January when the new legislature convenes.

When questioned on how his friendships and political connections affect the doling out of taxpayer money, the governor has repeatedly stated that they have no bearing in his decision-making. However, an analysis of the Rendell money trail makes such denials suspect. Several examples:

Boscov’s Bailout

Boscov’s Inc., which operates numerous department stores in the Mid-Atlantic region, including Pennsylvania, filed for bankruptcy protection in August. Not wanting to see the family company go out of business, Albert Boscov sought financial assistance to restructure the organization.

He found that support in the form of $35 million in taxpayer money, courtesy of Gov. Rendell’s political maneuvering. The governor was quoted as saying that the aid was “… based on [Mr. Boscov’s] reputation” as a successful businessman.

Many around the state were left wondering if Mr. Boscov’s $139,000 in campaign contributions to Mr. Rendell played any role in the awarding of aid. Other Boscov family members gave an additional $25,000 to Rendell. Questions posed to the governor regarding this connection were repeatedly dismissed.

No Qualified PA Lawyers?

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit in 2007 against Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson. Gov. Rendell’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) chose the legal firms to represent the state. Instead of selecting counsel via a competitive bidding process, the administration chose to award secretive, no-bid contracts. The lead counsel selected was the Houston-based Bailey Perrin Bailey (BPB) plaintiff firm, and Pennsylvania co-counsel was Cohen, Placitella and Roth (CPR) from Philadelphia. Stewart Cohen, one of the firm’s lead partners, contributed $12,000 to Gov. Rendell.

The choice of an out-of-state firm has placed the governor in a potentially embarrassing position. Each time he is questioned about no-bid state contracts being awarded to friends and political contributors, the answer has consistently been that campaign donations play no role whatsoever in the selection process.

Rather, such firms are chosen because of their expertise in a particular field. The Bulletin called the governor’s office to inquire if this meant that there were no qualified law firms in the entire state to handle a legal claim of “deceptive marketing practices.” The calls went unreturned.

In addition to donations totaling $75,000 to Mr. Rendell’s campaign in 2006 – a time during which the law firm was negotiating its state contract – Mr. Bailey also contributed over $16,000 worth of airfare to the governor’s effort. Prior to founding BPB several years ago, Mr. Bailey’s former firm, in which he was also a founding partner, contributed $25,000 to Gov. Rendell’s first gubernatorial campaign. Bailey also donated $25,000 to the Democratic Governor’s Association (DGA), an organization which has contributed over $1.3 million to Mr. Rendell.

Ken Jarin, Rendell confidante and partner at Ballard Spahr, the governor’s former firm, is the treasurer of the DGA. Jarin is a major fundraiser for the governor, and has contributed $90,000 to the Rendell campaigns. He is married to Robin Wiessmann, the Pennsylvania Treasurer who was appointed by the governor in 2007. Ballard has received millions of dollars from the state through no-bid contracts.

For a recap of Gov. Rendell’s conflicts of interest with his former law firm, Ballard Spahr, and the Delaware River Port Authority, of which is he Chairman, please see The Bulletin’s exposes from Nov. 14 and Nov. 21:

“Ed Rendell and Ballard Spahr: Attached At The Wallet”

“Re-Cap of Gov. Rendell’s Conflicts of Interest”

Chris Freind can be reached at

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December 5, 2008 at 11:07 am Comments (0)

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