A tale of two ballrooms — update
February 13, 2010 3 Comments
There are two contrasting events underway at the Harrisburg Hilton right now.
In one ballroom, members of the State Republican Committee are voting to endorse candidates in the Senate, gubernatorial and lieutenant governor primaries. Most are well-dressed. All are what you’d call party insiders – members of county Republican committees, elected officials, major donors.
They’ve just voted overwhelmingly to endorse Tom Corbett’s campaign, with only a dozen of the 348 voters supporting Sam Rohrer.
But a few paces down the hall, a few hundred people in jeans, boots, field jackets and baseball caps are taking part I Rohrer’s “Mobilize for Liberty” rally. Judging by the signs they were holding in the lobby, the majority of them are against an official party endorsement. “They want to choose for themselves, and don’t like the fact that kingmakers and power brokers…are trying to force people out of the race before petitions are filed,” is how state Representative Daryl Metcalfe put it.
The State Committee meeting began the morning with a roll call vote on whether or not to offer an endorsement. Members voted by overwhelming margins – 300-47, 297-51 and 213-135, in the Senate, gubernatorial and L-G races, respectively – to go ahead and make official selections.
After the balloting was done, Chairman Rob Gleason warned party members to fall in line behind the endorsed candidates. “Rebelling against our party’s decision may sound romantic, but it will hurt the nominee and the party in the long run,” he said.
That didn’t sit well with Jeff Coleman, who’s running Rohrer’s campaign. He called Gleason’s statement condescending, and said it “reflects a real disrespect and level of arrogance against the grassroots members of the party.”
“What happened in Florida,” Coleman warned, referencing the grassroots movement against Governor Charlie Crist’s Senate campaign, “could very well happen in Pennsylvania.”
UPDATE: The Corbett camp is defending the endorsement process, calling it open and democratic. Campaign manager Brian Nutt said, “the state committee members are elected by Republican voters in their particular counties or districts, and that’s who they represent.”
Corbett agreed with Nutt’s assessment, and suggested the people calling for an open primary may be doing so out of confusion. “Now, I think what we have is many new people who’ve become involved who may not have understood that process,” he said. “And they may have voted for these people in the past and not even know it. So what we have is maybe a new group of people becoming involved and interested in elections. But there is a process. We are a nation of rules, we have rules within our party. What you saw there was the rules being followed.”