By Sean Coit
PoliticsPA Staff Writer
Just last week, embroiled State Rep. and former Majority Whip Bill DeWeese (D-Greene) announced that he would seek re-election despite his indictment in Attorney General Tom Corbett’s “Bonusgate” investigation. Today, with a tough primary challenger in Pam Snyder, chairwoman of Greene County commissioners, he might be without the support of a critical House ally.
“I just had a conversation with Dwight Evans, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and he is supporting me,” Snyder said in an interview with PoliticsPA. “I was very pleased to hear that from him which goes to show that Pam Snyder can and will be an effective legislator.”
Evans’ (D-Philadelphia) apparent decision not to support DeWeese would represent an important divorce between one of the most important Democrats in Harrisburg and the embattled DeWeese, one of the most high-profile defendants in the “Bonusgate” scandal. DeWeese has represented the 50th district since 1976.
“Four years ago I thought about running, and I had a lot of people approach me and ask me to not do it for the good of the party, not to split the party, and at that moment in time I decided that I would not do that,” Snyder said. ”I supported Bill. I supported Bill two years ago, but quite honestly, I didn’t think Bill was going to seek re-election, and as a matter of fact he had told me he wasn’t, so I set my ship in motion, and just because he changed his mind this time I decided that I wasn’t going to change mine.”
Snyder said DeWeese told her late last year that he would not seek re-election.
“When Bill was indicted, he had been telling everyone that he wasn’t going to be, and when he was, we were all kind of shocked, and that probably is what started this in motion,” she said.
After Gov. Ed Rendell’s final budget proposal was unveiled earlier this week, Pennsylvania political observers were immediately reminded of the 101-day budget impasse that crippled the state last year, leaving many state workers without paychecks. Snyder said that the budget impasse is just an example of Harrisburg politics in need of reform.
“I really feel that if the state legislature doesn’t pass a state budget on time, they’re the ones that shouldn’t be drawing a paycheck, not the state workers,” she said. ”I am hoping that I will have the ability to help formulate something that will address that issue from a legislative perspective, so that legislators wouldn’t be paid until there was a budget.”
In an interview with PoliticsPA, Rep. Bill DeWeese expressed confidence that the loss of Evans’ support did not correlate with that of Green County voters.
“I have the highest and most enduring respect for Chairman Evans, but center city Philadelphia is 305 miles from the Greene County line,” DeWeese said. ”I believe irrevocably that the May 18 contest will be decided by boots on the ground in the 50th legislative district.”
DeWeese, who has been a mainstay in both Greene County and Harrisburg, believes that his strong community ties will continue to give him the upper hand against opponents from either party.
“I am confident that our team will be competitive in spite of the obvious challenges that prevail at the moment,” DeWeese said. ”My friendships amongst prison guards, coal miners, firemen and small town elected officials surely give me a political rock of Gibraltar to launch my primary campaign. I will be a Democratic stalwart on the floor of the House, supporting my leadership team and the legislative objectives that we will project for working families not withstanding their enthusiasms for or against me in the spring.”
DeWeese also noted that his conversation with Snyder in which he questioned his interest in pursuing another term, took place less than 24 hours after DeWeese was charged in another round of “Bonusgate” indictments.
“Pam called on the 16th to inquire as to how I was faring, and whether I would indeed seek re-election. This is within 24 hours of what, most people would agree, was some pretty rough news,” DeWeese said. ”I told her that I would spend Christmas and New Year’s with my family and friends and make a decision in early January, which is exactly what I did.”
“Commissioner Snyder is, and always will be a friend of mine,” DeWeese said. ”I look forward to subsequent handshakes after election day, win or lose, and there will certainly not be any hard feelings.”
Pam Snyder, chairwoman of Greene County commissioners, spoke with PoliticsPA after state Rep. Bill DeWeese responded to the original story, and argued that the timeline of events that DeWeese provided was not accurate.
“He said we spoke within 24 hours and I don’t think that’s accurate, it was more like three or four days, and we did have a conversation about him not running and me running,” Snyder said.
“I did wish him a merry Chrimstas, and then in the middle of january, I received a call from the House Democratic Campaign Committee who said they had met with Bill, that he was not running, and that I should move forward. That was after Christmas and after new year, and that is when I really cranked it up to move forward.”
“Then two weeks later, Bill called me and said he had changed his mind. That was the moment when I said, ‘Good luck, God bless you, but I’m not changing my mind.”