Berks GOP Picks Larry Medaglia, Register of Wills, for 11th District Special
Berks County Republicans nominated Register of Wills Larry Medaglia as their candidate for the March 15th special election to replace State Senator Mike O’Pake.
In a closed-door session of the Berks County GOP Executive Committee on Saturday evening, committee members debated the pros and cons of each of the six prospective candidates.
Ultimately, they chose Medaglia.
“Larry is an excellent candidate ,” said Berks GOP Chairman Andrew Fick. “He’s a fiscal conservative, he’s an outsider to Harrisburg. I believe he will go to Harrisburg and make sure that they hear the voices of the people of the 11th district.”
Medaglia (rhymes with “Vidalia,” like the onion), 47, has served as Berks County Register of Wills since 1996.
According to his biography on the Berks County website, Medaglia was born in Reading, graduated from Wyomissing Area High School and later Bloomsburg University with a degree in Political Science. He is also a part-time adjunct faculty member at Reading Area Community College, teaching State and Local Government and American Government.
Prior to his election, Medaglia worked as a legislative aide to former State Representative Paul J. Angstadt, who later served as Mayor of the City of Reading from 1996 to 1999. And he’s no stranger to committee politics. He chaired the Berks County Republican Committee from 2000-2006.
He said his focus is the economy.
“My priority number one is reasonable property tax reform,” he said, adding that economic growth went hand-in-hand. “People are losing their houses because they can’t afford their property taxes. That’s a huge problem.”
“If there’s one way to honor Senator O’Pake’s memory, it’s to carry on his legacy of public service,” said Medaglia. “Senator O’Pake served the people of the 11th district, in fact all all of Berks.”
Medaglia will face Democrat and former Berks County Commissioner Judy Schwank, who was recommended by Berks County Democrats today as reported by PoliticsPA and is expected to be officially nominated by the Democratic State Committee on Monday.
Medaglia’s nomination required only the approval of the Berks GOP, not the Republican State Committee: a difference in the nominating process for each party. The Berks County GOP endorsement is sufficient for Medaglia, while the Democrats require state party approval for Schwank’s nomination.
To underscore the point, PA Democratic Chairman Jim Burn was in attendance at Schwank’s nomination earlier today. Conversely, Fick told PoliticsPA on Friday that he had only spoken with representatives of the PA GOP once or twice since the passing of Senator O’Pake.
Indeed, PoliticsPA confirmed reports that Democrats’ selection of Schwank was influenced by a poll commissioned by the Democratic State Senate Campaign Committee which showed her leading each prospective GOP opponent.
Medaglia said his only contact with a statewide official was a meeting with President of the Senate Joe Scarnati, who met with each of the 6 prospective GOP candidates.
“His view was that it’s a local matter,” said Medaglia, who characterized Scarnati’s attitude as: “We’re gonna let you guys sort it out, and we’re here to help you out once you’ve chosen a nominee.”
Another contrast between the two parties, according to Medaglia, was transparency. The Berks GOP held a public candidates forum earlier this week, whereas the Democrats’ decision process was more private.
“We had an open process, we went out to the people, we listened to their issues and their concerns and we addressed them. The other side settled on a nominee to the exclusion of others. [Democrats] didn’t have input from the public or the community,” Medaglia charged.
Berks County Democratic Chairman Tom Herman rejected the idea that Republicans were more transparent, dismissing the forum as “window dressing.”
“The real decisions were made behind the scenes,” Herman said. He also noted that the Democratic nomination vote was open to the press, while the Republican vote was not.
Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach, a Republican, agreed that the selection was based on party politics.
“It’s not a surprise that the Berks GOP chose Larry Medaglia,” Leinbach said. “I have alot of respect for Larry and he’s a nice guy, but ultimately he’s a party insider and he can’t win.”
Leinbach supported business leader Michael Rivera for the nomination, citing Rivera’s strong connections to Reading’s sizable latino population.
In any case, it’s now Schwank vs. Medaglia.
The special election puts Berks County at the center of attention in Pennsylvania politics as both sides have to see whether they’re going to continue the trend of the 2010 elections. Will it be another sign of Republican momentum, or an opportunity for Democrats to turn the page on their midterm losses?
Medaglia says he is focusing on the issues, not any broader implications of the race. And he’s not intimidated by the numbers, which show that the district is titled toward the Democrats.
“I don’t think the voter registration numbers mean anything. People are concerned about these issues regardless of their registration. I believe that if they find a candidate who stands for what they believe in, they’ll support that candidate regardless of their party label,” he said.
And in any case, he’s up for the challenge.
“People who know me know – tell me I can’t do something, and watch me go,” he said.
Odds are, he’s about to get going.