By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor
The PA Republican party issued a memo Monday to county chairmen and women around the state, in which it laid out the protocol in races where state committee has endorsed.
“As our endorsed candidates travel on the campaign trail, they should receive concessions in regards to official party events,” the memo stated. “As members of the PA GOP and leaders of your county party, we request respect for the following longstanding traditions associated with our endorsed candidates.”
Namely, non-endorsed candidates are to have nothing to do with any official party functions. They are not permitted to speak at county functions (dinners, etc), and county party members should only circulate petitions and literature for endorsed candidates.
The full memo is below.
And those are on top of the standard benefits of a state committee endorsement: a significant fundraising boost, the support of PAGOP staff, direct mail paid for by the party, and more. Those are on top of the inherent advantage of establishment support in a party whose voters have historically been comfortable deferring to the establishment.
Since the news came out, conservatives activists have flocked to social media to criticize the party.
“This top-down enforcement of ‘traditions’ that stifle any meaningful debate among candidates is ruthless,” the Bucks County based Kitchen Table Patriots Tea Party wrote of the memo.
They’re paying particular attention to the Senate race, where Chester County entrepreneur Steve Welch won the state committee’s support.
However, almost all of the candidates could be said to have courted the endorsement. Each courted committee members in the lead up to the January 31 vote, and all had held meet-and-greets and state committee events except David Christian and John Kensinger. The rules aren’t exactly new, either - other than the fact that state committee leadership felt the need to reassert them. (In gentle language. eg. “As a reminder, the PA GOP has not discouraged any candidate from continuing their campaign for any of the statewide offices.”)
However, the response does speak to a strong grassroots movement that has developed in recent years that wants to do away with GOP endorsements. They staged a protest at GOP state committee’s endorsement meeting in January, and they have been working to get on county and state committee.
And clearly, some committee members and chairs agree. After all, they passed the memo out to numerous campaigns and media outlets.
Ironically, those elements in the GOP want to run things more like Pa. Democrats.
Dem state committee endorsements are not binding despite requiring a higher, two-thirds threshold (the PAGOP only requires 50 percent plus 1). Democratic county committees can – and often do – endorse primary opponents of candidates that have been endorsed by the state committee.
And efforts by reformers who want the party to emulate the GOP – by tightening up the bylaws or to committing noteworthy financial resources to back up endorsements – are the subject of intense scrutiny by progressives and activists.
So who’s right? GOP party leaders point to the most important statistic of all: win rate. Since 2001, the GOP has won 54 percent of contested statewide elections.
Here’s the memo: