Pennsylvania’s Best County Party Chairs

Donkey ElephantThe role of a county party chair is complex and often thankless. He or she must be an organizer, diplomat, activist, spokesperson, recruiter, fundraiser, and executive.

Many of the 134 Democratic and Republican chairs around Pa. excel, but a few stand out above the rest. We talked to politicos pros, party activists and you.

The criteria for the list are somewhat subjective. Some people are on this list because of their standout work during 2012 elections, some for their strong fundraising, others who brought peace to a previously divided county.

The thing they have in common is that they are regarded as the best by local and statewide politicos, candidates, and PoliticsPA readers who offered their input for this piece.

You can compare them to last year’s list here.

Here are PoliticsPA’s best county party chairs.

Democrats

Marcel Groen, Montgomery County

Groen is the best county chair of either party in the entire state because he combines it all: fundraising, organizing, candidate development and more. Groen is a prominent attorney in the region and has been Chair of the MCDC for 19 years. In that time, the county went from near total GOP control to near total Dem control, including the first Dem majority on the Board of Commissioners ever. The party ousted Rep. Quigley in November, the only GOP incumbent in Pa. to lose on election day, with little financial help from Harrisburg. Plus Montco went big for Obama in 2012, all of which is a credit to Groen’s professionalism. Whenever Chairman Jim Burn steps away from the helm of the PA Dems, expect Groen to take his place.

Bob Brady, Philadelphia County

We can’t say it better than this Inky profile piece. Congressman Brady is the consummate party boss and ward leader. It’s rare that anyone in the Democratic city challenges him comes out on top. Philly’s margin in 2012 carried the President in Pa., but more importantly stood as a bulwark against a GOP surge, which in turn allowed Obama’s campaign to spend its resources in other close states.

Bill Cole, Erie County

He comes well recommended by statewide Democratic campaigns and groups because his work ethic is significantly stronger than his ego; he’s willing to to do what it takes. His effort was rewarded by excellent performances up and down the ballot in 2012, including a state Senate pickup. Plus, he’s a press whiz – very skilled at hyping Dem events in the city by the lake.

Bob Kefauver, York County

Before Auditor General Eugene DePasquale won in November, can anyone name the last York County Dem elected statewide? Gov. George Leader in 1954. DePasquale a gem in Kefauver’s cap. He leads the party in a county that is poised to grow more favorable for Democrats over the next decade. And he’s forward-thinking; he uses voter date more effectively than any other chair, one recommender said.

Dave Landau, Delaware County

Landau is an up-and-comer in SEPA Dem politics and well regarded by statewide campaigners. Good at candidate recruitment, he found his feet since mid-2010 when he started. Now he takes an active role in the management of campaigns in his county. And Delco was one of just 3 Pa. counties where Obama actually did better in 2012 than 2008.

Nancy Mills, Allegheny County

She’s relatively new, but it hasn’t taken her long to modernize and professionalize the party in Pa.’s second biggest county. A strong ally of County Exec Rich Fitzgerald, she’s done a good job uniting the sometimes fractious Allegheny Dems. Her warm demeanor has boosted her work to connect with the rank and file of the party.

Republicans

Best Chair Emeritus: Ann Wilson, Cambria County

A longtime grassroots leader, she took charge of the committee a few years ago – with big shoes to fill as the first non-Gleason in decades. Under her leadership the party made inroads in every local and federal race, including keeping it close enough with Mark Critz to give Keith Rothfus a chance. It’s to the party’s great detriment that Wilson had to step down after the election for health reasons.

Val DiGiorgio, Chester County

Keep an eye on DiGiorgio. Many Republican insiders put him at the top of their list of potential future state party Chairs because he’s adeptly shown how to raise money (over $1M for the Chesco GOP, said one nominator) as well as canvass. Every incumbent GOPer won re-election last cycle including several highly targeted ones. And Chester was the only southeast Pa. county to go for Romney (Obama won it by 10% in 2008) thanks in part to the party’s grassroots organizing; they were repeatedly ranked nationally by the Romney campaign for hitting outreach goals. He’s been chair since October 2011.

Robert Kerr, Northampton County

Kerr gets the up-and-comer award for his efforts to make the Northampton GOP a significant player. When he took charge in January 2012, the party was outdated and divided. Since then grassroots organizing, fundraising, and member participation have all increased. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty and phonebank. He was recommended by several of the politicos who worked with all 67 chairs in 2012.

Pat Poprik, Bucks County

The longtime de facto Chair under Harry Fawkes, Poprik knows the committee and its members top to bottom. Her party easily held onto county offices in 2011 and defended Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick with ease in 2012. The County was a glimmer of hope for Republicans in the waning hours of the presidential election as Romney rallied  35,000 supporters in Bucks – with the committee’s on-the-ground logistical support. The GOP deficit shrank by 23K from 2008 to 2012 and although Obama scored a win with 50.0% of the vote, Bucks was the only SEPA county where he did worse than John Kerry in 2004.

Andy Reilly, Delaware County

There are few places in the country where GOP machine politics survives, and Delco is one of them. Reilly holds the reins of a powerful local operation whose muscle shows in its dominance of local campaigns (though not presidential ones). He can raise money, too.

Jim Roddey, Allegheny County

Pittsburgh has become a main stop for national Republican candidates and speakers and Allegheny is the biggest GOP county in Pa. Roddey, the former County Executive and one of the most influential members of the state party, is a big reason why. Plus, Keith Rothfus’s relatively strong performance there helped deliver the PAGOP’s single sweetest 2012 win.

Wayne Woodman, Lehigh County

Local Republicans who might be inclined to support a tax increase have learned a lesson: don’t. The vocal, organized and firm party leader has taken an active interest in purging his party of those who are insufficiently conservative, and he’s done a solid job of it. As a result Woodman has helped elect a solid GOP majority in Lehigh County government. Given his background in financial services, it’s no surprise that he’s a solid fundraiser, too.

February 7th, 2013 | Posted in Features, Front Page Stories, Harrisburg, Top Stories | 34 Comments

34 thoughts on “Pennsylvania’s Best County Party Chairs”

  1. nick says:

    What about the Libertarian Partry Chairs? There are some great ones in York, Montgomery, and Bucks County. These are great Chairs as they have an up hill battle and are gaining ground everyday.

  2. Tiger Lil says:

    Chester County political machine is (and has been) run by lawyers and candidates are whoever is next in line or can do the most for the party. Any true principled conservative is bad news for the party and is shunned. Strong arm tactics are used to keep committee people in line and the committee by-laws are ignored when expedient for leader’s purposes. The whole system is a joke and that is why the GOP will never win a conservative seat until things change. Have you noticed Joe Sestak lurking around lately?

  3. SaraB says:

    Chester County Republicans may be known for hitting outreach goals but it’s not becaue of Val DiGiorgio’s leadership. Val is more interested in leading his way up the ladder, than leading the people of Chester County and Pennsylvania to victory for Republicans. It wasn’t Val that helped hit outreach goals!

  4. I almost choked when I saw the name of Val DiGeorgio on this list. You must have asked him directly. He has been one of the most divisive leaders in some time. He cannot accept that real people do not support his lackluster candidates. He objects to every conservative who is ever mentioned for a position. He goes out of his way to intimidate, attempt to blackmail committeepeople (if he feels they are not right), and slander candidates to force them to drop out. This IS Val DiGeorgio. No Literature, No Problem…no literature. Tom Smith was doomed in PA because of people like Val. They threw him under the bus when Welsh lost the primary, and he lost due to the opposition in the party knowing what and who he was and informing the voters. Can’t wait to dump DiGeorgio.

  5. PJ says:

    Val DiGiorgio a good leader? What makes him qualified: The intimidating tactics or threats he using against Conservative Committee people or when he says to fellow republicans that they need to compromise their principles after the primary. The guy wouldn’t know a Constitution if it hit him over the head. He support RINO Republican Dominic Pileggi and protected him when a Conservative Candidate ran against him. Dominic Pileggi is backed by one of the same unions that Obama is backed by. There is no leadership within the Chester County Republican Party. Don’t let them fool you.

  6. Sean says:

    Jim Roddey? That’s just embarrassing.

  7. Eric Neubauer says:

    You credit Wayne Woodman with wanting to purge the party of RINOs. I think this is an exaggeration. What we want is to purge RINOs from getting elected to office through use of the primary. I don’t think there a problem with them remaining in the party as long as they are not using powers of office to get in the way of fiscal conservatism.

  8. PacMan says:

    As someone who has witnessed the transformation of Montgomery County over the last decade, I have to say that Marcel Groen’s inclusion at the top of this list could not be more deserved!!!! He is one of the most dedicated and passionate Chairs I have ever witnessed!!! Congratulations Marcel!!! Keep up the great work and making the Montco Democrats proud!

  9. Delco Bob says:

    Ha, Landau? This is a complete joke. 1) he’s not an up and coming star. He’s been around since the 80s and has the haircut to show for it. 2) candidate recruitment? Please name one good candidate that he has recruited. 3) an active role in managing campaigns? Please find one candidate who will cite Landau as being anything but worthless to their campaigns. I’m serious. You cannot argue against those three things. Landau only made this list because he’s a wealthy snob from Nether who sucks up to consultants like Ceisler and company.

  10. Dandy Pandy says:

    @Joclyn – are you willfully ignorant or blissfully heartless? Not every child in poverty is the product of promiscuity. Medicaid is a lifeline for those children and families who have fallen on hard times and are living at the margins, struggling to make ends meet in this economy. But I you couldn’t call yourself a true “conservative leader” if you thought the term “pro-life” had any meaning after the baby is born.

  11. Reasonable Rep says:

    And “Jocelyn Grecco” continues to spend his/her time trolling under a fake persona on PoliticsPA…

  12. John Jones says:

    The criticism of Kefauver’s inclusion is way off base.

    As someone who worked on Eugene’s campaign, I can attest that Bob was instrumental in Eugene’s success. Early on Bob’s superior knowledge of state committee helped him guide Eugene through the process and avoid an unnecessary primary fight.

    Moreover, despite bad numbers in almost all of York’s legislative districts, Bob consistently fields good, quality candidates….which is no easy task in 35% Democratic districts.

  13. delco observer says:

    Joyus:

    refill your Kool Aid glass…it must be empty.
    Can’t wait to see the great recruits David Landau brings out for county offices this year….since that is his “strength.”
    If history is a guide, should be another great year in DELCO politics…for the DELCO GOP!

  14. Jocelyn Grecco says:

    I am a conservative leader and as a young single female I can tell you I am thrilled that while I have practiced abstinence, with Gov Corbett’s decision today the promiscuous young women who have had multiple babies won’t be rewarded with my tax dollars for free healthcare. Bravo Governor, the conservative movement is proud of your principled stand to prevent children from getting healthcare with taxpayers dollars, that’s what faith based organizations are for.

  15. Joyus Benidiction says:

    Anybody who blames badey’s loss on Landau is misinformed, to say the least. Look at the district!!! It includes ONLY republican parts of DelCo, while Democratic strongholds like Chester and the Strath Haven School District area are in Bob Brady’s. Any of you looked at a map in recent years??? PA-7 is one of the most gerrymandered in the nation! Brady’s district is more DelCo than Meehan is. The comments above are some of the most informed I’ve ever seen.
    And actually, look at DelCo registration numbers and union endorsements. Unions endorse democrats statewide, but actually endorse republicans in local delco races. Please. Get some facts, and come back and see me.

  16. Dot of Ivy says:

    Congratulations Chairman Kerr and Chairman Woodman!

    It looks like the Lehigh Valley is on the way to taking the lead spot from the Philly burbs.

  17. West says:

    Great job Marcel. Your love for Montgomery County and the Democratic Party is matched by noone. You give all that you have to both. Team Montgomery is like no other County or Democrat Committee in the state! Congratulations. Pat yourself on the back and enjoy the spotlight. You earned it.

  18. HOPING FOR THE BEST IN DELCO says:

    In DELCO Landau is in over his head if it was not for his young gun vice chair with his union connections the party would be broke working out of a basement! Landau way of politics did’nt work in the 80’s and it does not work now! As long as Landau gets false praise he will keep believing he is doing a great job! ITS A JOKE!!!

  19. John says:

    Weird, Andy Reilly is so celebrated and he cant even come close to defeating Greg Vitali (D) in a Republican district.

  20. Chestco not true says:

    Not true regarding Val. He is a divisive force in the GOP. When our party should try to find common ground with fiscal conservatives, Val does everything possible to force out real Republicans in favor of politically protected progressive RINOs such as Steve Welch who voted for Obama but was still endorsed for the primary. Embracing Reagan conservatism would garner many more votes, and raise more money. That’s where the passion for fixing the country is. The entrenched liberal Republicans are mainly just in it for their own self interests.

  21. Veritas says:

    David Landau? I hope after more than twenty years in politics, I can call myself an “up-and-comer”. What a joke. Yesterday, PoliticsPA labelled Landau’s Congressional candidate a loser, but David’s good at candidate recruitment? Which good candidate did he recruit? Bryan Lentz? Loser. George Badey? Loser. Kendall Brown? Loser. David Landau? Loser.

  22. delco observer says:

    This is pure hilarity: “Landau is the only one to make any progress in dismantling the dreaded machine.”
    …if what Dems have in Delaware County under David Landau is progress, Dems are in bad shape. Review the numbers…it does not have to be subjective about his leadership style (putrid) or personality (non-existent)… look objectively: his personal efforts to recruit a candidate that this site very recently named one of the biggest losers of 2012, the 2011 DA candidate he personally recruited and vouched for, the stagnation and decrease of Dem vote for every candidate other than the president has decreased.
    “Dismantling” the DELCO GOP machine…I think not…more like throwing the DELCO GOP machine a lifeline at a time when the DELCO GOP is shedding voters like a collie sheds hair, Landau has been unable to increase vote for anyone other than president and has failed to turn the increase in Dem registration into victory for county offices.

  23. delco observer says:

    Reluctant concurrence with Dave Diano.

  24. Joyus Benidiction says:

    Landau is the most worthy on this list. The comments about machine politics in DelCo couldn’t be more correct– DelCo republicans play dirty, and have as tight a hold as exists onto the machine model from the 70s. Since I have lived in DelCo for decades, I have known many who believe that to get any type of county job, registering as an R is a must. Landau is the only one to make any progress in dismantling the dreaded machine. Just one old man’s rumblings.

  25. David Diano says:

    Landau on this list is a joke. The only reason Delco did better for Obama than in 2008 is because the # of Dem voters moving here from Philly keeps increasing (and the staunch Delco Republicans are old and keep dying off). This is pure attrition.

    The losses for all the other races tell the real tale.

  26. Kelly says:

    @John, have you BEEN to York County? Were it not for Bob Kefauver, Democrats outside of York City would be as invisible as they are in say…Dauphin County. No one was crediting Bob with Eugene’s statewide win, but I think if you ask Eugene about his path to where he is now overall, he also will give Bob large credit for his tireless work.

  27. Vi says:

    Registration would be an interesting number to go by….but then again many of the PA Dem county chairs would simply be taking credit for what OFA volunteers have done in the last 5 years. Most county chairs do nothing involving voter outreach or registration. I’m sure the chairs they listed above are the exception to that rule. It’s part of what makes them stellar chairmen and chairwomen.

  28. Mike McGann says:

    Well, I guess. I would have liked to have seen some criteria — is it money raised, voter registration or races won, or the ability to hold together a fractured coalition or some combination of all three? Agreed that Groen is the model for Democratic chairs should be, but think you are completely off the wall on picking either Delco chair. Both organizations are a mess. And I think you understated the skills and ability of Val DiGiorgio, who could have been presiding over a civil war in the party — I spoke with enough people on the ground to know there were a lot of hard feelings internally — but he managed to get everyone largely on the same page, hit or exceeded turnout numbers and held the party together. If there’s a better county chair in Pennsylvania, I’m not aware of them.

  29. Observer says:

    Pat Poprick? Every year the same thing happens in Bucks: they have issues and the Senators, Reps and other behind the scenes power brokers and money people step in to save their candidates…from Poprick. Recent articles also show her ham-handed attempts to try and steer county contracts to Party donors. Poprick is Chair in name only — others do the hard work that wins.

  30. HappyGoLucky says:

    Wayne Woodman purges RINOs? Why was he Steve Welch’s finance chair then?

  31. delco observer says:

    What do you base these ratings on?
    David Landau?
    Seriously?
    2.5 years?
    How many victories?
    Let’s recap…2 congressional losses. 2 poorly run congressional campaigns, lost a state representative, no growth in vote percentage for local county candidate vote (despite Dems moving to within a razor thin margin or becoming the majority by party registration).
    Recruiting candidates to have a name on the ballot when they don’t run a credible campaign is not recruiting. Anyone remember the Delco Dem Candidate for DA two years ago…

  32. James P. Kelly says:

    A well deserved accolade for Reilly from Delaware County. Cannot say the same for Dem chair Landau from Delaware County. How Landau’s candidates lose the last County Council race to that short fat loudmouth is just mind boggling.

  33. Mike says:

    To quantify how good each is why not publish how they have increased party registration. That is the only quantifiable measure that matters as a county chair.

  34. John says:

    Bob Kefauver actually didn’t win the DePasquale race state wide. It was Philadelphia that won the race for Eugene. And if you look at the numbers, Bob Kefauver actually LOST York County in every race on the ballot in 2012 – including the race for State Auditor General by nearly 16 points. In my opinion, I would be ashamed of even including his name on this list.

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