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PAGOP to County Chairs: Non-Endorsed Candidates Need Not Apply

By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor

Since 2001, candidates endorsed by Democratic state committee have gone on to win the party’s nomination about 48 percent of the time. Endorsed Republicans have won 90 percent. Here’s why.

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:

PAGOP Memo to County Chairs

28 Responses

  1. It’s basic English. If someone can’t handle the difference between a noun and an adjective, he probably shouldn’t be proposing legislation to make English the official language to the exclusion of others. I propose mastery of the English language be a prerequisite to voting for such legislation.

  2. 1. What makes any political party think they know what is best for the people who vote? Money, Power, arrogance, etc., etc. Mothing good.
    2. Everyone who puts themselves on the line to run for office, at any level, deserves respect .
    Endorsement is not respect. WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF???

  3. Another candidate gets ticked off at the party apparatus:

    First for Senate
    PO Box 5128
    Harrisburg, PA 17110
    February 8, 2012
    Hon. Mr. Jeff Haste, Chairman
    Dauphin County Republican Committee
    2255 Paxton Church Road
    Harrisburg, PA 17110
    Dear Jeff,
                It pains me to write this, but it must be said.
                The December 2011 endorsement by the DCRC of a candidate for the recently redistricted senate district no longer stands.  That endorsement is null and void as a result of two court decisions. 
    Both the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (two weeks ago) and a Federal Court (today) have rejected the mangled mess that was presented as redistricting, with the 15th Senate District specifically cited as an egregious example.  Clearly those of us in the 2001 version of the 15th Pennsylvania Senate District will be in that district for some time to come, probably a year, or more.  My candidacy for that senate seat is well known, and we have collected far more ballot petition signatures than are necessary to be certified to the primary ballot next week.
                Thus, the endorsement of immediate DCRC past-chairman John McNally does not stand, and the expenditure of DCRC money on his campaign is both unethical and illegal.  It is unethical because I have not been considered for the same endorsement in the actual district, and illegal because that district no longer exists.
                I request that DCRC immediately cease the expenditure of party money on the McNally campaign.  Additionally, I am sending a similar letter to the Pennsylvania Republican State Committee, which funded the robo-calls last week, inviting Republicans to McNally headquarters.  State Republican Party money is also off limits.
    If a lawsuit is necessary to enforce this, I will pursue it.  I also expect to be invited to any new endorsement meeting, where I will speak against party endorsements in the primary race, and where I will ask John McNally to reject any endorsement.
                Using Republican Party money to promote one Republican candidate over another in a primary race is destructive and wasteful.  Actually, it is outrageous and corrupt.  That money must be used to defeat President Obama in the fall.  Republican donors and voters deserve better than this.  The Republican Party must stay out of primary races.  Let the people choose without the party machine coloring their choices.
                I look forward to your response, to or my cell, which you have.  Thank you. 
                                                                                        Josh First

  4. All I can say is that if the RNC was looking for a way to disenfranchise the few people that still stand by them…they just succeeded with this slap in the face.
    The right says the left circumvents the American people but this action said loud and clear ‘we don’t think you can make an informed choice so we’re going to do it for you.. On top of that to choose a man who couldn’t even hold the title RINO let alone conservative republican, a man that voted for Obama and up until recently was a democrat. Think he might have changed party affiliation to make sure that if the GOP won, they would still have an Obama supporter on board?
    I’m beginning to believe the RNC needs to be dismantled and get real constitutional Americans to fill the vacancies. You are nothing more than an arm of the bloated government…the people may well be coming for the RNC too.

  5. Tio, your argument is not valid because of the difference between Primary and General elections. Republican only positions (such as Republican National Convention Delegate, Republican Committeeman, Republican Committee Women, etc) are not on the ballot for the General election. They are only on the ballot for the Primary election. They are not on the General ballot because Democrats cannot vote for Delegates to the Republican National Convention, etc. So for these party positions, these screening meetings are their “Primary”, and then the Primary election is when they actually are elected to the position.

  6. Norman, the problem is the voter who just votes for the same ole person for state committee who they don’t even know. Then they don’t even remember that they voted for someone for state Committee. Some voters don’t even know there is a state committee. Remember thee were 140 who voted not to endorse. We only need 37 more to get the majority on state committee. If you are not on your local committee or running to be on your local committee you best not criticize those of us who are. I was one of the 140.

  7. I think that it is time to replace ALL, from the State Committee down to the local committee people. We should have them go through a vetting process as well!! Maybe then we can get some TRUE conservstives overseeing our Government.
    Thank GOD the three strongest words in government are “WE THE PEOPLE”.

  8. How come Democrats belong to the Democratic Party but Republicans belong to the Republican Party. Why not the Republicanic party? That would just be too stupid sounding…

  9. Considering that this demonstrates that the Democratic State Committee is far more democratic than the Republican State Committee, perhaps it’s time for you guys to stop calling them the “Democrat State Committee” and “Democrat Party” and “Democrat Candidates” since that 1940s slur is clearly inaccurate and ridiculously dated (kind of like most GOP talking points). Or should Dems start referring to you as the Repub Party as commonly as you misuse “Democrat” since your inability to be bothered with the common civility to get someone’s name right resembles the behavior of some drunk who habitually makes a few too many trips to the bar?

  10. NOW I’M UPSET!!! I thought that it was “WE THE PEOPLE” who decided who gets endorsed!!! Not not someone the ‘establishment’ thinks should be endorsed!!!

  11. The Executive State Committee people are so dim that they can’t see the forest for the trees.
    What part of the primary process do you not get.
    “We the People” want to elect who we want to represent us, not let a bunch of self-serving individuals that think they know better than the people, endorse their idea of a Candidate.
    You are the reasons why the TEA Parties are going to continue to grow and eventually take over the GOP or start our own New Republican Party.
    United we stand and your divisiveness will make you fail!
    Don Tucci

  12. The PA State GOP Committee endorsed Steve Welch for Senate over 140 of the committee
    people’s objections, who were declared “Out of Order” by Chairman Gleason. This is
    outrageous! What is going on here? Why would Tom Corbett and our state GOP committee endorse a RINO like Steve Welch? Steve supported and voted for Obama in 2008 and was a Democrat up until last year? This kind of “Crony Political Favors” is exactly what turns voters off to
    the voting process and discourages people from becoming involved.
    But some of us have become enraged and vow to change this corrupt process. The people MUST be allowed to select the candadates in the
    Primary Elections as our “Founding Fathers” intended! That is what primaries are for! No endorsement of any candidate should be made
    until after the primary. Please publish a list of those GOP State Committee people who voted to endorse Steve Welch.

  13. And the PA GOP wonders why we no longer support them with donations. Give to the candidate of your choice not theirs

  14. As a Tea Party Activist all I can say is I wish the GOP fought the Dems with the same ruthlessness as they do conservatives’, Tea Party members and Religious groups’. Instead, they save their best game for us and then behave like wimps in the general against the Democrats. Check out candidate Dave Christian, he laps the field and can best Casey in the generals.

  15. The fact that you really think that Rohrer and Scaringi are the only electable candidate shows you lack any common sense. Burns and Welch are the only people that have a slight chance to stop the Casey machine (..and Burns is out so you do the math). In a state that has over 1M more Democrats than Republicans, the majority is not going to vote for someone that compares getting a driver’s license to slavery (Rohrer) or people that believe we need to go back to the gold standard. GET REAL PEOPLE. The normal electorate doesn’t think like the tea party. I’m sorry. I admire your passion but the tea party needs to wake up.

  16. If Steve Welch gets the nomination you can all welcome 6 more years of Bob Casey. It’ll be a John McCain situation all over again – Republicans won’t be enthusiastic. We need a REAL CONSERVATIVE. Sam Rohrer or Marc Scaringi are the only sane choices.

  17. The fact that the PAGOP needed to release this memo is a reflection of their influence and power.
    This makes clear their lack of confidence in their endorsement candidates this cycle and their members and county parties to do their part.
    Given their performance in recent years (with the exception of 2010 which I give credit to the Tea Partiers and a well organized governor’s race ) this memo isn’t shocking. The PAGOP hasn’t been stellar in terms of picking candidates, much less winning elections statewide elections through the 2000s. Growing frustration within the party for the endorsement process is inevitable when the state party continually seems to fall just short of victory.

  18. Most curious to see if the Democrat State Committee sends negative mailers against non-endorsed Democrat primary candidates. The PAGOP has a sordid history of spending lots of $$$ doing this. Ask Rohrer, Folmer, Eichelberger, Shogan etc.

  19. Keegan where did you get this supposed premise for your story? “Endorsed Republicans have won 90 percent” Please justify this supposed fact.

  20. The Republican Party in PA has to be rated as one of the worst in the country. The RNC and the PA GOP long ago convinced me to chant the mantra: If the Party endorses them I don’t vote for them.

  21. Also, really tired of hearing about the Kitchen Table Patriot’s fight against endorsements. The co-chairs of KTP are running for State Delegate and attended all of the Bucks GOP Screening Meetings to try and get endorsements for themselves from the Bucks GOPas State Delegate candidates. So, don’t endorse Welch but if you want to endorse me, that’s OK. Huh? If anything, endorsements for the lower offices are even worse because the non-endorsed candidates are usually regular people without access to party money and most voters don’t know/care about any of the candidates for the lower office and might as well vote the sample ballot when you are unfamiliar with all of the candidates.

  22. I hate Casey – but let’s face it, Casey is well-liked and has the false perception of being moderate. As such, none of these candidates are going to beat Casey. I’m not saying don’t try but it doesn’t look good. If Corbett hadn’t ordained a candidate and caused all this bad blood, there might have been a chance but …

  23. Welch is not a good man if judged by the way he treats subbordinates. No doubt he shoved his nose up Guzzardi’s butt; However, how he treats ‘the least of these’ like trash. Parish the thought of him caring about what you think as a Senator.

  24. I already know County Committees that will be breaking this “tradition.” When state committee members cast their self-serving (ahem, self-preserving) votes to endorse, they kowtowed to personal ambitions vs. what would be good for the party at large. THIS YEAR, was not one for endorsement and as a matter of preservation, county committees realize that they must defy tradition for their own good and the future of the Republican party.

  25. Steve Welch is a good man who has gotten entangled in the snares of the Established. From what I hear, anecdotally, there is resentment about having the endorsement wired.

    Although I support TOM SMITH because he is INDEPENDENT OF LEADERSHIP with reliable conservative instincts, I have met Steve Welch and he is a good family man with a record of private sector accomplishment as an entrepreneur and he brings a lot to the debate.

    Unfortunately, he is tied to the very compromised, and little known, Dave Freed whose whose own entanglements with LeRoy Zimmerman give the Democrats a huge, and very valid, target. And I am afraid that that hurts all the endorsed candidates. And the Sandusky investigation itself needs to be investigated. 9 years is a long time to investigate a rape of a 10 year old. Tom Corbett’s endorsement can, easily, and, perhaps, obviously, an effort to choose the person who investigates. And as LeRoy Zimmerman’s own record, criminal or not, shows, there is a tendency among Republicans to exploit kids.

    I feel bad for Diana Irey Vaughan who has will spend a lot of time and money and lose in a humiliating defeat. I wonder is she will be able to get enough petitions signed.

  26. One thing you left out:

    When a Democrat challenges an incumbent Democrat, the party refuses to sell the challenger access to the VoteBuilder/VAN voter database.

    A notable exception to this rule was when Sestak challenged Specter. Because Specter’s campaign did not avail itself of the VAN system, this created an apparent loophole for Sestak to use it.

    BTW, in the summer of 2009, I advised the Specter campaign to buy the VAN system and use this rule to block Sestak’s access to the voter database system. The Specter campaign ignored my advice.

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