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Trump Jr, POTUS Allies Jump Into Heated PAGOP Chair Race

The sudden resignation of Val DiGiorgio has triggered an open fight for the mantle of the PA Republican Party that pits President Trump’s team against longtime party stalwarts. 

Whether it will turn into a repeat of the divisiveness of the 2017 chair race remains to be seen, but it complicates the party leadership picture in a state that Trump must keep in his column to win re-election. 

President Trump’s allies are backing Bernie Comfort, the former vice chair and Acting Chair of the PAGOP. Donald Trump Jr, Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Pascale, Trump 2016 Pennsylvania campaign senior advisor David Urban, Trump 2020 PA senior advisor Ted Christian, Trump 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and former U.S. Press Secretary Sean Spicer weighed in on Twitter over the past week endorsing the campaign of Comfort. Former Reps. Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne) and Tom Marino (R-Lycoming), who co-chaired Trump’s 2016 campaign in Pennsylvania and were two of Trump’s earliest supporters in Congress, also shot out an email to state committee members pledging their support. 

Comfort, a Lehigh County GOP member, boasted about having the support of members of the Trump campaign in an email to state committee members on Monday. 

“I’m proud to have the support of many leaders like you across the Commonwealth,” Comfort writes in the email. “Most of all, I’m proud to have been endorsed by President Trump’s campaign.”

For more than a decade, Comfort also led the Anne B. Anstine program, which was the party’s respected and successful program to recruit and train women to be candidates and operatives. This is seen as an asset for her in the race for chair. 

Typically a presidential nod would be the end of the discussion. Not so fast, says former PAGOP Chair Rob Gleason, who is supporting the candidacy of former PA GOP counsel, Lawrence Tabas. 

Despite the endorsements from various Trump allies, Gleason believes Tabas is in it for the duration and will still win the race. 

“He’s in for the duration,” Gleason said. “I don’t know why those people or why those endorsements are doing that. This has nothing to do with the President, or the Presidential election, this has to do with the leadership of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania.”

Gleason said to PoliticsPA that he’s a bit “mystified” by the endorsements coming from various GOP members outside of the state, but believes it won’t have too much of an impact on the race. 

“It’s hard to tell, but I wouldn’t think so,” Gleason said of the endorsements in the race. “You know what Tip O’Neil said, ‘All politics is local.’”

Gleason backed Tabas’s bid in 2017, was a frequent DiGiorgio critic, and said Tabas is best suited to boost funds and lead the party. 

Despite support for Tabas, Gleason said he plans to support whoever the GOP Chair will be at the completion of the race. 

“At the end of the day, no matter who wins, I’m going to be supportive of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania,” Gleason said. “But right now, it’s ok, this is America, it’s ok to compete for this seat and I think we should just let it play out.” 

One factor in favor of a smoother race is the relative lack of animosity between Comfort and Tabas compared to Tabas and DiGiorgio. 

But that doesn’t end the potential for party infighting. 

Comfort emailed state committee members Monday to call out a committee member from Lawrence County. 

“It’s simply false that I had any advance notice of the situation concerning Val DiGiorgio or the staffer personnel issue being referenced. Anyone who says otherwise is lying,” Comfort wrote. The allegation, “suggests that I ignored the concerns of a female staffer. The issue Lynne Ryan refers to was handled by the former chairman privately, without telling me about it. I was not included in any conversations regarding this matter.”

Meanwhile Scott Wagner, 2018 PA GOP Gubernatorial candidate, bashed Bob Asher, an early supporter of Comfort, in an email on Friday to state committee members. 

“I am very concerned, as I am sure you are also,” Wagner writes in the email. “The State Chairman election two years ago was bloody and had many casualties, and as a result many good people resigned from state committee.”

Wagner accused Asher of undermining his campaign against Gov. Tom Wolf and believes he should stay out of the race for the good of the party. 

“Mr. Asher’s politics have left our party bitterly fractured and highly dysfunctional,” Wagner writes in the email. “His politics have sidelined good people, and left many others disillusioned and disenchanted. Because of his politics we have a political machine that lines the pockets of Harrisburg political consultants, but delivers loss after loss to the Republican Party.”

“The last thing we need right now are more of Bob Asher’s politics. Bob Asher needs to keep his nose out of the election of a new party chairman,” Wagner writes. 

PoliticsPA is seeking comment from Wagner.

Disclaimer: David Urban is part of PoliticsPA’s ownership group.

This story was updated to correct that Comfort was from Lehigh County and the spelling of Anne B. Anstine. This story was also updated to include that Corey Lewandowski has endorsed Comfort as well.

39 Responses

  1. Once again, the State Committee people will have an opportunity to do the right thing…will they? Probably not. Bernie Comfort is no Republican and should get out of the race. Here is what I know and my view/opinion:

    > Ted Christian was given 100k (to his PAC) to drop out
    > Bernie had to promise to name him as Vice Chair
    > The Trump campaign is digging their own graves in PA by getting involved in this mess. Asher is pulling the strings.
    > Tabas needs a better approach. He is not doing enough to get elected. He should have Rebecca Warren on his team….she has a lot of support. BTW, her base is boycotting the judicial race and Trump because of the BS that Val orchestrated. She had over 300k votes BTW.

    > Trump can not possibly win PA…in my opinion.

    Politics is a dirty corrupt game and I am witnessing it once again.

    1. I truly doubt the accuracy of the above assertions, particularly knowing Ted…having met Rebecca…and having been told of the quality long-term relationships Tabas has forged.

      Also, no one is going to be harmed in the Trump campaign regardless of the outcome, for everyone knows the danger of the warning by Walt Kelly’s “Pogo the Possum” of a half-century ago, to wit, that we must ensure we aren’t fighting an internal enemy.

      Finally, it is unclear what $-raising prowess Comfort would provide, compared with the known capacities of the party’s General Counsel over the years.

  2. I have been involved as a state committeewoman for decades. I was appalled by Val’s behavior. But I find it hypocritical that the Tabas Campaign is using Jerry Morgan to clean up the party. I have witnessed Jerry Morgan sexually harass numerous women from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. It is well-known that Gleason stepped out on his marriage often and Tabas knew.

    Those who live in glass houses….

    1. This posting is reprehensible and it reflects the depths of irrelevancy to which some will agitate … so sad.

      Tabas is stronger for having provoked such ad-hominem smut.

      1. Its the truth. Talk to any woman at state committee and they will tell you about Mr. Morgan. That is who Lawrence Tabas is surrounding himself with.

        1. I did, and this in-the-know individual did not corroborate your attack.

        2. Glass Houses-

          I doubt many women at state committee talk to Robert B Sklaroff.

          1. one did, more than sufficient to puncture the thrust of the original post

  3. The key operational phrase [“One factor in favor of a smoother race is the relative lack of animosity between Comfort and Tabas compared to Tabas and DiGiorgio.”] suggests that a quick resolution of this race will yield subsequent unity; there are “good people on both sides,” but I’d note that Tabas only lost by one vote last time [in an open-voting situation, devoid of secrecy].

    1. This kind of comment is rude and inappropriate. You typically have more constructive things to add to a conversation. You should really be ashamed.

    2. There would be howls if a conservative said that about a woman. Bernie Comfort has class.

    3. Really, you have to comment on how the woman candidate looks! Bernadette is a wonderful leader and a true advocate for women. She will do a great job and she will win!

    4. Well, first of all, based on the picture alone, I originally thought it was a guy in drag. Then the name, Bernie, is a typically male name. I thought this was an attempt by the GOP to get the LBGTQ vote.

      However, she actually does look like Chris Farley. She could pass for his mom, sister or cousin.

      Dilbert Pickles, Ralphie and Interested voter all knows she looks like Chris Farley.

      If you can think of someone she looks more like, post it.

      As far people who think she’s a decent person:
      1) They all said that about Val and sang his praises
      2) “President Trump’s allies are backing Bernie Comfort” (including piece-of-sh*t, Jr). So, she must be a truly terrible person if they are backing her.

      1. In Diano World everyone who voted from Trump in Pennsylvania is a truly terrible person. While everyone who supported Hillary Clinton including Scranton’s Bill Couright, Reading’s Vaughn Spencer and Allentown’s Ed Pawlowski are outstanding citizens. After watching both Democratic debates, I favor a Jimmy Kenney for President and Helen Gym for Vice President Ticket in 2020. I only hope that the real mayor of Philadelphia, John Dougherty, will allow them both to leave their current positions to run for National Office

        1. charliepont-

          Close, but not quite. Everyone who voted for Trump is either a terrible person or a terrible fool. Anyone STILL supporting him must be not only a terrible person but a total racist as well.

  4. I love how Bernie is pegged as a “warrior for women.” Her Anstine racket has produced zero women for legislative office. PA is ranked 49th which is one away from dead last for women office holders. The only woman Bernie has elevated is herself, and Anstine serves no purpose other than to raise a voting block for herself, and a bunch of cookie makers for the bake sales they have to promote male candidates.

    1. I mean if anyone is breeding subservients…it’s our girl Bernie. Anstine grad = female grunt.

      1. Such a “warrior for women” but writes an email about one to the entire state committee and calls her fake news….

    2. This is just not true. The Anstine Program has had dozens of women go through the program and become legislators or local officials. I suppose Fake News is what you are throwing out there. Thank goodness the President and his team sees through this.

      1. The Trump team is being lied to by Asher. Anyone knows that. We remember Anstine sister saying one time “why would we listen to Asher” now she has totally flipped.

        1. Dear TrumpTeam2020,

          “Dozens” you say? Ok. I’ll bite. Gimme one dozen. There are 37 women in the 203-person legislature. Name 12 of them that come from Anstine. I’ll check back after you’ve done your research.

  5. She can get all the endorsements she wants it will not sway my vote. We know the true Republican and true Trump supporter. Trumps people are being led by Asher and not looking into everything. New leadership is needed. I just wonder why we got a nasty email about a fellow state committee member yesterday from Bernie but she didnt attach the original email? No idea what that was about.

  6. Asher is the big GOP establishment money guy who never supports anyone he can’t control, so we know why he’s supporting Bernie Comfort, but the question is why is Trump supporting Asher, the guy who has bullied and disenfranchised Trump’s base for decades?

    1. The PA State Senate Republicans are calling all the shots here and not Asher who is an old timer.

      1. No that is wrong. Asher has a lot to do with this. He has called people and told them how to vote. Yes some senators are also doing it. Not all of them. Asher is contacting Washington he is the National guy….

  7. So there were other “issues” with women that Val tried to keep quiet? It doesn’t sound like Lynne Ryan was referring to the already public accusation, but a different situation with a female staffer that Val handled privately. Inquiring minds want to know if this is the tip of an iceberg the PA GOP needs to prepare for…

      1. a woman who boasts to be ‘for women’ but when one of her own is treated heinously in the work place (that she is vice-chair of) she is silent and claims to know nothing about it. as Vice Chair, shouldn’t you know about these things? I find it alarming that she had no idea, yet was ‘close’ to this person.

  8. @Politics PA Staff – Anne B. Anstine was spelled wrong on both counts. She was, after all, Chairwoman of the PA GOP in her day.

    1. where is the junior senator from pennsylvania? would think toomey would have an interest as rumors flow he is considering a gubenatorial run in 2022.
      Again poor staff work. After 9 years in senate he still has not put a decent team together. what a shame. casey, santorum, spector did.

      1. Yeah what a terrible team to have won one of the hardest fought senate races in the history of the country in 2016. Why can’t he get it right? Lol

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