Pa. GOP leaders decide not to endorse Governor Lt. the governor runs into a secret meeting

Republican leaders in Pennsylvania on Saturday declined to endorse candidates running in the May 17 primary to be the party’s nominee in the races for governor and lieutenant governor in an unprecedented shroud of secrecy.

Not only was the meeting room where GOP state committee members gathered inside the Wyndham Resort & Convention Center in Lancaster for their winter meeting was off-limits to the press, but also the lobby of the hotel.

Two PennLive reporters were asked to leave the hotel for a short time when they were in the lobby where the candidates and their campaign staff had tables covered with campaign signs and literature.

Candidates and campaign staff themselves shook their heads at the non-transparent nature of the meeting. They said the event should have been used to pitch party candidates competing in those statewide races. Some were unaware that the press was being asked to leave the hotel lobby and grimaced upon hearing it.

“Sometimes the Republican Party can’t get along,” said a former lawmaker who asked not to be named to avoid alienating party leaders.

Pennsylvania Democratic committee members — who met last weekend and endorsed state Attorney General Josh Shapiro for governor and Allegheny County Rep. Austin Davis for lieutenant governor — lambasted Republicans for holding a closed meeting when party approval decisions needed to be made.

Allowing the state committee meeting to be open like the Democrats did with their endorsement meeting last weekend engenders trust within the party and belief in the political process, Rep. Democratic committee member MaryLouse Isaacson, D-Philadelphia, in virtual news. conference on Friday.

“If you want to represent someone, you have to be able to introduce yourself and [present] your message and not have to buy it with millions of dollars during Jeopardy so people just hear what you want them to hear,” Isaacson said.

Not only is the closed nature of the GOP’s winter meeting unusual, but the party’s decision not to endorse a gubernatorial race is not only unusual.

The last time this happened was in 1978, when the party had a strong field of candidates for an open gubernatorial seat. Voters eventually elected Dick Thornburgh as the party’s primary candidate and he won the governorship in November.

“What this demonstrates is that the Republican Party is suffering from an embarrassment of wealth,” former Lt. Governor Jim Cawley said. “There are so many strong candidates that the party leadership wants to give the party base the opportunity to make the choice that is best for them, whether it is the United States Senate, the governor or the lieutenant governor. You have a lot of great people who I think will do very well as candidates and elected officials.

Jim Schultz, who served as chief counsel for former Gov. Tom Corbett, reported that after the closed-door meeting broke down, the committee decided in a resounding vote not to endorse any of the contestants in the races. statewide in one vote.

None of the interviewed candidates came out of the meeting surprised or disappointed by the non-approval decision. They said that was how the wind blew as they traveled to various regional caucus meetings with GOP committee members.

Additionally, R-Lancaster County gubernatorial Sen. Scott Martin said party endorsement isn’t always a guarantee of success anyway.

“It gives everyone the opportunity to take the state by storm,” he said. “Take your case in front of people and try to get support that way.”

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Charlie Gerow, GOP strategist and CEO of a public relations firm that is in the running for governor.

“I can’t wait to move on and hang out with the people,” said former congressman Lou Barletta, another gubernatorial candidate. “My strength is the base and after this weekend we are back on the road.”

“I think it should be up to the people in May to decide who should be on the Republican ticket against Josh Shapiro,” Dave White, an HVAC business owner in the gubernatorial race, said ahead of the meeting.

Regardless of the outcome of the approval vote, former U.S. Attorney and fellow gubernatorial candidate Bill McSwain said ahead of the meeting, “We feel really good about our campaign and look forward to continuing to get our message out on the road.”

While the candidates were relieved not to have to fight in their primary campaign with a candidate endorsed by the party, Chris Borick, a professor of politics at Muhlenberg College, said that an endorsement in these many candidates would have been useful to party base. to file.

“It signals the viability that people within the party structure have seen you as a strong candidate in those areas,” he said. “Because there are no clear frontrunners, no one from afar who stands out, this could be the type of nudge that helps people break out of the pack.”

But what it does do is work to Shapiro’s advantage, he said. As the presumptive Democratic nominee, Borick said Shapiro could continue to raise funds, collect endorsements and avoid potential general election liabilities that a GOP nominee in a competitive race might face by trying to appeal to the party’s conservative base.

“You have to do a lot of things that can come back and bite you,” Borick said.

Jan Murphy can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @JanMurphy.

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