Look closely at the above pictured individuals. These are the men pulling the strings of power in the Schuylkill County Republican Party. Individually they are all well known, but together they are an enigma. Infamously referred to as the “War Board”, (from left to right) Fmr. Rep. Bob Allen (R-125), Frank Shoeneman (not pictured, see edit below), Champ Holman, Rep. Dave Argall (R-123), and State Sen. Jim Rhoades (R-129), are the true power brokers in this area’s GOP.
For years, the “War Board” have brokered back room deals to put their friends and allies on the election ballot, engineered campaign strategy for local candidates, set policy agendas for Schuylkill Co. officials, and promoted cronies to the highest official levels within the party establishment. They wielded the hammer of supreme authority within our party and quieted opposition with an iron fist. That is, until they started losing elections.
In the past years, the “War Board” have presided over two landslide electoral defeats.
In 2006, Bob Allen, who had been a member of the General Assembly for two decades was defeated in the GOP primary. The “War Board” was so incensed that County Controller Gary Hornberger had the audacity to challenge one of its members, that they refused to lend Hornberger any support in the general election. Hornberger ended up losing to a little known political newcomer, Tim Seip, whose greatest claim to fame was being a below average worker at my facility. Coincidentally, it turned out that Republicans lost control of the state House of Representatives by one district.
Later that year, PJ Symons, the uber-popular Republican Prothonotary, defected to the Democrats. The reason: Sen. Rhoades publicly criticized Symons’ wife for attending US.. Rep. Tim Holden’s annual pig roast. Then, the “War Board” began to openly shop for a primary challenger to Hornberger in the County Controller’s race, prompting him to decide not to run at all (their hand-picked candidate ended up losing the general election to a pharmacist).
As the dust cleared in November 2007, Republicans lost control of the Board of Commissioners for the first time in 37 years, failed to defend the Register of Wills office that had been occupied by a Republican for the past 24 years, was unsuccessful in re-electing the Coroner and flopped in their attempt to unseat any Democratic incumbents. In a county where Republicans outnumber Democrats by nearly 10,000 registered voters, such an effort was truly historic for its ineptitude.
If Schuylkill Republicans ever want to win another election, it is essential that they reclaim the party. That starts with minimizing the “War Board”‘s influence and restoring autonomy to the County Committee. 2008 is a special year in politics. Sen. Rhoades and Rep. Argall are both up for re-election. Rhoades flunkie, GOP Chairman Bob Ames’ term expires. State Committee positions are up for re-election. And the rematch for the 125th District will be fought. If there was ever a time to mobilize and fight for real reform within the party, it is NOW.
EDIT: I originally posted a picture of a man who I thought was Frank Shoeneman, but it turned out that it was Dale Shoeneman. Here at the Clarke Report, we strive for accuracy above all else. So, I took down the photo all together and want to apologize to Dale Shoeneman for misidentifying him.