Mel Brooks famously exclaimed in History of the World Part I, “its good to be the king!”. Well, I bet if you asked Schuylkill County GOP Chairman Bob Ames whether that was true, right about now he would have a tough time answering. This is because in the wake of Sen. Rhoades re-election, which triggered a special election to be held in the spring, the honus falls squarely upon Ames to choose the delegates that represent this county at the the convention that will name the Republican nominee for Rhoades seat.
In one corner, there is Rep. David Argall (R-124). Back in May, it was Argall’s influence with committee members in his district that allowed Ames to have enough committed votes to rebuke an insurgent campaign for the chairmanship. Argall made an investment and is now ready to cash in. He wants Ames to name delegates friendly to him to the convention.
In another corner, there is Christopher Hobbs, son of former State Sen. Fred Hobbs, a man who Ames idolized as a neophyte political operative. Hobbs is also the son-in-law of the late Sen. Jim Rhoades, with whom Ames had maintained a decades old friendship and is the man most responsible for bringing Ames to the chairmanship to begin with. The Rhoades camp wants Ames to play it straight by allocating delegates according to legislative district.
In the other corner, there is the state GOP. All they want is to retain the seat. They don’t give a care who the nominee is, they just don’t want the nominating process to make waves or sully the voters confidence even further in this special election by still looking like the “Good Ol’ Boys Party”.
In the final corner, there are the grassroots Republicans. These are the poll workers, the envelope stuffers, and the canvassers. They are the people who make the party go and they are largely elected committee people. They have seen their influence within the party diminshed over the years with the rise of the power of the now defunct War Board and the recent rebirth of the authority of the Executive Committee.
Ames is being pulled with equal force in four different directions. He is like the WWE Battle Royale referee who is bound to be hit by a folding chair sometime during the match. Sources close to him tell The Clarke Report that he is hopelessly conflicted about what to do and is fearful that any decision he makes is bound to anger someone, thereby making the party weaker for the special election.
Well, thanks to a few politically savvy local politicos, Ames might have just been handed his out. Three elected county committeemen began circulating a petition late last week that asks Ames to forego his authority to hand pick this county’s delegates to next month’s Republican nominating convention in favor of a lottery process.
Leading the charge are Michelle Rudloff, member of Orwigsburg Borough Council and elected committeewoman, Maria Hoppes, elected committeewoman for Tamaqua, and Joshua Meade, member of the Executive Committee and former campaign manager for Gary Hornberger,.
The Clarke Report has acquired a copy of the letter. It reads as follows:
On Tues., Nov. 4th, the voters of the 29thState Senate District posthumously re-elected Sen. James J. Rhoades to another term. At the local level, we now find ourselves in an unusual situation, and many voters and Republican Committee members are wondering how the candidate selection process will unfold. While it is clear that a Special Election will be held and our Party will nominate a new Republican Candidate, it is unclear how our Party will ensure the process is open and fair.
It is critical that the Republican Party retain Sen. Rhoades’ seat. Utilizing a process that is open and fair will ensure support from committee people, grassroots Republicans, and voters at large. With this support, we will guarantee a victory for the Republican Party. To that end, we the undersigned committee members, propose the following:
- All individuals who are interested in running for the Republican nomination should be given a fair and equal opportunity to participate in the Special Caucus Meeting and any related meetings/functions to the Special Election.
- The number of delegates from each County was determined by the November 4th election and is distributed as follows: Schuylkill- 33 delegates; Carbon – 2 delegates; Lehigh – 4 delegates; Monroe – 4 delegates; Berks – 5 delegates; and Northampton – 2 delegates.
- Committee members shall be part of the candidate selection process. Only elected committee members in good standing, who represent a precinct within the 29th District, may be eligible to serve as a delegate to the Caucus Meeting.
- No proxies shall be used at the Caucus Meeting. However, Alternate Delegates should be selected to serve if a Delegate will be absent from the Caucus Meeting. Similar to the Delegates, the Alternate Delegates should be an elected committee member in good standing, residing in a precinct covered by the 29th State Senate District.
- Prior to the Caucus Meeting, at least one substantive Candidates’ Forum should be held. The Forum shall feature all interested candidates. At a minimum, candidates participating at the forum shall discuss their biography, why they believe they are the best candidate, and what issues they believe are most important to the residents of the 29th District.
- During the Candidate’s Forum, a lottery drawing for the selection of both Delegates and Alternate Delegates shall be held. All eligible committee members in good standing and in precincts within the 29th District shall be eligible for selection.
- When the Caucus Meeting is convened, all Delegates and Alternate Delegates will be required to sign in prior to the beginning of the meeting.
- All votes taken by the Delegates and Alternate Delegates will be done by private ballot.
- All interested candidates who notified their County Chairman of their interest in running will be permitted to attend the Special Caucus Meeting.
There is much at stake for the Republican Party with this Special Election. Only by including all opinions and energizing our grassroots, will we be able to be successful. The way this election is handled will have a direct impact on the future of our Party. By guaranteeing grassroots involvement of our voters and committee people, we have the chance to re-chart the course of the Republican Party.
We respectfully request your careful consideration of this matter.
Ames now has a clear choice that last week he didn’t. He can pick one of the four corners thereby alienating the other three or he can institute a fair, open, and neutral process that allows the party to sort things out for itself.
My view is that the Schuylkill GOP can ill-afford to put personal loyalties ahead of democractic ideals in a year where the Republican brand has been tainted, resulting in enormous losses both nationally and locally. Our nominee needs to hit the ground running. If the nominating process is perceived to somehow be unfair or rigged, our nominee will ultimately stumble over his own feet right out of the gate, putting the democrats in prime position to take over a seat they haven’t held in nearly 50 years. I call on all elected county committee members to join in the fight to relieve Ames of this heavy burden by supporting a fair selection process via lottery.
No real Republican wants that. My advice to you, Bob: stay as far outside the ring as possible. Sit with the announcers and let the wrestlers inside duke it out. When its over, you get to raise the victors hand, but can never be blamed for the result.