The War Board’s Last Stand

Two days from now, what was once the most influential political body in Schuylkill County could be relegated to nothing more than an after-thought and a footnote in coal region political history books. The infamous Republican War Board, which once wielded unchecked political power in this county, ruling their party and the courthouse with an iron fist, will fight for its survival Tuesday in the March 3rd special election. Surrounded by the democratic hordes, which have steadily wrestled away control of government and the voters’ trust over the past four local election cycles, Rep. David Argall (R-124) stands alone as the last remaining War Boarder with any political juice  at his version of Little Big Horn.

With an Argall loss, the democrats will have completed their massacre of the Schuylkill Republican Party. In just four short years, they will have stripped the GOP of the 29th district Senate seat, the 125th district House seat, the county Board of Commissioners, and the offices of the District Attorney, Controller, Coroner, Prothonatary, and Register of Wills. All this while maintaing a monopoly on the 17th Congressional seat, the 123rd House seat, the county judiciary, the entire Pottsville City government, and the offices of Sheriff and Clerk of Courts. As a result, the GOP will likely purge the entire establishment and begin again from absolute scratch.

Meanwhile, with a win, Argall could be the savior of the local GOP by stalling the democratic blitzkrieg, restoring confidence in the Republican brand, and forcing a stark paradigm shift within the party.

For two decades, Jim Rhoades was king of the republicans. He held court in Mahanoy City with Bob Allen, Frank Shoeneman, and Bob Ames. Along with his top lieutenants, Champ Holman, Mary Beth Dougherty, and Ron Rader, Rhoades directed policy, hand-picked candidates for local office, and ensured that political allies were well taken care of. Argall was an important part of this group, but he was always viewed as a sort of Prince Charles to Rhoades’ Queen Elizabeth II. Although he had carte blanche over his little world in Tamaqua and southern Schuylkill County, Argall understood that Rhoades was THE MAN county-wide forcing Argall to patiently wait for his turn.

That dynamic changed in October.

Now, Argall can finally take that last step onto the top step of Schuylkill Republican politics with a victory over Lukach Tuesday. As our state senator and top ranking GOP official, the seat of power in our party will travel south. All political trains will run through the Tamaqua Train Station.  For example, although a deal has been struck for some of Rhoades’ staffers, mainly Dougherty and Rader, to keep their positions in the senate office if Argall wins, they will ultimately report to their long-time rival Christine Verdier, who will become Argall’s chief of staff, thereby marginalizing Dougherty and Rader’s actual influence. In addition, former Argall staffer and current Tamaqua councilman, Mika Gursky, will coast into the vacant 124th House seat via the same process that brought about Argall’s senate nomination, while current Argall staffer, Jerry Knowles, will be set up for the party chairmanship or a possible run for the Board of Commissioners in 2011. Moreover, Argall will become the sole dictatorial authority within the GOP itself. Everyone who wants to be anyone in Schuylkill Republican circles will be forced to kiss his proverbial ring.

It is yet to be determined how Argall will juggle the party establishment and the party reformers. He has made overtures to the insurgent reform wing during this campaign, but it is unclear if that will continue once he has consolidated his foothold as party pubah.

What all this means is that Tuesday is just not your run of the mill local election. A whole heckuva lot is riding on it. Will the War Board meet its final demise? Will a new “Tamaqua Board” take its place? Or will the GOP be saddled with another paralyzing loss that sends the GOP into chaos?

Stay tuned . . . . .



Filed under Campaign 08', County Committee, Local News

16 responses to “The War Board’s Last Stand

  1. Mac

    Hey Hank, for the most part I enjoy reading your blog but sometimes your trying to be too smart by 1/2. You make some pretty blanket statements that to my recollection you haven’t had personal experience with. I have served on the executive committee, been to fundraisers and rallys for most county candidates, and been around many of the people in both Rhoades and Argalls offices for the better part of 12 years. While at times they have not exactly been on the same page, the situation has never as you describe. You would be well served to stick to the current political commentary, which is informative, interesting, and entertaining at times. Critiques of past events, of which you have no firsthand experience, don’t serve to improve our Party, of which I gather you hope to be a part of going forward. Your critiques and attempts at openness can be of benefit to our long range goals and I hope that is where your focus remains.
    With regards,
    Mac Magdeburg

  2. I have to say the Schuylkill GOP has no one to blame but itself for its demise. They have done everything they can to alienate us regular down to earth Conservatives. The hand picking of candidates only means a true regular every day conservative has no chance of winning a county seat with the republican party, because they are not part of the good ole boy network. The democrats in this county are the same, but are less obvious while doing it.
    The Republican National Committee has shot it self in the foot time and time again, the Schuylkill GOP has followed their poor example. The reason this race it as close as it is right now is because of the tactic the Schuylkill GOP/and Dave Argall is using in desperation in trying to win.

    It is a shame because, Argal is better than that, frankly so is the Schuylkill GOP.

  3. Jane S.

    Make no mistake, we are in a political war here in Schuylkill County. I’d like to see some Republicans temporarily switch to the Democratic party and attack them from the inside with calls for open primaries and charges that they have strayed too far right in order to gain votes. I’m sure that they have in the past done the same to us.

  4. smokey haze

    Vote INDEPENANT. Show both sides we don’t want either one of them looking out of us.

  5. JS

    Everyone take ten deep breaths and relax.

    The Dems have hit their high water mark. McAndrew and Ghallagher aren’t running again, there is no one to replace them. The controller’s office will be taken back. Christine Holman is bad news for Jim Goodman. Dale Repp is a very strong candidate for Sheriff. Harrisburg Repubs have finally figured out you have to actually spend money to beat Seip. Holden, while I’d prefer he be beaten by a county resident, will be redistricted out once and for all. Things are looking up. After tomorrow, they’ll really be looking up. Politics is a pendulum that always swings back your way.

    P.S. Jane, open primaries are not a bad thing. Ask Ed Rendell or Barack Obama. Or Bob Allen. Or Dave Argall.

  6. Jane S.

    JS, you are absolutely right. Open primaries are a wonderful thing especially when you can plant a primary candidate who may not win the primary but he/she will cause the “endorsed” candidate(s) to burn through valuable resources in a primary fight just 5 months before “the real election”. So far the Dem’s have used this strategy very effectively against us.

  7. JS

    Jane, for every example of some wild conspiracy you have, I have three cases that prove that open primaries, on the whole, are good.

  8. Hank Clarke


    I firmly disagree. If Dave Argall, our county party’s highest vote getter and most popular politician, is unsuccessful tomorrow that will prove once and for all that the voters have moved away from the republican party, as it is now, permanently.

    Seriously, if Dave can’t beat a no name, small time, county politician like Lukach, who had no money, no message, horrible stategic advisors, and no help from the entrenched pols from his own party like Holden and Gallagher, what hope does any of our current crop of propective county and state candidates have?

    A Dave win at least gives us hope that the GOP could turn it around. A loss would be cataclysmic.

  9. Pingback: Argall takes more knocks for ‘05 raise. Opponent Lukach won’t let voters forget legislator’s role in pay hike… | GrassrootsPA

  10. No more Dave

    Dave is in trouble, look at how he wants to be seen with slick eddy and Neal Goodman, last desperate attempt to win, the polls have him losing big time.;jsessionid=FDCA03DAFE7AC4B4DCCA90BCE08B2522?diaryId=1167

  11. Dale Repp as County Sheriff is one man I would back with no hesitation. He is a good man, a very good man, and would make an excellent Sheriff.

    I agree Hank, it should be a strong message if Agrall loses. If that should happen we can only hope the Schuylkill GOP will finally change the way they do things and find true conservative candidates who will represent the will of the people and not the will of the party. Candidates who will stand on conviction not on the GOP Platform. It is saddening to see what has become of the Republican Party not only here in Schuylkill County, but across the nation. They have moved so far away from the conservative principle that most of us hold dear, they are barley recognizable from the Democrats they run against.

  12. lost hope

    Please tell me that brochure with Argall and the Democrats is phony. Please please please tell me that is someone’s cruel attempt at humor. I spoke with Dave a month ago and I asked him if he would promise me that he’ll go after the democrats especially McCall and he said you bet. Others told me don’t trust Dave he’s in bed with the Democrats and I wouldn’t beleive it for a minute. Don’t I feel like a heel now. Someone please tell me that brochure is a fake.

    Broken hearted in Carbon County

  13. Jason

    no more dave,

    you are either blind or a liar yourself. The flyer in the article you gave a link to clearly says that Lukach was a member of Mahanoy City council when he voted to raise taxes.

    Now, if the polls have Argall down like you say, why lie. Oh I see, your obviously lying about the polls as well.

    I guess we’ll see tomorrow.

  14. Jason,
    You cannot confront a liberal with facts or truth. Why mess up a good story with the truth?

  15. Lets Be Fair

    At the risk of being villified by the current crop of bloggers I have just a little question if the demorcatic candiate is so popular and all that then someone tell me why union members had to be bused into our home to scare up votes for Lukach? Dave Argall’s support comes from his own neighbors!

  16. Stoopid

    Both sides bring in ringers on election day.

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