December 24-31, 2018 Issue The New Yorker Comment Republicans Who Could Run Against Trump
Amid talk about Democrats who could run in 2020, why should the G.O.P. be off the hook? It’s time for some primary challengers to Trump.
Like many people, James Comey, the former F.B.I. director, has been thinking about the best way for the Presidency of Donald Trump to end. Interviewed in New York last week, Comey said that his own, possibly “weird” thought is that impeachment is not the ideal course; for one thing, it would let voters “off the hook” in 2020. “We need a clear jump upward, and it will come from tens of millions of Americans,” he told his interviewer, Nicolle Wallace. But Comey put the burden on the Democrats, saying, “They have to win.”
In response, Trump tweeted that Comey had “just totally exposed his partisan stance by urging his fellow Democrats to take back the White House in 2020.” (Comey says that he’s an independent.) He added, “Comey had no right heading the FBI at any time, but especially after his mind exploded!” The date and the circumstances of the alleged detonation were not clear, but the message was: to speak about confronting Trump at the polls is to speak as a Democrat.
There’s some practical truth to that. Given that the Republicans, particularly in Congress, have largely ceded their party to Trump, the 2020 campaign seems headed toward a contest between him and the Democratic nominee. The Democrats now have to decide what kind of candidate they want. But why should the Republicans be let off the hook? Those who don’t share Trump’s more corrosive views often wallow in the perception of their own powerlessness. Yet they have options, if they choose to use them, including one that the Democrats don’t. They can challenge Trump in the primaries.
Trump knows that, which is why his campaign is already working to engineer a preëmptive endorsement in the New Hampshire primary, the first in the nation, from the state Party, which traditionally remains neutral. He could be much more vulnerable by August of 2020, when the Republican National Convention meets in Charlotte, North Carolina, depending on, among other things, how the Mueller investigation develops. (Last week, forty-four former senators, ten of them Republicans, signed an open letter, urging the Senate to uphold the rule of law; it reads like a foreshadowing of a crisis.)
One Republican who has been openly considering a run against Trump is John Kasich, the outgoing governor of Ohio, who was the last candidate to drop out of the 2016 Presidential primaries. He has been to New Hampshire twice recently, and his advisers have spoken out against the attempt to change the state Party rules. Still, Kasich told the Columbus Dispatch last week, “Maybe the Lord will say, ‘John, enough of you for 30 years, enough of you. Go sit somewhere in the corner, shut up for awhile.’ ” He is not alone in this wavering. “I do hope that somebody else runs in the Republican primary,” Senator Jeff Flake, of Arizona, who will retire next month, said in October. But, he added, “I don’t see that happening in my case.” Ten days later, he said, “I’m not ruling it out—but I need a break.”
Perhaps a way to speed matters up is to put some more names on the table. Mitt Romney, once a vocal opponent of Trump, was just elected to the U.S. Senate from Utah, and so he has an active political operation. Romney’s old running mate, Paul Ryan, who is retiring as Speaker of the House, and liked to hint, when convenient, that he was not happy with the President, might want to prove that he meant it. Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, left her job as Trump’s U.N. Ambassador with her dignity intact—a harder trick than winning some primaries—and may be positioning herself for a post-Trump moment. Why wait until 2024? Aside from Romney, several other senators could be potential challengers. Rob Portman, Kasich’s fellow-Ohioan, had considered running in 2016, and withdrew his endorsement of Trump after the “Access Hollywood” tape emerged. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, most recently showed her independence with her “No” vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Susan Collins, of Maine, a frequent Trump critic, voted the other way, but that might prove useful with G.O.P. primary voters. Last month, Bob Corker, of Tennessee, who is also retiring, said, when asked if he might run in 2020, that he hadn’t “ruled it out.” In September, when Ben Sasse, of Nebraska, who talks a lot about his problems with Trump, was asked the same thing, he said that the “odds are a lot higher that I run for the noxious-weed-control board of Dodge County.” But he allowed that such odds were better than zero.
Anti-Trump conservatives, some of whom have been raising money for a potential, still unnamed challenger, attended a conference last week in Washington called “Starting Over: The Center-Right After Trump.” Larry Hogan, a Republican who was just overwhelmingly reëlected governor of Maryland, a blue state, was the opening speaker. Charlie Baker, of Massachusetts, and Phil Scott, of Vermont, are other moderate Republican governors who have been mentioned as Never Trump standard-bearers. For that matter, why shouldn’t Michael Bloomberg, who was once a Republican, run as one again, if only for the chance to take part in primary debates and speak directly to Republican voters? (He was an adept supporter of red-state Democrats in the midterms, outmaneuvering the N.R.A. in some races.) He could remind them that there are other visions of what being a Republican has meant and can mean.
Many people may not see the point, wondering if, at this stage, the G.O.P. is worth reviving. But a national journey away from Trumpism requires some middle ground. So does a healthy electoral system. The obvious cost to potential challengers is that Trump would attack—with tweets and smears. But that tactic works partly because other Republican politicians vouch for him; a real, sustained challenge might reveal what is strength and what is show.
Therein lies what may be the most compelling reason for not just one Republican but several to get into the race: a chance to tell the truth. Without opponents, Trump will saunter through the primaries, plying voters with whatever made-up stories about gangs and the wall and conspiracies he likes.
Last week, Comey said, “All of us should use every breath we have to make sure that the lying stops on January 20, 2021.” Wallace, a journalist who has worked on Republican campaigns, asked, “Would you ever run?” Comey replied, “No,” adding, “You don’t have to run for office to be useful to your country and your community.” “But it helps,” Wallace said. It certainly does. ♦
December 17, 2018 politico.com Pennsylvania meltdown triggers Republican alarms
A GOP collapse threatens to torpedo Donald Trump’s reelection prospects.
PHILADELPHIA — A GOP implosion in Pennsylvania has Republicans alarmed about President Donald Trump’s reelection prospects in a state that proved essential to his 2016 victory.
The enfeebled state party — still reeling after a devastating midterm election where Republicans lost three congressional seats and whiffed gubernatorial and Senate races by double digits — is tangled in a power struggle messy enough to capture the attention of the White House.
The chaos threatens the president’s chances in a state where there’s no room for error. Trump, the first Republican presidential nominee to carry the state since 1988, won by less than a percentage point.
“He has to win Pennsylvania in order to win the presidency,” said Republican Rep. Ryan Costello, a one-time rising star from the Philadelphia suburbs who is retiring from Congress after just two terms. “And I don’t think he’s the favorite to win against a generic Democrat.”
Since Trump’s stunning 2016 win, Pennsylvania Republicans have gotten almost exclusively bad news. First, Democrats in the Philadelphia suburbs flipped seats in 2017 local elections for the first time in decades — and in some cases, in history. Then came an election year from hell, beginning with Democrat Conor Lamb’s House special election victory smack dab in the middle of western Pennsylvania’s Trump Country.
GOP Rep. Lou Barletta, who tied himself closely to the president, lost by nearly 700,000 votes in his challenge to Democratic Sen. Bob Casey. The result in the governor’s race was even worse: Republican Scott Wagner lost by more than 800,000 votes.
“These weren’t just defeats. They were bad defeats,” said Pennsylvania-based GOP consultant Charlie Gerow. “The party has to be unified in order to win in 2020.”
The bleeding has led a faction of Republicans to point their fingers at the state party chairman: Val DiGiorgio, who hails from populous and increasingly Democratic southeastern Pennsylvania.
“The 2018 results clearly indicate that leadership needs to be looked at — there’s no doubt in my mind there,” said Bruce Hottle, a state party committee member from western Pennsylvania, a Trump stronghold.
“Our position was much better two years ago. A blind man would see that,” said Mike Cibik, a state party committee member living in Philadelphia. “There isn’t sufficient staff … and they aren’t raising money.”
DiGiorgio’s supporters argue that he did everything he could in a year that was devastating for Republicans across the country, and that his critics are merely bitter after backing his opponent in the 2017 election for state party leader. They also point out that the state GOP’s two committees brought in roughly the same amount of money during the 2017-18 midterm cycle as in the 2013-14 period, though the party relied more on funding from the Republican National Committee this time around.
“During tough times this cycle, Chairman Val DiGiorgio was a sure and steady leader for Republican candidates up and down the ticket,” said Republican Joe Scarnati, the state Senate president pro tempore.
The Trump White House, which has a history of intervening in state party leadership fights, is well aware of the Pennsylvania unrest. Top Trump allies are eager to have a strong Trump voice atop the state party in 2020. In Ohio and Michigan — two battleground states that, like Pennsylvania, were critical to Trump’s election — the president and his allies helped put loyalists at the helm of the state GOP committees ahead of the midterm election.
But in Pennsylvania, the Trump team sat out the election for state party chairman in 2017 — and some state Republicans now fear that was a mistake.
In 2016, the Trump campaign, RNC and state GOP worked together closely to build a ground operation for the president. DiGiorgio’s critics fear that, in particular, could be at risk if the party isn’t fortified.
“The ground game was important and took resources, people power, and money,” said Cibik. “We’re going to need that again in 2020, and right now, I don’t feel good about it.”
A source familiar with the Trump campaign, though, dismissed concerns about the issue: “The RNC is going to execute a [ground game] plan through the state party whether Val raises $100,000 or $100 million.”
The Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania only has $94,000 on hand, according to campaign finance reports — almost $1 million less than the party had at the same point four years ago. The party’s headquarters staff has shrunk from between 16 employees in 2014, according to the previous chairman, to seven. DiGiorgio said he prefers “we put money into the field.”
The state GOP also has a separate federal committee with about $320,000 on hand, about $50,000 more than it had in the bank four years ago.
Rumors are swirling that DiGiorgio’s critics may try to force a vote of no confidence at the state party’s next meeting in early 2019, though it’s unclear how that would work procedurally or what would come next if the rebels were successful. DiGiorgio’s term is not over until 2021.
But there’s already been fallout for DiGiorgio: Since taking the reins at the state committee last February, he has faced criticism for not relinquishing his position as GOP leader in his home county of Chester — an affluent, highly educated, historically Republican collar county that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Earlier this month, after Chester County suffered some of the biggest GOP losses in the state in November, he stepped down from that role.
Trump campaign officials were in touch with DiGiorgio this month and plan to meet with him in the coming weeks, DiGiorgio’s team confirmed.
Chris Carr, political director for the Trump reelection campaign, said in a statement: “In a difficult year, the PA GOP was able to overcome many challenges. The organization supported Republican candidates up and down the ballot, made record-setting number of voter contacts, helped maintain majorities in both chambers of the state legislature, and deployed new campaign technology. All these programs are a good start on the efforts the PA GOP will bring to the table to help President Trump get reelected in 2020.”
To some Republicans, especially those who lost reelection in November, Trump himself is largely responsible for the GOP’s shellacking in Pennsylvania.
Costello, who has been critical of the president, said the GOP’s double-digit losses in the state House in Harrisburg are “probably the best example of reverse coattails” this year.
“You’re talking about well-liked, experienced state representatives who worked their districts well and lost,” he said. “And they lost because people were just disgusted with Republicans.”
DiGiorgio has fought back aggressively against his critics, characterizing them as “people who have a sour-grapes agenda who lost the chairman election” and arguing that “there’s no one in the state who’s been more supportive of President Trump than I have.” His team shared a list of positive statements from some 10 elected officials, candidates, and donors.
Bob Asher, a top GOP fundraiser in Pennsylvania and an RNC member, called “on all sides to put aside their petty differences and work together.”
“These comments and allegations are counterproductive to what has been done and what we are continuing to try and accomplish in Pennsylvania,” he said. “It is a detriment to party unity and will only serve to hinder the president’s and congressional candidates’ chances in 2020.”
Republicans haven’t hit the panic button just yet. A top Pennsylvania political operative with close ties to the Trump campaign said “you may not get the door-knocking out of the party apparatus in the suburbs like you used to,” but “there’s still plenty of time to address those issues” before the presidential race.
Still, the last thing Republicans need in 2020 in a must-win state for Trump is a civil war.
“The only Republican who’s won Pennsylvania twice in the last 60 years-plus was Ronald Reagan,” said Gerow. “A divided party won’t prevail.” Source
October 19, 2018 USA Today Candace Owens’ rapid rise defending two of America’s most complicated men: Trump and Kanye
It’s a Wednesday morning at Liberty University and the basketball arena is packed with nearly 10,000 people. Students reach their arms skyward, eyes closed, entranced in deafening Christian rock music.
Backstage, administrators and students dote on Candace Owens, that day’s convocation speaker, who has quickly built a career trashing liberal politics with a millennial fierceness. She hasn’t rehearsed. It protects her authenticity. But she knows her beats.
Onstage, she speaks for about 24 minutes, calmly gliding back and forth across the stage in heels, attacking some of her usual targets: Planned Parenthood, feminism, the welfare system.
She builds to the moment. Then, she goes for it.
“Kanye West. Man, he’s a wonderful man,” she says to applause and cheering — breaking the quiet of what had become a calm, attentive audience.
“What is it that President Donald Trump, Kanye West and Candace Owens have in common?” she asks rhetorically. “Kanye West describes it as ‘dragon energy’ and to me I think it’s individualism. It’s believing in yourself. It’s standing up in the face of everybody telling you you can’t.”
Owens embraces her role as the young black woman defending conservatism, attacking liberals and praising two of America’s more complicated men.
Owens, 29, regularly appears on Fox News and travels six days a week to speak at college campuses. It’s made her friendly with Trump and the first family, some of whom she’s met for dinner.
But barely more than a year ago she was an unknown YouTuber.
What changed her life was a video about the Charlottesville rally, wherein she blames the media for creating racial hysteria. That video prompted Fox News host Jesse Watters to invite her on the network for the first time late last year.
Fox News amplified Owens, who was then hired by Turning Point USA, an organization aimed at bringing conservative ideas to college campuses. Her Twitter following quickly grew to 108,000. West’s tweet brought hundreds of thousands more, ballooning her audience to 850,000 today.
The president also took notice. Trump said Owens “represents an ever expanding group of very smart ‘thinkers.’”
Donald J. Trump
Candace Owens of Turning Point USA is having a big impact on politics in our Country. She represents an ever expanding group of very smart “thinkers,” and it is wonderful to watch and hear the dialogue going on…so good for our Country!
Her rapid rise gives her a massive political voice for someone with such a brief career – or even interest – in politics. Owens says she has never voted. Not for Trump, or any other candidate, and only recently registered as a Republican, but previously identified as liberal.
“I had no interest in politics whatsoever prior to 2015,” she said.
Owens illustrates a political fact stamped and sealed by Trump: that strong voices can break through regardless of prior experience.
Owens defends Trump’s comments after Charlottesville: “I still agree with him. There are morons on both sides.” She doesn’t believe in white privilege and often criticizes Black Lives Matter. Feminism, she claims, has become radicalized. Planned Parenthood is “murdering” people using abortion, which has slowed black population growth. The media causes dissent. And lately, amid Kavanaugh’s ascension to the Supreme Court: “I’m really passionate about defending men.”
She’s now preached politics to hundreds of thousands of students, said Turning Point founder Charlie Kirk. Her reach isn’t contained to conservative havens like Liberty, where its president Jerry Falwell Jr. is an outspoken Trump supporter. Most recently Owens and Kirk spoke at the University of Colorado-Boulder, the University of Washington and the University of Georgia.
After the speech at Liberty, Owens jumped off stage and was hounded by a group of students, black and white, seeking selfies. Security had to step in to control the crowd. On Twitter, the speech was mostly praised.
Hey @RealCandaceO I watched you Speaking at Liberty University Convocation, girl you killed it, I’m so glad we have you for our Voice, you speak with so much Common Sense, and I agree with you 100% #KeepItUp MAGA #BlessYou
But outside the arena at a small protest, Liberty senior Abigail Ferris held up a pro-#MeToo sign. It’s the day before Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, testified before a Senate committee. Owens often dismisses the #MeToo movement as a Democratic political ploy and called Ford a liar who should serve time in prison.
“We’re not directly protesting her,” Ferris said. “But we are showing while she has made some disparaging remarks to the movement, that there are students on campus who respectfully disagree with her.”
More than anything, Owens preaches against victimhood, particularly among African Americans, a pull-yourself-up-by-your bootstraps mindset.
“I consider myself insanely privileged to be in this country,” she said. “I try to tell people how much value there is in seeing yourself as privileged … because if you see yourself as a victim, you’ll have that shade over your eyes in life and you’re not going to accomplish much.”
She bolsters her message with an intriguing personal story, one that starts in poverty, involves a traumatic episode of racism and an I’ve-seen-the-dark-side political awakening. She sees it as the perfect antidote to liberal attacks on Republicans over race.
A ‘victim’ who hates the word
Owens grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, the middle child of three girls. Her father was a property manager and her mother an executive assistant. Even as a toddler, Owens didn’t back down in a debate, her dad Robert Owens Jr., said.
The family grew up in poverty, she claims, living in a small apartment before moving into the home of her grandfather, who laid tobacco out to dry on a sharecropping farm at age 5 and faced the Ku Klux Klan.
Happy birthday to the greatest man alive! I owe my spirit, my work ethic, and my “Owens temper” to you, granddaddy.
“the KKK used to come and shoot bullets at our house— and my daddy used to grab the rifle and shoot back at them boys!”
“He is a man’s man,” Owens said. “That masculinity is now being taught as toxic, when in reality it’s the one thing that grounded me as a child.”
In 2007, Owens’ senior year at Stamford High School, came an experience that shaped her personally – and eventually politically.
Four boys called her from a blocked number and left voicemails with racial epithets and threats of violence.
“They were calling me the N-word, they were saying they were going to put a bullet into the back of my head as they had done to Martin Luther King. They were calling me Rosa Parks. They were telling me that they were going to tar and feather my family,” she told the Liberty crowd.
The episode became enflamed because one of the boys was the son of then-Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy, the current Democratic governor of Connecticut. Owens, then 17, faced threats and harassment in school for weeks afterward, according to a lawsuit her father filed against the Stamford Board of Education. Robert Owens, in his filing, said the school district failed to protect his daughter from the harassment. The school board later settled with the family for $37,500, according to a settlement agreement provided by the board.
The Stamford Police Department said documents related to the case were sealed because those involved were minors and a spokesman would not confirm the outcome. But the Danbury News Times reported police arrested at least one student.
Owens was out of school for weeks because of the incident, which drew the attention of the NAACP, which defended her in the media. But Owens felt like a public relations pawn.
“I would come out of school and they would be outside with cameras and speaking, and I would stand there,” she said. “It was really awful because then it sort of gave people that fire of like, ‘she’s doing this for attention.’”
The incident, Owens said, set in motion years of anorexia, which lasted through college and into her working years.
“It was really just a manifestation of trying to control something in your life,” she said.
Today, she complains about the media framing her as the victim.
“What it taught me was how little value there was in victimhood,” she said. “Now, according to the left, that should have been the best moment of my life.”
“I’ll be the first to say I am sorry,” she wrote, “To all of them, having to endure that experience; a group of children dissected and labeled.”
Years later, Owens chalks up the voicemails to poor decision-making, not racism.
“They were labeled these racists, and I never felt that they were racists,” she said. “I felt that they were people who did something that was really stupid.”
She said some of the boys have since thanked her.
“People should be allowed to evolve,” she said.
Doxxing and media distrust
After high school, Owens enrolled at the University of Rhode Island to study journalism, but dropped out in 2010 because she said her loan was declined. She then moved to New York City, and found steady work at a private equity firm, where she worked for four and a half years, starting off as an assistant and working her way up to the vice president of administration.
In 2014, she started the website Degree 180, a now-defunct lifestyle blog.
“I wanted to find my voice,” she said.
The website sometimes touched on politics – one contributor wrote the idea of a Trump presidency “makes my skin crawl.” But Owens, listed as the founder and CEO, wrote mostly about relationships and sometimes sex. She did say in October 2015 that she welcomed the end of the Republican tea party movement and their “crazy antics.”
In April 2016 Owens started fundraising for another venture, an anti-cyberbullying website named Social Autopsy – the rapid downfall of which would embolden her political views and distrust of the media.
When Social Autopsy launched a $75,000 Kickstarter campaign, it drew criticism in blogs and a lengthy piece in New York Magazine. Kickstarter suspended the project after two days, arguing the “project’s plan to ‘dox’ people were in violation of our rules.”
Social Autopsy’s coverage in the media made Owens a conservative overnight, she told Dave Rubin on his YouTube show “The Rubin Report” last year. To USA TODAY, she describes her political switch as the result of a perfect storm driven by an intense distaste for the media and Trump’s rise.
“There’s this guy who I used to watch on reality TV who’s running for president of the United States and he says they’re fake news,” she said. “It was happening to me at the same time.”
The incident drew her to conservative outlets she’d formerly cast off as fringe, like Breitbart.com.
She also started exploring the writings of black conservatives, such as Thomas Sowell, a senior fellow at Stanford University’sHoover Institution. Like Owens, Sowell has alleged liberal attempts to stifle free speech on college campuses. He slammed the “liberal media” in a column for the conservative National Review in late 2016 regarding Trump’s picks for top White House positions.
“They would be worried about anyone who has not been brainwashed in the political correctness that reigns among the intelligentsia,” he wrote.
“I said, ‘How can I bring that message that they’re saying so brilliantly to a wider audience?” she said. “‘Oh, I’m like a millennial. I can do a YouTube channel. I’m hilarious.’”
YouTube to Fox to Kanye
Owens began making a series of YouTube videos in July 2017. Her first post features her “coming out” as a conservative to her parents, who are aghast at the news. All characters are played by Owens. In her most watched video, with 1.6 million views, she mocks a list of demands Black Lives Matter made of white people.
The videos kickstarted a new career as a conservative commentator, earning her airtime on Fox and, eventually, West’s attention. When he tweeted about her in April, she reacted like a fan, not the collaborator she is now.
“Please take a meeting with me,” she tweeted to West just minutes later. “I tell every single person that everything that I have been inspired to do, was written in your music.”
But former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, another black Republican, defended him.
“People ought to be able to express their views,” she said. “Not all of us have to think politically the same way. I’ve said to people sometimes, ‘You know, I’ve been black all my life. You don’t have to tell me how to be black.’”
Not long after TMZ, Owens visited Trump at the White House.
Owens doesn’t think she’s treated differently in conservative media because of her race, but does suggest there is a “sense of relief” with her in the fold.
“I think there’s a draw. I think there’s a validation,” Owens said. “Imagine being a Republican and for years and years you try to say something and you get called a racist.”
But Tasha Philpot, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, said Owens and West draw more attention because they’re unique.
“They’re novel and so they can get media attention and coverage in ways that black Democrats can’t,” Philpot said. “The idea that there is this special person, this aberration, exception to the rule, does certainly get you a platform that you wouldn’t have otherwise.”
An exception because Trump’s approval rating among African Americans lags at 10 percent, according to a most-recent Gallup poll. Just 8 percent of African Americans voted for Trump in 2016, which is slightly higher than Republican presidential contenders John McCain and Mitt Romney when they took on former President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012; but slightly lower than former Republican President George W. Bush’s outcomes with African Americans in 2000 and 2004, according to Cornell University’s Roper Center for Public Opinion Research.
“There’s nothing particularly appealing, especially in this highly racialized political environment that would draw blacks over to the Republican Party,” Philpot said.
Owens has her share of black critics. Black Lives Matter protesters have heckled her speeches. The news website The Root, which focuses on African American issues, often takes aim at her.
“Either they are delusional or they earned their Ph.D.s from the history, sociology and political science departments at the University of the Sunken Place,” wrote Michael Harriot in The Root, referring to Owens and West while referencing the hypnotic abyss from the film “Get Out.”
It’s the comments from other African Americans that bother her father, Robert Owens.
“What really makes me upset are the comments she gets from her own race,” said Owens, a registered Independent who did not vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“We as African Americans need to stop believing that we can only vote Democrat,” said Owens, whose daughter predicted a black exodus from the Democratic party on Fox News. “We need to stop using slurs against those that choose to vote Republican because, in my opinion, there are good people on both sides.”
Philpot says black Republicans are different from black conservatives. Many African Americans identify as conservatives, which she ties to the importance of religion in black community. But, she says, not all of those black conservatives vote Republican.
“Usually (black Republicans) tend to have lower levels of group consciousness,” Philpot said. “They define their conservatism not just in terms of being anti-government or reduced social spending but also in terms of blacks not relying on the government to get ahead.”
Owens insists she’s not trying to convince people to become Republicans, but rather show them not to “blindly” trust in the media. She also comes out swinging against white progressives.
“Black people have become for white liberals like the puppy that they rescued from the pound,” she said. “White people that want to scream so much on behalf of black people that you can’t even hear what black people have to say. If a black conservative says, ‘No, thank you,’ they lose their minds because they’ve built their sense of worth on being the righteous white person.”
Owens’ abrupt shift from liberal to conservative confounds some. Her critics often point to some anti-Trump posts on Degree180 to counter what she says on television.
“You wonder why did she flip her perspective,” said Nikki Usher, a professor of media at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne. “Is it because she is somebody who genuinely has re-thought her ideological commitments or is this like a really good way to feed your ego and put yourself out there and establish a career?”
Usher suggests that a number of conservative pundits — Diamond and Silk, the black conservative duo popular on Facebook, as well as InfoWars’ Alex Jones and the website’s editor Paul Joseph Watson, whom Owens calls an “amazing friend and a true supporter” of hers — have found their way into the mainstream in a way “that didn’t really exist before the internet.”
Now people pay attention when someone is “taking very alternative positions that then gain attraction in the digital space and then cannot be ignored by sort of the more mainstream right-leaning sites,” Usher said.
Owens bats down suggestions she has ulterior motives.
“It’s just something that I believe in, and I love what I do,” she said.
Owens’ story of political conversion is part of her pitch. Such stories have appealed to people for generations and been used by famous leaders like Ronald Reagan, Hillary Clinton and Malcolm X, said Don Waisanen an associate professor of communication at Baruch College-CUNY who wrote a book about political conversions.
“This is one of the most convincing arguments you can make in politics,” he said.
Waisanen said most conversions go from liberal to conservative. He argues it resonates better with a crowd accustomed to religious redemption narratives.
“It’s a way of kind of arguing in a religious way without the overt religious overtones that you are going from one paradigm to the other,” he said. “That form of ‘I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see,’ it’s still maintained in these narratives.”
Whatever the draw, Owens now boasts a bigger profile than her boss.
“No one in the modern era of American politics has accomplished such a meteoric rise in the cultural and political world,” said Kirk, the Turning Point founder. “Commentating on the news and doing punditry is a very small piece of Candace Owens. She is a movement leader.”
For now, Owens won’t pinpoint a future. She’s planning to launch a podcast that touches on culture and politics, but says “there’s no destiny.”
“If I wanted to be the president, I would win,” she said “I hope we don’t need Candace for president. I hope it just is that America keeps on this trajectory and just that these social battles can die down. They’re a little insane.” Source
October 15,2018 philly.com Pa. GOP chair accused me of ‘indoctrinating’ my students. Here’s why he’s wrong | Opinion
In this staff room at Central High School, teachers have posted political posters and signs from both sides of the aisle.
The 2017 calendar that preceded the Reagan calendar was a pro-Trump piece that featured the MAGA slogan. In 2016, lawn signs for both Trump and Clinton were in the office prior to Election Day, all without objection or concern by the administration or School District.
We’re not threatened by opposing viewpoints. We welcome them.
And we won’t be intimidated by false accusations.
I will continue to maintain a professional classroom and work with utmost dedication to the empowerment of my students and the young people of Philadelphia.
And Chairman DiGiorgio? He should have known better. He’s not only a lawyer sworn to uphold the Constitution, he’s a Central grad.
His teachers taught him better than that.
Thomas Quinn is chair of the Social Studies Department at Central High School
Oct 12, 2018 Philly.com Fox News host Jeanine Pirro has become a frequent fundraiser for Pennsylvania Republicans
Fox News host Jeanine Pirro was in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, but she wasn’t in Erie to cover President Trump’s latest rally — she was headlining a fundraiser in York for Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner.
Pirro, who has hosted Justice with Judge Jeanine on Fox News since January 2011, was the featured guest speaker for the “special campaign event” paid for by Wagner’s gubernatorial campaign, which took place at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in York. According to an invitation, individual tickets to the event cost $130, while VIP seats went for $2,500 a ticket (and included a signed copy of her latest book, Liars, Leakers and Liberals).
Wagner’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Regardless of the opinions they espouse on their shows, Fox News hosts (like most media personalities) are not typically allowed to campaign for political candidates. But Pirro, whose weekly Saturday night show has grown in stature since Trump was elected president, appears to have quietly become a frequent speaker at fundraisers for Republican candidates.
“We were not aware of Sean Hannity participating in a promotional video, and he will not be doing anything along these lines for the remainder of the election season,” a Fox News spokesperson told the Daily Beast at the time.
The network’s decision on allowing Pirro to participate in political activities may come down to a technicality involving her employment status. Unlike Hannity, Ingraham, and most of the network’s other popular hosts, Pirro is only a Fox News contributor — not a full-fledged employee. Source
Oct 11, 2018 post-gazette.com Scott Wagner paid $24,500 for Judge Jeanine Pirro to speak at a campaign fundraiser
During his speech in Erie on Wednesday night, President Donald Trump riled up the crowd by asserting that Judge Jeanine Pirro — a Fox News host and larger-than-life personality in conservative circles — supports Scott Wagner for Pennsylvania governor.
“Maybe the best thing I can say about Scott Wagner is that Judge Jeanine thinks he’s fantastic, OK?” Mr. Trump said. “That might be the greatest endorsement.”
But how much does Judge Jeanine’s support cost?
According to the Wagner campaign’s most recent campaign finance report, the campaign paid a grand total of $24,500 to Judge Jeanine Pirro Inc. over two installments in August and September, labeled as “Fundraising Event Speaker” expenditures.
Ms. Pirro, an ardent defender of the president, spoke at a fundraiser for Mr. Wagner Wednesday evening in York County. She was advertised as a “special guest speaker” on the campaign’s invitation, which touted ticket offers from $130 for general admission to $50,000 — which would have gotten you 20 tickets to a VIP reception, a photo opportunity and 20 signed copies of Ms. Pirro’s latest book.
Christopher Borick, political science professor at Muhlenberg College and director of its Institute of Public Opinion, said it’s “very odd” for a candidate to pay so much money to bring a partisan figure in for a campaign event.
“It doesn’t happen,” Mr. Borick said. “You write big checks for consulting. You write big checks for folks who are going to give you strategy.”
It’s normal for campaigns to bring in speakers or political figures and pay for hotel and airfare and sometimes a modest honorarium, Mr. Borick said, but nothing of this nature.
When asked about the payments and fundraiser, Wagner spokesman Andrew Romeo responded, “Any outstanding information related to our finances will be disclosed on our next report.”
Ms. Pirro and Fox News could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Wagner, a Republican, is running for governor against incumbent Democrat Tom Wolf. Though he’s self-financed much of his campaign, Mr. Wagner said in a fundraising email this past weekend that he’s “tapped out” in spending his own money on the race.
The financial calculus for Ms. Pirro’s appearance at the fundraiser could have been favorable, though, Mr. Borick said, in that such a high-profile appearance could generate a lot of interest among donors.
“[The campaign] could figure that if she was the draw, they could really clean up with more people coming and maybe get some net,” Mr. Borick said. “But boy, it better be a pretty good night if you have to subtract her fee. Those better be some high-end folks.”
Mr. Borick added, “The person is usually showing up to help you raise the money and not showing up to cost you money.” Source
Sept 22, 2018 Penn Live Donald Trump Jr. stumps for GOP in Hershey: ‘Trump is on the ticket’
Donald Trump Jr. had one emphatic message for Pennsylvania Republicans on Friday: “Donald Trump is on the ticket in November.”
The president’s eldest son’s brief remarks before GOP officials at the Hershey Lodge is part of a larger nationwide speaking tour for the 40-year-old real estate scion. Trump Jr. has criss-crossed the country this year attending fundraising and party events as the GOP gears up for a difficult mid-term fight.
Poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight currently gives Democrats a four-in-five chance of winning control of the U.S. House and a one-in-three chance of taking the Senate.
State polls, meanwhile, have shown Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Sen. Bob Casey with double-digit leads against their respective challenges, state Sen. Scott Wagner and U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta. Trump carried Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes, or less than 1 percentage points, in 2016.
“You have to realize: it can go away tomorrow,” Trump Jr. said. “That is the other side’s plan. That is their motivation.”
He said the tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks that benefitted those in attendance — Trump Jr. did not mention tariffs or the possiblity of a trade war with China in his remarks — would be reversed if Democrats retook Congress.
But Barletta, Wagner and the slate of congressional candidates would serve as partners to help shepherd Trump’s policy goals, Trump Jr. said.
“They’re going to govern with my father, like my father, for all of you.”
Some of the biggest laugh lines of the night came as a result of Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, former Fox News TV host Kimberly Guilfoyle, who joked about her extracurricular activities, “playing doctor” with Trump Jr.
After Guilfoyle introduced her boyfriend, Trump Jr. quipped, “I was up late last night — not because of Kimberly. Get your minds out of the gutter.”
On Friday, former President Barack Obama was also in Pennsylvania: campaigning for the state’s Democrats in Philadelphia.
“I have not been here since you guys won a Super Bowl, I know,” Pres. Obama says in Philadelphia. “I came here to deliver a very simple message and that is to vote. My message, Pennsylvania, is vote.” https://cbsn.ws/2xG1whP
State GOP Chair Val DiGiorgio said that didn’t intimidate him. He claimed Friday’s event broke fundraising and attendance records for the party, although it occupied one of Hershey Lodge’s smaller ballrooms.
“Pennsylvania will continue to be Trump country,” DiGiorgio said. Source
August 23, 2018 politicspa.com Donald Trump Jr to Speak at PA GOP Fall Dinner
Written by John Cole, Managing Editor
Dinner with Donald Jr.
Today, the Pennsylvania GOP sent out a press release promoting its upcoming Fall Dinner on September 21 in Hershey, PA, which will include guest speaker Donald Trump Jr.
“We are honored to have Donald Trump Jr. as our guest speaker!” the press release states.
“Donald Trump Jr. is a great advocate for a Republican-led agenda that has given Americans lower taxes, a booming economy, and historically low unemployment,” PAGOP Communications Director Jason Gottesman added. “We are excited to have him speak at our dinner and energize those in attendance.”
The general reception, VIP reception, and chances for photos begin at 6 PM. The dinner will start at 7 PM.
General admission per person is $150, while it’s $400 per person for a VIP ticket.
To be a “Gold Sponsor” for a table of 10 VIP reception and dinner tickets costs $10,000. A “Silver Sponsor” table that includes 4 VIP reception tickets and 6 general reception tickets costs $5,000. A “Bronze Sponsor” table that includes 4 VIP reception and dinner tickets costs $2,500.
Chester County GOP Chairman Val DiGiorgio.Submitted Photo
West Chester >> Members of Chester County’s two major political parties chose the candidates who will lead them into the upcoming midterm elections, choices that come as the gap between the majority and minority parties continues to close.
Members of the Chester County Democratic Committee elected a slate of candidates led by retired DuPont chemist Dick Bingham to succeed outgoing Chairman Brian McGinnis.
Bingham and his three running mates for the executive committee topped a slate of candidates led by the party’s vice chairwoman Lani Frank at the committee’s reorganization convention held at Stetson Middle School in Westtown.
Chester County Republicans returned Chairman Val DiGiorgio to the leadership position he has held since 2011. DiGiorgio, an attorney in private practice with the Malvern firm of Stradley Ronon who lives in West Whiteland, also serves as chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Committee.
DiGiorgio ran unopposed at the party’s reorganization event, held at Fugett Middle School in East Goshen.
Bingham, an East Marlborough resident who has led a regional group of Democrats in the Kennett Square area, laid out his vision for the party in his nominating speech. “Our goal is to help every one of our 228 precincts become a voter turnout powerhouse,” he said in a press release. “Electing Democrats in Chester County will be the norm, never again the exception.”
The party is coming off one of its most historically successful campaign seasons, as it elected four women to county Row Offices — a sweep — in 2017. In the 2016 presidential election, the county chose Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump by more than 25,000 votes, even as Trump was on his way to winning the state and the overall election.
Overall, the GOP’s traditional edge in party registration in the county has continued to drop since the beginning of the 21st century. In May 2017, the GOP had 151,653 registered voters and the Democrats 132,831. According to the Pennsylvania State Department, as of June 11 there were 151,121 Republicans registered in the county, compared with 135,974 Democrats, closing the gap to 15,147 voters and showing a pick up of 3,143 new voters versus the GOP’s loss of 500 voters.
Even though Trump is not on the ballot for November, Bingham said he anticipates that many of the elections or state and national office that county voters will be asked to decide may revolve around his presidency.
“He certainly is a very polarizing figure,” he said. “I think his presence will bring a lot of voters to our side.
The local Democrats are promoting a full slate of candidates for the two state Senate and nine state House of Representatives seats up for election, as well as a well-funded and motivated candidate for the newly reformed 6th Congressional District, Chrissy Houlahan of Easttown, a district that covers the entire county, plus areas of lower Berks County. Incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf and U.S. Senator Bob Casey are also seeking re-election.
The others elected as part of Bingham’s slate include Marsha Peltz of Malvern for vice chairwoman; Nick Allen of West Chester for secretary; and MaryAnn Piccioni of Tredyffrin for treasurer.
“I am proud to hand over my gavel to Dick,” said outgoing McGinnis, who had supported Bingham over Frank for the seat. Bingham said he expected that Frank, a longtime campaign organizer and party activist, would continue to work for the party.
“Lani and I have always worked well together,” he said. “Obviously we both wanted to win, ad worked hard to get there. But I hope Lani will continue to work with us.”
On the GOP side, in addition to returning DiGiorgio to his seat the committee members in attendance elected Steve Sansone as executive vice chairman, Barb Proto as vice chairwoman, curt Norcini as treasurer, Joe Toner as financial secretary, Robin Marcello as secretary, and Kate Collins as assistant secretary.
In his speech to the gathered committee, DiGiorgio said the committee would “work diligently to return our house delegation to Harrisburg. Our representatives have held the line against the governor’s repeated tax increase attempts. Reps. Warren Kampf (of Tredyffrin) and Becky Corbin (of East Brandywine) have been leaders in the House, and I am eager for them to be joined by our esteemed youth movement of candidates such as Rep. Eric Roe, Amber Little-Turner in the 74th and Nick Deminski in the 156th.”
“As I have often said, when this party is united, we cannot be defeated,” DiGiorgio was quoted as telling the committee.
The committee members also heard from Greg McCauley, candidate for the 6th Congressional District, who was nominated in May after incumbent U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello of West Goshen announced he would not seek re-election. McCauley, of Kennett, spoke on the need to restore fiscal responsibility to Washington, D.C., and how his experience as a tax attorney has prepared him to address issues such as the national debt and student loan funding, according to the release. Source
April 27, 2018 City&State PA PA GOP chair blasts report on turmoil at state committee
PA GOP Chair Val DiGiorgio. Photo credit: Curt Schroder
In a series of numbered “talking points,” DiGiorgio took exception to numerous findings in the article, including the PA GOP’s current financial status and its condition when he took office. DiGiorgio asserts that the committee’s forthcoming campaign finance report “will show that we are on a much better financial footing than the article characterizes,” and that he took over an operation that had “less money in the bank than was needed for one month of operating expenses, no staff and $160,000 in debt.”
DiGiorgio stressed in the letter that the dramatic reduction in staffing was a “conscious decision to operate with leaner staff and to put money directly into campaigns,” noting that PA GOP funnelled roughly $350,000 into get-out-the-vote efforts for judicial candidates. He added that the committee has “a large staff in the field doing the work of volunteer recruitment” and that he expects rising numbers of volunteers throughout the election cycle.
However, DiGiorgio did not provide exact details on the party’s current or projected finances, or the number of employees or volunteers currently on staff.
Both DiGiorgio and a spokesman for the state committee declined to provide similar details or on record comments prior to the publication of the article in question.
The recent letter also obliquely references DiGiorgio’s disappointment over “the extent to which Republicans continue to fight one another – on social media, at events and in the media.” This appears to be a thinly veiled reference to the continuing battle for the Republican gubernatorial nomination between state Sen. Scott Wagner and rival Paul Mango, which has spilled across commercials, public forums and a litany of press coverage. A recent PoliticsPA article featured a letter from six state party members contesting DiGiorgio’s claim that committee members were aware of claims made by Mango about his opponant.
In that letter, the committee members “respectfully contest this statement that (DiGiorgio) made on behalf of the entire Republican Party of Pennsylvania” dismissing Mango’s claims about Wagner’s past issues “because we had no idea that State Senator Scott Wagner was involved in these disputes.”
“(DiGiorgio) may have known about the issues Mr. Mango highlights in his advertisement, but none of these issues were ever disseminated to the State Committee,” reads the letter
The PA GOP did not immediately respond to a request for further comment. Source
April 25, 2018 PoliticsPA PA GOP Short Staffed & Under Funded: Report
Written by Paul Engelkemier, Managing Editor
Heading into the 2018 midterm elections the Republican Party of Pennsylvania is facing fundraising and staffing issues, combined with a contentious Gubernatorial primary that is dividing some members of the Party.
According to City & State the PA GOP finished 2017 with just $15,000 in their accounts, barely enough to keep the lights on at headquarters.
During the 2017 judicial elections the party had about 15 employees, which according some was a sign of under staffing issues that have continued into this year. A spokesman confirmed to City & State the identity of four permanent staffers, all recent hires. In the past six months, five senior level staffers either left, or gave their notice.
“I think we usually had about 20 people; in presidential years, we probably had over 200, including field staff. One of the most effective things I was able to do was hire good staff. But you need a lot of money to do that,” former PA GOP Chairman Rob Gleason told City & State.
GOP operatives, speaking anonymously to City & State, agreed that the staff levels at state party are lower and put the blame on either financial strains of not having enough money in the bank or “some unspoken misconduct.”
The issues at the state party lead to some grumblings about the leadership of current Chairman Val DiGiorgio. DiGiorgio took over as Chairman in a hotly contested race at the start of 2017.
In a letter to state party leadership following the City & State article, DiGiorgio took issue with the report’s accuracy.
“In the article it talks about how we were left in good financial footing at the start of our administration. This is not true. When we started we had less money in the bank then was needed for one month of operating expenses, no staff and $160,000 in debt, at which we have chipped away,” DiGiorgio wrote of one point of contention.
DiGiorgio also took issue with the idea that the lower number of staffers is truly an issue for the party, saying he “made the conscious decision to operate with leaner staff and to put money directly into campaigns. As a result, we put about $350,000 directly into the GOTV effort for the judicial candidates, a type of investment the party had not previously made in statewide campaigns.”
DiGiorgio has recently entered into the feuding between Gubernatorial candidates Paul Mango and Scott Wagner, making several statements in support of Wagner. The state party voted to endorse Wagner in the GOP’s primary.
In a letter obtained by PoliticsPA, six state party members wrote a letter to DiGiorgio asking him to “rescind your claim” that state committee members knew about the issues Mango’s campaign brought up about Wagner.
“The fact is, Paul Mango’s claims against Scott Wagner have already been heard and rejected by the elected state committee members, who at our meeting in February, overwhelmingly endorsed Scott Wagner to be our candidate for Governor,” DiGiorgio said.
“We would respectfully contest this statement that you made on behalf of the entire Republican Party of Pennsylvania because we had no idea that State Senator Scott Wagner was involved in these disputes. You may have known about the issues Mr. Mango highlights in his advertisement, but none of these issues were ever disseminated to the State Committee as you claimed in your statement,” the party members wrote.
Though those six state party members took issue with DiGiorgio and Wagner, other state party members are coming forward in support of Wagner.
“It’s been almost two and half months since we had the opportunity to select you to lead the fight against Tom Wolf this coming fall. Our Party endorsed you for many reasons, but above all else, we wanted you as our nominee because we saw that you were a proven fighter. We believed you would be able to take on whatever attacks the Democrats threw at you and overcome them,” a letter signed by 24 members of state committee reads.
“While we did not think that you would need to tap into that fighter’s mentality until the General Election, the way you have handled the inexcusable smears on your character over the past few weeks has reinforced to all of us why you were the right choice for us, both then and now.”
The state party has also not filed a finance report with the Pennsylvania covering the first quarter of 2018. The lack of a report could simply mean the filed late with the Department of State, or that they did not spend enough money to require filing.
PoliticsPA has reached out to the PA GOP for comment.
Disclosure: The author formerly worked for the Pa. Republican Party. Source
April 25, 2018
Pennsylvania Republican Party Leaders,
Some of you may have seen the City and State PA article regarding the GOP State Committee. In the article, the columnist, who clearly had an ax to grind, made the argument that Republican Party fundraising has not been going well and that, as a result of staff turnover, we are in a state of disarray.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I want to give you the following talking points to refute the nonsense and fake news set forth in that misguided article:
The story in question singles out one financial report and makes its assumptions without digging further into the details. The story misrepresents the finances of this building and includes period of time in the analysis in which I was not in office and responsible for finances and expenditure decisions of the state party. We believe our recent FEC monthly filings, combined with our forthcoming state report will show that we are on a much better financial footing than the article characterizes.
In the article, it talks about how we were left in good financial footing at the start of our administration. This is not true. When we started we had less money in the bank then was needed for one month of operating expenses, no staff and $160,000 in debt, at which we have chipped away.
Last year we raised, in a difficult off year election, over $1.7 million. I am proud of that result. It took a lot of hard work of from all of us. So far this year, fundraising is off to a slow start, but we are planning events and putting together formal finance committees in each of the state’s regions. I’m confident we will have all the funds needed to have a successful year.
Last year when I became chairman I made the conscious decision to operate with leaner staff and to put money directly into campaigns. As a result, we put about $350,000 directly into the GOTV effort for the judicial candidates, a type of investment the party had not previously made in statewide campaigns. I believe this was a contributing part to our building to win for three statewide judicial candidates.
Staff turnover is a function of people finding new jobs and that we quickly put our original team in place together last year when no staff was left. This year, as a long-term hire, I brought in Mike Stoll as executive director and he has now put in place his own team. In addition, we have a large staff in the field doing the work of volunteer recruitment and training volunteers and hitting doors and making phone calls. We expect that number to be rising continually as we enter into the summer and fall.
At the end of the day, I am pleased with what we were able to accomplish in 2017, electing three statewide judicial candidates in a very tough year. For 2018, we clearly have a lot of work ahead of us but I am confident we will raise all the funds needed to support our state-wide candidates and continue building our local parties.
One thing that disappoints me most is the extent to which Republicans continue to fight one another – on social media, at events and in the media. That is evident in the article. I will continue to work to unite the party and to focus my attention on democrats.
Please keep these talking points in mind when discussing these matters with whomever may ask. If you have any questions, as always, do not hesitate to contact me.
Republican Party of Pennsylvania
April 25, 2018 City&State PA Ahead of crucial midterms, the PA GOP is short on staff and funding
PA GOP Chairman Val DiGiorgio – from his Facebook page
Last December, the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania had just $15,000 cash on hand – millions less than the party traditionally boasts at the end of the calendar year. By all accounts, that sum was barely enough to keep the lights on at the PA GOP’s State Street office building in Harrisburg – not that there is much to illuminate these days.
A campaign and fundraising nerve center for Republicans across the state, the office boasted about 15 full-time employees during last year’s judicial elections – a number that even at the time indicated understaffing. Today, recent visitors say, the building is mostly empty, even though the critical November midterm elections are just around the corner.
“I think we usually had about 20 people; in presidential years, we probably had over 200, including field staff,” recalls former PA GOP chair Rob Gleason, who reigned over the state committee for 11 years. “One of the most effective things I was able to do was hire good staff. But you need a lot of money to do that.”
A Democratic rival put the current state of the PA GOP in stark terms.
“It is hard to maintain good staff without money,” said T.J. Rooney, a former chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. “But to only have $15,000 at the end of the year … forget about bonuses – you’re struggling to make the payroll.”
Indeed, financial records and sources familiar with committee operations indicate that the PA GOP skipped its traditional staff Christmas bonuses this year. Shortly after the holidays, most of the personnel that accompanied chairman Val DiGiorgio to Harrisburg in 2017 left in a wave of departures.
Two weeks ago, a PA GOP spokesperson confirmed the identity of just four permanent staff members, all of whom were recently hired after the exodus of senior employees. Executive director Rob Brooks, political director Tim Lagerman, deputy political director Derrick Backer, and communications director Greg Manz each departed in the last six months. A few weeks ago, finance director Laura Wagoner also gave notice.
The state committee downplayed the significance of staff turnover and apparent financial strain, although newly minted communications staffer Jason Gottesman, who took over for Manz, refused to comment directly on the subject of this article. He instead referred all questions to a recent statement that chairman Val DiGiorgio sent to all Republican state committee members.
That letter described the departure of Brooks – a close associate of DiGiorgio at the Chester County GOP who was brought on as an interim executive director – as part of a planned transition. The other staffers are all said to have “moved on to pursue great new opportunities.”
But several Republican operatives, all speaking on condition of anonymity, told a different story about the current state of PA GOP. Some speculated that deeper problems – either the party’s financial issues or some unspoken misconduct – had driven staff away en masse. Others said staff attrition and financial resources were linked to larger divisions within the party and internal unhappiness with DiGiorgio, who took over last year after an extremely tight and acrimonious contest with former party lawyer Lawrence Tabas.
Rooney said that regardless of the causes, few political operations plan for – let alone celebrate – the departure of key personnel just before crucial elections.
“People are supposed to leave in off-years. Now, we’re in the (election-year) cycle,” he said. “I’m all for people going on to greener pastures, but what’s out of place is that this didn’t happen last year.”
Dan Hayward, a former PA GOP executive director who now works as a managing partner at Novak Strategies, offered a different perspective.
“In 2003, we changed over staff significantly going into a presidential race and a hotly contested primary race. It’s maybe roughly analogous to what’s going on now,” he said. “It’s a stressful job. It doesn’t surprise me at all.”
But Hayward also described a far more robust operation 15 years ago.
“When I started as executive director in ’03, I probably had about eight or nine staffers in the building. At the end of the next year, I had a staff with a (field) component and state party personnel with close to 100 employees for the 2004 presidential race,” he said.
The finances of the state committee itself have withered compared to past years. In 2017, the PA GOP brought in $2.4 million in contributions, its lowest gross since 2005, when the party was nearly $1 million in debt. It also spent nearly its entire haul – and then some – as it burned through most of the $300,000 brought forward from the previous year.
It ended 2017 with just $75,000 cash on hand – minus $61,000 in unfulfilled vendor obligations. That sum includes a $28,000 invoice owed to Brooks’ own consulting firm.
For comparison, the party has historically brought in anywhere from $3.6 million to upwards of $10 million in recent years, including presidential runs, and has typically kept several hundred thousand dollars in reserve.
“I left the state committee in decent financial shape,” Gleason said, of his tenure. “It’s a tough job to be the state chairman. It takes a lot of money to run the state committee.”
It’s worth noting that the state committee regularly receives millions from the Republican National Committee and other national donors for congressional races. That money is earmarked via a separate federal committee, which recently reported about $118,000 in the bank.
While the state party controls these funds, that money is restricted by donor commitments and campaign finance laws.
“Only federal campaigns can use the federal money,” Gleason said. “You wouldn’t believe the paperwork. It’s a no-bullshit thing – it’s very stringent.”
The state funds are particularly key for Republicans because, unlike Democrats, GOP players across the state rely heavily on the state committee as a fundraising and support mechanism.
“With us, there are a million different repositories for us to fund the party and the campaign effort. We’re a big-tent party and we have a big financial tent,” Rooney, the former state Democratic Party leader, explained. “The Republicans’ money is typically run through the party itself from a smaller number of large donors….Their donor base is far more accustomed to writing checks to the Republican Party of Pennsylvania than ours is” accustomed to writing similar checks to the state Democratic Party.
The state committee provides a key support apparatus for campaigns across the commonwealth – Gleason said the PA GOP deploys a crucial ground game ahead of elections, paying for extra field staff, campaign supplies – even picking up the tab for costly election data and software.
“We are really charged with the conduct of statewide elections – everything from president down to judges,” he said. “I felt my job was to support the county committees, seek out good candidates and then support them as they conducted their general election campaigns.”
As repercussions from the PA GOP’s diminished stature began impacting campaigns across the state, some privately grumbled about DiGiorgio’s stewardship. A Southeastern PA Republican who threw his support behind Marco Rubio during the 2016 GOP primary campaign, the Chester County native was blasted from the outset by the party’s growing pro-Trump wing out west. Gleason, DiGiorgio’s predecessor, notably spun off his own pro-Trump PAC upon his departure – although Gleason denies seeking to take former donors with him.
More recently, DiGiorgio has waded into a bitter feud between state Sen. Scott Wagner and opponent Paul Mango, making several statements in support of Wagner, who was endorsed in a committee vote this past February. That decision invited more internal criticism, although some see a link between DiGiorgio’s actions and the committee’s shaky finances – Wagner is also a major donor, having injected some $335,000 of his own cash into Republican county committees and campaigns since January 2017.
Other factors weighing on party fundraising would be outside of any chairman’s control. Some point to the 2015 passing of John Templeton, a prolific GOP donor. Others say the rise of independent voters means fewer people are willing to donate directly to political parties.
Hayward also noted that DiGiorgio does not have a Republican governor to help boost statewide fundraising, as in some past years.
“(Former PA GOP chair) Alan Novak had Tom Ridge, who was an amazing party figure and fundraiser,” he said. “Having a powerful governor to help focus on organizational operations is huge. You look at Val with Tom Wolf … you have a different context.”
But Hayward added that he also believes there is still time to right the ship, particularly once the acrimonious primary battles subside. All past is merely prologue, he says, even with the General Election – and a much-discussed “Blue Wave” – just seven months away.
“In a contested primary, you always have a lot of black eyes…It’s how the party comes back together afterward that’s more important,” he said. “The real political work and party apparatus work is coming back together because we gotta win in November. And it ain’t going to be easy.”
DiGiorgio declined to be interviewed for this article. Source