Pennsylvania GOP settles fight over contested race for chair | TribLIVE.com
Politics Election

Pennsylvania GOP settles fight over contested race for chair

Associated Press
1406868_web1_Harrisburg-file
Steven Adams | Tribune-Review
The Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg.

Pennsylvania’s Republican Party is trying to amicably settle a contested race for chairman between a candidate who had backing from top Trump campaign officials and a rival who previously had support from many Trump-aligned party activists.

Bernadette Comfort instead will serve as the Trump campaign’s chairwoman in the presidential battleground state ahead of the 2020 election, under a deal that came together Friday.

The contest unfolded as Comfort fends off accusations that, as the party’s vice chair, she knew about and ignored complaints of sexual harassment of women by state party officials, including the just-resigned chairman. Comfort has denied the accusations, and will remain as the party’s vice chair, a position she has held since 2017.

Meanwhile, the state GOP’s former general counsel, Lawrence Tabas, will be the consensus candidate for state party chairman at Saturday’s meeting, the state party said in a statement.

Comfort had quickly drawn backing from top Trump campaign officials after the previous chairman, Val DiGiorgio, resigned late last month. But that high-level Trump support hadn’t been enough to swing a critical mass of committee members behind her in an election that had more to do with local party politics and control.

Tabas, a longtime party lawyer and fundraiser, narrowly lost 2017’s race for chairman, in which he had been seen as the candidate with the strongest backing from Trump-aligned committee members.

“They weren’t going to be influenced by people from the outside,” said Robert Gleason, a Tabas supporter and a former state party chairman. “But they still like Donald Trump, they still voted for Donald Trump, they work hard for Donald Trump, and they felt that they needed to pick their own leader. I don’t know why (Trump campaign officials) felt the need to insert themselves.”

Both sides said they had enough votes to win. Party brass framed the deal as a way to avoid a chairman’s election that sowed animosity among rank-and-file activists and hurt its candidates in next year’s election.

“We worked to find a solution that everyone would agree to,” said David Urban, a Trump campaign adviser who had supported Comfort. “This is a good deal for everyone. You have a unity ticket now.”

In a tweet Friday, Trump wrote, “We have a GREAT TEAM in Pennsylvania! I’m proud to say that our good friends Lawrence Tabas & Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Comfort will now be working together to run the PAGOP. Lawrence will be Chairman & Bernie will Chair my Pennsylvania Campaign. We must have, & do, great UNITY in PA!”

The fight for the party’s leadership comes as Democratic energy in Pennsylvania is raising serious questions about Trump’s ability to replicate his stunning 2016 win in a state Republicans hadn’t carried for nearly two decades.

Democrats animated by an anti-Trump fervor have since scored big victories in Pennsylvania’s elections for governor, U.S. senator, Congress and the state Legislature.

DiGiorgio resigned after a Philadelphia City Council candidate accused him of sexually harassing her. DiGiorgio has denied that, and said their interaction amounted to “mutual consensual communications.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.