Friday, April 16, 2010

PA GOP Trying to Control Which Candidates You See

see this article in the King's College Crown Newspaper

Supporting underdog Republican candidates is not easy. Recently, I began to wonder why Pennsylvania Republican candidates Peg Luksik (Senate) and Sam Rohrer (Governor) were so far behind the GOP-endorsed candidates Pat Toomey (Senate) and Tom Corbett (Governor). After all, Luksik and Rohrer were and still are legitimate, thoroughly Republican candidates with significant followings. Having compared the candidates a while ago, I had determined that Luksik and Rohrer are better.

[Photo] Republican senatorial candidate Peg Luksik speaks at Challanger's Town Hall while PA 119th District Libertarian candidate Brian Bergman looks on.

Over a week ago, I noticed that made no mention of Luksik or Rohrer. I thought, somewhat naively, that the site operators would willingly do the public a civil service by posting information concerning the candidacies of Rohrer and Luksik. I wrote an email asking the website operators of to place information about Peg Luksik and Sam Rohrer on the site, or at least to provide links to the candidates’ websites. I have yet to receive a reply from anyone at the site, and remains devoid of any mention of either Luksik or Rohrer.

Even the local makes no reference whatsoever either to Peg Luksik or Sam Rohrer. Hopefully folks at the Luzerne GOP will do the right thing and post some information about non-endorsed candidates.*

I also wrote a hand-written letter to Pat Toomey, telling him I would not vote for him in the general election if he continues to pretend Peg Luksik does not exist¹. I have yet to receive a response from Mr. Toomey, even though I previously donated a sum of money to him before I knew about Peg's candidacy.

PCN, Pennsylvania's version of C-SPAN, lists Rohrer and Luksik under Republican candidates on its website. So, this non-profit organization is actually giving more press to Luksik and Rohrer than the Republican party is itself.

After the Challenger’s Town Hall, an event staged April 10, at Luzerne County Community College which featured Peg Luksik and Sam Rohrer among other others, I decided to ask several candidates for their reactions to the state GOP’s custom of endorsing certain candidates before the primary and pretending others don’t exist.

“I don’t make the decisions for the GOP”, replied Hazleton Mayor and 11th Congressional district Republican candidate Lou Barletta.

Other candidates, however, were more opinionated.

“They have clamped down and they have attempted to shut the door for anyone who’s not endorsed” said Sam Rohrer, adding that the tactic is a mistake and that regardless the people will decide which candidates they want.

Independent candidate Jake Towne, who’s gaining ground in the PA 15th congressional district, said “The whole endorsement before the party primary thing completely defeats the purpose of having a primary in the first place”, because primaries should be based on a free election, and therefore the GOP and any other political party should “sponsor debates and let every candidate be considered based on their principles, merits, and ideas, not just on the money they’re able to raise, etc.”

“If the primary were truly an open process”, added Libertarian candidate for PA 119th district Brian Bergman, “then the GOP state committee and the media would give all the candidates pretty much the same access and coverage.” He continued that decision-making in US politics traditionally “starts at the precinct level--your neighborhood, then goes to the county level and then to the state level.” However, he said that the GOP state committee, through its exclusionary practice of premature endorsements, had inverted this hierarchy by attempting to make decisions at the state level and send them down to the county level.

I also asked the organizer of Luzerne County Campaign for Liberty, Michael Harrison, about how the GOP’s handling of the senatorial and gubernatorial elections would bode for the party in the future. "It’s definitely going to hurt the GOP because people are upset about the endorsement of certain candidates over other candidates.” He continued that the tactic would only divide the electorate and and that it would be counter-productive to the GOP's goal of unity.

Indeed, the marginalization of certain candidates by the state GOP will lead to more discord within the Republican Party than would the promotion of open debate between candidates**. However, despite the GOP’s modus operandi to hide Luksik and Rohrer, events like the Challenger’s Town Hall and free media like the Internet, PCN, and the Crown newspaper go a long way to make otherwise unknown candidates known to the select few who are willing enough to look for them.
*[May 7th] Despite receiving numerous appeals from Nothington Post staff, the representative official at Luzerne GOP refused to post anything about Luksik or Rohrer.

¹After I wrote this article I found out about an Tea Party forum in the Lehigh Valley at which both Toomey and Luksik spoke. I do not believe they debated, but Toomey's decision to step out of his campaign headquarters lair and to appear at this event with Luksik is, for him, a step in the right direction.

**[June, 17th] It already has. Many Sam Rohrer supporters have chosen not to vote for Corbett in the general election.

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