The Party belongs to the People, not the Insiders!
Musings from a York County GOP committee person (column)By Marie Hess
tenure as York County State Republican committeewoman is coming to an
end. Due to the demands of a new baby as well as other personal
pursuits, I won't be running again. But I would be remiss not to pass on
some pearls of wisdom based on my experience.
As a state committee person, it is our job to be active through the
year by providing information about candidates, interacting with voters
and working to elect Republicans to Pennsylvania offices. Thus, state
committee truly is about winning elections. However, the means in which
the PAGOP goes to win elections has people in disagreement and even
I came into state committee with the belief the PAGOP primary
endorsement process is done at the party's own peril. The party's
stringent focus on winning elections has facilitated the party losing
elections. Additionally, this process has alienated potential members to
the party, disenfranchised current members, or completely deterred
people from voting.
Some historical background to prove my contention. During the 2012
presidential election, an estimated 3 million Republican voters stayed
home. This is less than the turnout by Republicans in 2008 and 2004.
Moreover, not one Pennsylvania major statewide Republican race was won.
This was despite the PAGOP choosing to endorse candidates. This was also
in lieu of Gov. Corbett lobbying his choice for U.S. Senate, Steve
Welsh, and consequently the PAGOP officially endorsing Mr. Welsh.
Despite this, Mr. Welsh came in an unimpressive third in the primary.
Thus, poor Republican turnout was attributed to lack of enthusiasm for
the presidential candidate, and on the state level, an element of
disgust for the party establishment.
Recently here in York, the optics surrounding the special election
for 28th District Senate seat was, to say the least, terrible. Instead
of cooling the fires of voter anger with a seemingly unnecessary need
and cost of a special election, as well as the appearance of a
disingenuous rationale for it, the state party added insult to injury.
The PAGOP funded an especially personal and weak negative ad campaign
against the Republican write-in challenger, Scott Wagner. This only
fueled more antagonism with the party; all but ensuring Mr. Wagner would
win. This move was not only damaging to the PAGOP, but to the local
party here in York. This technique of a perceived justifiable means to
the ends of winning an election doesn't appear to be wise or working.
However, just as the PAGOP appears disconnected from the voters,
there is also a divide with those in the party. When I was elected to
state committee four years ago, it was on a wave of tea party-like
"newbies" that wanted to see the PAGOP end the primary endorsement
process. Naively, and albeit arrogantly, some thought this would happen
with just our presence, our persistence and our demands to do such.
In order to be successful on committee you have to be able and
willing to communicate effectively to people, particularly with people
you disagree with. For me, effective communication was fundamental in
order to break through to those who have long held the belief that it
was the job of committee members to endorse. Thus, I learned politics
has to be about persuasion. Unfortunately, this was a notion that was
lost on some of my fellow committee members. Some lacked the ability or
willingness to engage in constructive conversations. Instead, they opted
for a less civil approach in their communication. This may have
provided them support and adoration in their own circle, but it
primarily made them ineffective as committee members. Additionally,
because of their open antagonism toward others who were not like minded,
they became unproductive for the very voters who sent them there.
There are those, serving in the Republican Party, who sincerely have
an affection and belief in the party and the role conservatives play in
Pennsylvania. They do so without expectation of quid pro quo. If you do
not have an inclination for the party and your goal is to undermine the
party, it would ill-advised to run for a committee seat or vote for
someone like this for committee. If you do not have an ability or
willingness to communicate with people who you disagree with in a civil
manner, the same would apply. Conversely, if you are someone who has
blind allegiance to the party and believes the status quo is working, I
would not run as a committee person or vote for a person like this
either. The party establishment needs to be more responsive and
principled to Republican voters here in the state. Additionally,
committee people need to be more responsive to the community of
Republicans that voted them in and be willing to do the leg work that
comes with the job.
Maria Hess is York County Republican Committee member from West Manchester Township.