By Dwight D. Weidman June 28, 2020
In a recent column in Chambersburg Public Opinion, I posed the question of “if Franklin County voters are so conservative, why are most of our elected politicians moderate to liberal?”. Anyone following local politics will quickly realize that our local Republican politicians, for the most part, talk a good conservative game, but at the same time march in lockstep with the Harrisburg Republican establishment.
Until last Saturday, that moderate to liberal political establishment held the local Republican Committee in a choke hold. Their mismanagement and cronyism since they took over in 2014 had driven the party to the brink of ruin, and then a funny thing happened. The elected conservative members of the committee, at a biennial reorganizational meeting, took advantage of the complacency of the ruling clique and replaced the establishment chairman with a conservative, Chambersburg Boro Council Member Allen Coffman.
Coffman’s election as Chairman over two-term Chair Robert Ternes blindsided the liberal faction of the party. It wasn’t a move that was long in the planning, but it definitely was born out a collective sense that the establishment drones of the “Franklin County Reagan Coalition” were unable to lead the party, and in fact, were destroying it from within. Don’t be confused by the title “Reagan Coalition”, because if the late President Ronald Reagan knew his name was on such a group, he would turn over in his grave. What the Reagan Coalition proved since taking over the party in 2014 was that you can’t build something based on negativity. Since their founding by disgruntled moderate and liberal Republicans in 2008, their one goal was the takeover of the Republican Committee and especially its treasury. When they did manage to get their majority and chairmanship in June 2014, it was immediately obvious that they had no plan or vision for the party itself. They were like an old dog who spent years chasing cars, until finally catching one, with predictable consequences. Negative emotions like envy, hate and greed are powerful, but you can’t build anything on them. Thus the Reagan Coalition’s total lack of vision has had predictable repercussions, a nearly shattered party.
Probably a key moment in Saturday’s reorganization came when a committee member highlighted an item in the Treasurer’s report that demonstrated an unprecedented drop in the number of memberships in the party’s “Ben Franklin Society”, an organization of Republicans who donate $300 per year to the party. The Ben Franklin Society had become a prime target of the Reagan Coalition’s hostile takeover attempts since 2008 and since 2014 the membership level had fallen by 75% due to willful neglect. Then-Chairman Ternes was asked if he was a member of Ben Franklin, to which he replied he was not. He was asked if he was a Reagan Coalition member and he said that he was. If there was a final nail in the coffin, that was it, because prior to Ternes’ chairmanship, every party chairman had been a member of Ben Franklin to show their dedication to the organization they chaired. The committee then voted to replace Ternes as chairman with Allen Coffman by a 70-30% margin. The executive committee has taken on a decidedly conservative look, as well, just in time for the November general election. Chairman Coffman seems to have no agenda other than to win in November.
In a heavily Republican county like we have, it isn’t just a matter of giving President Trump a majority of our votes, because that is a given. Franklin County can make a difference in Trump winning Pennsylvania by maximizing both turnout and winning margin. Republicans can do that if they all pull together and get every single Trump voter out to the polls on November 3rd. The Franklin County Republican Party is ready to lead but needs volunteers, contributions and your ideas. Money collected will be used to pay headquarters rent and utilities, and even more importantly, to purchase campaign literature, signs, and get out the vote operations. Everyone has a skill that can be used. Don’t feel left out if you can’t afford to make a contribution, either large or small, because there are a million ways you can make a difference. If you need further information, the party’s number is 717-263-7999, or if you wish to leave a comment here, I can help you get in touch or provide information.
Please also remember that a record of all contributions and expenditures is reported to the PA Secretary of State and can be viewed online. Finally all members of the county Republican committee and state committee, including officers, are unpaid volunteers.
Your county Republican Party and President Trump need you.