Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Schism in Lehigh County's GOP

When Wayne Woodman was first elected party boss to Lehigh County's GOP, he said he'd be concentrating on school board races. That's, after all, where most of the tax increases are concentrated. But instead of doing that, this relative unknown is instead focused on the Commissioners' races, where Chairman Dean Browning, a fellow Republican, is seeking a second term. Woodman wants to knock him off.

Last year, Woodman wanted to embarrass Cunningham by sending the budget back for a do-over, and set up an issue for next year's municipal races. But Browning, who had been warning about this tax increase since before he was in office, had to be snapped in line. For days, he was besieged by phone calls and emails. Threats of retaliation came not just from the tea party crowd, but some mainstream and very well respected bluebloods in the GOP. "Vote with us, or your career is over," was the sentiment.

Browning's career may very well be over. Instead of playing Woodman's political games, Browning voted his conscience. And for that, he is being punished.

Publicly, Woodman is pretending he's Switzerland in this primary. But he's selected the team that best reflects his views, and is about to push Lehigh County as far to the right as he can. He's going after the biggest dog he thinks he can take down, and right now, that's Browning.

His own wife, Lisa Scheller, is running. She's got the financial resources to buy her seat, too. Candidate Scott Ott is a person Woodman calls one of his best friends, and one he paid $40,000 per year as the goofy "Executive Director" of the Republicans. Ott and Woodman have attempted to recruit Dave Najarian and Vic Mazziotti, too.

Ott, who delights in making fun of Muslims and undocumented workers, is unlikely to be content as a mere County Commissioner or Executive for very long. This is a guy who in 2007 announced he was running for President. This guy has his sights set on bigger things.

How long before Woodman and Ott decide that Pat Browne is not conservative enough? Or Charlie Dent?

Party bosses should never be an issue. That was a problem with Joe Long when he tried to rule the Democrats in Northampton County. It is increasingly clear that Wayne Woodman is Joe Long on steroids.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bernie -

I disagree.

Republican voters hold Republican candidates and elected officials responsible for their actions - and their performance. When elected officials stray from voting according to Republican principles, it affects not just the person making the vote but other candidates as well.

Locally, one needs only to look back at Jane Ervin's 70% tax hike to see how a vote against limited government resonates with the public.

I'm sure you'll disagree, but there was still fat left in the Lehigh County budget. A vote by Browning to send the budget back would have put the discussion on a much more equal footing (as per the Home Rule Charter).

Woodman is right to be unhappy with Browning's vote. Browning campaigned as a fiscal conservative but knuckled under to pressure from the Administration when it came time to vote. Not only did Browning's vote allow a 16% tax hike to go into effect, Browning passed on giving taxpayers a lower, 13% increase.

If there was no primary challenge to Browning, the voters would assume that Browning's vote was in line with the County Party's position, which it is not. I'm glad that there will be a primary challenge, that both sides can make their cases, and that the VOTERS will have a choice.

I hope the campaign will focus on county issues, candidate positions, and voting records. It should not be about personal attacks on Browning, Ott, Woodman or any of the others. Let's stick to the issues, and let the voters decide.

Also, I believe that Woodman is asking all candidates to abide by the VOTERS decision in the primary and support the winning candidates. That doesn't seem unreasonable or vindictive to me.

By the way, spare me the talk about buying the election. I believe Browning outspent other Commissioner candidates when he won, so does that mean he bought his current seat? Also, I've received numerous copies of the "Lehigh Valley Conservative" - a glossy, full-color, self-serving mailer that Browning sends out even when he's not up for re-election. Browning doesn't seem to be short of the cash needed to make his case and discuss his voting record.

Anonymous said...

Your first poster ignored the fact that ervin beat andy roman in a primary before getting knocked off by cunningham. The jerking to punish is a new feature of the hard right gop.

I really think browning will finish in the top four of a crowded field. He will be on the ticket in the fall

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 7:42 AM said...

"Your first poster ignored the fact that ervin beat andy roman in a primary before getting knocked off by cunningham."

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Anon 6:22 here:

To the contrary, that's the point of the comment about Ervin in the first post.

A Republican who is obviously out of step with the voters (both Democrat & Republican) will not win the general.

Browning might squeak by in the Republican primary, but a good portion of Republican voters will not blindly vote for him in the general. Browning won't win the general without a large percentage of his own party voting for him in the general.

Couple this with the fact that many Independents and some Democrats will not be happy about the tax increase, and Browning loses in the general.

Also, most Democrats will realize that if they want to vote for someone who votes like a Democrat, they might as well elect a registered Democrat instead of Browning.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:22 so true!
Anon 7:42 Andy Roman didn't run for executive, it was in fact Kevin Ryan who lost to Ervin. Please get your facts straight, it appears to me that you just want to beat up on Roman.

Bernie, this is quite a stretch of a post. Browning didn't warn about the tax increases, and he had several years to do something about what he supposedly saw coming. He doesn't deserve re-election, and it's not because he isn't far enough to the right. It's because he has not done what he has promised and does not abide by the principles he claims to believe in. He says one thing and does another. Even if he manages to get through the primary, and he will spend at least as much as Scheller, he will not get the help he got the first time around.

Chris Casey said...
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Anonymous said...

ah that's right, it was ryan, not roman. interesting that merely mentioning roman prompts somebody to think he is being attacked. the point is that the incumbent with a ton of money to spend in the GOP will get through to the general election. That you guys are willing to toss him under a bus in the fall and allow a democrat or two to slip into office just shows your political skills.

knock browning off in the primary and watch his resources go to democrats for the fall. You have a chance to win 3 or all of the seats and you'll be just as content to "teach Browning a lesson" that you'll jeopardize the election. Smooth.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:28 AM said:

"knock browning off in the primary and watch his resources go to democrats for the fall."

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10:28 -

Please elaborate on what you mean when you say "watch his resources go to democrats for the fall."

I don't understand.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Bernie, this is quite a stretch of a post. Browning didn't warn about the tax increases, and he had several years to do something about what he supposedly saw coming."

Actually he did. He warned about the looming tax hikes when he first ran for office. In his first two years on the Commission, he made numerous proposals for cuts that failed. In his third year, he worked with the administration, and was able to whittle things down as much as possible. You may feel you should have gone deeper, but there are only so many cuts you can make before you start jeopardizing important services.

Anonymous said...

My predictions:

Browning will be the second top vote getter behind Scott Odd (used "d" on purpose).

Despite what Woodman says, Dean still has a lot of support from committeepeople. As stated, he also has the $$$ to get his message out thru mailers/ads. He also does wuite a bit of doorknocking.

Brad Osborne will be third and Lisa Scheller or Mike Welsh will be fourth. Welsh may squeak it out b/c he also has $$$ and will aggressively knock on doors.

I do not see Mazziotti getting in, even if Woodman/Scheller are getting petitions signed to get him on the ballot - I think Vic will decline and take his name off the ballot.

While Najarian is a good person, he just does not have the energy or chutzpah to run successful countywide.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Browning DID try to do something. All summer long (and apparently the lone Republican commissioner to do so), he combed through every section of the budget and found areas to make some cuts. He couldn't get the votes to make those cuts. This was not only because of the D's on the board but the R's weren't all in favor, also.

It's ironic that the one Republican commissioner that seriously strived to do a thoughtful job of cutting the budget is the one that is being targeted - not because he wasn't doing his job - but because he wouldn't pull a politicized stunt orchestrated by Woodman and Ott. That move illustrated to them that he could not be persuaded, cajoled or even threatened by the new party bosses to further their political agenda - hence, he must be destroyed.

Browning, apparently thinks that doing the right thing will keep him in office. I hope he's right. He is EXACTLY the kind of man that should be in elected office - not some political stooge that doesn't think for himself.

And all you tea drinkers out there: the Lehigh Valley has always been a swing vote area in Pennsylvania. Why? Because we vote not by party but by individual.

Ell

Anonymous said...

Ell said

"And all you tea drinkers out there: the Lehigh Valley has always been a swing vote area in Pennsylvania. Why? Because we vote not by party but by individual."

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Ell,

Wake up!

Maybe you should visit Allentown sometime. Allentown D's have perfected the art of lever pulling.

Anonymous said...

Ell:

Your a D, right?

Anonymous said...

I'm a D, who was an R and who never votes straight party line. I'm a middle of the roader and I think most people are.

Anonymous said...

I'm coming for you!
http://rt.com/usa/news/democracy-promotion-usa-regime/

Anonymous said...

Bernie, Browning promised a 5 year plan touting he would keep the county from needing to raise taxes.
We have not seen the plan these past years.

Throwing Browning under the bus? No, he isn't a shoo in for the general. Remember Karen Beyer?

Julian Stolz said...

Pat Browne and Charlie Dent aren't conservative enough.

Glad we finally have a Party Chairman who realizes that moderates tarnish the GOP brand.

...much like Peg Ferraro and Co. in Northampton

Anonymous said...

The Scrappleface stuff is a riot. The farce cited is more of a slam at our goofy president and his goofy ideas.

He's a guy with an actual sense of humor who used three $10 savings bonds, given to him for First Communion by a great aunt, to nearly beat Don Cunningham, and certainly ended Cunningham's dreams of higher office. Given the past two years' political winds, Ott would likely beat Don today - easily.

Anonymous said...

Please tell me one positive thing that Scottie Ott did to warrant the $40,000 he was paid. Yes he almost beat Donnie but remember only about 15% of the demos voted.
Interestingly Dean helped several of the commissioners in winning their seats and now see how they treat him.

Anonymous said...

Please tell me one positive thing that Scottie Ott did to warrant the $40,000 he was paid. Yes he almost beat Donnie but remember only about 15% of the demos voted.
Interestingly Dean helped several of the commissioners in winning their seats and now see how they treat him.

Anonymous said...

Playing games with the Hatch Act will haunt Vic in the primary battle.

Marc Grammes said...

Interesting to read about Jane Ervin, Scott Ott, and Lehigh County elections. I wouldn't read too much into the results for County Executive compared to the at-large LC Commissioner's race. It's a very different type of race. Matt Croslis gave Jane Ervin a run for her money for County Executive, 53-47%, garnering 21,569 votes. Matt placed fifth overall in the commissioners race in 2003, and did not gain a seat to the Board. Also,Jane Ervin, at the absolute low point of her popularity did better than Scott Ott against Cunningham. She received 20,721 votes. Ott received 500 less..20,201. The key to this election, as always , will be turnout, and which local municipality has multiple contested races (school board, borough council, and township supervisor).

Anonymous said...

It is always entertaing to hear from Julian Stolz -- the "Where's Waldo" of local politics.

Anonymous said...

"All summer long (and apparently the lone Republican commissioner to do so), he combed through every section of the budget and found areas to make some cuts. He couldn't get the votes to make those cuts."

Really?

Tell us about those cuts!

Anonymous said...

to Anon 12:09 The bigger question to ask is why was Dean Browning the ONLY republican commissioner to submit an alternative budget. The commissioners who did not submit alternative budgets ran and hid - similar to what's happening in Wisconsin right now. They are a DISGRACE! By the waym Scott Ott and Wayne Woodman should be included in the run and hide group - I have not hearn them ONCE admonish the commissioners who didn't submit alternative budgets. WW and SO are not helping the republican party, in fact in many ways they are dividing the party.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:16 said:

"The bigger question to ask is why was Dean Browning the ONLY republican commissioner to submit an alternative budget..."

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Anon -

Perhaps because it is not the job of commissioners to submit an alternative budget.

Their job is to review the budget, propose cuts as they see fit, pass the budget, or - in the case of a budget that raises taxes - they may return it to the Executive and specify that the budget should contain a certain rate of taxation (i.e. a zero-percent tax increase).

All that is provided for in the Home Rule Charter. That is the law of Lehigh County and the rule book we all have to play by (elected officials and the public).

The County Home Rule Charter is available to everyone on the Lehigh County web site. Section VII deals with budget and finance issues.

I suggest you read it before inventing things to criticize Woodman and Ott for.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernie O'Hare said...

If you want to make that kind of comment, you're going to have to identify yourself. I'll add that your comment is not really germane to the issue.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:16 - you're correct - there is nothing specific which states that a commissioner must submit an alternative budget however, intead of looking at secton VII of the Home RuleCharter - I prefer to look at Section III, especially sections 302 (b) and (c). In order for the commissioners to sucessfully abide by section 302 they should review the budget and offer alternatives if they are not happy with budget. They may then refer to section 704 which states that the "board may add to, delete from, increase or decrease any appropriation item in the proposed budget..." The commisioners - other than Browning and Hansell FAILED to act on section 704. Call it what you may the other commissioners RAN AND HID from their responsibilities. Woodman and Ott encouraged their cowardly behavior. And, in fact, are now trying to cash in on that behavior - along with Woodman's millionaire wife. They are dividing not unifying.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:17 said:

"...intead of looking at secton VII of the Home RuleCharter - I prefer to look at Section III, especially sections 302 (b) and (c). In order for the commissioners to sucessfully abide by section 302 they should review the budget and offer alternatives if they are not happy with budget. They may then refer to section 704 which states that the "board may add to, delete from, increase or decrease any appropriation item in the proposed budget..."..."

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Anon -

So you admit that it's your OPINION that to abide by Section 302 (which merely lists the powers of the legislative branch), commissioners should prepare an alternative budget.

Instead, I'll choose to live in reality - where sending the budget back to the Executive and deciding the rate of tax is specifically authorized in the Home Rule Charter.

You obviously are are a Browning supporter and will try to twist anything to make it fit your point. It is not anyone else's (Woodman, Ott, Santa Claus, etc)fault that Browning voted for the tax hike. It was Browning's vote, and he can gladly try to justify it to the voters.

By the way, we get it that you have an axe to grind with Woodman and Ott. Why not try to stick to the facts without getting personal or dragging other people into the discussion to excuse Browning's vote?

Also, how much money Woodman's wife might have is irrelevant. She has just as much of a right to make her case before the voters as anyone else. The class-warfare garbage is a cheap shot used when you don't have anything else.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:04, or should I call you Wayne or Scott...

You wrote, "Section 302 (which merely lists the powers of the legislative branch)" Since when are the powers of any legislative branch something which is "mere"?
Apparently only when it suits your argument.

Your "reality" is to support the inactions of some of the commissioners and the misdirected actions of Woodman and Ott. As the so-called leaders of the Lehigh County Republicans Woodman and Ott should have been working with the commissioners to devise an alternative plan perhaps through an alternative budget - what a concept!

But, they chose to do nothing - which we all know would have resulted in an increase in taxes anyway as per section 704 (b).

Placing the blame on Browning is taking the easy way out. Blame should be placed on those that did NOTHING. Leaders sometimes have to make difficult choices. In this case Browning, a CFO - a Chief FINANCIAL Officer reviewed the budget, came up with an alternative, and voted from a fiscally responsible standpoint. What a concept! The others did't come up with an alternate plan, presented nothing to the county executive, and then complained about it afterward. Completely irresponsible. If you can tell me, and give me examples, that the other commisioners came up with a responsible alternative (this does not include just throwing the budget back to the county exec) which would have kept the county fiscally sound, while keeping its residents safe I'm all ears.

These are the FACTS - don't let them get in the way of the truth.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:54 -

You keep claiming that they did nothing, but they did exactly what the charter allows them to do - send the budget back and set the rate of tax increase (i.e 0%). So now you're calling following the charter "irresponsible"?

We get that you have a vendetta against Woodman and Ott, but you are blinded by that. Dean's vote is Dean's vote. Let him defend it without trying to blame others.

I'm glad republican voters will have a choice of something other than "Arlen" Browning.

Catharine said...

The 2003 amendment to the charter which allows the commissioners to send the budget back was a travesty created by Commissioner Joe Pascuzzo. No other government has this provision and it is an abdication of the legislative body's responsibility regarding the budget.

Any individual educated about the separation of powers in government knows this provision is absurd. To exercise the option and send the budget back is to throw away your power to control policy.

Idiocy. Why on earth would we want to elect folks who think this is a good idea?

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:54 you play the game well. But not well enough. You know, as well as any fiscally responsible person the Lehigh County know, a tax increase was needed for the the County to function even somewhat properly. A zero percent tax increase would have created havoc within the County. This is not new news - most reasonable people knew this for at least two years. Whether I'm for or against Dean Browning is not the question - the lack of responsibility by the commissioners is and still remains in question. Their acts were cowardly.

As for you, Scott or Wayne, or whichever commissioner you may be I'd still like to hear your alternative plan. But, I'm sure it's still "let someone else take care of it". You should be proud that you haven't been able to formulate a plan, even in the months following the vote. What a disgrace!

By the way, I don't have a vendetta - I just don't like my party run by puppets and puppetmasters. I've seen that happen with the dems ala Pelosi and Reid - how did that work out for them????

Anonymous said...

Catherine -

The "travesty" you cite was not one man's doing. It was an amendment to the County Charter that was passed by the VOTERS of Lehigh County by a landslide (74% to 26%).

If you don't like it, take the steps to place it on the ballot and make your case to the voters to have it repealed. Until then it is the law of the land.

The only "travesty" is that there are politicians - and their hack supporters - who think they know better than the voters and that they can selectively choose which parts of the charter are valid.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:38 -

Reciting the facts to those who are blinded by their own agenda is not a "game" to me. In fact it's a rather tedious chore.

If it's your opinion that there is nothing left to cut in the county budget and we need a tax increase, that's fine. You can vote for Browning or the Democrats.

But if you believe that county government needs to be smaller or that it could be better run, then an alternative is needed. That's all that is happening here - Republican voters will have an alternative in the May primary.

Unlike you, I have no problem with letting the Republican voters decide in the primary who they want to represent them. That seems the fairest course of action.

As to Scott Ott, he is no longer Executive Director of the party. You will be free to vote (or not vote) for him in the primary.

As to Woodman, like it or not he was fairly elected (with Browning's support) as party chairman and he has a little over a year left on his term. If you have a problem with him, I suggest you speak to your local committeeperson who can pass that along. If you are a committeeperson, perhaps you should take the steps that you feel are necessary - and allowed by the bylaws - to remove him.

As with my comments to Catherine above, I think the people of Lehigh County are smart enough to make their own decisions. They may occasionally "get one wrong" (in my eyes), but can always correct it in the next election. That's the beauty of our system.

If an elected official (Browning or anyone else) has been true to their word and lived up to their promises, they have nothing to fear from a little competition.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I don't think we ever got an answer on this comment from an anonymous poster (10:28 am, Day 1):

"knock browning off in the primary and watch his resources go to democrats for the fall."

What exactly does that mean? Does it mean that Browning will not pledge to support the Republican primary winners, no matter who they might be? Does that mean that Browning will in fact contribute to Democrats if he loses in the primary?

If so, that's very telling.

I hope to hear - soon - that Dean and the other candidates running have pledged to support the Republican primary winners. If not, they're running in the wrong primary.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:17

You recite the rhetoric, but again you fail to offer any alternatives that are fiscally responsible, or any alternative at all. I believe in smaller and better run governements also as long as the basic infrastructures and protection of residents is maintained.

As a committee person of the LCRC I was also one of the supporters of Wayne Woodman - however, WW's premise that he ran on have changed since the day he was elected. His premise was to support the candidates with the best chance of winning (moderate R, or Strong Conservative). His opponent, Grant Carter, a hard line tea partier lost by a nearly 3-1 vote. Now WW has taken on the Tea Party approach. Mainly due to the musings of Scott Ott and Joe Hilliard. As for the ouster of WW, using the LCRC by-laws, I would hope it doesn't come to that. But, it very well may. Perhaps WW could make it easy for everyone and take Mat Benol's spot as the leader of the LVTP.

You seem to abhor moderate Rs - I'm assuming this includes Charlie Dent. All Charlie has done is to win in a highly dem area while still supporting the ideas of the Republican party.

Again, I mention that we saw what happened in this last election when a party decides to go so far one sided that they are unwilling to listen to the other party. It didn't make for a healthy environement - in fact, very little was accoplished. If that what you want - then go right ahead, knock yourself out.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:23 -

I (or Woodman, Ott, Browning, the other commissioners, Santa Claus, etc.) DO NOT HAVE TO PRODUCE AN ALTERNATIVE BUDGET. If one chooses to do so, then that's their CHOICE. THE ONLY ONE REQUIRED TO PRODUCE A BUDGET IS THE COUNTY EXECUTIVE.

The primaries are the place where the VOTERS should have a choice as to who they want to represent them. That's all that's happening here.

Browning can make his case - and defend his voting record. Other candidates can make their cases as to whether they can do better. Then the VOTERS can decide.

I do not abhor moderate Republicans, although I do not believe that they are what government - at any level - really needs at this time in our history. We are broke, and government - at all levels - has made promises beyond our capacity to pay.

I think the last election showed that people are beginning to realize that. I am certainly willing to listen to the other side, and that's why I look forward TO HAVING A CHOICE IN THE PRIMARY.

Both sides can make their cases to the voters and the voters can decide. I don't fear that the way you and some of Browning's other supporters seem to.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:23 said:

"You seem to abhor moderate Rs - I'm assuming this includes Charlie Dent. All Charlie has done is to win in a highly dem area while still supporting the ideas of the Republican party."

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I wanted to expand on this charge a little bit further.

Yes, Charlie has won and he is a moderate Republican. But I don't think that only a moderate Republican can win.

People said that Pat Toomey couldn't win statewide because he was too conservative. Now he is known as Senator Toomey.

I don't think Charlie was hurt by having a challenge in last year's primary. In fact, it may have helped him.

I certainly liked having a choice in the primary and having both candidates make their cases. And guess what, I ended up voting for Charlie in both the primary and the general.

I hope that there is another challenge in 2012, and that voters get to have a choice again. Nobody owns any seat at any level of government. A real and open primary keeps our politicians in touch with their base, and makes our candidate (whoever it is) better.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:10

You still CAN"T and WON'T produce an alternative plan. I'm sorry that feel it's someone else's responsibility. You argue that it's only the resposibiity of the county exec. Wow! I'm surprised that you actually wrote that. If that's the case, then you're right the county commissioners have no say in the budget, have no need to expound on their thoughts on the budget, and have no right to argue what should or shouldn't be in the budget. Really? Do you really fell that way?

I don't think the tea party belives that. Hopefully you don't speak for the tea party. Although, I have a feeling that you are entrenched in the tea party in some way, shape or form. As I menitoned previously, hard liners, like yourself scare me - I've seen how hard liners act, and react. I've seen them cause destruction within and outside of their parties. I've seen them destroy the foundations of our country. I've also seen the Republican party integrated with Tea Party members, and form a union of all types of republicans and hold steadfast on votes which will put our country back on the right track. We'll see what happens in the primaries - I have a feeling the outcome will be a mix of Woodman supported candidates and Browning candidates. Hopepfully will be able to come to terms and allow the county to be run in a fiscally responsible way.

Anonymous said...

Anon -

I'm only advocating following the procedure outlined in the charter. If you don't like it, change the charter.

Since we'll never agree, let's watch the candidates make their cases as to which approach was valid and the voters can decide.

I'm fine with that.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:22 said:

"We'll see what happens in the primaries - I have a feeling the outcome will be a mix of Woodman supported candidates and Browning candidates. Hopepfully will be able to come to terms and allow the county to be run in a fiscally responsible way."

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One last question - if you truly believe that Browning's vote was fiscally responsible, then you already think the county is being "run in a fiscally responsible way".

Why then, should people vote for ANY Republican in the general election? Browning's position (and vote) was no different than the other 4 Democrats.