|Mike Lordi, Tom Carroll (judicial candidate), Bob Kerr and Tony Simao are all LV Tea Party alums|
Chairman Bob Kerr made a special point of telling me that I was welcome, even though I belong to the other team. Since the meeting was held in the courthouse, the people's building, he had no legal basis for excluding me. He later acknowledged that he had called Court Administrator Jim Onembo to look for ways to keep bottom feeding bloggers out. Unable to do that, he did the next best thing. He had signs planted all over the room, prohibiting any photography or recording of any kind. I was also ordered to sit in the jury box instead of with the 80 or so Republicans in the house.
That's OK. I got the comfy seats.
While party regulars made their way to the cold hard pews in the historic courtroom, Lehigh Valley Tea Party faces populated the judges' bench and counsel tables. Tony Simao, Mike Lordi, Joy Hemming and Bryan Eichfeld - all of them alums of the original LV Tea Party - were conducting what was supposed to an election of Vice Chair. Other alums, like Ronnie DelBacco and Arlene Klosic were mixed in among the rest.
The meeting started out peacefully enough. It's hard to argue over a roll call. Three candidates were in contention for Vice Chair. Craig DeFranco, a Republican Regular who has served as Plainfield's police chief and is the CFO of a major corporation, was being promoted by mainstream GOP members like Lee Snover and John Van Arman. The other two candidates, Freedom High School Senior Luke Yerger and political ninja Mike Morey, were being touted by tea party alums Ronnie del Bacco* and Mike Lordi. They all gave nice speeches and all have their strengths. But after this was done, and while party members were casting their ballots, party boss Bob Kerr insisted on delivering a rambling homily during which he defended his support for judicial candidate Tom Carroll as a friend, but vowed to support Jennifer Sletvold when she wins the primary in May.
That's when the fireworks began.
Ron Angle, the Northampton County Bulldog, stood up and said that since Kerr had just delivered a sermon, the foor should be opened up for public comment.
"Absolutely not!" insisted Kerr.
People began complaining loudly, and Tony Simao chimed in from the judges' bench, "We will have order on the floor."
Angle was told to sit down.
"This is my meeting. I'm the Chairman," Kerr asserted. "You can sit down. This is an election." Kerr had delivered a speech in the middle of the election, but no one else would be afforded that privilege.
Then Peg Farraro, a current County Council member who is up for election and is very unhappy with the direction in which the party is headed, asked Kerr to let her speak. She reminded him that she had devoted forty years of her life to the Republican party and is a past Chair.
"A past Chairman is just that - past," answered Kerr, as the crowd gasped.
At this point, both Angle and Ferraro were boiling over and Angle made a motion to open up the floor for debate, which was seconded by Ferraro. Kerr ruled them out of order.
When the votes were tallied, Republican Regulars had won. Craig DeFranco pulled down 64 votes to the 24 cast for Moyer and the 10 that went to a Freedom High School senior. In addition, all of the Committee people that Kerr had fired, like Teg Hughes, were unanimously reinstated.
Then Angle again tried to speak and was shut down again. Mike Lordi, who should just shorten his name to Lord, ruled that Angle was out of order. A motion to adjourn was made and the meeting disintegrated without a vote.
After it was over, Angle told Lordi that the vote for DeFranco was actually a vote of "No confidence" in Kerr's leadership, and he should just step down.
Kerr defended his conduct to me, stating that the letter complaining about him is the work of a "belligerent few."
"Are you calling Peg Ferraro belligerent?" I asked. I have heard her called many names, but "belligerent" is not one of them.
Kerr had no answer, although he stated that nobody had bothered to talk to him in advance about their concerns.
Regarding the fifteen judgments filed by Lafayette Hills against him since 2000, Kerr stated they were all paid and that I was attempting to ruin his family. I explained that his inability to manage his own finances is an indication that he'll do poorly with Republican fundraising. He countered that he has turned a $4,570 deficit into a $4,804 surplus. But Angle, who knows a little bit about finances, later asked me, "Do you picture a party with $4,800 as being a viable party?"
The party meeting ended with absolutely no discussion about getting out the vote for an upcoming primary, fundraising efforts or what they will do about the Tricia Mezzacappa problem. She's a Republican racist who filled out a fraudulent LTCF application and who was recently convicted over death threats directed at an elected official. Other candidates are worried, and rightfully so, that she will drag down the entire ticket with her.
Kerr evaded answers to my questions about what he is going to do about her, which is apparently nothing. Republican Regulars tell me that tea party extremists have actually encouraged her, not because they think she will win, but because she supports them in their attempts to seize power.
Although tea party extremists failed to get their Vice Chair last night, Kerr is still in control and seems more intent on securing his own power base than in getting Republicans elected.
"I'm a draw," Kerr told me, handing me a sheet off paper listing all of his accomplishments.
We'll see what he's accomplished in November.
* Updated 8:20 AM: Ronnie delBacco, Team Kerr, has just copied me on a missive to the new Vice Chair. "My first request of you as Vice Chairman is that you forcefully address, with all the provisions afforded to you through our by-laws, the committeemen who so disrespectfully continue to drive a wedge in the gears of unity within our committee and who continue to berate our hard working and committed Chairman, Mr. Robert Kerr. Names need not be mentioned as they were on full display for everyone to see last night...again. Many in our committee were hoping that whoever won this election would be able to reunite our fractured committee. You are now that man." Ironically, it is Ronnie delBacco, who just a month ago stated, "[Kerr] has been a disappointment in that he seems to be all about control and not about serving. I think he is in this mess for himself more and more."
DelBacco appears to be, after all, a phony.