Philly GOP Elects a New Chairman—Maybe
A somewhat rebellious faction of the Philadelphia Republican Party met at a church in Northern Liberties last night to elect a new Chairman. And they did. Now, the only question is whether or not that election was legitimate.
An election was needed, it was claimed, after apparent former Chair Vito Canuso’s last election was contested before the Credentials Committee of the Pennsylvania Republican State Committee. The state declared the seat vacant, but the local party maintains Canuso is still chair, and that last night’s meeting was inconsequential.
According to a roll call done at the start of the meeting, 20 ward leaders were on hand. This just met the 18-vote requirement for an election, according to the party’s bylaws.
And those 20 ward leaders unanimously nominated, then elected Rick Hellberg Chairman. Hellberg was formerly in the news when he challenged Democratic U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah in 2010.
“The best thing for any government is to have two viable parties so that one can keep the other’s feet to the fire,” said Hellberg in front of about 50 people in the small, muggy church space.
He also promised to play by the rules—something it was claimed the current GOP leadership does not do.
“I promise that if the bylaws ever need to be changed, they will not be changed by a person cutting and pasting in the dead of night,” he said. “They will be changed in an open discussion, open forum, just as we’re doing here. And will be changed by majority rule with each ward leader.”
GOP “Loyal Opposition” leader Kevin Kelly spoke up about the impact of holding an election as they did last night. He claimed the current leadership “have no interest” in getting along with those in the room and that “there are certain people who do not want to win elections, who do not want to build the Republican Party.”
He added: “This city can’t suffer because certain people can’t tear the leather in the real world.”
This was all overseen by election attorney Larry Otter, who told PW afterwards that everything done there—even though already deemed insignificant by GOP leadership—was legit. Though he fully expected Vito Canuso and Michael Meehan to take the decision to court.
But if everything was legitimate and by the book, what leg would current, or former, leadership have to stand on?
“I’m sure Michael Meehan will think of something,” he said.