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A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oh, Chester County ACTION!

Yesterday, I visited the Chester County ACTION website. I hadn't been to it in a while, and I noticed some pretty significant changes. Gone is all of the we're fighting to bring God back into government rhetoric. But there's a new quotes section.

Here's who's quoted:

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, William Penn, John Jay, Edmund Burke, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Dr. D. James Kennedy, and Ronald Regan.


I suppose Rush Limbaugh is kind of like a modern day founding father?

I wonder how many members of Chester County Action have read Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France. It's a much more difficult read, of course, than Beck's Arguing with Idiots.

But here's what really gets me: guess which Sean Hannity quote Chester County ACTION included on its quotes page?

"It doesn't say anywhere in the Constitution this idea of the separation of church and state.”

Whew! That's a relief. And all this time, liberals and those insidious RINOs have been telling us that we need to have separation of church and state!

Hannity is correct, if you want to consider the Constitution and the Bill of Rights two separate documents. But, you know, they're not, and Hannity is an idiot.

Let's remember what ACTION stands for: "Americans for Christian Traditions in Our Nation."

Why this rant? Why now?

A) I, for countless reasons, value the First Amendment. Without it, I'd likely be in a different line of work.

B) Gwenne Alexander, the president of Chester County ACTION, plans to run for the 156th District State House seat.

You can read a draft of her letter of interest (which is now circulating on the internet - this draft might not be the final one) here.

Note this sentence: "I have served as the CFO for a large non-profit Foundation in Chester County."

Oh? Which one is that?

All mention of Alexander has disappeared from ACTION's homepage. (OK, not entirely true. All of the pictures in the photo gallery were posted by "Gwenne." Click on the "Gwenne" link and you get a stub of Gwenne Alexander's Facebook Page.) ....

CORRECTION - On the contact page, she is listed as the president of Chester County Action. When writing this post yesterday, I didn't see the tiny red text in which her name is listed.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The battle for the soul of the Chester County Republican Party

It's no secret that the county GOP is in the midst of an ideological battle. On one side are the social conservatives, who believe that the government should promote a conservative Christian agenda, restrict gay rights, and ban abortion. On the other side are the social moderates, who have little interest in restricting gay rights and banning abortion. (Where the "traditional" Republican values of fiscal conservatism and self-determination fit into all this I'm not sure. Perhaps both sides profess them?)

This battle rarely breaks out into the open, due to the GOP's instinctual desire to present a unified front. But a few weeks ago, it did.

The Republican committee people from the West Chester Area School District held a meeting at which they interviewed six school board candidates and endorsed four of them (there are four seats up this year, and the only incumbent running for reelection is a Democrat). Those four candidates, however, weren't the ones that certain socially moderate Republicans on the school board wanted to see endorsed.

School Board President Jim Smith, a Republican, said he wanted to see the Republicans endorse Sue Tiernan, who has been a teacher, principal and administrator in the district, and Gary Bevilacqua, a long-time parent volunteer at district schools. Smith was upset that over these candidates the Republicans endorsed Sean Carpenter, and IT professional who recently founded the Pennsylvania Conservative Council. Carpenter is also a photographer for Warrior's Watch and A Hero's Welcome, groups that arrange homecoming parties for U.S. Military personnel and give them motorcycle escorts to and from the airport when they leave for and return from duty. While what these groups do is honorable, their right-wing ideology is undeniable. (Their members often spend Saturday mornings on the courthouse lawn, marching under the banner of the Chester County Victory Movement).

In a newsletter article Carpenter wrote last week, he said that the GOP's decision to endorse him and the other three for school board represented a victory for the conservative wing of the Republican Party and a defeat for its liberal wing.

"This is exactly how we want to take back the Republican Party — using superior preparation and ideas to win these battles," Carpenter wrote. "This is how we get office holders we can support with pride, rather than ones that are an embarrassment to us all."

When School Board President Smith saw the newsletter article, it raised his ire. As I reported on Sunday, Smith said that by choosing Carpenter over Tiernan or Bevilacqua, the local Republican Party proved it cares more about promoting right-wing ideology than about the quality of education in West Chester schools.

"A small group of radicals has taken control of a party I dearly love," said Smith. "West Chester's schools provide excellent education, and we have the lowest tax rate in the county. These qualities need to be maintained. Obviously that's not recognized by the core of committeepeople who seem to be controlling the selection process."

Why was Smith so mad? No where in Carpenter's newsletter article did he say what he believed the values of the party's conservative wing to be. But he did say that all four School Board candidates (the others are Heidi Adsett, Maria Armadi-Pimley, and John Wingerter) had been "recruited and coached by Gwenne and her group, and it is only with her group's guidance that we succeeded."

Carpenter was referring to Gwenne Alexander, of Chester County Action, a local PAC. Anyone who's familiar with county politics knows that if you're associated with Chester County Action, there's a 99.9 percent chance you're a right-wing Christian conservative.

I called Alexander last week, and she said that while Chester County Action is particularly interested in the West Chester Area School Board race, it has not actually given its recommendation to the four endorsed Republican candidates. She also said that Carpenter wasn't entirely accurate in saying she was responsible for fielding him and the other three who got the endorsement.

None of the endorsed candidates, except Carpenter, said that Alexander had given them any special coaching. Carpenter later said he probably shouldn't have written that Alexander had coached the candidates.

Board President Smith, however, said he was sure that Chester County Action was responsible for the endorsements.

"I am disappointed with the party as a whole, and with Gwenne Alexander," he said. "It's a disgrace that the party doesn't really care about the candidates it puts forward."

(I didn't make it clear enough in my Sunday article that while Smith is worried about the message the GOP seems to be embracing, he said he hasn't met all of the endorsed candidates and doesn't want to categorically say that they're not qualified to sit on the school board. He said he has never met Adsett or Armadi-Pimley, and therefore has not had an opportunity to form an opinion of them. And, he said, he believes Wingerter, who spent his life in public education and served as superintendant of the Marple-Newtown School District, would probably make an excellent board member.)

Chester County Action's website provides a nice synopsis of the battle going on within the county GOP.

From the About Us" section: "We know that the endorsement of the local Republican Party is extremely powerful in Chester County. Consequently, it is important to have an organization that will recruit and train conservative, pro-life people to get involved in the political process ... Our goal is to educate voters and to encourage conservatives to get involved in the political process. We are confident that when voters understand the whole story, we can prevail. Our challenge is formidable however. For over four years, a different organization has been working against the values we hold so dear. As a result, this group has targeted conservative, pro-life committee people for their seats on the local Republican Committee. Unfortunately, several conservative committee people lost their positions." (Note: for clarity, I've changed the order of the sections of this quote. On the website, the part before the ellipses appears after the part after the ellipses.)

I wrote an article last April about how moderateshad just taken several committee seats from social conservatives. My article provides a concrete example of what Chester County Action is talking about.

In the article, which appeared on April 26, 2008, I reported that two groups were battling for the Republican Committee's Malvern-area seats. I had a lot of trouble deciding what to call these two groups. One group clearly identified themselves as "fiscally conservative social moderates." The other group said they sought only to promote "party unity," which they defined as the inclusion of both social conservatives and moderates in the Republican tent.

Compare what's described in the following paragraphs to the battle Chester County Action describes in the above quote:

[Socially moderate committee candidate Bill Noll] said he was for a party that was dedicated to "fiscal conservatism, good government, open access and public involvement." He said he thought the party should refuse to "pursue an agenda of co-opting the local government for social policies."

Those social policies, Noll said, were "issues regulating reproductive rights, issues regulating gay marriage restrictions, things like that."

[Party unity committee candidate Kelly] Geiger, who identified herself as a pro-life Catholic, said she, [party unity candidate] Bensley, and the other members of their slate are dedicated to unifying the local Republican Party and allowing both pro-choice moderates and pro-life conservatives to hold seats on the committee.

Geiger called [former Republican committeeman and social moderate Henry] Briggs, Noll and their political associates "divisive," and she said they refused to support candidates who don't "view social issues the same way they do.

"Henry (Briggs), for example, never worked for Rick Santorum, and he takes shots at George Bush in his newspaper column whenever he can," Geiger said. "That's not the role of a committeeman. The role of a committeeman is to get Republicans, regardless of their ideological differences, elected to office."

In this particular Republican Committee battle, the party unity people lost three seats to the moderates. During a high point in the battle, the police had ask two of the party unity candidates not to return to the property of a social moderate candidate. There was also some lawn sign nonsense. Capture the flag for adults.

Whew. This is a very long way of saying, "Pay close attention to this year's West Chester School Board race."

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