At election for Pa. GOP chair, candidates call a truce

Comfort and Tabas embrace, to applause from the crowd. (Katie Meyer/WITF)

Comfort and Tabas embrace, to applause from the crowd. (Katie Meyer/WITF)

In the days ahead of the state GOP leadership election, the party was braced for an ugly battle.

President Donald Trump had thrown his weight behind an establishment candidate, while the party’s more conservative wing was backing another.

But they managed to end on a convivial note by essentially splitting duties.

The need to have an election in the first place was unexpected.

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Late last month, former party head Val DiGiorgio resigned over an extramarital sexting affair and alleged sexual harassment. In the letter announcing his decision to step down, DiGiorgio apologized for being an “unfortunate distraction.”

Initially, the Trump campaign threw support behind Vice Chair Bernadette Comfort, who was seen as an establishment option to succeed DiGiorgio.

But Lawrence Tabas, a former general counsel to the state party who narrowly lost to DiGiorgio in the last election, also had significant backing.

The two candidates seemed locked in opposition — with Tabas’s supporters suggesting Comfort should have done more to oust DiGiorgio sooner, and Comfort’s backers frustrated Tabas was, as they saw it, complicating the leadership transition.

The day before the vote, however, the party and Trump campaign announced a compromise.

Tabas would be party chair, and Comfort would head Trump’s Pennsylvania operations.

She said in the end, it was an easy decision.

“We have known each other forever, Lawrence and I,” Comfort noted. “And we’re both good people, and we’re good Republicans, and so we put it all aside.”

Tabas also touted party unity.

“The cynics out there and our political opponents, they were hoping to come today to see a real spectacle,” he said. “Well they’re going to see a show alright, they’re going to see a show a show of unity and belief that the Republican Party of Pennsylvania is united, and we are moving forward.”

Tabas said he is already planning for elections — not just the presidential, but the state supreme court and House and Senate contests, where Republicans have lost seats.

“That was an aberration,” he said. “But now that I’m here I’m going to work with the counties–we’ll get all of those seats back.”

In a tweet, President Trump called Comfort and Tabas good friends and proclaimed that there is great, necessary unity in Pennsylvania.

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