Critics claim Harrisburg lobbyist handpicking state senator


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — There will be a special election Tuesday in the 48th senatorial district, a seat left vacant by Mike Folmer when he resigned after being charged with possession of child pornography.

Voters will select between Democrat Michael Schroeder and Republican Dave Arnold.

The process by which those candidates were chosen is being questioned and there are claims that, in this case, a lobbyist handpicked the next senator.

In special elections, conferees, not voters, select candidates.

In the 48th Senate district, Lebanon County District Attorney Dave Arnold was chosen by Republicans while pro-business advocate Matt Brouillette finished second.

The system allows county chairmen to choose the conferees who will then choose a candidate. Lebanon County’s GOP chairman is Casey Long, a lobbyist with Harrisburg’s powerful Long Nyquist firm.

Long selected 41 of Lebanon’s 72 total conferees. York had 17 and Dauphin 14. It took 37 votes to win. Arnold received 38 of Lebanon’s 41. Game over.

Brouillette believes Casey Long made sure his conferees would vote for Arnold.

“It’s wrong. It’s not illegal, it’s wrong. I think it’s manipulating. It’s corrupting of the system and I think you can see the clear conflict of interest when you allow somebody who makes money off of lobbying and campaign consulting to be able to pick the next senator from the 48th district,” Brouillette said.

Long admits Arnold is a longtime friend and his favored candidate but added this:

“In no way did I attempt to influence or push those conferees in any direction,” Long said.

Several Lebanon conferees were reached over the phone. One woman said she felt no pressure from Casey Long for who to vote for. In fact, she said she was insulted the process was being questioned. She said this is the way politics works.

Another conferee disagreed, stating he felt the cards were stacked and that “nobody had a fair shot” at it; proof, Brouillette says, that the system should be changed.

Lawrence Tabas, chair of statewide Republicans, disagrees.

“The next time around, those candidates who didn’t like the process should go out and select a slate of committee people who will pick a different chairman and maybe adopt different rules. That is the American way,” Tabas said.

It is a heavily Republican district. We should note that Arnold got almost all the conferee votes from Dauphin County and Brouillette did get all of York County’s.

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