LEBANON, Pa. (WHTM) – A civil war among Lebanon County Republicans has some candidates questioning whether they’ll get a fair shot at former senator Mike Folmer’s seat.
Folmer resigned last month amid child pornography charges.
In a special election like this, conferees are chosen from each county the seat represents, according to each county’s bylaws.
In this case, Lebanon holds the majority with 41 votes, and only 37 votes are needed to select a candidate, meaning what Lebanon does is important. But it’s the way they did it that has one candidate fuming.
If politics are war, candidate Matt Brouillette wants a fair fight.
“The county chairman in Lebanon has decided to put not just one but both thumbs on the scale,” Brouillette said.
That Republican chairman is Casey Long. This year, the executive committee voted to give him total control in selecting conferees, a bad move, according to Brouillette, because Long works for his family business, Long Nyquist, a campaign consulting and lobbyist firm.
“Elected officials who wanted to be nominees in Lebanon were passed over simply because they were not going to automatically pick the chairman’s preferred candidate,” Brouillette said.
The preferred candidate is a familiar face in Lebanon, District Attorney Dave Arnold. He said he doesn’t take kindly to the comments.
“Frankly, I find it a little bit offensive for one or two of the candidates to make that allegation when it simply isn’t true,” Arnold said.
Brouillette believes it is true. He said Long helped Arnold win elections in the past, so he’ll owe them favors if he takes office.
“When they can pick the next state senator and then go lobby that person, there’s a major financial interest, and I would say a conflict of interest,” Brouillette said.
“If people believed that they were legitimate candidates in the first place, they wouldn’t have to throw out absurd comments like that. They’d be able to run on their own records,” Arnold said.
Brouilette believe Long only picked people who would vote for Arnold, but Arnold said if he’s the preferred candidate, it’s only because of his 20 years of public service.
“A lot of people who are conferees and who aren’t conferees know who I am, know the work that I’ve done, know my track record,” Arnold said.
Long told us by phone his own track record is clean.
“We followed the process as it’s laid out in Pennsylvania law, and I think we’ve been as open, fair and transparent as possible,” Long said.
Republicans pick their candidate for the 48th District this Saturday, while Democrats will select theirs on Sunday. The seat is traditionally Republican, so it’s likely that whoever they select will become the winner.