Apparently there was some memo that went out after the May primary that I didn’t get. Something about “party unity….?” About how we Republicans all need to “stick together to win back a majority at the Courthouse….?” That it’s time to shut up about the primary and move on to unity and victory in November…?
Anybody get that memo? Because I surely didn’t. But then, I’m barely a Republican anymore anyway so maybe I was left off the distribution list.
I’m not sure who’s kidding who here. Nobody in Montgomery County is trying to win back a majority for the Republicans at the County Courthouse.
These days, Republicans are just running for third place.
So any party cheerleaders out there who think it’s their duty to educate me on the merits of toeing the Party line, or deliver a lecture on how we need to stop fighting amongst ourselves and focus on beating the Democrats, I’ll make you a deal: The first Republican County Commissioner Candidate that runs a serious campaign against the Democrat Commissioner Candidates—and goodness knows there’s plenty of material—-has my vote.
Because, as far as I’m concerned, my primary vote was nullified by members of my own party. I believe that the fake green ballots that were everywhere during primary day fooled enough voters into mistakenly thinking that there was an endorsement, and that resulted in my vote being cancelled out several times over.
Call me old fashioned, but the way in which a candidate wins an election is still as important to me as the winning itself.
Why the Green Ballot matters
Gentle Readers, we’ve covered the death of the Green Ballot before, but for those of you just joining us in this little sandbox we call Montgomery County politics, let’s, as always, start with a little background.
The Green Ballot is the Montgomery County Republican Committee’s signature election day handout. It’s so signature, in fact, that not only is the design trademarked, but the green colored paper is as well. If you want to use a green colored handout on election day, you are supposed to get written permission from MCRC. At least that’s what the disclaimer on the “official” green ballot says:
Granted, while it may seem silly to trademark a color, there is a very good reason for this; or at least there used to be. The green ballot has historically signaled to loyal Republican voters which candidates have earned the official endorsement of the Committee. An official endorsement of the Committee used to indicate to voters that the selected candidate(s) had been thoroughly vetted and weighed against other candidates, and the elected candidate had earned the endorsement via a Democratic process of votes within the committee. Think of it like a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for politicians.
And while it may seem even more silly in this day and age that anyone would care what a bunch of committee folks think about who is most qualified to be the Recorder of Deeds or Register of Wills, for some folks still, the green ballot is the extent of the research that they do before they cast a vote.
Perhaps this letter from former Lower Merion Commissioner, longtime Republican Committeeman, and intellectual property rights attorney, Lew Gould, will put some perspective on it:
The green ballot must still be at least marginally effective, because despite it’s abuse over the years, it’s still a big deal in the Republican Committee.
In fact, the green ballot is such a big deal that a bloody internecine war was fought over Joe Gale’s appearance or omission on it in 2015 after he won the primary. It’s such a big deal that candidates actually pay for it’s printing when they receive the endorsement.
It was also a big deal last year when there was much rending of garments and knashing of teeth in response to an independent slate of candidates for State Committee who ran an election day piece on green paper (full disclosure: Your Humble Blogress was a member of that slate of candidates). Though this was covered in depth at the time, (HERE and HERE) lets take a quick saunter down memory lane, shall we?
This rather urgent communique was sent out to voters in May 2018 with the subject line “VOTER FRAUD ALERT!” by MCRC Chairman Liz Havey in her then-capacity as RCLMN Chairman. The purpose: to warn voters of fake green ballots.
Interestingly, this communique also includes a list of “endorsed” candidates for state committee. However, missing from this “official” list is a candidate who actually earned the endorsement, Gil Cox. In his place appears Chuck Wilson, who was endorsed by nobody. This policy is called “Leadership’s Prerogative to Ignore the Votes of Elected Committee Members when it Suits Us” and it is still in place today, as we will see.
In a year when MCRC did something extraordinary by NOT endorsing candidates for County Commissioner, it’s the opinion of your Humble Blogress that MCRC maintaining the integrity of the green ballot was more important than ever.
The Non-Endorsement Endorsement
But before the fake green ballots inundated voters at various polling places on Election day, there were indications that that MCRC’s celebrated non-endorsement was also fake.
The first hint of this happened the Friday before the Election when the MCRC Vice Chairman Nancy Becker endorsed Fred Conner on facebook.
The Vice Chairman was also spotted at Towamencin Community Day handing out the first of what would be many fake green ballots:
At some point over that same weekend, Horsham Republicans, headed up by MCRC’s Treasurer, Anthony Spangler, sent out the following mailer, endorsing Conner and Eisenberger:
Ridiculous excuses about the Hatch Act in defense of these actions notwithstanding, let’s just take a moment to absorb the fact that the two officers of MCRC have gone out on their own–without a vote of the entire committee–and put out endorsements. Perhaps Republican committeepeople should answer this for themselves: Is the endorsement of a candidate or candidates by MCRC leadership tantamount to an MCRC endorsement?
If not, is it meant to be?
Being a committeeperson is largely a pretty thankless job. Members are tasked with standing a poll for hours on election day, in all kinds of weather, handing out literature that voters increasingly don’t want. One of the only benefits of being a committeeperson is vetting and endorsing candidates.
Now they don’t even get to do that without leadership stepping all over it at the very last minute.
These leadership endorsements were followed up on Saturday by Facebook endorsements of Fred Conner and Dean Eisenberger by MCRC insiders:
On the Sunday before the Election, not only did MCRC
operative volunteer Craig Bird use the MCRC sponsored table at the Oaks Gun Show to “endorse” Fred Conner (and ONLY Fred Conner)….
…Bird also endorsed Fred Conner (and ONLY Fred Conner) on Facebook, tagging several well-followed Republican Committee members without their permission, so that the endorsement not only showed in their news feeds, but it looked to their followers as if they were complicit in Bird’s endorsement:
With Election day only days away and the things beginning to look grim for Candidates who were not MCRC annointed, (and those who had previously thought that they were) time was running out to effectively counter what turned out to be, for all intents and purposes, a well-planned and coordinated effort on behalf of one candidate.
Adding fuel to this effort, a few weeks before the election, MCRC alerted the municipal committees that this year, not only would the County organization significantly limit the number of their “official” green ballots that would be distributed to each polling place, but for the first time ever, the local committees were told that if they wanted more than the meager allottment MCRC was providing, they would have to fund the printing of the extra ballots themselves.
Asking local committees to fund green ballot printing is insulting. The local committees are fighting tooth and nail to hang on to Republican school board and municipal seats with barely any money to fund these races.
Fred Conner to the rescue!
To solve this green ballot shortage problem, Candidate Fred Conner stepped in and, at his own expense, generously printed up and distributed green ballots for cash-strapped local committees to handout on Election Day.
Just one catch: if local committees wanted Fred’s ballots, Fred had to be one of the “recommended” candidates on those ballots.
The fake green ballots were everywhere on election day.
The Gale campaign produced a side by side comparison of the “official” green ballot and the “fake” green ballot post-election:
I think we can all agree that the similarities are intentional.
Here’s a sampling of the fake green ballots that were distributed around the County on Election Day.
While these materials may be technically legal, just as Becker’s and Spangler’s last minute endorsement wasn’t technically made in their capacity as officers of MCRC, when viewed against the backdrop of MCRC’s indifference to the use of these fake green ballots, it’s hard not to see a deliberate and coordinated campaign designed to deceive voters into thinking that Fred Conner was the officially endorsed candidate.
Fred Conner for the Defense
You don’t have to take my word on this; in true MCRC fashion, Fred has been released into the public with only a set of pre-approved talking points to defend his use of the fake green ballots.
Fred was asked directly about this on the May 31 Dean Malik show on WWDB (relevant comments begin at 40:22) and on June 5 on WNPV’s “Comment Please by Univest; you can listen to Conner’s explanation yourself at the links provided.
Let’s review the 5/31 WWDB interview and take a closer look at his explanation on the other side.
Caller Pauline (yes, THAT Pauline) asks Fred if he was behind the fraudulent green ballots, and if he wasn’t, who was, since his committee paid for them. Conner responded:
“Sure Pauline, heh, hi, how are you? I was absolutely behind it. Those ballots, those sample recommended ballots said ‘Citizens for Conner.’ Uhh, I said I was going to do that in letters to committee people. Many, uhhh, committee, many Republican Committee people throughout the County asked for those ballots. Uhhh, some municipal leaders asked for them as well, so of course I, uh, I advocated for myself. And where I had supporters and they asked for that, that kind of information, I gave it to them. There was no county endorsement, there was local endorsements or local recommendations uh, in the uhhh…..municipalities where they have Republican committees, committee people elected by their neighbors to represent the Republican party. Some of those municipalities, a couple across the county, asked, uhhh, asked for me to uh, produce some uh election day material which I absolutely did and advocated.”
Pauline asks for clarification: “So people just ask you to cheat, and you just willingly cheat? You are saying that people wanted you to do something that was essentially fraudulent, so you just gave in and did it to help yourself. How can that be right in any sense of the word?”
Oh my! This conversation is certainly heading the the wrong direction. Who is screening these calls, anyway?
One of the hosts quickly steps in and asks Pauline for a definition of what she means by fraudulent; campaigns put out all sorts of materials. A bit of back and forth ensues over what is legal campaign material.
Though nobody says it outright, the gist of this exchange is that there is a distinct difference between what is technically “legal” and what is “ethical,” with the host’s conclusion that it is more important to be technically legal.
But Pauline is having none of it. “What this did was it got people thinking that Fred was endorsed by the committee, when he was not. And ridiculous people, who only go by the who is endorsed, fell for it. That’s what I’m saying.”
“Well, Pauline, Pauline, let me say Pauline, that I don’t think any of our voters are ‘ridiculous.’ I don’t think any of our Republican voters don’t go to their polling place not knowing who they are going to vote for, not having researched, and it really belittles our voters and that the representative…”
Pauline disagrees and says experience shows that her statement is valid.
One of the hosts steps in (and I apologize, Gentle Readers; I don’t know their voices so I can’t tell who is who) and begins to lecture Pauline, saying that her focus now should be on getting both Republican candidates across the finish line and winning the Courthouse back for the Republican Party.
Thanks for calling. Buh bye.
The host then goes on to Tracey Moss, a Republican row office candidate, but first, he continues his party unity cheerleading by noting that he did not see any negative campaigning against any particular candidate by any particular candidate. I don’t know which campaign the host was following, but I guess it’s just a tortured way of saying that Conner’s hands are “clean” with regards to the barrage of negative mailers against Joe Gale. Those mailers were conveniently funded by a PAC out of Washington D.C. and paid for with thus far untraceable “dark money,” inadvertently providing proof positive that the “Swamp” is indeed alive and well, just as Joe Gale has been saying all along.
Tracey Moss jumps in and helpfully reminds everyone that there were “other” candidates who also produced green ballots on election day. She says, “It’s your right as a candidate to put your materials out there and if people were handing them out, that’s also their right as a voter, as a citizen, as a person who’s standing there for twelve hours a day.”
They then engage in a bit more legal hairsplitting over disclosures.
Water having successfully been carried, the host then returns to Fred Conner, noting that every county has “anti-establishment” factions, and does Fred think that is it possible to unify and move forward as a Team®?
Conner word salad:
“There’s no doubt in my mind. So, so in, in America, we have a two party system. Right? We, we have a two party system. The way you win in politics, politics is absolutely a Team® sport and you keep score by votes. Right, so Teams® win by getting more votes and we, as a Team of Teams® in Montco, a-a-and the same as we’ve heard from the Philly candidates, and I know it’s happening in Chester county which has a crucial election this year, all throughout the southeast. We’ve got a single message: we are delivering competent, conservative governance. Not the wacky, far-out left, uh, uhhhh, stampede to the left, is being led by, I don’t know, what is it, 30 or 40 Presidential candidates now? And filtering right on down. So, together, throughout the southeast, we’ve gotta kind of lead the way in the preparatory election before we get into the craziness of a presidential year. Taking that message, being a Team of Teams®, throughout our, our communities, our counties, and then preparing the way for what will be a contentious election next year. That absolutely will come down to Pennsylvania, as the Keystone State, in a presidential year, that’s what we’re facing next year. So what we have to do here–remember, politics is a Team® sport–the way you keep score in that Team® sport is by votes, so we’ve got to win our own elections, we’ve got to get our voters, our Republican voters energized. We’ve got to make the case to Independents and Democrats that we are the conservative governance. Reborn, rebirth of America with our economy and the way the country is going, the direction we’re going, and keep that momentum going, here and into next year.”
After some more unity talk with some other guests, they return to Fred Conner. Would you form a Team® with Joe Gale, would you talk with him, would you agree to be on the show with him?
“No question. No question. Ehhh…Again, I go back to the Republican voters of Montgomery County decided who the Team® is going to be. And I’m part of that Team®. And we’re absolutely gonna run together.”
And you are a conservative, correct?
“There is no doubt of that, from day one.”
So your issues line up with Joe Gale’s as far as how you approach things?
“Yeah. And I’ll go further. In 2015 I supported Commissioner Gale. He was the maverick that shook up our party and that shake up was necessary. And it wasn’t comfortable, uhhh…”
So you stepped outside of the establishment and supported the challenger to get behind Joe Gale?
“Absolutely. And you know, it’s a funny thing, because we talk about green ballots. The Establishment kept him off of the green ballots in 2015. In my Area, [Note: Conner was the Republican Committee’s Area 9 leader at the time] I put him on, because he was our endorsed, he was our nominated candidate, so of course I supported, supported him and I supported our ticket. In 2015, I was on the ballot in a very difficult race in Whitpain Township; I had recruited School Board candidates to run in their own race; of course we wanted to be a Team of Teams® back then and uh, get everybody across, across the line, up and down the ballot.
The Host then states that he’s going to do what he can to bring the two candidates together and help them get past the events of the primary.
“Thanks. I think we’ll all get past it and focus on ehhh, running against Democrats, and not against ourselves.”
Cross Examine, Your Honor
Speaking of the Democrats, they have their own “trademarked” party Ballot and it is yellow. And unlike the Montgomery County Republican Party, the Montco Dems still jealously guard their signature election day piece, and actually issued a cease and desist order to an unendorsed Lower Merion candidate handing out ballots that only resembled the Official Party Ballot in their yellow color.
For comparison: MCRC exertions on protecting their trademark this year amounted to a collective shrug of indifference.
Before we go much further, I want to ask you, Gentle Reader, to engage in a little thought experiment. Regardless of how you feel about Joe Gale, I want you to imagine that the Gale Brothers were among the campaigns distributing fake green ballots on Primary Day.
Specifically, I want you to imagine the reaction of the MCRC Leadership had this happened. Would there have been a collective shrugging of shoulders?
As it turns out, “Gale” was the only name that was NOT on any green ballot in Montgomery County.
France Krasalkovich, who was interviewed by Darryl Berger the day after the election on WNPV, had big concerns about this is well:
The whole interview is worth a listen, but aside from his name having appeared on one of Fred Conner’s fake green ballots without his permission, Krasalkovich goes on (beginning at time stamp 5:50):
I have a concern as a member of the Republican [Executive] Committee. We put out there for months now that we were running an open primary for County Commissioner this year. That was the message from the Party, that’s what we were telling our supporters all along–my campaign supporters, and frankly, Republican voters throughout the County. And it turns out, behind the scenes, that that was not the case. That Fred Conner, it would appear, was the chosen endorsed candidate by the Executive Committee that I’m a part of, and that these green ballots were disseminated by and between Republican Committee people to get to those polling stations.
What it really did was it misled voters, it disenfranchised, in a way, and it prevented a really free and fair election yesterday.
Krasalkovich is a class act who acknowledges that none of this would have moved the needle for him, but he’s speaking out nonetheless.
And you know, if I were a Machiavellian three-dimensional chess player—and I’m not—but if I was, I might have wanted Krasalkovich to stay in the race just so I could have a fall guy to blame to Dean Eisenberger when somehow only Fred Conner garners enough votes to make it through to the General election. If only Krasalkovich had bowed out, all of those votes would have gone to Eisenberger! This would also be a great way to pay back Krasalkovich for daring to appear on that other green ballot last year—you know, that aforementioned fake green ballot for State Committee that appeared back when MCRC was still concerned about the integrity of the green ballot.
That’s if I was a Machiavellian three-dimensional chess player. Which I’m not.
Look, I’ll give kudos to Fred Conner for owning the fake green ballots, but I’m not buying the party line that this is all kosher.
What about that disclaimer at the bottom of the “official” green ballot? It’s true that local committee members can endorse candidates, but they cannot use the green ballot–at least not without written permission. Where is Fred’s written permission? Can he produce this? Or is MCRC going to let this sin sit on Fred’s shoulders alone and not admit they were complicit in deceiving the voters?
Fred tells Pauline that voters already know who they are going to vote for before they come to the polling place, and further insinuates that it’s insulting to think that voters are influenced by the green ballot. Then why bother with the green ballot at all then? Why waste campaign funds to print them? Why waste committee time handing them out? Why bother with an endorsement process at all? Why go to the trouble to trademark the green ballot if, in the end, it doesn’t mean anything?
Fred makes the claim that he supported Joe Gale in 2015 and the WWDB host gives him credit for bucking the Establishment because Conner insisted Gale appear on the green ballot.
This is not as ballsy as they’d like you to think.
Sure, back then, County Republican Chairman Mike Vereb was keeping score on anyone who so much as clicked “Like” on one of Gale’s facebook posts and was lining them up for petty retribution at a later date. But by the time the General election came around, the primary had long been over and the voters had decided who their two Republican candidates were going to be. MCRC’s endorsement meant nothing at this point, and leadership’s spiteful refusal to include him on the green ballot was a disservice to Republican voters who had elected him to represent them on their ticket.
It’s also worth remembering that the Vereb lost the bloody war he fought against Gale during the 2015 election, and not a single MCRC endorsed candidate for County made it across the finish line that year. Instead, Josh Shapiro and Val Arkoosh coasted to re-election, again, unscathed. Minutes after being sworn in to his second term at County, Shapiro launched his campaign for Attorney General, and once again, Shapiro coasted to victory without a mark on him from MCRC. Shortly after the 2016 election, Vereb resigned his spot as MCRC Chairman and a few weeks after that, he took a six-figure position as “Legislative Liason” working for the new Attorney General Josh Shapiro, where he remains to this day. It always amazes me how many people still don’t know this.
Anyway, I’ll grant you that not every municpal leader had the guts to defy Vereb back in 2015, but I’d hardly say that including Gale on municipal green ballots was some kind of profile in courage. However, since it was Fred who made a point of noting his actions in this regard during this interview, let us now address them.
Given what he had just said to Pauline about voters having already made up their minds by the time they get to the polling place, what difference did it make if Joe Gale was included on the 2015 green ballot or not? Why was it so important for Fred to not only make sure this happened in 2015, but make sure that voters know about it in 2019?
We’ve been hearing a lot about the Team of Teams® and how Fred intends to run as a Team® with Joe Gale, despite Joe Gale’s repeated and vocal insistence that it’s not going to happen. And I get that gaslighting is now de riguer in the world of politics, but if the message of your campaign is that Joe Gale is your running mate, and your goal is to take back a Republican majority at the Courthouse, why take an unnecessary swipe at your Teammate® when talking about problems with the new voting machines? Here is Fred’s letter to Judge Steven Tolliver about the new voting machine fiasco:
And here is the “swipe” I’m talking about:
“Unanimously adopted.” In case any of us didn’t get that negative mailer funded by the shady D.C. PAC explaining to voters that Joe Gale approved the new voting machines with Arkoosh and Lawrence, Fred is here to remind us, apropos of nothing at all related to the subject matter of his letter.
Indeed, it was just last week that MCRC
operative volunteer, and noted Fred Conner endorser, Craig Bird, took to my Facebook page to imply there was something nefarious in the procurement of the voting machines and called out only Joe Gale for voting for them–he did not even mention Val Arkoosh or Ken Lawrence.
This seems a bit inconsistent with that whole Team of Teams® messaging, doesn’t it? Gale’s behavior notwithstanding, Fred is the one claiming that Joe is his running mate.
What’s more interesting (to me, anyway) was when I, in response to Mr. Bird’s multiple incendiary comments on my facebook page, posed many of the same questions I am asking above relative to consistency in messaging and validity of the green ballots, Mr. Bird refused to answer; instead he private messaged me, saying that he was not going to address my “diatribe” on a public forum and I should call him to talk this out privately instead of attacking him and MCRC.
Needless to say, I declined. Mr. Bird is welcome to answer these questions at the same place where he posed his own agenda serving comments: on my Facebook page.
It should be noted that Fred Conner was also tagged with these questions on that same thread and he has not responded either.
1-2-3 What are we Fighting For?
As mentioned at the outset, we’re fighting for third place. We’re fighting for the crumbs that fall from the Democrats’ table. We’re fighting for a little piece of the schmooze, which has been denied the Republican Party since 2016.
The Montgomery County Republican Party seems only capable of beating other Republicans of late; if only they’d go after Democrats with the same zeal as they go after our own. If only they spent half as much effort making a case for Republican governance as they do on plotting to take out other Republicans.
If only they concentrated on winning municipal and school board races, races which build our bench and build our party, instead of beating themselves against the flame of the County for the honor first place loser.
If I was a member of either of these Commissioners candidates’ campaigns, my number one priority would be tracking down the sources of the D.C. PAC money that funded the negative mailers against Joe Gale.
An awful lot of money was spent on those mailers by someone or someones. If that money originated in Montgomery County, (and I find it hard to believe anyone in Washington D.C. wants to spend that kind of money on a suburban county race) imagine how many municipal and school board candidates it could have helped had it stayed in Montgomery County.
The Conner Campaign and MCRC should should track this money down to prove their innocence and win Gale’s trust/heal the Party division/shut him up about the Establishment being out to get him. The Gale team should do it to prove that their ire against the Republican Establishment is not misplaced and that all of their mistrust of same is justified. But neither side seems interested in doing this.
Instead we’ll be treated to another tiresome and bloody internecine Republican war while Val Arkoosh and Ken Lawrence, and their entire merry band of row officers, waltz right back into office unscathed. And you know who will get blamed for the loss? Well, Joe Gale, obvs, just for drawing breath. But also France Krasalkovich, for not withdrawing. Committeepeople for not working hard enough and toeing the party line. And of course, people like me for pointing out how damaging and toxic this crap continues to be instead of being a good little lady and knowing when to keep my mouth shut while the men are plotting things far too complicated for my girly little brain to fully comprehend.
Setting aside the continuing attempts to gaslight voters who don’t know any better, I’d like to acknowledge that Joe Gale is going to be fighting for his political life on two fronts, because, let’s face it, both sides want him out. On which side Gale will focus his attention and how he will rebuild his movement from the 2015 campaign remains to be seen.
Goodbye, Republican Party
Gentle Readers, the only reason I was still a registered Republican and not an Independent for this last election is because I wanted to vote in the primary. At this point, I’m not sure why that’s still necessary. Not only is there an Open Primary Bill moving through the PA Senate right now, but I’m really, really tired of the Republican Party leadership cynically manipulating the committee and the voters, and cutting deals that only end up benefitting those same leaders. And the most insulting part of those deals is that they don’t really become evident until after that former leader has his cushy six-figure hack job working for the guy he was previously supposed to be working to defeat. It will happen again; mark my words.
My vote this year was cancelled out by the machinations of my own Party. It’s disgusting.
I’ll always be a conservative, I’ll always support individual candidates I believe merit my support, and I’ll always champion good government. And there are still many, many great people working hard for the Republican Party and conservative governance. But many of those same people are being silenced, or worse, attacked, by their own Party leadership. So many Montgomery County Republicans I have talked to are registering the same disgust and disillusionment. They need to be heard, or they need a place to land.
There is a reason I left my position as a Republican Committeeman last year. And there is a reason I’m changing my voter registration to Independent now.
To end on another thought experiment, let’s just indulge in a flight of fancy and say that all the Republican water-carriers’ and gaslighters’ fondest dreams come true:
Republicans win a majority and “take back” the Courthouse! Conner and Gale win!
What exactly is THAT going to look like?
Kinda makes you just want to stay home, doesn’t it?