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Allegheny County Republicans To Try Again On Leadership Vote

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA
Republicans are vying to replace former county GOP chair Raja

Allegheny County Republicans failed to elect a new leader last week – so they are taking another shot at it next Saturday, this time with one fewer candidate and a different set of rules.

Their first effort to replace former chair D. Raja – whose resignation was announced amid controversy over the party’s direction in May – took place June 29. Three candidates sought to replace him: Bronco Brnardic, the committee’s current treasurer, Allegheny County Councilor Sam DeMarco and attorney Sean Logue.


The election process, which allowed absentee ballots and in-person voting, took place over 12 hours. But while DeMarco won the race with 133 votes over Brnardic’s 115 and Logue’s 63, he was still nearly two-dozen votes shy of a majority. So party leaders called for a revote.


That has caused consternation in some quarters, since party bylaws don’t explicitly call for a majority, and in other kinds of votes allow for a plurality to carry the day. That has added to suspicion among some committee people that party leadership was trying to stave off a defeat for Brnardic. But Ron Hicks, the party’s solicitor, notes that Robert’s Rules of Order – a bedrock text for public bodies – explicitly says leadership must be chosen by a majority.


“We have to have a second meeting to have a succession election,” said Hicks.


This time, things will be done differently.


One challenge in the first round was that, while the all-day vote and absentee ballots made it easy for committeepeople to participate, it also meant there was no provision for a second round of voting once the results were tallied. (Even then, turnout was light: “The biggest issue was we had only 50 percent” from the committee’s 660 members, said Hicks.)


This time, the party will hold a vote at the Pittsburgh Plaza Hotel Green Tree at 9 a.m. on July 20. Committee members who can’t attend can designate a proxy to vote on their behalf.


“Because repeat balloting may be required until a majority vote is obtained, absentee ballots will not be used,” Hicks said in a July 2 letter to committee people.


Hicks said he used the absentee ballot approach in the first round because “it gives people more flexibility,” and in any case three-way contest for party seats are rare: Hicks himself said he couldn’t remember such a battle for a party spot happening before.


It won’t happen next week either. One day after Hicks set the rules to accommodate a three-candidate field, Logue withdrew – and no new candidates can be nominated. That leaves a two-person race between a member of the party’s existing leadership and the county’s top elected Republican — and it means a much greater chance that one candidate will earn the majority.

Nearly three decades after leaving home for college, Chris Potter now lives four miles from the house he grew up in -- a testament either to the charm of the South Hills or to a simple lack of ambition. In the intervening years, Potter held a variety of jobs, including asbestos abatement engineer and ice-cream truck driver. He has also worked for a number of local media outlets, only some of which then went out of business. After serving as the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper for a decade, he covered politics and government at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has won some awards during the course of his quarter-century journalistic career, but then even a blind squirrel sometimes digs up an acorn.