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.