With a day remaining before the party’s annual meeting, a deal has been reached to choose Pennsylvania’s next Republican chairman.
Attorney Lawrence Tabas will take over as the leader of the GOP in the Keystone State, while acting chairwoman Bernadette “Bernie” Comfort will return to her prior role as vice chair and pick up additional duties as the state campaign chairwoman for the Trump 2020 campaign.
The contest for the next leader of the state party garnered an unusual amount of attention after the sudden resignation of Val DiGiorgio in late June. DiGiorgio was the subject of a Philadelphia Inquirer story that exposed explicit text messages between him and a candidate for the Philadelphia City Council.
DiGiorgio has denied any wrongdoing and said that he was stepping down to avoid creating a distraction for the party.
The ensuing leadership contest attracted the attention of national media outlet Politico, which reported that the Trump campaign was pushing for Comfort to be the next chairperson. Tabas, who narrowly lost to DiGiorgio in the last leadership contest, was backed by former Republican gubernatorial nominee Scott Wagner, who Politico quoted as being “disgusted” by the Trump camp’s intervention in Pennsylvania state politics.
In a joint statement Friday by Tabas and Comfort, there was no hint of any strife as they pledged to work together to elect Republican candidates.
“It has become clear that each of our respective campaigns had a great deal of support,” the statement said. “Therefore, we are joining together to form a unified team.”
The change in state party leadership comes at a time when the Pennsylvania GOP has suffered several setbacks. The 2018 election saw Wagner lose handily to incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, and then-U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, a staunch Trump ally, was trounced by incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.
While Republicans remained in control of both houses of the state Legislature, their margin was reduced in both the House and the Senate, losing a supermajority in the Senate, and the congressional delegation in the U.S. House swung from a 13-5 Republican lead to a 10-8 Democrat edge. On the state Supreme Court, where justices are elected, Democrats currently hold a 5-2 edge, though Democratic Justice Max Baer frequently votes with the Republican minority.
Pennsylvania was famously one of the “swing states” that went for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, a fact that he has frequently noted in rallies and other appearances in the state since. The importance of the 2020 presidential election was not lost on Comfort and Tabas on Friday.
“We are both excited that we are able to join together to unify and strengthen the Republican Party of Pennsylvania at this crucial moment in time,” their statement said. “We look forward to working with all of our supporters and the Trump campaign to deliver all 20 of the Commonwealth’s twenty electoral votes to President Donald Trump in 2020.”
Trump, in response to Friday’s news, congratulated Tabas and Comfort on Twitter.
“We have a GREAT TEAM in Pennsylvania!” the president wrote. “I’m proud to say that our good friends Lawrence Tabas & Bernadette “Bernie” Comfort will now be working together to run the @PAGOP. Lawrence will be Chairman & Bernie will Chair my Pennsylvania Campaign. We must have, & do, great UNITY in PA!”
We have a GREAT TEAM in Pennsylvania! I’m proud to say that our good friends Lawrence Tabas & Bernadette “Bernie” Comfort will now be working together to run the @PAGOP. Lawrence will be Chairman & Bernie will Chair my Pennsylvania Campaign. We must have, & do, great UNITY in PA!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2019