Monday, November 14, 2011

Why no GOP 'united front'?

Here in the patch, where not a single person has voted for a Republican since FDR became president, folks figure that the Fayette County Republican Party has got to be scratching its head as much as we are.

That’s because for years and years and years, Republicans here have said one of the reasons Fayette lags so far behind other counties is because of the dominance of the Democratic Party. In their collective view, Fayette gets nothing from the Democrats because they take the county vote for granted, and Fayette gets nothing from the Republicans because they write the county off as a place where they’ll never win.

The real story in the general election held Nov. 8 is not that the two Democrat candidates for county commissioner, Al Ambrosini and incumbent Vince Zapotosky, finished first and second, respectively. The real story is not even the closeness of the vote for the third and final commissioner spot, where incumbent Republican Angela Zimmerlink unofficially bested Republican Dave Lohr by 11 votes. (But this is Fayette County, so you shouldn’t be surprised if something new and previously unheard of to arise during the official vote count that begins this week.)

No, the real story is how close the two Republicans came to beating Zapotosky. Zapotosky finished with 25 percent of the vote, while Zimmerlink and Lohr each finished with 22 percent. That put each of them roughly 1,300 votes behind Zapotosky, which clearly put both Republican candidates within striking distance of the Number 2 Democrat. (For the record, Ambrosini captured 30 percent of the vote.)

The question that we would love to see a news reporter ask the Republican Party honchos is, “Given the closeness of this race, how do you feel about Lohr running a campaign, not aimed at the two Democrats, but at fellow Republican Zimmerlink?”

Make no mistake: Lohr was taking on Zimmerlink more than Ambrosini and Zapotosky combined. Any doubt can be erased by looking at Lohr’s full-page, color political advertisement in the Herald-Standard of Nov. 2 (yeah, the one where he’s once again shaking hands with Joe Hardy.)

The ad, which was “Paid for by Dave Lohr,” creatively poses as a letter from Hardy, who notes, “In the past, the sitting Republican commissioner has sought to form committees and slow down the process of welcoming this dynamic (gas) industry to our community.” (That’s not true, obviously, and we predict that as time unfolds, more and more Fayette County residents will come to appreciate Zimmerlink’s effort to form an informational Marcellus Shale Task Force.)

Back to the ad: The way it was structured gives Lohr cover to say, “Hey, it wasn’t me who said that -- it was Joe Hardy.” It’s a classic example of using someone else to say something bad about your opponent, so you won’t have to. We’ll leave it to you to decide whether that little trick is the mark of an honest person. Or an independent one.

There’s another basic and longstanding theory of Fayette County politics, which holds that the Republican Party is merely an extension of the Democratic Party. This theory holds that the county’s political structure is monolithic, and that a true two-party system is a myth because they are in collusion.

In the just-concluded primary election for county commissioner, where two Democrats and two Republicans were running for three spots, can you name us one other county where a candidate took aim at the other candidate from his or her own party, instead of taking aim at the two candidates from the other party?

In this election, Republicans may have had a golden opportunity to recapture control of the county, by winning two of the three seats. We don’t expect to pursue a story along those lines, or one that would delve into Lohr’s unorthodox use of a primary election strategy in a general election.

No, the newspaper appears quite content to do a follow-up story on the closeness of the race between Zimmerlink and Lohr, two Republicans, by contacting the chairman of the Democratic Party, Fred L. Lebder.

Lebder is a political legend whose insights are worth seeking on any topic. But the real story here involves Republicans and the county Republican Party. Someone should give them a call.

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