In a move breaking with a longstanding tradition, the Susquehanna County Republican Committee endorsed all incumbent GOP officeholders appearing on the ballot in May primary election.
The endorsement came after a vote at the committee’s Jan. 15 meeting, according to a release issued by Donna Cosmello, chair of the Susquehanna County Republic Party.
The vote to endorse is an exception to the committee’s rule about not endorsing candidates in the Primary.
In a telephone interview last week, Cosmello said a committee member put the motion to endorse on the floor, which passed in a 9-7 vote, with three opting not to cast a vote. Cosmello also said, that as the chair, she abstained from voting on the motion.
In the release, Cosmello said the reason for the change “is that all of our Republican incumbents are running for re-election and we have an unusually talented group of officeholders who have records of performance and have helped to make the fiscal condition of Susquehanna County excellent.”
The slate of county-wide candidates endorsed by the committee includes: County Commissioners Alan Hall and Elizabeth Arnold; along with Michelle Estabrook, Register-Recorder/Clerk of Orphan’s Court; Jason Miller, Treasurer; Anthony Conarton, Coroner; and George Stark and Richard Suraci, Auditors.
Hall is seeking his third term as a commissioner; while Arnold, Estabrook and Miller are looking to serve a second term.
Hall said the committee’s backing came as a surprise to him. “I’m very humbled and honored for our entire Susquehanna County leadership. To have all the election officials that are running receive this endorsement demonstrates how well we all work together as a team to keep the County moving forward.”
Arnold echoed her fellow commissioner’s sentiment saying, “I am very honored and grateful to have the endorsement of the Susquehanna County Republican Committee.”
District Attorney Marion O’Malley also received the committee’s endorsement. O’Malley was appointed to the position in Feb. 2018, following the death of DA Robert Klein. Her appointment has been challenged by former Assistant District Attorney William Urbanski and an appeal has been filed in the PA Supreme Court.
Magisterial District Judge Suzanne Brainard, the Southern District Court incumbent, also received the committee’s primary backing. The court covers the boroughs of Forest City, Hop Bottom and Uniondale; and the townships of Brooklyn, Clifford, Gibson, Harford, Herrick, Lathrop and Lenox.
The offices of Sheriff and Prothonotary – Clerk of Courts are not on the ballot this year.
The committee’s decision to endorse incumbents came just three days prior to the announcement that two Republicans – Dana Rockwell and Sue Pipitone – would seek election pledging to hold with the same platform with two Democratic candidates (Judy Hershel and Susan Rowe), as part of what organizers have dubbed, the “Bootstrap Campaign.”
Cosmello said the committee’s endorsement is only in place for the Primary and if a candidate not receiving this initial endorsement wins a slot on the November ballot, that candidate or candidates will receive the backing of the county’s Republican committee.
She said she is curious to talk to the candidates, and has read what they propose for the county with their platform.
“If (a candidate) wins the primary, they will be backed by the party,” Cosmello said. “If that’s what Susquehanna County wants, that is exactly what we will do.”
Cosmello also said that all candidates seeking election to a county office in the Republican Primary are invited to speak at the upcoming Lincoln Day breakfast on Saturday, Feb. 23.
Susquehanna County Democratic committee chair Richard Ainey said, “Our Susquehanna county party has never endorsed any primary challenged-candidate in the 40 plus years I have been involved.”
The local Democratic committee has a meeting scheduled for next Monday. Ainey, however, has recused himself from any issues surrounding the 2019 election, citing his planned candidacy for a county auditor position. Committee vice chair Joni Kaiser will administer any issues that could arise in the 2019 campaign, he said.
At the GOP breakfast, Cosmello noted, several potential candidates that have expressed interest in seeking the US House, District 12 seat recently vacated by Tom Marino will be introduced.
Ainey said he expects Marc Friedenberg, the Democratic challenger to Marino in the 2018 General Election, is expected to attend the committee’s upcoming breakfast to be held Saturday, March 9, at the Thompson Hose Co. firehall.
Marino’s successor will be chosen in a special election slated by Gov. Tom Wolf to be held on May 21.