Democrats in Hershey: not too sweet

Posted: February 11, 2014

HERSHEY - And now, a little winter's tale about Pennsylvania Democrats.

The party of open arms, goodwill-to-all and defense of the downtrodden met over the weekend.

This was at the Hotel Hershey, a AAA Four-Diamond, up-to-$400-a-night ($1,200 for a suite) self-described "world-class resort" with gourmet dining and spa.

Just sayin'.

The highlight was a foulmouthed conflict between two big-dog Dems apparently intent on countering Hershey's assertion that it's "the sweetest place on Earth."

In one corner, longtime Philly pol, former city controller, past candidate for lieutenant governor and current Allyson Schwartz campaign chairman Jonathan Saidel.

In the other corner, like Schwartz a Democrat running for governor, twice-elected state Treasurer Rob McCord.

When I ask Saidel why the clash with McCord, Saidel says of one his party's top-tier candidates, "He's a f---ing a--hole."

So there ya have it.

They might meet like Republicans, but they play like Democrats.

I'll come back to this.

The meeting was held under party rules to endorse a candidate against Gov. Corbett, whose polling suggests can be taken down by a gust of wind.

But the party did not endorse.

(The ever-clever Corbett campaign issued a statement saying that it's no surprise Democrats chose "none of the above" from its list of contenders.)

Instead, more than 300 Democratic leaders packed themselves into an overcrowded, overheated room with low ceilings and a sound system similar to the one at 30th Street Station and threw away an afternoon that no one can ever get back.

Hours were sacrificed at the altar of irrelevant redundancy on debate over whether to have an endorsement vote, then having two votes, then coming away with no endorsement.

Montco Democratic chief Marcel Groen (stalking for Schwartz, who didn't want a vote because she didn't have the votes) argued, "We are the open party . . . we don't force endorsements."

Berks County party chairman Tom Herman (arguing the case for McCord, who knew he didn't have the votes but knew he had more than anyone else) said, "Our job is to provide guidance to state Democrats . . . leaders have to lead from the front."

Oh, this issue of whether to have a vote (thereby embarrassing perceived front-runner Schwartz) or not have a vote (thereby denying McCord some measure of increased credibility) caused the Saidel-McCord clash.

McCord had Saidel tossed out of a small meeting among leaders on the issue Friday. Saidel on Saturday confronted McCord at a Philly caucus meeting, yelling "Get the f--- out of here!"

When I ask McCord about all this, he demurs: "Things get spirited . . . I like a good fight."

Anyway, back in the hotbox ballroom of bollocks, six candidates get nominated: McCord, Schwartz, John Hanger, Katie McGinty, Tom Wolf and Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz - who gets no votes, not even from Lebanon County.

Cumberland County minister Max Myers, also running, is in the room but not playing. If you have the Almighty in your corner, why cavort with Democrats?

McCord gets the most votes and calls it a "good market sign" for his campaign.

Who talks like that? I mean, outside the boardroom or off the trading floor.

Schwartz, after close to a quarter-century in elective office, finishes a distant second.

York County biz-whiz Wolf is third, Hanger fourth, McGinty fifth.

I should note that the party endorsement is no prize.

Arlen Specter got it in 2010, after switching parties, then lost the Senate primary to unendorsed Joe Sestak. Bob Casey Jr. got it in 2002, then lost the guv primary to Ed Rendell.

As Hanger put it before leaving for Pittsburgh long before the fun began: "This party's endorsement has an inverse relationship to who wins the primary."


Email: baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer

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