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Chairman: Resignations to have 'very little' effect on GOP committee

Written by Vicky Taylor/Chambersburg Public Opinion | Sep 14, 2016 12:58 PM
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Erich Hawbaker, left, joins Chambersburg Mayor Darren Brown at Memorial Square on Tuesday, September 13, 2016. The two members of the Franklin County Republican Committee resigned from the organization so they could endorse and campaign for Art Halvorson. candidate for United States Representative, Pa. 9th District.(Photo: Markell DeLoatch, Public Opinion)

(Chambersburg) -- The resignation of four members of the Franklin County Republican Committee this week will have "very little" effect on the work done by that committee between now and November's General election, according to the committee's chairman, Dr. Robert Ternes.

Chambersburg Mayor Darren Brown, the committee's vice chairman, as well as Erich Hawbaker, vice chairman of Franklin County's Young Republicans, Mike Brown and Greg Scandlen submitted their resignations to Ternes Monday, saying they intended to endorse Democratic nominee Art Halvorson in his bid to unseat 9th District Congressman Bill Shuster in the November election.

Halvorson, a registered Republican, garnered enough Democratic write-in votes in the primary election last spring to get on the November ballot as a Democrat. He said at the time that he would remain a registered Republican and continue to support Republican issues and candidates.

Asked about the impact of the resignations on the local Republican committee and whether he saw those resignations as a problem for the party or its candidates, Ternes said "not at all."

"Individuals are free to support whoever they want to, but according to our bylaws they are required to resign their committee post if they don't support the party ticket," he said.

Ternes said the four handled the issue "according to the rules."

"They acted as a group in accordance with our bylaws, and they chose to do so because they wanted to support" someone who wasn't on the Republican ticket, he said.

"They did the right thing," he said.

Ternes said the resignations do not indicate a division in the local Republican party "in any way."

The four issued a press release and open letter addressed to "voters in Franklin County and across Pennsylvania's 9th Congressional District," saying they would continue to support other Republican candidates on the ballot while throwing their "full support" behind Halvorson instead of Shuster.

A copy of that letter can be seen at http://bit.ly/2cd8b9F.

Calling Halvorson "a true conservative with genuine leadership experience," the four criticized what they called "the Shuster Dynasty" which began with the election of Bill Shuster's father, Bud, to the 9th District post in 1973 and continued with the son's election to fill that post after Bud Shuster resigned soon after being re-elected in 2001.

Halvorson's attempt to unseat Shuster marks his second such attempt to gain a seat in Congress representing Pennsylvania's 9th District. He ran in 2014 and lost to Shuster by almost 10,000 votes. Last April's primary was much closer. Halvorson lost that election by just over 1,000 votes district wide, although he actually had about 1,000 votes more than Shuster in Franklin County.

While four committeemen have resigned from the Franklin County Republican Committee to support Halvorson, Ternes said the loss shouldn't affect the committee's work adversely. There are well over 100 committee members serving the county. Two are elected from each of Franklin County's 75 precincts, so four members represents a very small percentage of the total membership.

There will be plenty of manpower, or womanpower as the case may be, to provide the necessary services to voters leading up to the election, he said.

Halvorson issued the following statement about the defection of the four:

"I am deeply humbled by the sacrifice of these brave, fellow Republicans to help me end the Shuster family's corrupt, 44-year dynasty and restore conservative ideals to Washington."

Rather than terming the resignations a defection, Ternes said it represented a choice by individuals, "not an issue of the Republican Committee at all."

While all four are  members of the Franklin County Republican Committee, Darren Brown, Mike Brown (no relation) and Erich Hawbaker are also members of the Franklin County Young Republicans.

They also resigned from that group.

Chris Ardinger, the Young Republicans chairman, said there are about 20 members but not all are active. He said the loss of Darren Brown, Mike Brown and Hawbaker would be felt pretty keenly.

"With the general election right around the corner, we are working on mobilizing our membership and young Republicans across the county to help support our Republican candidates at all levels," he said.

He said that over the years, the Young Republicans have developed a good relationship with the Franklin County Republican Committee and the Franklin County Republican Women.

"This is a crucial election, and we hope to have a large Republican turnout," he said. The resignations of Erich, Darren, and Mike is definitely a loss to the Young Republicans."

He said he can't put a stamp of approval on the trio's decision to support Halvorson, since he feels it is important for those involved with the Young Republicans and the Republican Committee to support Republican candidates.

"It is apparent that these gentleman do not wish to support a particular candidate; therefore, I respect their decision." he said, acknowledging that he also encourages voters to vote their conscience.

He said that being said, he will support Republican candidates, including Shuster, the party's official nominee.

"Congressman Shuster is our Republican nominee and should have our support," he said.

This article is part of a partnership between WITF and the Chambersburg Public Opinion.

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