Philadelphia Republic Party: This Party Sucks

For half a century, the Republican Party has been a joke in Philadelphia. But now a few upstarts have a radical idea: Let’s try to get Republican candidates elected!

The Republicans deferred to their boss, who ran the party — officially, it’s called the “Republican City Committee” — like a private club. As a result, they didn’t do any of the things that parties do. They didn’t embark on voter registration drives. They barely wrote platforms. They didn’t reach out to black people or Hispanic people or Asian people. They didn’t recruit election workers in a third of the city’s voting precincts, and as of 1962, according to an article in Time magazine, at least 400 of their committeemen were “ghosts,” unreachable via the U.S. mail.

They just lost. Over and over and over. Until, in 1994, on the 10th hole of a golf course in Royersford, Billy Meehan slumped over dead.

And when the party faithful looked around for a new leader, a man to rejuvenate the party, their eyes came to rest on … yet another Meehan. And Michael Meehan, the son of Billy Meehan, who was the son of Austin Meehan, accepted the burden that was his birthright. At which point the party, under the leadership of its third straight Meehan, promptly resumed losing.

THE WEBSITE OF the modern-day Republican City Committee is at Phillygop.com, where you begin to get a sense of how little the basic mentality of the party has changed since the days of Billy Meehan. I checked the site in July, in the middle of a crazy political summer. For the first time since Barack Obama was elected, his poll numbers were dropping precipitously, and Republicans smelled blood. All across the land, the GOP “base” was packing town halls on health-care reform and spreading the word about Obama’s long-planned socialist takeover of the USA. They were energized. They were mad. They were even carrying loaded handguns, some of them. But not the Philly contingent. Here, the party was, if not actually dead, dozing a deep, deep sleep. The website featured a cheesy graphic of a waving American flag and a “latest news” section whose most recent item had been updated all the way back in December. There was no issues page, no platform statement, no lacerating text about Democratic corruption — or whatever. No partisan content at all. To be fair, the Philly Democrats don’t have a website at all, but then again, they don’t need one. As the only real party in town, why bother?

The last Republican to win a competitive citywide election was Ron Castille, for D.A. in 1989. Sure, finance guru Sam Katz almost beat John Street in 1999, but only because Katz took every opportunity to distance himself from other GOP politicians. Meehan did support Katz, but to little effect. Katz lost by less than 9,500 votes; if the party had drummed up just six more votes in every precinct, Katz would have been the mayor. In terms of boots on the ground, “They didn’t have very much,” Katz says. “And on a citywide basis, it amounted to very little.” Today, there are zero Republican state senators with districts in the city, and only four Republican state representatives out of a possible 28 — four pale, aging men clinging to dying strongholds in the Northeast and the “river wards.” Republicans now make up just 13 percent of the city’s voters, down from 25 percent in 1988. That’s a seven-to-one disadvantage, an all-time low. It wasn’t long ago that it was three-to-one. This is a “huge problem,” in the words of Rob Gleason, chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, one of a growing chorus of local and state Republican voices fed up with Philly’s losing ways. “You almost have to try to do that badly,” says Marc Collazzo, a GOP committeeman.

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  • Alexis

    Jason interviewed two ward leaders who have done nothing to increase republican voters, but managed to have the number of registered republicans drop in their wards. Also, the call is for a more balanced two party city, but Republican City Committee gets no good press and no coverage of their candidates or events. The press might want to print the truth once in a while, it might boost circulation.

  • Alexis

    Robert Gleason, Chairman of Republican State Committee, has presided over the decimation of Pennsylvania candidates and he points his finger at Philadelphia?

  • Mike

    The Loyal Opposition has made some great inroads with the Asian community. They have brought candidates like Pat Toomey & Judge Joan Orie-Melvin and elected officials such as Jane Orie into the neighborhoods. They are also the only group which is calling Democrats on the carpet for their utter policy failures in the urban centers. There are literally thousands of individual policy failures, incidents of corruption, or downright violations of local, state , and federal law which Meehan et al have ignored or failed to make an issue of. Why? Because they are partners in the corruption and graft and have been for over a half century. DeFelice, Kelly, Schmidt, Zimolong, Collazzo, and all the dedicated men and women in the Loyal Opposition are the future of the party the quicker we can get them into leadership positions, the quicker we can start reversing the disaster that has become Philadelphia. They will grow the party and reverse the election losses on a local, state, and national level.

  • Dick

    Mike, the only thing I agree with in your comments is about Al Schmidt. He puts his money and his work ethic where he is mouth is. The rest of the crew do nothing but grip and swipe. Let me get registrations in their wards — which is what they are tasked with. Republican City Committee is the go to place for them to get information, forms, etc. The ward leaders and ward chairmans are supposed to register republicans and get them out to vote.

  • dick

    that would actually be unique.

  • dick
  • jim

    Joe D consistently gets registrations in his ward and one one of the only ones that practices what he preaches.

  • dick

    Is he a ward leader? Which ward?

  • Mike

    The members of The LO have done more (to include registrations and raise money) than ANY of the Parking Authority / Ward Leader lackeys combined. These hacks all rely on Fenerty and the taxpayers for their paychecks. They are drones whose party is about to end.

  • dick

    I’m positive Joe DeFleecem’ is not a ward leader and if memory serves me, he got 2 jobs at the Parking Authority b/c of his connection to a State Rep.

  • jim

    dick you seemed to have learned alot about joe in the shorttime from grassrootspa to here…joe is ward chair of 64, perzels ward – perzel got him the job at the ppa – joe is good at what he does but does wseem to want tio have it both ways

  • Nick

    Joe left the PPA because he realized how it was keeping the party in a self imposed prison. He took the bull by the horns at the RSC and has done more than ANYONE in the entire city to rebuild the Republican brand. Anyone who disagrees just doesn’t know what they’re talking about and isost likely part of the “do nothing” machine.

  • Mary

    Joe D is the only “leadership” the party has in the city. As far as I can see he works with all sides to advance the cause. Criticism of Joe usually comes from sour grape hangers on who think they’re entitled to some position or another. Newsflash- you’re not entitled to anything!

  • Dexter M

    Anyone who doesn’t know who Joe DeFelice is has not been involved in the city party at all. Sorry but true. Joe is the life of the party.

  • Douglas

    Since moving to Philadelphia a few years ago I’ve been wondering why it looks and feels more like an “underdeveloped country” than most underveloped countries that I have visited. This article and the subsequent tone of the comments has greatly helped my understanding. How much longer until the city is completely sucked dry?

  • Tom

    Tom

  • Liz

    Bill Petigrew was working on the floor of Radio Shack before he ended up as an IT guy at the Parking Authority. I have a sneaky suspicion Bill is posting here against Joe DeFelice because he sees him as a threat. Sad really.

  • Tom

    Apologies for the previous accidental submission, Just a quick view of the websites ward leaders pretty much gives the reasons for the constant decline(if it can get any lower that is). It’s a large majority of spineless hacks only interested in themselves and will bow to King Mike and Prince Vito to protect themselves while helping them hijack wards and elections in the process that might not be in their best intrests. One PPA drone even controls 2 wards. Reasearch some of these “leaders” and it’ll easily inform you of their self serving agendas. There is a minority on that list that actually do have the concerns of the people they serve as a priority and hopefully continue to expose these practices and they’ll eventually topple the corrupt regime that sold their souls long ago.

  • Bill

    Ronald Reagan said don’t talk bad about fellow Republicans. There are alot of Monday morning quarterbacks in football and a lot of wednesday morning politicos. Fact: Kevin Kelly is charasmatic and has good ideas. Fact: Joe Defeliece is a hard working politico that knows ward politics…the good and the bad. Fact: The Meehan family has kept the only Republican party organization together in the country. Fact: People need jobs to live so don’t blame the Republicans who have only 3%. If you want to complain run for committeman or ward leader or controller but don’t complain that your team doesnt win if you dont participate!

  • Bill P

    To the person named Liz (not really your name) I consider Joe D a friend and respect his work, when I disagree with him I tell him and he does the same. I am the guy that posted about Reagan’s 11th commandment but nothing else. Then I saw my name brought into this…Trust me I speak my mind and both Joe and Kevin Kelly know that. I have registered hundreds maybe thousands of people in my life time and worked on elections in and out of the city, so I have walked the walk. I aparently pissed you off at sometime but since I only have a clue who you are I wont elaborate just empahsizing how wrong you are whatever your agenda is. I worked for Tandy Business Products 13 years before the PPA, before that I had my own business yet still found time to work in politics, I respect all that do even if I dont always agree with them. BTW in the “Reagan” post you will see I gave praise to Joe, Kevin and Michael for all they do and are. Bill P.

  • Optimus

    You may have nailed the problem in many more areas than Philidelphia. Why should the republicans be concerned about “patronage” jobs? I thought we were the party of free enterprise and limited government. All those jobs should be contracted out on five-ten year contracts to private enterprise to keep costs down and taxes low.

    We “tea party patriots” need to take over the republican party at ever level, expose ALL corruption, and began to line up some 2010 conservative candidates for all open races, whether they be local, county, state or federal. Otherwise, we will sit back on our a$$es and this country is going to go under from corruption, bankruptcy, and over-taxation.

  • BILL

    this is what happens when people have enough of a bad thing they throw the tea in the Harbour!!!!!!
    The D’S ARE LAUGHING ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK

  • Liz

    Ronald Reagan was acting under the assumption that his fellow Republicans actually wanted to win elections. Since the leadership of the Philly GOP seems not to subscribe to this basic tennant as evidenced by this article – his 11th Commandment doesn’t apply.

  • john

    This article is not worth reading. I am surprised it was printed. It could have been an important article rather than a fluff piece for Kevin Kelly and the few members of a relatively unimportant group of bloggers and wannabe politicians who call themselves The Loyal Opposition. The writer could easily have found that out with a little research rather than a couple of meetings and phone calls. This article is supposed to be about a group of young republicans who are trying to win elections? Al Schmidt is qualified and well intentioned but he is not running a winning campaign. In fact, this article will help him lose a few more votes that he would have had. The other two members of The Loyal Opposition who lobbied Michael Meehan and jumped at the chance to run against Congressman Chaka Fattah and Representative Babette Joseph, ran as horribly as Al Taubenberger and got destroyed. Does anyone even know their names? Kevin Kelly is not a leader. He is the exact opposite. He has n

  • john

    no values and will do anything to advance himself. That is why he is always grandstanding. He took a lot of money from Johnny Doc ($20,000?) to push Doc’s slate of Democratic candidates against the endorsed Republican candidates for judge. He also pushed for Doc’s man, Jack Kelly, against David Oh. Joe Defelice is hardworking and doing his best but most of his efforts fail because of the quality of the people he has to work with. Councilman Frank Rizzo will continue to win elections because he is hardworking, has a great staff and a great name. Councilman Jack Kelly is not running for re-election and couldn’t win if he did. The future of the Republican party in Philadelphia is with Representative Dennis O’Brien, soon-to-be Councilman David Oh, and maybe someday, Congressman Al Schmidt and City Commissioner Joe Defelice.

  • Cole

    Anyone who knows Kelly would know the above comments are fantasy. Sounds like some sour grapes from the establishment.

  • Leeanne

    ‘Google’ William Austin Meehan. You come upon an article by Time Magazine written in 1962. Yes, 1962 for Christ’s sake, people. It could have been written TODAY!.
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,896082-2,00.html

  • dick

    I hear he visits “gentlemen clubs” and get this itshay kicked out of him.

  • Anonymous

    You are correct, nothing in the City of Philadelphia has changed much since 1962 — it’s only gotten worse – and as Alexis de Tocquevillehas said “the people get the government they deserve.”

  • trish

    this bickering back and forth is childish
    get over yourselves and try working WITH not against each other….wow now their is a novel idea….when the party endorses it’s candidates try sticking wit

  • Julie

    William Austin Meehan’s father was my Grandfathers brother. It was my understanding that the paving Co. that William Austin Meehan’s paving Co. was started by my Grandfather, John J. Meehan, and after his death taken over by his brother. The Co. name was John J. Meehan Paving Co. If anyone has any information regarding my Grandfathers paving Co., and how it was taken over by his brother, I would like to get some history on this transaction.