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Tiff arises over Shuster's seat

February 12, 2001|By STACEY DANZUSO, Chambersburg

Tiff arises over Shuster's seat



CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The head of Franklin County's Republican Party is defending the method most counties used to select delegates to vote Saturday on a GOP nominee for the 9th District congressional seat after members of a nearby county filed a lawsuit over the process.

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Five members of the Blair County Republican Committee have sued members of the GOP's executive board, claiming the group violated its bylaws by allowing Vice President N. Dan Beck to name the 26 delegates who will nominate a candidate for the May 15 special election to replace former Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa.

Both Blair and Franklin counties followed the state Republican Party's bylaws, which allowed an executive board member to name the delegates, officials said.

"I had our attorney go over our bylaws and the attorney for the state caucus and the state committee went over it," said Allen Twigg, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party.

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Unless their bylaws outlined the process for selecting delegates in the case of a special election, the 11 counties in the 9th District followed the state's rules.

Franklin County's bylaws made no provisions for this situation, which meant Twigg followed the state's and personally selected 33 delegates from the county party to attend at this weekend's nominating convention.

"I feel confident in doing it the way we did," Twigg said. "I hope they don't delay the selection."

The Republican parties are slated to select a nominee Saturday at Juniata College in Huntingdon County, Twigg said.

Five Blair County Republicans allege their county party ignored its own bylaws in favor of the state's.

In their lawsuit, they claim the bylaws state that the 63 members of the committee choose the delegates.

"We filed the suit because they ignored the law and violated the bylaws," Jan Mills Sr. said. "The executive committee is violating the bylaws - they clearly state the committee as a whole should select the conferees. They are trying to interpret it to meet their own needs."

Blair County Republican Chairman John Eichelberger defended the party's actions, saying the decision to have Beck choose delegates was "fair and open."

The GOP chairman said the county's bylaws concerning how delegates are appointed was unclear, and Blair County officials used the state Republican Party's bylaws instead.

Twigg said he is "disgusted" by the last-minute complaints.

"No one raised any questions before" the delegates were selected, he said.

Twigg admitted some people locally may not be pleased with the process since he has not hidden the fact he is backing state Rep. Patrick Fleagle, R-Waynesboro, and hopes the county delegates will vote as a block.

"Maybe they think I should consider other candidates, but I think Pat is head and shoulders above the rest," Twigg said.

The Franklin County Republican Party invited all of the Republican candidates to a meeting Monday night to introduce themselves to the county delegates.

Among those interested in the seat are: Fleagle; Eichelberger, a longtime Shuster foe; Fulton County Treasurer Bonnie Mellott Keefer; and Bill Shuster, a Blair County car dealer and the former congressman's son.

Shuster, who had represented the 9th District in Congress since 1973, announced his resignation Jan. 4, one day after House leaders denied his request to waive the rules so he could serve a fourth term as chairman of the Transportation Committee.

Over the weekend, the Democratic Party picked H. Scott Conklin, who owns an antique mall in Philipsburg, to be that party's nominee for the 9th District seat.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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