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Rival Republican groups to compete for donations in Franklin County

August 12, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The chairman of the Franklin County (Pa.) Republican Committee recently shared fears that a newly formed county GOP organization will draw donors away from the fundraising arm of the county committee.

Jim Taylor pledged that leaders within the Ben Franklin Society, the fundraising group, will work harder to make up for donors who are instead contributing to the new Franklin County Reagan Coalition. Membership fees for the Ben Franklin Society and the Reagan Coalition are each $300, Taylor said.

That's not where the similarities end.

Both the Franklin County Republican Committee and Franklin County Reagan Coalition share the same acronym, FCRC, and the Reagan Coalition is hosting a corn roast for its kickoff on Aug. 23. The corn soup rally for the county committee - a tradition for more than five decades - takes place three weeks later.

The most striking commonalties, however, are the names involved in the Reagan Coalition. A roster of directors includes prominent Republicans including the county's coroner and treasurer, state Rep. Rob Kauffman, and former county chairman Roger Beckner, who was on the losing end of a 51-28 vote in May, when he challenged Taylor to hold the spot again.

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"People who are row officers at the courthouse and Rob Kauffman, they're not happy with me being head of the party," Taylor said.

Enter the Franklin County Reagan Coalition, which formed in May and awaited legal filings before publicly emerging.

"There's really no reason to feel threatened, intimidated or that we're encroaching in any way," said Dick McCracken, chairman of the Reagan Coalition.

McCracken argued that, like young voters and women's groups, the Reagan Coalition serves to further the position of the party, not act as a splinter from the county committee. The organization exists to support all local Republicans seeking election this fall, he said.

"In this presidential election year, all across the state of Pennsylvania and across the country, there are grassroots organizations being formed," McCracken said.

Taylor disagreed that the Reagan Coalition could possibly better the GOP's stance.

"It's obviously in competition with the party," Taylor said, later saying that the Reagan Coalition's main effect will be a split within the established leadership.

"The county committee will survive. The people who are joining the Reagan Coalition did nothing for the party anyway," he said.

"I don't know what the purpose is of trying to make an issue of contention," McCracken said. "I can only speak for what we're doing. What we're doing is above board."

In addition to a renewed focus on fundraising for the Ben Franklin Society, Taylor promised that county committee volunteers will be working the polls in November.

"Some people have expressed concern this will split the party. ... I don't think so," Taylor said.

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