The Lead

GOP electeds call for Lebanon County Republican chair to resign over ‘racist’ mailer

By: - May 3, 2019 2:21 pm

From left, clockwise: Rep. Russ Diamond, Sen. Mike Folmer, and Rep. Frank Ryan (Official portraits)

In an intra-party scrum gone public, three Republican lawmakers from Lebanon County are calling on the county’s GOP chairman to resign over what they say is a “racist” mailer directed at an incumbent county commissioner.

Sen. Mike Folmer and Reps. Russ Diamond and Frank Ryan called for local party boss Casey Long to resign in an April 28 letter, writing that Long’s recent decisions around county races were jeopardizing the party’s reputation.

“The cumulative effect of your actions over the past few months have damaged the Republican brand and threaten the electoral success of every Republican candidate and public official in the county,” the letter reads.

Long is the son of veteran GOP operative Mike Long — a principle of the Harrisburg lobbying firm Long, Nyquist & Associates — and a close ally of Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson.

The mailer attempts to tie Lebanon County Commissioner Bill Ames, a Republican running for his third term, to a policy that limits cooperation with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as LebTown reported.

It features an image of Juan Ramon Vasquez, an undocumented man who was released from a Philadelphia jail after ICE issued a civil request to detain him. Vasquez later raped a child.

Because these type of ICE requests come without a criminal warrant, counties that honor them can be held liable if they, for example, illegally detain an American citizen. Such a situation played out in Lehigh County in 2008, and the county was forced to pay $95,000 in damages.

Lebanon County adopted a non-compliance policy more than a decade ago in response to liability concerns. But commissioners including Ames voted to revoke the policy in 2017.

Last month, the county was removed from a list of so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions curated by the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigration think tank designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The mailer was paid for by Better PA, a political action committee associated with Long’s father’s firm. In their letter, the three lawmakers allege that was intentionally done to obfuscate the connection between Long and the “smear campaign.”

In an undated letter reported by LebTown, Long rejected the call for his resignation and pointed to the local party’s endorsement of Ames’ opponent to question the commissioner’s conservative bonafides.

“The fact of the matter is that the Lebanon County Republican Committee overwhelmingly rejected the candidacy of Bill Ames by a three to one vote despite the impassioned pleas of Representative Diamond to the contrary,” Long said.

Long also called the accusation of racism “offensive.”

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.