The Lebanon County Republican Party Committee has endorsed Bob Phillips and Bill Bering in the May primary election for the office of County Commissioner. 

All three County Commissioner seats are up for election during this year’s municipal primary on May 16, which will determine whose names will be on the ballot in November’s general election.

Four Republican candidates are vying for two spots on the Nov. 7 election ballot for that party and three Democrats are running for two spots on the Democratic ticket.

Read More: County officials approve mail-in ballot for primary; ballots to be mailed this week

The meeting of the county’s Republican committee to conduct the endorsement vote, which took place last month, had 75 members in attendance, according to committee chairman Bill Bova. 

Another 48 votes were cast by proxy ballot at that meeting, meaning a committee member who was not in attendance had another committee member cast their two candidate votes for them. Bova noted that committee bylaws were changed several years ago to permit a committee member to cast proxy votes for no more than two other committee members.

Bova said the total vote count for the office of commissioner was: 98 for Phillips, an incumbent who has served three terms: 88 for Bering, who is the challenger for one of the two spots on the ballot and also a supervisor in Swatara Township; and 41 for Mike Kuhn, another incumbent who was appointed unanimously by the county’s Board of Judges in February 2022 to complete the term of Bill Ames, who passed away in December 2021.

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When asked if he was surprised that only one of the two incumbents received the party’s endorsement, Phillips said he was not. 

“Bering is more closely affiliated with the party than Mike Kuhn,” said Phillips. “In other words, he had been – in my experience –  more active in campaigns with me and so on. Mike goes back a long way, but it’s different times, different campaigns. My experience is, Bill is a good partner candidate.”

The same question was asked of Kuhn. He said he has an idea why committee members would make that decision, but refused to share his thoughts for this article.

“I have my opinions and my thoughts, but I’ll just keep them to myself. I prefer not to conjecture why someone would do anything, particularly in politics,” said Kuhn. “My approach was I made a decision to run, I wasn’t running against anyone, I was running based on my experience – not only as a commissioner for a year and a quarter but my experience in the community, with the hospital, doing volunteer work and all of the organizations I support, which I believe lends a lot of valuable experience to this (office).”

Kuhn’s comment may be hinting at the involvement of a Harrisburg lobbying firm in the Phillips/Bering campaign. Although Kuhn told LebTown he didn’t know if Long Nyquist + Associates was involved in this campaign, he said he did know that they have been involved in the past with Phillips. 

“I recall that four years ago, if I am correct, that they did so four years ago, too,” said Kuhn. “That’s my recollection from four years ago. If they ran it then, I wouldn’t see why it would change or they (Phillips/Bering) would do something differently.” 

Kuhn had made a previous reference to “campaign consultants” and their involvement in local elections in a past article published by LebTown on Feb. 6. During a dispute over ownership of a Facebook page, Kuhn made the following comment:

“With respect to these concerns, not only will our team remain committed to adhering to Facebook’s policy guidelines, but we have also taken action to avoid any further confusion and provide fodder for campaign consultants.”

Read More: Mystery leaker pushes intra-party feud into spotlight; prelude to factious primary

Kuhn had previously made comments about his desire to “bury negative politics” at a kick-off event for his campaign covered by LebTown on Jan. 22.

Read More: Kuhn campaigns at funeral home; says he wants to bury negative politics in county

Phillips told LebTown unprompted that Long Nyquist + Associates was hired to run his campaign. The Harrisburg-based firm is run by Lebanon County resident Mike Long and Todd Nyquist, who are listed on the company’s website as its partners.

“We each have somebody – I have my son-in-law who’s very helpful, Ed Lynch,” said Phillips. “But the overarching, I’ll say consultant, is Long Nyquist. They are the ones who coordinate the door-to-doors, to keep us on track with the process and the budgeting – how much you need for other stuff.”

Phillips added that the firm has been with him since his first campaign. “My wife and I are very grateful for the guidance and the way they’ve handled our campaign,” he said. “Because we’re very strict about the messaging, making sure it is reflecting us.”

Although Long Nyquist is Bova’s employer, Bova said he has not been working on the Phillips Bering campaign prior to the endorsement process. (Long Nyquist + Associates’ website says the firm does three things: legislation, public funding, and alliances.)

“I think they’ve run his campaign for a long time,” said Bova. “I am not involved in any way in the campaign process. In terms of what I do, I am strictly a lobbyist. I don’t work on campaigns, other than I’ve been involved with the Lebanon County committee when I was with a competitor firm. I’ve been involved in the committee for a long time.”

As committee chairman, Bova said he will be involved in the Phillips/Bering ticket now that the committee has made the endorsement, adding his involvement will be in a volunteer capacity. “That comes with my role and I’ll be working with all of the candidates whether they are Long Nyquist clients or not,” he said. 

Phillips said he was also not surprised that the committee endorsed him even though 65 members of the party had signed a letter in December 2021 that expressed the signees’ “strong opposition” to a proposed 18 percent increase in county taxes. That letter was presented during public comments by Dawn Blauch, who is the secretary of the county’s Republican committee as well as the recorder of deeds in Lebanon County. 

Read More: Commissioners respond to GOP move over property tax increase; plan in works for past year, defended as fiscally sound

That letter also contained the signature of one other current executive committee member: Faith Bucks. The other two members of the party’s executive committee, Bova and Donnette Quairoli, did not sign the letter.

Phillips attributed the endorsement decision coming 15 months after the opposition letter was submitted as a case of politics being “strange bedfellows.”  

“I will say that it took a lot of time for healing and some people I have not got a relationship back with. But others have said, ‘I really should have come to you or Bill (Ames) first to talk about the budget rather than just signing a letter,’” said Phillips. “That was such a hit piece in a public setting. … That, to me, was unfortunate, but again, over time things have healed between many of us, but there are still those who are not there yet.” 

As far as the proxy votes are concerned, Bova said the most proxies, 10, came from District 6, which encompasses Jonestown, Bethel Township Fredericksburg, Bethel Township Mount Zion, East Hanover, Swatara North, Swatara South, Union Township Green Point and Union Township Lickdale. This is the same area in which Bering is a supervisor in Swatara Township. But of those 10 proxies, half were instructed proxies, meaning the proxy carrier was told how to vote by the proxy owner. Of those five instructed proxy votes, Bova said all five were cast for Kuhn. 

Who was chosen on the other five proxies, which were uninstructed proxies, is unknown since the endorsement process is conducted via a secret vote. Additionally, if a proxy is uninstructed, then the person carrying that proxy can vote for the candidate of their choice.

“We were told that half of those proxies were directed to vote for Mike Kuhn, but we don’t know who had done that. We needed to know that to make sure there wasn’t a wonky – if everyone voted for Bering and Phillips, then we would have had a problem there,” said Bova. “I didn’t want any problems there, so I wasn’t asking who voted for who, but I can tell you that there weren’t many instructed proxies. But the ones that were instructed were told to vote for Mike Kuhn.”

Kuhn made a statement on his candidate’s Facebook page about the endorsement process following the meeting. Part of the post reads:

“While we did not win the LCRC endorsement, it was clear that we were supported by a large percentage of those who attended tonight’s meeting and voted in-person. It’s always a tough road to win the battle against strategically organized proxy votes.”

Kuhn did not respond to LebTown via two email requests as of publication asking him what he meant when he wrote “strategically organized proxy votes.”

Bova told LebTown he has issues with how the committee meeting has been portrayed. 

“Listen, everyone has a right to run, whether they’re endorsed or not,” said Bova. “I think Bill Ames, who I considered to be a friend of mine, was amazing. We stood at the polls together on a lot of different days, and it always amazed me how hard he worked. He ran and he won against the endorsement. Everyone has a right to run, but once the committee decides an endorsement, it is the committee’s job to back the endorsement.”

It’s the second consecutive commissioner’s race in which the Republican committee has decided not to endorse one of the two incumbent candidates. Four years ago, the party did not endorse Ames, who then ran on his own, defeating newcomer Matt Shirk, who was endorsed by the committee along with Phillips.

Read More: No punches held as Lebanon County Republicans splinter along Commissioners race

Asked if the elimination of secret balloting and announcing the result of all of the proxy votes – a process that was changed prior to Bova becoming committee chairman – would eliminate any questions surrounding the endorsement process, he agreed it would make it more transparent. 

“The only thing I asked about was the instructed proxies because we wanted to make sure we were okay in terms of any kind of issue, right?” said Bova. “If we had a weird vote that didn’t make sense, we would have had to figure out how to deal with that.”

“That is something we need to do, probably have to address in the bylaws because instructed proxies, by their nature, should be followed by the person that was instructed, yet I can’t know who voted for who,” said Bova. “We at least have the auditing process if something happens, but that is probably something we do have to look at in the bylaws if we stick with the way things are currently done. But I am not addressing the bylaws until after this election cycle.”

Although Phillips and Bering are campaigning as a ticket, each will ultimately run separately on the ballot.

“We are running as a team, but separate on the ballot, so one could make it and one could not make it,” said Phillips. “The idea is for the public to tie us together with similar thoughts, similar goals, those kinds of things that we would bring to the table together.” 

The four Republican candidates, as listed from top to bottom on the 2023 Official Republican Primary Ballot are: Sharon Zook, Mike Kuhn, Bill Bering, and Bob Phillips.

Read More: Republican Sharon Zook announces run for Lebanon County Commissioner

On May 16, registered Republican voters will decide whose names appear on the party’s ticket in November.

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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Kuhn was appointed by Senior President Judge John Tylwalk. In fact, Kuhn was appointed unanimously by the county’s Board of Judges. We sincerely regret the error.

James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; and Lancaster...


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