Party chairmen react to elections

BROOKVILLE — Republican candidates did very well in Jefferson County, collectively gaining more than 70 percent of the vote.

One U.S. Senate seat and five U.S. House of Repre-sentative seats from Penns-ylvania switched from Democrat to Repub-lican, and every Republican candidate — Pat Toomey, Tom Corbett, Glenn Thompson and Sam Smith — carried Jefferson County.

Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Troy Harper and county Democratic Chairman Don Hilliard reacted to the results, both saying they appreciated the voter turnout, which was more than 44 percent of the 27,885 of those registered.

“This was a big night for Republicans,” Harper said. “Now we have got to do the job. This might have been the easy part.”

Harper said the goal of the Republican party was not to win elections, but to be able to affect policies that will be for the betterment of the state and the nation.

“This was Step 1 for a two-step process,” he said late Tuesday night. “It is certainly a good night for Republicans across the nation, but getting elected is Step 1. Step 2 is for them to go to Harrisburg or Washington and lead appropriately to get us back on the path to prosperity.”

Harper said the Republican Party in Jefferson County placed more than 5,000 phone calls in the weeks leading up to the election, and that could have affected the voter turnout.

Hilliard said local, active organizations, such as the Tea Party, also had an impact.

“I truly hope those organizations stay active, because next year’s elections truly are more important,” he said citing local races for school board, borough council and county commission positions.

“One of the things that my father taught me was that water and doo-doo always flow downhill,” Hilliard said. “With the Republicans in control of everything in Harrisburg, they are telling us they are going to be cutting things.

“That is good if they are telling us that they will be cutting programs. In my opinion, all they are going to do is pass that down to the local level,” he said. “They’re going to pass the buck down to the school board, and city and borough council and the county commissioners. So next year, we have to make sure we elect the right people at the local levels who can deal with those local problems.”

Hilliard said he believes that if the state government is going to cut funding for a program, then it should cut the program entirely.

“Don’t make it an unfunded mandate,” he said. “They are going to do just that. They are going make themselves look good. So I hope the groups stay active. I’ve been around long enough to see these organizations come and go. I hope they are, if you forgive the pun, still making steam at this time next year.”

Unfunded mandates have been a problem for the past several years at the county level. When the state budget was passed in 2009 — following a impasse that lasted more than 100 days — the county commissioners discussed problems with unfunded mandates.

The state requires counties to carry services such as Children & Youth Services, the Agency on Aging and support for mental health and mental retardation patients.

Funding for those services was cut in 2009 and again this year.

“The state pushes costs down to the county, and we have no recourse,” county commission Chairman Paul Corbin said earlier this year. “Our hands are pretty well tied.”

The Democratic Party held majority in the state legislature each of the past two years.

Hilliard also addressed Marcellus Shale and the debate over how to regulate the industry. He said he was fearful now that the Republican Party gained control of the state government.

“How many working class people are going to get hurt?” he said. “How do you fight a billion dollar industry if they screw up your water, and don’t tell me that it hasn’t happened, because it has.”

“The Republicans are all for big business and corporations,” he said later. “They are not for the working people, and they never have been.”

Hilliard said the result of the Tuesday elections was caused by a lack of attention given to the policies enacted by the Democratic Party as a whole.

“I think the national Democratic Party forgot a few things,” he said. “I think it was a failure to communicate what was done. There were things that had to be done. I’m not blaming (former President George W.) Bush, but the economy was in a freefall. There were certain things that had to be done on the national level. Some very good things were done, but they were not communicated to the people.”

Hilliard’s goals are now focused on the local level.

“I am going to try to get our local message out to what we are trying to do and try to get a good slate of candidates for the local level next year, because that is where all of this is going to be next year,” he said. “I want to make sure that I have the best field of candidates possible.”