The trend which began in the recent primary election of removing incumbents from office continued as the Schuylkill County Republican Party Executive Committee elected a new chairman, vice chairman and secretary at its biannual meeting held Saturday at Schoeneman's Auditorium, located off SR61 between Pottsville and Saint Clair.
Joseph D. Sterns, 35, Deer Lake, a newcomer who was not a member of the executive committee, defeated the incumbent chairman, Robert E. Ames, 55, Coaldale, by a 55 to 41 vote. Larry Padora, New Ringgold, a supporter of Stern's, defeated the long standing incumbent, Mary Labert, McAdoo, for vice chairman by a 47 to 39 vote. The vote for both posts was by secret ballot.
Dan Daub, Tower City, former county chairman whom Ames succeeded, was named secretary by acclamation by a voice vote as he was unopposed. The current secretary, Phyllis Hesser, Pine Grove, was not seeking re-election.
Also re-elected by voice vote because of no opposition were the four district vice chairmen – Adam Pancake, Pine Grove; Howard Merrick, Pottsville; Dan Metzinger, Ashland; Micah Gursky, Tamaqua; and treasurer, Norman Lettick, Hubley Township.
Ames was stunned by the vote as he anticipated re-election. He briefly addressed the committee people.
"I am not going to say I am relieved," he said, followed by a long pause. "But this is it. It's over, I'm going home."
Ames did give some parting advice.
"For the Republican Party to win you must win your precinct," he said. "Carry your precinct and we will win together. I wish you all the best."
Ames first congratulated Sterns on winning and remained until the voting was completed, but left before the meeting ended. Mary Laburda also left after the voting.
Sterns was not able to vote like Ames because he was not a member of the executive committee, however, he was prepared for the election. He arrived at the hall with a strong group of supporters, all wearing stickers on their left shoulder proclaiming "Go With Joe." After Sterns was elected, they distributed an information sheet to each committee member.
Sterns lauded Ames for his many years of contribution to the party, and then explained the information sheets, which requested the member's name, precinct, home and business address, telephone and e-mail numbers, and the committee on which the member wanted to serve.
The committees listed were, finance (fundraising), auditing, policy and review, constitution bylaw review, local government council, Republican Women, management and budget, voter registration, committeeman education, public relations and Young Republicans.
Sterns is not a county native. He attended Trinity High School in Washington, Pa., graduated from California University of Pennsylvania, is married with two children, and works as a political consultant for two firms. He majored in politics.
Sterns was nominated by Larry Padora, New Ringgold, and Bruce Johnson, Wayne Township, while Ames was nominated by Nick Stanko, Kline Township, and Howard Merrick, Pottsville. Both sides spoke briefly in support of their candidates. After the nominations Daubs, as temporary chairman, called for a vote but Sterns asked to address the crowd. Both candidates were given two minutes to speak.
Sterns spoke of building back the Republican Party to the greatness it once enjoyed in the county. Ames spoke of stepping in when the party was at its lowest ebb in 2007, after losing control of the county courthouse and the chairman resigning.
State Sen. Dave Argall, who won the Republican nomination for U.S. Congress, addressed the committee people at the start of the meeting, thanking them for their support and telling them the three opponents who ran against him all have offered to help him in the fall campaign to regain the seat for the Republican Party. He also urged they support the winning candidate.
State Rep. Jerry Knowles addressed the group while the votes were being counted. He gave a passionate speech for all Republicans to come together, warning that "If we don't, we are in trouble."
Knowles also told the committee people that certain comments on a talk radio show in Tamaqua claimed he will run for Argall's seat in the state senate if Argall is elected to Congress.
"This is so false. I have no intention of running for the state senate. I love the House and I want to stay in the House," Knowles stated.
Mike Tobash, who won the party's nomination to the state House of Representatives from the 125th Schuylkill District, thanked the committee for its support.
The meeting took close to three hours – one of the longest in a number of years.