Pennsylvania GOP heads off potential embarrassment for Trump

Under the deal, Bernadette “Bernie” Comfort, who was backed by President Donald Trump’s campaign, will remain as vice chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo

The Pennsylvania Republican Party on Friday ended a messy internal battle for its next chairman — and the possibility that the preferred candidate of Donald Trump campaign’s would lose — by announcing that the two contenders have reached a power-sharing arrangement.

Under the deal, Bernadette “Bernie” Comfort, who was backed by Trump’s campaign, will remain as vice chairwoman and become the chair of Trump’s 2020 operation in Pennsylvania. Lawrence Tabas, an attorney and former general counsel for the state party, will be the new state party leader.

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The election was triggered by the resignation of Val DiGiorgio, who stepped down amid a scandal involving allegations of sexual harassment.

Tabas and Comfort were locked in a race that was expected to be close heading into a planned election on Saturday. A loss by Comfort would have been embarrassing to the president and his campaign advisers, some of whom — to the irritation of pro-Tabas state Republicans — vocally backed Comfort.

The situation in Pennsylvania was being watched closely given the importance of the state to Trump’s reelection hopes. His campaign was eager to avoid even a whiff of anything that might hurt his chances in the battleground state.

Supporters of both Tabas and Comfort called the deal a unifying moment for the state party, which has been torn apart by geographical, ideological and personality differences in recent years.

“It’s a unity resolution that serves the best interests of the party and 2020 campaign,” said Charlie Gerow, a Pennsylvania GOP-based consultant and pro-Tabas state committee member, “and will lead to victory for President Trump next year.”

David Urban, a 2016 Trump campaign adviser who endorsed Comfort, said, “There was strong support on both sides for both candidates, and the new team allows the Pennsylvania Republican Party to join back together again and become stronger and focus on reelecting the president in 2020.”

A party insider added: “It’s a gigantic victory for Lawrence Tabas, and a well-earned one.”

Trump tweeted about the announcement Friday, saying, “We have a GREAT TEAM in Pennsylvania! I’m proud to say that our good friends Lawrence Tabas & Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Comfort will now be working together to run the @PAGOP. Lawrence will be Chairman & Bernie will Chair my Pennsylvania Campaign. We must have, & do, great UNITY in PA!”