Insults and accusations fly before election for new GOP leader

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There were insults. There were accusations. And then there was a last-minute change to a last-minute change of candidates, just hours before the Republican City Committee is set to chose a new chairman.

Michael Meehan, the local party’s longtime general counsel, dropped out of the race over the weekend and threw his support to Joe McColgan.

But Michael Cibik, who became acting chairman of the local GOP when Joe DeFelice resigned Friday, said McColgan was ineligible to be a candidate and accused him of trying to “pull a fast one.”

McColgan at first dismissed Cibik’s claims Monday morning as “comical” and compared him to a whining toddler. 

A few hours later, McColgan dropped out of the race and threw his support to Meehan, who again became a candidate.

The ward leaders are scheduled to gather at 7 p.m. Monday at the United Republican Club in Kensington to select Cibik or Meehan as their new leader.

Cibik, the Republican leader of the fifth ward in Center City, noted that McColgan resigned earlier this month from the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, a state agency with oversight of the city’s budget.

The state law that created PICA says “Members of the board and the executive director shall not seek election as public officials or party officers for one year after their service with the authority.”

Cibik called McColgan’s candidacy “shameful and disgraceful.”

McColgan was initially unimpressed, saying that he had sought legal advice before getting into the race..

“Seriously,” he responded in a text message. “What are they going to do, put me in PICA prison?”

The state law is silent on what happens if the provision is violated. A challenge in court would have been the likely outcome if McColgan wins the election.

McColgan, who previously ran for the U.S. Congress and City Council, said he decided to withdraw Monday afternoon to avoid “a sloppy fight, a messy fight.”

A Cibik-Meehan face-off is a revival of an old party feud.  Meehan hails from the GOP’s old guard. Cibik was part of “The Loyal Opposition,” a group that warred with the Republican City Committee from 2009 to 2013 about making the party more competitive.

Meehan, 64, said he had been written off as “from the past” by Cibik and his supporters. He noted that Cibik is 74. 

“I hardly believe a septuagenarian is the future,” Meehan said of Cibik.

Cibik dismissed that as “sour grapes.” He also claimed McColgan’s brother-in-law, Val DiGiorgio, who was elected chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party in February, had been “actively” pushing for his election.

Cibik said he rejected a request Saturday from the state party to have its general counsel, Joel Frank, attend and observe Monday evening’s election.

“There’s no good that comes of that,” Cibik said. “Val DiGiorgio has his thumb all over this election.

McColgan has said his brother-in-law is not involved in the local race.

“I’ve kept my distance between the state chairman and myself,” McColgan said before withdrawing.

DiGiorgio said the state party fielded phone calls and emails over the weekend from Philadelphia ward leaders asking for an observer to make sure the election is “fair and impartial.”

“That’s about the extent of my involvement,” DiGiorgio said. “Our only concern is that this happens fairly.”

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