Philly GOP taking leadership brawl on the road to state party

Philadelphia Republican City Committee Chairman Michael Meehan (left) is attempting to oust his vice chairman, Mike Cibik (right) from the Pennsylvania Republican State Committee, which meets in Harrisburg Friday. This is a resumption of hostilities between long-warring factions of the local GOP.

Philadelphia’s Republican City Committee rolls into Harrisburg on Friday for the state party’s fall meeting with a brawl brewing in its leadership and a new, embarrassing distinction to its credit.

Michael Meehan, the local party’s longtime general counsel and new chairman, will be there.

So will Mike Cibik, the vice chairman Meehan defeated in an April election for chairman.

Cibik was also a member of the Republican State Committee until last month, when Meehan abruptly ousted him and filled that seat with George Gunning IV, a committeeman in South Philly’s 26th Ward.

Cibik says he will fight to be seated at Friday’s party meeting.

So the state party will have to sort out that dispute.

Greg Manz, spokesman for the state party, said the matter is already under review, “to ensure that the proper Philadelphia delegation is seated at our fall meeting.”

And then there is this: Voters who are registered as independents or with smaller political parties now outnumber Republicans in Philadelphia, apparently for the first time since the dawn of the two-party system.

That distinction, according to a Sept. 1 review of registrations, should make for some awkward conversations when the state party pooh-bahs mingle during the weekend event.

There are more than a million registered voters in the city, where 77 percent are Democrats. There are now 117,215 independents and “third party” members. That is 215 more than the Republicans, as first reported by Philadelphia magazine.

The Meehan-Cibik fight is a resumption of a party civil war that raged from 2008 to 2013 between the old guard (Meehan), which had a working relationship with the Democratic City Committee, and a band of upstarts (Cibik) who found that far too cozy.

State Republican Party Chairman Val DiGiorgio can select a three-member panel to hold a hearing on the dispute at the fall meeting.

Cibik says he would participate in that hearing but is also considering a lawsuit in the state Commonwealth Court and may do both “contemporaneously.”

Gunning, the guy who replaced him, was recommended for the post by Joe McColgan, DiGiorgio’s brother-in-law.

McColgan ran for chairman of the city party in April with Meehan’s support but dropped out of the race and backed Meehan after Cibik noted he was ineligible, because he had just left the board of the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, which oversees Philadelphia’s finances. By state law, PICA members can’t hold a party office for one year after they leave the board.

Some Republicans think McColgan is biding his time until he is eligible to run for local party chairman. So consider what he has to say about the resumption of hostilities.

“We’re fighting over a 1972 Yugo that is rusted out and has no transmission,” he said. “This is ridiculous. It’s like I’m sitting through a bad movie again.”

Cibik says Meehan pulled him from the State Committee after he published on social media an 825-word criticism of U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, calling for him to resign as chairman of what Cibik called “the most corrupt political machine in the United States.”

Meehan, while defending Brady from Cibik’s criticism, said that was not what prompted him to oust him from the State Committee.

McColgan says Republican voters in the city are being “screwed” by the in-fighting.

“And frankly, I’m tired of it,” he said. “We’re supposed to be big boys. My 6-year-old is more mature than this.”