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Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - February 15, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania Page Alo ■ Altoona Mirror 9TH DISTRICT RACE Thursday, February 15, 2001 RACE / Bylaw ambiguity (Continued from Page Al) Some observers have said he did it to give his son Bill an edge in becoming his successor. Shuster said no, and other observers agree that getting the nomination through the party rather than a regular primary is actually harder for Bill, who has never run for office. Earlier. Geist called for Shuster to rescind his resignation, but Shuster ignored the suggestion. Whatever the reasons the congressman touched off the turmoil to replace him. people need to get past the acrimony, said Geist, who’d like to be peacemaker. The Republican nominee to be named Saturday will need all the Republican help he can get, including the help of those who support his rivals, Geist believes. And candidates for a variety of other offices, including City Council, will need help winning their elections, he said. “All I want to do is make sure all the people in my district get back together,” he said. “You don’t win elections without a strong committee, at least in Blair County.” People need to keep in mind an old Pennsylvania Dutch adage: Make sure you keep your words warm and soft because someday you may have to eat them, he said. But even with the cold and harsh words spoken recently, there’s hope for reconciliation, he thinks. “There’s always room for reasonable people to get along," Geist said. The politicians will need to get over the bitterness for the good of the community, said Wade Kagarise, an Eichelberger supporter and a member of the Blair County Republican Executive Committee. He’s only 28, but he’s been in politics long enough to realize that sometimes you have to work alongside people you don’t necessarily hit it off with, he said. One potential gesture of peace is the plan by Eichelberger supporters not to pursue a resolution to the court case, now moot, after the Shuster supporters won a preliminary injunction forcing the pro-Eichelberger    Executive Committee to defer delegate selection to the full County Committee. It’s in nobody’s interest to resolve that case now, Kagarise said. On Wednesday, Mike Long, an aide to Shuster supporter Jubelirer, said Eichelberger tried to exploit his role as chairman of Blair County’s Republican Executive Committee to stack the county delegation, but it backfired. Eichelberger and Vice Chairman Dan Beck denied in court Tuesday that they stacked the deck to Eichelberger’s advantage. Nevertheless, Long said the alleged failed attempt alienated many of the people on the overall committee, helping to contribute to his losing to Shuster 18 of 28 delegates that once seemed a lock, Long said. It was almost as if he was taking advice especially designed to sabotage his chances, Long said. “He used a heavy hand and dictator-like practices to control the procedure,” Long said. “There was clearly a backlash among his own committee members.” There was no manipulation, countered Wade Kagarise, Executive Committee member and Eichelberger supporter. Eichelberger wasn’t manipulating the Executive Committee and the committee wasn’t manipulating the selection of delegates to favor Eichelberger — who laid aside his chairmanship for delegate selection, Kagarise said. Rather, Executive Committee members were acting on their own and trying to do the right thing, Kagarise said. Eichelberger not only tried to commandeer all the county’s votes by using the Executive Committee, he tried to keep reporters out of the meeting Tuesday, fought in court the attempt to open the voting to the whole committee and tried to get the executive committee installed as delegates in a block even after losing the court case, Long said. I “It’s hard to imagine a chain of events that could do more harm <han that he himself undertook,” Long said. “Bill Shuster couldn’t have planned to hurt him more.” Eichelberger didn’t help himself a couple of months ago by criticizing Shuster on “60 Minutes.” Committee members would have understood his personal problems with Shuster but not sharing them with a national audience when he is chairman of the congressman’s party back in the home district, Long said. Eichelberger also did •himself no favors by criticizing Shuster’s obtaining of money for the Bedford County Airport, especially when that airport has helped make that county a state leader in industrial job growth, Long said. The Executive Committee was acting according to its understanding of the legalities of the case for delegate selection, Kagarise said. Blair County Republican Party bylaws are ambiguous and unreliable on delegate selection because they use imported language from the State Committee bylaws that don’t make sense in a county con- ^    4 text, Kagarise said. The relevant passage says: “In the event of a vacancy occurring on the Republican ballot in any electoral district composed of more than one county, but less than state-wide, the vacancy shall be filled by conferees selected by the County Committees of the respective counties.” It doesn’t make sense to talk about multiple counties when the application only is to Blair, said Kagarise, Blair County assistant district attorney. Asked what’s the big deal about a simple plural, he said lots of little things cause big problems in legal documents. Because of the county bylaw ambiguity, the Executive Committee consulted the State Committee bylaws, which state: “The vacancy shall be filled by conferees selected by the County Committees of the representative counties or their duly accredited representative.” The state bylaws don’t specify how the county committees are to select those conferees, and the county bylaws don’t specify either, which runs counter to typical legal language in which the higher body authorizes and the lower one lays out how to do it, Kagarise said. Therefore, the Executive Committee discarded the clauses about the committee as a whole choosing the delegates and seized upon the second clause in the state bylaws, the one about selection by the “duly accredited representative.” That would be the chairman, Eichelberger, he said. But as a candidate, Eichelberger had a conflict of interest and besides, he had promised to step aside. So the committee went the next logical step, choosing Vice Cham Dan Beck — who happens to be an Eichelberger supporter. “I think we felt we were constrained by the rules to make the decision we made,” Kagarise said. “We never meant to disenfranchise any county committee people.” Still, not all the rank-and-file committee people understood, he said. Tuesday’s vote showed that. Subtract the 17 votes for the pro-Eichelberger Executive Committee and only five rank-and-file committee members supported Eichelberger’s candidacy. The Executive Committee might not have done a good enough job explaining its rationale for taking on delegate selection, Kagarise said. “I know they [the rank and file] didn’t feel comfortable in the decision we made,” Kagarise said. “They wanted to have a say in what happened.” And after all, he doesn’t blame them for wanting that say, he said. Despite the court loss, Kagarise believes that the Executive Committee’s interpretation of the rules was correct. But he conceded it was a close issue all along. “I never said the plaintiffs were off their rockers,” he said. ■ ■■ In a day of victory, Shuster opted not to press his luck and annihilate Eichelberger’s candidacy by pressing for a winner-take-all vote, even after he found he had the backing of the majority on a vote to make the whole Executive Committee part of the delegation. Rather, his supporters went for the proportional vote that led to the split delegation. Shuster had been urging a fair, democratic selection of delegates to the mini-convention and a proportional split fit the bill nicely, Long said. It meant that every committee person’s vote would count, being reflected in the delegation the county would send to Huntingdon, Long said. That was enough. Shuster had fought the party chair, got what he wanted, but after getting it, he didn’t overreach, Long said. In the long run, that will help him, Long thinks. Maybe it was just sensible caution because the anti-Executive Committee vote might not have translated one-for-one into overall support for Shuster, Kagarise said. And maybe committee members would have been less willing to vote for Shuster if they’d known that even with a bare majority, he’d have all the delegates, Kagarise said. Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler can be reached at 949-7038 or bkibler(a)altoonamirror.com. FREE 2-YR. THIS COUPON EXTENDS THE MANUFACTURER’S WARRANTY (Usually SO Days) TO A FULL 2 YEARS FROM ORIGINAL DATE OF PURCHASE PURCHASE OF SM OR MORE PER ITEM REQUIRED • AVAILABLE ONLY ON ITEMS IN A FACTORY SEALED BOX • NOT SUBJECT TO PRIOR SAU • OFFER IS FOR INDIVIDUALS. NOT BUSINESSES EXPIRES 2/28/01 PRESIDENTS BUCKS^H 9 LIMIT I COUPON PER ITEM Coupons not valid on previously reduced merchandise. Reductions taken from regular selling prices. GUARANTEED SAVINGS FROM OUR EVERYDAY LOW PRICES IN EVERY DEPT. 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