Steve Chronister faces intraparty attack from GOP
Republican Steve Chronister's bid to rejoin the York County Board of Commissioners faces attacks on two fronts from within his own party.
Party leaders said Chronister's history of professional and private spending would bar him from effectively leading, which rings similar to claims made in a recent mailer sent out by a Republican political action committee.
Chronister, a former commissioner and one of five Republicans in the primary race, said the attacks are from the same source and alleged that both the Republican committee and its recommended candidate, Commissioner Chris Reilly, are behind it all.
Reilly called Chronister's accusation "delusional."
"The fact of the matter is that numerous Republicans across York County, including myself, are concerned that returning Steve Chronister to the commissioners' office would be a disaster to taxpayers and embarrassment to York County," Reilly said in a Friday statement.
Party leaders wrote an op-ed published on YorkDispatch.com Friday highlighting anti-Chronister views that were similar to a mailer sent out on behalf of Republican Principles for York County. Rebecca Ream, county GOP vice chairwoman, said the committee is aware of the flyer but not associated with it.
Joe Gothie, an attorney who wrote the mailer, said Reilly and the committee were not involved.
“There will be some overlap between York County GOP members and individuals who sponsored this PAC, but it was not approved by the York County Republican Committee. The only person who authorized the content of the mailer was me,” Gothie said.
The flyer asks one question: "Why did Republican voters fire Steve Chronister?"
Answer: "a history of raising your property taxes."
Chronister's vote in favor of a 14% tax increase in his last year in office, 2015, was also noted in the party leaders' public criticism of Chronister.
Chronister, however, stood by his vote.
"One thing I will tell you about the 14% increase: it was needed. But it takes more than one commissioner to do an increase; Chris Reilly voted for that increase as well," Chronister said.
Reilly confirmed he also voted for the tax increase, adding that it further shows he wasn't behind the mailer.
The GOP leaders' criticism of Chronister goes beyond the tax increase.
GOP Chairman Jeff Piccola said Chronister's record of spending is "not one that is consistent with the goals and aspirations and ambitions" of the party.
"It's nothing against him personally. ... I think it's important voters are aware of his record," Ream said.
York County GOP leaders focused their anti-Chronister position on his financial record but also noted Chronister's confrontation with the Grandview Five, a group of African American women who allege they were kicked off a golf course owned by the Chronister family based on their race.
"We just feel that there is too much baggage with him to be an effective leader and to be the face of not only the party but really more the face of our county government," Ream said.
As for whether the party is concerned Chronister will hurt its chances in the general election, Ream said "we would cross that bridge when we came to it."
"Right now, we're just focused on May 21," she said. May 21 is the primary election.
Republican leaders highlighted Chronister's reported millions of dollars in debt, including a county tax lien totaling $11,658 on his foreclosed home and failed business ventures.
"His abysmal business record, which should raise a red flag with any responsible taxpayer because the York County commissioners handle tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money. And if he handles his own money and money he borrows like that, we don't want him handling the taxpayer money," Piccola said.
Gothie said after Chronister voted to raise taxes, "he didn't pay the taxes he raised on everyone else."
Chronister denies the allegations and said “everything’s paid."
Chronister owes at least $4,880 in delinquent taxes, based on the York County delinquent tax listing.
Chronister also defended his record, adding that he is not a career politician.
"I've had three different professions, and when you step out and do things as a businessman, you’re setting yourself up for some failures," he said.
Chronister said he's "never been convicted of anything" and was quick to call out 2012 accusations of fraud against Piccola.
Then-state Sen. Piccola faced charges that he acted dishonestly in his private law practices while handling various estate cases, according to PennLive. The charges came just months before Piccola retired from office; he later apologized to fellow lawmakers and constituents, according to PennLive.
"And the other thing that I questioned is, why not just come after Steve Chronister?" Chronister added.
The York County GOP this year broke a tradition spanning at least 15 years when it announced endorsements. Ream said the party is recommending Reilly for reelection but has not recommended a candidate for the other seat on the Republican ballot.
According to Ream, Chronister did not reach out to the party during the recommendation process, and the committee was only informed after his petitions were submitted and his name was on the ballot.
"They knew I was running," Chronister said, adding that the party snubbed other candidates across the board in their respective races. "That's a poor excuse."
— Rebecca Klar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RebeccaKlar_.