Update: We have received a report that Gleason has quit his quest to be Republican national party chairman. Confirmation awaits.
Bill Russell, the congressional candidate who gave Democrat power-broker John Murtha a scare in 2008, is begging fellow Republicans not to name Robert Gleason as national party chairman.
Gleason, who chairs the Pennsylvania GOP, is seeking the seat citing as creds his organization’s resounding success on Nov. 2. The Republicans in Pennsylvania flipped five congressional seats, the U.S. senate seat, the governor’s office, took over the State House and held the State Senate which gives them total control over Harrisburg.
Russell, however, in a widely disseminated email accused Gleason of throwing the 12th District congressional race in 2008 and this year in order to protect government-connected policies issued by his company, Gleason Insurance.
Gleason is from Cambria County in the 12th District and has been that county’s GOP chairman. The 12th District was represented by Murtha for almost 38 years until his death Feb. 8.
Russell says Gleason had a close personal relationship with Murtha attending family barbecues and having a picture of Murtha and himself — since removed — on the Gleason Insurance website, along with a list of customers who had benefited from a relationship with Murtha, also since removed.
Russell said he was warned about Gleason’s relationship with Murtha when he announced as a candidate in 2007 but the reality hit home when 15 different persons declined to sign his nominating petition or contribute to his campaign expressing a fear they or a spouse might be fired. Ultimately he was unable to get the signatures and was not placed on the primary ballot. This required him to run a write-in campaign which he remarkably won becoming the first in the state to do so as a congressional primary candidate. This meant he was on the ballot for the general election.
Due to the Murtha’s Haditha Marine comments, personalities such as Michelle Malkin turned the race into a national one and the money poured in.
Russell said this presented a problem for Gleason since he was pledging to end the regions economic dependence on earmarks which provided the funding for the Gleason-insured businesses.
Russell said among the measures Gleason took to undermine his campaign was by attempting, usually successfully, to keep him from appearing with John McCain or Sarah Palin at rallies in the district — which McCain won as the Pa12 was the only congressional district in the nation to flip to the Republicans that year — and by leaving his name off the Republican sample ballots.
Russell says he immediately began preparing for the 2010 race and fully expected to be the GOP candidate albeit it he had two primary opponents activist Dave Battaglia and businessman Tim Burns. Murtha’s death, however, brought the need for a special election to fill the remaining months of his seat and this election was to take place alongside the primary.
Candidate for special elections are not picked by voters in a primary but by party people. Burns got the tap at the behest of Gleason.
Burns would lose the special election to Mark Critz, who had been Murtha’s district director. The race, however, again garnered national attention and money and most of the local publicity went to Burns and that gave him the advantage he needed to win the primary election.
In the Nov. 2 rematch, Burns did not catch the GOP wave and fell to Critz despite the district going for the Republicans at the top of the ticket.
Russell says that, like himself, Burns did not get the support of the Gleason machine.
“The only answer I can come up with for these questions is that Robert Gleason fully intended to lose the 12th Congressional District Special and Primary elections in order to protect his company’s insurance contracts with the earmark companies that John Murtha brought in, and Mark Critz promised to protect,” Russell says.