The three Republican County Commissioner candidates in last May’s contentious primary election have filed their campaign finance reports with the Lebanon County Voter Registration office.
The GOP primary campaign featured an intra-party fight that saw incumbent commissioner Bill Ames losing the party’s endorsement to newcomer Matt Shirk, who was favored by Lebanon County Republican Committee Chairman Casey Long.
During the campaign, Ames was the target of attack ads created by Better PA PAC, a political action committee registered to the offices of Long, Nyquist, & Associates and represented by Mike Barley, who also works at the firm. The ads prompted local Republican State Representatives Russ Diamond and Frank Ryan and Republican State Senator Mike Folmer to publicly call for Casey Long’s resignation. Long refused to resign as local Republican chair.
Total monetary and in-kind contributions for the last campaign reporting period, May 7, 2019 through June 10, 2019, were Bob Phillips, $13,456; Ames, $4,884; and Shirk, $74,891.
Shirk came in third, despite a last minute TV ad blitz funded by a $65,000 in-kind contribution from LN Consulting, a Pennsylvania LLC registered in 2009 by Michael Long and Todd Nyquist that operates from the same address as the duo’s lobbying firm.
Shirk also received cash contributions totaling $350 from Michael Long and Mike Barley, partner and associate, respectively, at Long Nyquist.
The Pennsylvania Republican Party funded mailers for Shirk with in-kind contributions totaling $8,581. It made no contributions to Ames or Phillips.
Ames and Phillips, his endorsed fellow incumbent, prevailed and earned the two Republican ballot spots in the upcoming November general election.
Phillips, who received the greatest number of votes of the three, received a total of $5,805 from Mike Long, Michael Barley, and Todd Nyquist, all employees or principals of Long Nyquist, and from Casey Long.
Aside from Phillips himself, the next biggest contributors to his campaign, at $1,000 each, were Hannah and Tim Speraw, Frank and Elsie Dixon, and Ed and Madalyn Lynch. Ed Lynch is Phillips’ campaign manager.
Reports filed by the Ames campaign showed no contributions from Long Nyquist, LN Consulting, or any individuals associated with either.
Other than Ames himself, his biggest contributor was Jeff Steckbeck of Steckbeck Engineering, who made an in-kind contribution of $3,131 for campaign mailers.
One offshoot of the Republican primary fight is a pending defamation lawsuit filed by Shirk against Samuel and Katy Abram and Leading Lebanon Valley PAC, who published a website featuring attack ads aimed at Shirk. None of the three is listed as a contributor to the Ames campaign.
Neither Ames nor his campaign is a defendant in the Shirk lawsuit, which is still in its early stages. No developments are anticipated before August.
The Phillips campaign mostly steered clear of party infighting during the primary campaign. “My campaign and team members have provided a constructive message to the voters of Lebanon County and have conducted themselves in an honorable manner,” said Phillips in an email to LebTown.
Commenting on the hostile tone of the Republican primary, Phillips added “I do not approve of negative attack ads, as I was also subject to such ads which were orchestrated by Mr. and Mrs. Sam and Katy Abram, Chairman and Treasurer of the (Leading Lebanon Valley PAC).”
The fall general election will feature Ames and Phillips against Democratic incumbent Jo Ellen Litz and Democratic newcomer Fran Rassouli. The top three vote-getters will serve as County Commissioners.
Full Disclosure: The campaigns of Bill Ames and Bob Phillips have been advertisers on LebTown. LebTown does not make editorial decisions based on advertising relationships and advertisers do not receive special editorial treatment. Learn more about advertising with LebTown here.
Update 7/18, 7/30: An earlier version of this article referred to the Abrams PAC as Leadership Lebanon Valley. This was the original name of the organization but its use was discontinued due to confusion with the similarly-named leadership development program. We have updated our article, including clarifying the comment from Phillips accordingly.