Can Far Right GOP Crackpot Joe Gale Take Down Pat Meehan In A PA-07 Primary?

Pennsylvania Republicans Gale and Meeham

Pat Meehan is a pretty ho-hum Republican member of Congress-- someone I'd call a back-bencher or, in a feistier mood, a knee-jerk GOP zombie. He's cautious not to freak out independent voters in his swingy ultra-gerrymandered suburban district outside of Philly, with pieces of Delaware, Montgomery, Chester, Berks, and Lancaster counties. Obama beat McCain there and then Romney narrowly bested Obama 50-49%. Last year, the district swung back towards the Democrats as Hillary beat Trump 49.3% to 47.0%.

Patrick Meehan, a Bush-appointed US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, ran for the congressional seat Joe Sestak (D) left in in 2010. Meehan beat state Rep Bryan Lentz 55% to 44% and has been winning ever since, beating George Badey (59.4-40.6%) in 2012, and Mary Ellen Balchunis in 2014 (62-38%) and again in 2016 (59.5% to 40.5%). It's a district the DCCC would like to win back but one of the districts that they continually botch-up in their dream of fielding a conservative self-funder.

Meanwhile, Meehan, who doesn't do much of anything in Congress has plenty of time ti go to local bake sales and Little League games. He's become popular. He's voted to repeal Obamacare dozens of times and, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, he blithely and without a second thought voted for TrumpCare before in turned into one of the most controversial and hated bills introduced in years. Eventually Meehan chickened out and when the final vote came, he voted NO, unable to explain why he had voted to repeal Obamacare around 50 times before and for this very bill in committee and then switching at the last moment.

Far right Republicans were infuriated. And one of southeast Pennsylvania's most deranged Trumpists, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, a 27 year old crackpot, started talking about primarying Meehan. Gale, who still lives at home with his parents and has never held a real job, is even more detested by the Republican establishment in Pennsylvania than by Democrats, who mostly just laugh at him. Gale beat a Republican for the seat on the 3-person Montgomery County Commission when he exposed the other Republican as an active Planned Parenthood supporter.

The last time Meehan was primaried from the right, Gale's brother worked on the campaign of another right-wing nut, Stan Casacio, who Meehan pulverized in the Republican primary, 76.4% to 23.6%. That isn't stopping Joe Gale, who is driven by ambition and rage against the GOP establishment. In January the Philadelphia Inquirer summed up his first year on the board as stormy. Reporter Laura McCrystal didn't paint a very attractive picture-- at least not for normal people, but Republicans, especially the fringy ones who can tend to dominate primaries, love him. Like most normal people who have to interact with him regularly, his colleagues on the County Commission hate him but he hates them to and does all he can to impede the efficient functioning of government.

He lives with his parents in Plymouth Meeting and ran for county commissioner in 2015 without the backing of the county GOP.

Since taking office, he has not been afraid to speak out against Democratic Commissioners Valerie Arkoosh and Josh Shapiro, who is about to become the state's attorney general. They say his accusations amount to nothing more than political grandstanding and have, in turn, accused him of not participating in county government.

But Gale, who holds up President-elect Donald Trump as a role model, says he is not in Norristown to get along with everyone.

"A lot of times if it seems I'm upsetting the administration, I'm doing my job," he said.

A graduate of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School and Temple University, Gale said he has been attending local government meetings since he was about 16 and a teacher encouraged him to get involved in politics.

At age 20, Gale ran for Plymouth Township council. He lost, but he said he learned how to knock on doors and talk to people. After graduating from Temple with a degree in finance and real estate, he worked for the county recorder of deeds office for a year before getting a job as a loan specialist with a home-building company.

He left that job to run for commissioner.

During that 2015 campaign, the Republican Party chairman at the time called him a "liar" and a committeeman told him, "I'd like to slice your throat."

But he defeated a fellow Republican in the general election to become the county's minority commissioner. The law requires that the board have at least one Democrat and one Republican.

Now, Gale, said he keeps his party "at arm's length."

...Gale, meanwhile, says his lack of interest in becoming part of the political establishment aligns with Trump's approach. He says that he was the first Pennsylvania elected official to endorse Trump, and he ran his own radio advertisements promoting his candidacy and celebrating his victory.

"We were both outsiders, we challenged the establishment, went against the will of political party bosses and connected with the people in a grassroots fashion," Gale said. "And we were both successful."

If he runs against Meehan, he's told acquaintances, he's running to win, not to make a point, a tall order. A primary would prevent Meehan from distancing himself from Trump soon enough to help him in the general election, which is why the Pennsylvania Republican Machine is ready "to squash him like a bug," one highly connected Republican committeeman told me, if he goes through with his threats to run against Meehan, who could well get swept away in the anti-Trump tsunami that's building now, especially if the DCCC doesn't try to force one of their horrible recruits into the nomination. (There are at least half a dozen Democrats already running and there are rumors that state Senator and progressive icon Daylin Leach is being recruited by county officials.)

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