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The Allentown Morning Call

GOP Put Its Best Foot Forward At Lincoln Day Event

By Donald Hoffman, Special to The Morning Call -- Freelance

26 February 2005
Copyright © 2005 The Allentown Morning Call. All rights reserved.

As a columnist with a Republican perspective, I take pride in spending a good deal of prose playing gadfly to my own party, a practice which I hope gives me some measure of credibility among Republicans, Democrats, and third party politicos alike. For instance, I like to lodge "grassroots" protests against the state GOP's practice of "anointing" primary election candidates, in order to avoid knock-down, drag-out battles to nominate general election candidates. The strategists' argument is that quashing primary election competition saves energy and campaign dollars. My gripe is that it seems a handful of power bosses hand pick their protgs while ignoring potential talent and leadership waiting to be gleaned out among the people -- whom they'll never get to know if they subvert the electoral process.

Another issue that has me pulling my hair out in clumps recently is the result of the GOP leadership's strategy in Pennsylvania in 2004. Pat Toomey is gone from the U.S. Congress, but is president of the Club for Growth. And morbid as it may be for me to state it, I'm sure the strategists in Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell's inner circle are scurrying in deliberations over whether Bob Casey or Joe Hoeffel should be appointed to Arlen Specter's U.S. Senate seat, speculating that Specter, being treated for Hodgkins Disease, won't complete his current term, which runs through 2010.

I might be a bit nave, but I think maybe some in the GOP leadership might want to reassess the nutritional value of some of the "brain food" they're eating at those $2,000-a-plate fundraisers. It didn't seem to pay off in some facets of Pennsylvania politics in 2004.

But, all that said, I did attend a fundraiser this past weekend, for a mere $35 that had me turning cartwheels after seeing the better side of my party in action. The event was the annual Lincoln Day Breakfast held by the Lehigh County Republican Committee. I went there expecting the usual so-so buffet fare and usual political spiel from the podium, but hoped for at least a chance to hang out with some of my political-junkie buddies.

To my surprise, I found that the food was actually pretty good, and the theme offered by the featured speakers showed, with real authority, that the Lehigh County GOP, if not the state leadership, is in tune with the combination of immense qualification and ethnic diversity present in the executive branch of the federal government under George W. Bush.

One of the first to take the podium was Dan Bosket, president of the Allentown branch of the NAACP. Bosket spoke on the subject of why he is a Republican, which included being able to exist in a party and be able to express your own opinions and do your own thinking with the freedom to disagree.

After Bosket, Wanda Mercado-Arroyo took the podium to introduce the keynote speaker, Luis Ramos. Mercado-Arroyo spoke about education as the parent involvement coordinator for the Allentown School District. She also is a board member of the Latino Leadership Alliance, Hispanic Business Council, Penn State-Lehigh Extension, Child/Family Project, and the PBS Hispanic Advisory Committee, and as chairwoman of the Allentown Hispanic Committee.

Ramos spoke at length about education, including the value of the No Child Left Behind Act. He came to the South Side of Bethlehem from Puerto Rico in 1956 as a 7-year-old, speaking no English. A Lehigh University graduate, he is a nuclear power plant spokesman for PPL, with 30-plus years of service. He's served on the Allentown School District's Empowerment Team, the Hispanic Business Council, the state Board of Education, and a U.S. Senate Republican Task Force on Hispanic Affairs. Ramos has most recently been appointed by President Bush to the National Assessment Regulatory Board, continuing his commitment to improvements in education.

So, I'm happy to say, the Lehigh County Republican Committee wasn't serving up the usual ham and eggs at their Lincoln Day Breakfast last Saturday. Instead, Chairman Bob Lovett and company really challenged the stereotype of being the party of "rich white men." Those speakers stood as the embodiment of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream, judged "giants" by the content of their character.

After a hearty breakfast like that, I got to thinking It might just be time we had a "real" black president -- just as soon as she finishes her job as U.S. Secretary of State.

Donald Hoffman is a politically active Republican living in Fountain Hill.

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