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Philly GOP's civil war rekindles over criticism of Bob Brady

The chairman and vice chairman of Philadelphia's Republican City Committee are fighting about criticism of the chairman of the Democratic City Committee.

Philadelphia Republican City Committee Chairman Michael Meehan (left) welcomes a President Trump impersonator to the stage at the party’s annual Billy Meehan Clam Bake on Aug. 27.
Philadelphia Republican City Committee Chairman Michael Meehan (left) welcomes a President Trump impersonator to the stage at the party’s annual Billy Meehan Clam Bake on Aug. 27.Read more / File Photograph

Michael Meehan won the election for chairman of Philadelphia's Republican City Committee in April, defeating party vice chairman Mike Cibik.

The rivals then managed to work together for about three months, until Cibik called on U.S. Rep. Robert Brady to resign his House seat and as chairman of the Democratic City Committee.

Now they're feuding in a way that will ring familiar to anyone who recalls the Republican civil war that raged in the city from 2008 to 2013, when State Rep. John Taylor finally took over as chairman and made party peace a priority.

Taylor, who left the chairman's post last year, announced last week he will not seek an 18th term in the state House next year. Maybe he can become a full-time political peacekeeper?

Meehan was on one side of the civil war, with the old-school Philly GOP, happy to work hand-in-hand with Brady and the Democrats who dominate the city.

Cibik was on the other side, a charter member of the "Loyal Opposition," which assailed Meehan and like-minded Republicans for not challenging the Democrats.

Cibik on July 30 published on social media an 825-word criticism of Brady, calling him the boss of "the most corrupt political machine" in the country.

That came after three days of stories in the Inquirer and Daily News about Brady's 2012 campaign's paying $90,000 to the campaign of now-Municipal Court Senior Judge Jimmie Moore, who then dropped a primary challenge for Brady's seat.

The payment was disclosed in a federal criminal plea deal unsealed in late July for Moore's former campaign manager and ex-fiancee, Carolyn Cavaness.

Cibik signed his post with his party credentials — leader of the Fifth Ward, vice chairman of the local party, and member of the Republican State Committee.

Meehan asked Cibik in an email the next day to "kindly make your comments as an individual" and not as a local or state party official.

Meehan also knocked as "biased" the Inquirer and Daily News' reporting about Brady.

"Another example of 'fake news,'" Meehan wrote to Cibik, defending Brady.

Eleven days later, Cibik received a letter from Meehan saying his "service is no longer required" on the State Committee. That letter also went to Val DiGiorgio, chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party.

Meehan on Thursday said the Brady attack was not the reason Cibik was getting the boot from the State Committee. Still, the criticism seemed to sting Meehan worse than Brady.

"What bothers me is he's slandering a guy, and he's attributing it to his position with State Committee, with City Committee," Meehan said. "Call me outrageous. It's one thing if a guy has been accused. He hasn't been accused."

Brady shrugged off Cibik's criticism.

"I'm always nice to him," Brady said. "But I guess he took a shot."

Brady also said he didn't ask Meehan to take any action against Cibik.

Meehan attributes Cibik's dismissal to missing some party functions. Cibik was appointed to the State Committee, not elected, which means he can be removed, Meehan said.

Cibik insists the party bylaws do not allow that. He plans to show up in Harrisburg on Sept. 22 for the next State Committee meeting.

That puts DiGiorgio and the state Republican Party square in the middle of this tussle.

Two weeks ago, DiGiorgio took the stage at the local party's annual clambake fundraiser and said, "It's really good to see the sense of unity that we have again in the Philadelphia Republican City Committee."

Ahh, unity. Remember sweet, fleeting unity?

The state party's bylaws allow DiGiorgio to appoint a three-person panel to hold a hearing if Cibik contests his removal. Expect that to happen. Cibik's not going without a fight.

I wonder if that panel will take into consideration a July 26 news release from the state party that accused Brady of engaging in "exactly the kind of despicable behavior that arises when Democratic political machines are able to dominate local politics through single-party rule."

That sounds a lot like Cibik — and nothing like Meehan.