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The leader of Philadelphia’s Republican party has resigned days after the party suffered a drubbing in the Nov. 5 election.
Michael Meehan, a longtime political player and attorney who acted as counsel to the Republican City Committee before he took the reins in 2017, made the announcement to ward leaders Saturday afternoon.
“Please be advised that I have resigned today as Chairman effective November 12, 2019,” Meehan wrote in a two-sentence email. “Good luck going forward.”
The outgoing party leader could not be reached for comment on Saturday. Under party bylaws, Vice Chair Chris Vogler will take over as interim chairman. Vogler did not immediately return a phone call from a reporter. Ward leaders said the party could vote for a new chairman as soon as this week.
Meehan’s resignation comes ahead of the Republican City Committee’s scheduled Tuesday meeting to make decisions about the future. The group has struggled to maintain its political relevance in Philadelphia, even prior to the electoral setback on Nov. 5.
In a historic shift of power, Working Families Party candidate Kendra Brooks swept to victory in the City Council at-large race, taking one of two minority-party seats that had been held by GOP lawmakers for decades. Republican Councilmember David Oh, despite being at odds with a large faction of GOP leaders, retained the other seat for his third term.
Republicans endured crushing losses across the region, including in the suburbs — a key battleground role for 2020. The well-oiled machine in Delaware County, which had controlled County Council since the Civil War, was thrown into disarray overnight after Democrats flipped every seat.
For the Philly GOP, the election marked a fall from an already low place. Republicans make up just 11% of registered voters in the city, outnumbered 7-to-1 by Democrats, and the party has struggled for years to take seats at the local and state level.
Meehan called the election losses “preposterous,” but was at a loss for words about a path forward for the party after the crushing defeat.
“I have no idea what we’re going to do,” he told Billy Penn on Wednesday. “It’s one day at a time.”
Ward leaders had already called on Meehan to resign, and he told the Inquirer this week he wouldn’t be opposed to stepping down. His departure also closes a chapter on a family legacy: Meehan’s father, William Austin Meehan, known to all as “Billy,” ran the local GOP for four decades until his death in 1994.
Others in the party leadership have also departed in the leadup and aftermath of the election. In a separate email sent to Republican leaders Thursday, Meehan announced the resignation of the party’s general counsel, Paul P. Panepinto, which followed the departure of party treasurer Calvin Tucker in September.
Rumored candidate for Meehan’s replacement include state Rep. Martina White, one of the city’s few remaining Republican elected officials, as well as Jim Pio, secretary of the Philly GOP.
White could not be immediately reached on Saturday. Pio told Billy Penn he had been in contact with some of the party’s more influential leaders — including state GOP chairman Lawrence Tabas. He said he pitched himself as a healer of the rifts in the local party.
“There’s factions,” Pio said. “I’m unique where I get along with all the group…I told them, ‘We can look at Tuesday as the day the party began its end, or we can look at it as a new day.’”