The LuLac Edition #118, Dec. 28, 2006
PHOTO INDEX: BASEBALL CELEBRITY JOE GARGIOLA AND PRESIDENT FORD AWAITING THE '76 ELECTION RETURNS, CURRENT PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDER JOHN EDWARDS, THE FRONT OF A FORD FOR PRESIDENT BROCHURE AND A HAND CARD FOR 11TH CONGRESSIONAL GOP NOMINEE IN '76 RICHARD MUZYKA.
PAST AND PRESENT
As the late President Gerald Ford is being remembered for many things he did in his short tenure in office, political observers are talking about the heroic efforts of the 1976 Ford Presidential race. Down 30 points in the polls, Ford more than made up that deficit and came within a few percentage points of actually winning the Presidency. (See LuLac Edition 117 for the actual numbers).
The 1976 Luzerne County Ford organization was headed by George Gwilliam, Junior of Luzerne County. Gwilliam came from a political family firmly entrenched in the GOP with his father serving as Clerk of Courts from 1963 to 1967 and his grandfather holding 4 terms in office as Luzerne County Recorder of Deeds. Gwilliam got involved in the Ford effort by contacting officials from Harrisburg who put him in touch with the campaign’s regional director. After that initial conversation, things started to move. Setting up headquarters on the ground floor of Dan Flood Towers (how’s that for irony) the local Ford/Dole committee peppered the county with thousands of signs. It looked for all the world to see that this was a heavily registered Republican area. But in fact, Luzerne County was totally dominated by Democrats at that time. On the county level, the only GOP office holder was the minority Commissioner Steve Yanoshak. Gwilliam told me that the strategy from the statewide Republicans was to conduct a vigorous campaign in the county with the intention of making inroads into the Democratic majority. (Remember at the time, the state was controlled by a Democratic Governor, Milton J. Shapp). To that end, the local group utilized the power of signage, held various rallies and conducted the last car caravan in the county touting the Ford/Dole effort.
While there was no appearance from the top of the ticket, Senator Bob Dole did make an appearance at the airport, stayed overnight at the Ramada in Clarks Summit where Gwilliam and his crew had to make arrangements for not only the Vice Presidential nominee but the national press corps that needed 100 rooms.
Gwilliam also received help from many college and high school students too. One of them, 16 year old Marc Holtzman, a die hard Reagan Republican who had opposed the Ford candidacy in the primaries came to the forefront and aided the Luzerne County effort. Gwilliam said that Holtzman spoke many times on behalf of the Ford/Dole effort. So despite a close race that Reagan lost, his supporters backed Ford to the hilt in that 1976 race.
According to Gwilliam, other Republicans involved in that campaign were Marge Davison Matisko, Representative Frank J. O’Connell, Kingston politico Scott Diettrick, (who would one day hold the O’Connell seat), Forty Fort GOPers Jim and Christine Phillips, and Richard Muzyka, a Hazleton resident who ran against Congressman Flood in that race.
Gwilliam, more than thirty years later has fond memories of that campaign and the enthusiasm that race engendered for voters of Luzerne County.
JOHN EDWARDS ANNOUNCES
Former Vice Presidential Democratic nominee John Edwards announced his candidacy for President in 2008. Edwards is a one term Senator from North Carolina who is charismatic and handsome. He balanced the ticket in 2008 with John Kerry very nicely and has a full blown organization in Iowa, one of the first caucus states.
The campaign of Edwards, 53, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, accidentally went live with his election Web site a day before his planned announcement today using Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans as a backdrop.
The slip-up gave an unintended double meaning to his campaign slogan on the John Edwards '08 Web site: "Tomorrow begins today." Aides shut down the errant site but could not contain news of the obvious.
Even though Edwards voted for the war as a Senator he has since said it was a mistake. Edwards seems to have staked out the populist wing of the Democratic party pledging to raise taxes on the wealthy and end tax cuts for that segment of the American electorate.