When Gov.-elect Tom Corbett takes office today, perhaps no one, with the exception of Corbett’s wife, Susan, and their two children, will be prouder than Rob Gleason.
Though most voters wouldn’t know him, Gleason, the Pennsylvania Republican Party chairman, is the man behind GOP wins that helped the party regain control of the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the Legislature for the first time in eight years.
He’s celebrating, but only until the last dance at Corbett’s inaugural ball.
“By Wednesday morning, it is back to work,” said Gleason, 72, of Johnstown, who took the state party helm on the eve of the 2006 midterm elections when the GOP was in shambles. That year, voters elected Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell to his second term. Democrats won control of the state House and a majority of Pennsylvania’s U.S. House seats. Bob Casey Jr., a Scranton Democrat, ousted Republican Rick Santorum of Penn Hills from the U.S. Senate.
Under Gleason, the Republican Party has rebounded, political strategists say.
Despite a statewide Democratic registration edge of 1.1 million, Republicans in November won a 112-to-90 majority in the state House and maintained a 30-to-19 edge in the state Senate. In Congress, the GOP regained a majority among Pennsylvania’s House delegation and a Senate seat.
Though voter registration fell for both major political parties during the past two years — Department of State records show 4.2 million registered Democrats and 3.1 million Republicans as of Dec. 27, down from 4.5 million Democrats and 3.2 million Republicans in November 2008 — Gleason knew his job of rebuilding the party’s strength and winning offices and did it well, said Allegheny County Republican Committee Chairman Jim Roddey.
“He is not in it for glory or any other reason,” Roddey said.
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