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It was a text in the heat of the moment that may have sparked committee in-fighting to a fever pitch.

State Rep. Greg Rothman, R-Hampden, on Wednesday defended himself and his duties as the chairman of the Cumberland County Republican Committee, in response to a May 18 article in The Sentinel. He said concerns raised in the story were misleading and partly due to members of the committee who were unhappy with him.

Part of that unhappiness was due to a single text sent earlier this year that Rothman sent to two candidates who were looking to take over the position as chairman of the committee, he said. Displeased with what he considered in-fighting between the two men, Rothman said he sent, and later regretted, a text that rescinded his earlier pledge to step down as chairman this year.

Rothman said he didn’t mean it, had always intended to leave the position after the May primary, and said it likely instigated the chatter and complaints that reached The Sentinel.

Some of those complaints involved the committee renting space in a property in which Rothman owned a 50 percent stake from which he received commercial rent, according to his February 2019 filing with the state Ethics Commission. The county GOP committee made $1,000-per-month payments to Rothman’s LLC from 2014 through 2018.

Rothman said Wednesday in a visit to The Sentinel’s office that the committee he chaired had sporadically been paying $900 a month for rental space at a property owned by the Tuckey family before he became the chairman of the committee in 2014. When he became the chairman, he said there was a discussion about Tuckey’s Middlesex Township location, which he felt was too difficult for volunteers to find.

“Volunteers had a tough time getting there, and (a lot of) our activists are in Camp Hill and Hampden,” he said.

Rothman said he and the committee wanted to create a Victory Center, and he said another member of the committee recommended using space in property Rothman co-owned as part of an LLC located off Millennium Way in Hampden Township. Rothman said they didn’t look at other options for the headquarters, but he said it was good to have a landlord who was willing to be flexible.

“I don’t regret it,” Rothman said about the move to his property.

Rothman said the committee currently has no headquarters. His LLC sold the building about a month ago. The committee had been allowed to use the rental space through the May primary. Rothman said the committee hadn’t paid any rent in 2019. Instead he said he took that on himself as an in-kind donation to the committee.

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The location of a new county GOP headquarters will be established when the new chairman is elected during a committee meeting on June 24. Rothman said he doesn’t plan to take part in either of those discussions; he also said that in addition to stepping down as chairman, he expects to step away from the county committee entirely to focus on his work as a state legislator and as the new chair of the state House Republican Campaign Committee.

“I was elected as a 22-year-old committeeman,” Rothman said, explaining how long he’s been with the county committee. “It’s always been my intention (to step down). I should have done it sooner.”

Rothman said he should have followed his wife’s advice and stepped down after the Republican victory with President Donald Trump’s election. At the time, however, he said no one wanted the position.

He said that in 2017, when no voter registration expenses were listed in the campaign finance reports, everyone was exhausted after the election. He also said the fundraising numbers taken from that year don’t reflect what he believes he did for the county party after he became chairman in 2014.

Bringing documents and fundraising numbers with him, Rothman showed increased fundraising numbers when he took the position in 2014 and mass voter registration mailers that were sent between 2014 and 2016 to keep Republican numbers high in the county.

Those mailers stopped in 2017, and by 2018 Rothman said online registration could be done during door-to-door work.

He also defended his spending in the Republican-dominated Silver Spring Township and Cumberland Valley School Board races, saying that there were a number of interested people in the two open school board seats before the candidate lists were released. He also said the committee didn’t pay for any negative advertisements against the other Republican candidates for township supervisor.

Though Rothman isn’t happy with what he said is the first fight within the committee happening at the tail end of his leadership — even after difficult primary races in previous years — he said he’s ready to move on and leave the committee to the next chairperson who will fill the remaining year in his term.

“At least we made it something they wanted (to take over),” he said.

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Email Naomi Creason at ncreason@cumberlink.com or follow her on Twitter @SentinelCreason

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Managing Editor

Managing Editor at The Sentinel.