President Trump on Friday blessed a deal in the battleground state of Pennsylvania to end a contentious race for chairman of the state Republican Party in which his campaign’s preferred candidate had been accused of ignoring allegations of sexual harassment.
The candidate, Bernadette “Bernie” Comfort, agreed to withdraw from the race and was instead named as chairman of Trump’s reelection campaign in a state that will be key to his prospects next year. Comfort has called the accusations about her “patently false.”
In a tweet, Trump praised the deal under which Lawrence Tabas, the former party general counsel, will become chairman, casting it as a sign of unity among Republicans.
“I’m proud to say that our good friends Lawrence Tabas & Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Comfort will now be working together to run the @PAGOP,” Trump wrote. “Lawrence will be Chairman & Bernie will Chair my Pennsylvania campaign. We must have, & do, great UNITY in PA!”
Trump carried Pennsylvania over Democrat Hillary Clinton by less than one percentage point in 2016, and a poll in May found him trailing former vice president Joe Biden by nine points in a hypothetical matchup.
In a sign of the importance of the state to Trump, his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, is traveling there next week to help launch Women for Trump, which the campaign describes as “a coalition dedicated to recruiting and activating women” in support of the president.
Comfort had been serving as interim chairman of the state GOP since late last month, when Valentino “Val” DiGiorgio III resigned following a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer about a Philadelphia City Council candidate who accused him of sexual harassment over social media. In his resignation letter, DiGiorgio said the communications were consensual and were mischaracterized by the Inquirer.
Comfort subsequently faced scrutiny about whether she ignored claims of sexual harassment in her capacity as vice chairman of the party.
A Pittsburgh woman who leads the Young Republicans of Allegheny County posted on social media this week that she was a victim of “wildly inappropriate sexual advances” by DiGiorgio and that the issue “didn’t seem to be of particular interest” to Comfort when she approached her. Comfort disputed her account.
The deal announced Friday between Comfort and Tabas averts a contentious vote scheduled on Saturday.
Several of Trump’s close associates — including his eldest son Donald Trump Jr. and his campaign manager Brad Parscale — had urged support for Comfort in the race for chairman.
“I’m proud to be supporting Bernie Comfort for @PAGOP Chair!” Trump Jr. said in a tweet last week. “Pennsylvania is crucial to @RealDonaldTrump and we need Bernie as Chair to win again!”