WEST CHESTER - Chester County Republicans blasted Democratic Commissioner Andrew Dinniman last Tuesday for a comment made by one of his supporters at the party's Feb. 26 nominating convention.
County Democrats no-minated Dinniman to run for state senator in the 19th district, the seat formerly held by the late Robert J. Thompson, a Republican.
According to a report in Sunday's West Chester Daily Local News, after Dinniman accepted the nomination, Rich Cia-macca, an attorney and Democratic Party zone leader in Schuylkill said, "Andy brings integrity and passion to the job that was missing in the past."
Joseph "Skip" Brion, chairman of the county Republican committee, called on Dinniman to apologize for his association with the comment and called on Ciamacca to resign.
"Andy Dinniman should be ashamed of this type of negative campaigning. Forgetting for a moment about their vile nature, these statements show a lack of integrity and absence of judgment from Andy and his campaign. Mr. Dinniman should denounce these statements and tell the truth about Bob Thompson and his service to the people of the 19th District," Brion said in a statement.
Dinniman fired back last Tuesday, noting that he praised, not criticized Thompson, at the nominating convention.
"I have been a friend of Bob and Nancy Thompson for over 20 years. I want to be state senator in the Bob Thompson tradition of nonpartisanship and public service. In fact, Bob Thompson was and is a hero to me," he said.
Dinniman also distanced himself from Ciamacca's statement, saying that he could not be held responsible for another individual's words.
"If Skip has concern about Mr. Ciamacca's comments, he can take that up with Mr. Ciamacca. We are two different people," he said. "And I am not even sure that Mr. Ciamacca was referring to Bob Thompson."
Ciamacca said last Tuesday that he was not referring to Thompson in what he described as an impromptu, one-line statement, but to the general atmosphere in the state Senate following the pay raise debacle.
"I'm angry and offended by the use of my name in this press release. If they wanted to know what I meant, they should have asked me. I am disappointed that Repub-licans have tried to tie this to Andy. He is the candidate. He can speak for himself," he said. "I did not take a shot at Sen. Thompson. I would not take a shot at Sen. Thompson. And there are Republicans who know that."
Thompson, 68, of West Goshen, died at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on Jan. 28 of complications from pulmonary fibrosis.
A special election will be held on May 16, the day of the general primary, to determine who will serve the remainder of Thompson's term, which expires Nov. 20, 2008.
Brion said that Democrats "thought they could score cheap political points by betraying the memory of a trusted and respected public servant."
He said Thompson was perhaps best known for his ability to put politics aside and work for consensus solutions to important issues.
"I hope that Andy Dinniman's opening salvo in his campaign is not a precursor to a negative, untrue and attack-filled campaign over the next few months," Brion said.
Dinniman agreed that Thompson brought integrity to the office, but said it was Brion that initiated a negative attack based on the late state senator's memory.
"The true way to honor the legacy of Bob Thompson is for candidates and political leaders to maintain a dialogue on issues and values. A campaign of political attacks and counter-attacks is not in the public's interest. Let's at least agree that Bob Thompson represents the best of Chester County and let's try to replicate that in the way we run our campaigns," Dinniman said.
Dinniman called on both parties to pledge not to engage in mud-slinging this election year. He also proposed forming a nonpartisan organization to monitor the campaigns.
County Republicans, who are scheduled to hold their nominating convention for the 19th Senatorial District seat on March 11, have not yet responded to that challenge.