Kaneshiki loses GOP committee post

The Blair County Republican Committee Chairwoman Lois Kaneshiki was defeated Tuesday in a contest to retain her seat on the committee.

Newcomer Jim Foreman and incumbent Michael Routch defeated Kaneshiki in a three-way race for two seats on the committee from Blair Township Precinct 1. Kaneshiki previously had been elected to for five consecutive two-year terms.

Kaneshiki is also on the Hollidaysburg Area School Board and has been no stranger to controversy.

Kaneshiki declined to comment Wednesday about the result of the election Tuesday. But she said her public record of taking positions on the school board is the likely reason she was not re-elected.

“Probably,” she said. “But I have no real evidence of it.”

Foreman, ProCare CEO, clinched a spot on the Republican committee as he garnered 196 votes or 44 percent of the total, unofficial election results show.

Routch won his re-election bid and retained his seat on the committee with 139 votes or about 34 percent of the total. Kaneshiki finished with 96 votes or about 22 percent.

Foreman and his wife, Paula, have been living in Blair Township for 24 years, and have raised a family there.

“I decided to run for the committee because it’s a perfect way for someone to be an advocate without being in a major office. I wanted to get involved and help people in my precinct get more involved and informed about candidates so our area can economically thrive and recover.”

Foreman said the committee meets in 30 days and reorganizes.

In addition to educating voters on positions candidates take, moving forward to the November general election, it’s the committee’s job to continue to provide candidates perspective of what’s important to Republican voters, Foreman said.

For the first time since 2008, Kaneshiki will not be involved.

Rouch has been re-elected for three consecutive terms. Including some terms in the past, he’s served a total of 12 years on the committee.

“It is a major change,” Routch said of Kaneshiki’s loss.

“It’s rare that in committee races you have contests. Because of Lois’ outspokeness, Foreman wanted to run. I’ve been a member of committee for a long time. It was apparent to me it was an effort to knock her out, obviously. I just wanted to keep my committee seat. I didn’t run with Jim. I ran for my spot, and he ran for his. And Lois did, too, and wow, look what happened.”

Kaneshiki’s school board controversies include comments that minimized the importance of kindergarten as well as a high school planetarium as she voted against adding a kindergarten teacher for a school with large class sizes and against renovating the planetarium. In addition, her social media activity included a meme of the Obama family leaving the White House as the Clampett family, which some perceived as racist. And she used the word “retarded” referring to a Mirror headline and subsequently apologized during a school board meeting.

“Clearly within the committee we watch carefully when she is all over media and in the newspaper within her capacity as school board member,” Routch said. “It pains us sometimes even though she is not speaking on behalf of the committee when she is working on school board, it affects us because she is our chairwoman. And it concerns us,” he said.

He said Kaneshiki called him to congratulate him on retaining his seat.

“I have very mixed emotions about the fact that we knocked her out of the committee. Her tireless efforts and work ethic on behalf of the Republican Party are exemplary. I’d certainly hate to see us lose that because of what happened in our precinct,” he said.

Kaneshiki is a founding member of the Blair County Tea Party and involved with the Republican Liberty Caucus of Pennsylvania. But while she may have had divergent opinions from others within the party, that wasn’t the committee’s concern.

Routch said, “It’s not the fact that she may be leading causes that are different from others with in the party; the problem is not that she disagrees with us. It’s just the publicity she generates moving forward with her ideas that concerns us. We don’t want to get caught up with the politics of the Hollidaysburg Area School Board. That creates a concern with out local party.”

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.