A lengthy saga between ousted PA Democratic Party chair Marcel Groen and his public critics continues to unfold months after the grandee was pushed out of his leadership position by Gov. Tom Wolf.
Groen was pressured to leave the state party in February after his allegedly languid response to a series of harassment-related scandals. This week, after receiving criticism for his more recent interest in the Montgomery County chairmanship, Groen fired off a scathing letter to numerous Democrats across the state, reiterating his past accomplishments and painting himself as unfairly maligned by his detractors.
“I despise people who abuse others. I have zero tolerance for that and always have. But I also believe that there are gradations,” he writes. “Some will give a knee-jerk reaction when they hear something, will not review the facts and immediately call for someone's resignation. I am not one of those people.”
The letter specifically mentions a scandal involving alleged inappropriate conduct by state Sen. Daylin Leach, one of several crises that preceded his resignation.
Notably, Groen takes a swipe at organizer Gwen Snyder, who has been a persistent critic of the former chair’s failure to admonish individuals like Leach. He accuses her of fabricating a barroom incident of sexual misconduct at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
“She charged someone during our convention of inappropriate sexual touching at the hotel bar at 2:30 a.m. Fortunately, there was an eyewitness and videotapes, all of which showed nothing happened,” Groen writes. “She insisted that the person who allegedly acted inappropriately be charged anyway, only to be acquitted at trial. She is living proof of why people have a right to defend themselves before being judged.”
Snyder was apoplectic.
“The police didn't bother to even pull the hotel video,” she asserted, in a Facebook post. “Marcel never saw the video – the video that shows me pushing away my attacker, yelling at him, and then waiting for an elevator while I cried...Shame on you for trying to drag a survivor through the mud in a petty power play.”
Reached for comment later, Snyder called Marcel’s letter “dishonest and defamatory.”
“I hope MontCo voters read this letter and see it for what it is: a death rattle from a virulently misogynistic era of Democratic politics in Pennsylvania,” she said.
Elsewhere in his letter, Groen credits his previous tenure as MontCo chair with a Democratic takeover of the county, recent statewide judicial during his time as chair and the creation of a new party code of conduct designed to combat sexual abuse and inappropriate behavior.
“All of this was done because as Chairman, I created systems so that all who wanted to run for office could try and succeed,” he concludes. “Nothing and nobody, including reporters, can take those accomplishments away from me.”
See the full text of the letter below.
In the 21 years I served as Chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party, we made gains unlike any Party in the Commonwealth and perhaps in the nation.
In 1994, Montgomery County was the most influential Republican Party in the State, Ronald Reagan as a sitting President spoke of their annual dinner in 1988, we had never won any contested election in the history of the County, and had been in the minority since the form of government was formed in the Civil War.
By the time I stepped down as Chairman, every elected County official was Democratic, and we had our second majority on the Board of Commissioners. We had seven elected state legislators instead of one and we had a majority of elected officials in six out of seven most populated municipalities including Lower Merion, Abington and Cheltenham, where there had been none.
We gained 150,000 registered voters while the Republicans lost 50,000.
Not only did we gain elected positions, we changed the face of what our elected officials looked like. Unlike many people who speak about gender opportunity and equality, under my tutelage, we acted on it.
Where we had one white woman judge out of 22, today we have nine. Where we had no African American on the bench, we have three.
Our two County Commission elections each had one male and one female, one of whom today is and has been for several years the first woman Chairman of the Board in the County's history.
The last woman to serve in Congress from Pennsylvania came from Montgomery County, Allyson Schwartz.
During her term in Congress, my personal State Representative, State Senator, County Commissioner and Congress person were all women.
We insured that in our County women had and continue to have an equal seat at the table.
No other County comes close to our record of gender equality.
None of this was by accident. Under my tutelage, it was imperative that our elected officials would be part of the entire fabric of our County, and we accomplished that. I believe that as a leader in this State, I have done more than anyone else for equality.
Even last year as State Party Chair, we elected four women to the Appellate bench, including the first African American woman in history.
All of this was done because as Chairman, I created systems so that all who wanted to run for office could try and succeed. Nothing and nobody, including reporters, can take those accomplishments away from me.
As to comments that I was not strong enough to come out against sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior, ten days after I resigned the State Party voted on a Code of Conduct which had been prepared by me and had already been sent to State Committee members for review.
I despise people who abuse others. I have zero tolerance for that and always have. But I also believe that there are gradations. An inappropriate remark is not an assault. Finally, I am a lawyer who also believes that in this country you have the right to defend yourself before you are convicted.
Some will give a knee jerk reaction when they hear something, will not review the facts and immediately call for someone's resignation. I am not one of those people. Senator Leach may or may not have said inappropriate things, but I know he was the leading Senator in the Commonwealth on women's issues. I believe that means something and that he had the right to defend himself. I don't throw people under the bus without knowing all of the facts and taking into consideration the alleged wrongs. I paid dearly for my convictions, I had always wanted to be Chairman of the State Party to emulate what we had done in the County. I also lost my DNC membership and my DNC Executive position, all of which were tied to my Chairmanship and yet, I would do the same thing today because my principles are more important to me than political expediency.
To prove my point, I look at the star witness for the stories, Gwen Snyder. She charged someone during our convention of inappropriate sexual touching at the hotel bar at 2:30 a.m. Fortunately, there was an eyewitness and videotapes, all of which showed nothing happened. The police investigated and that was their conclusion. She insisted that the person who allegedly acted inappropriately be charged anyway-only to be acquitted at trial.
She is living proof of why people have a right to defend themselves before being judged.
I love the Democratic Party, what it is and what it stands for. I believe, unlike most, I have walked the walk, no just talked the talk.
Accusations and words are cheap. Actions are not. If anyone wants to judge me, look at my actions and long record. You will find them unequaled in this State in terms of gender and racial equality.
In the Party I insured that everyone had a real seat at the table.
Marcel L. Groen