As GOP presidential candidates battle over who's more conservative, a similar argument is playing out with Republicans on a local front.

The York 912 Patriots organization is hoping to unseat incumbent Republicans in the 2012 primary for the state's General Assembly, calling York County's senators "useless" and saying the House Republicans can't pass anything but "busy work" despite having a majority.

The tea party effort has the chairman of the county Republican party trying to unite the local GOP by emphasizing the "real enemy," Democrats, and saying it's ultimately up to the voters to decide "who is conservative enough, or who's moderate enough, or middle-of-the-road enough."

'Entrenched': Incumbent Republicans face in-party challenges in several districts this year: the 31st and 33rd Senate and the 93rd, 94th and 196th House districts.

Patriots communications director Lee Ann Burkholder, whose husband is president of the organization, said the group is concentrating on bringing more conservative competition to "entrenched" Republicans "basically breeded" by the party.

She said the group, which is not registered as a political action committee, does not endorse candidates. However, at least two members of the group are candidates vying for Republican-held seats.

Member Dan Bradley is running against state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover, and member Ernest Merisotis is running for the seat held by state Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus.


Burkholder said Seth Grove never held a job in the private sector and has a political science degree, and Miller hasn't been able to push meaningful legislation despite his chairmanship of the House Labor and Industry Committee.

The Patriot candidates are trying to show people that "it's nearly impossible for someone who has not worked their way up through the party to get elected" without party money and name recognition.

She said Grove's votes are mostly conservative enough, but Miller's aren't.

And despite a House majority, Miller's chairmanship and the power position held by Majority Whip Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, Republicans complain they can't get the votes needed to pass, for example, prevailing wage reform, she said.

"And the senators in York County are pretty much useless," she said. "When I've looked at what legislation is introduced ... every week, I'm baffled. Hunters don't have to wear a tag on their backs anymore. ... It's busy work," she said.

She said the county's incumbent legislators make the case for a part-time Legislature because of their lack of productivity.

'Making a mockery': Bob Wilson, who chairs the York County Republican Party, said leaders of the York 912 Patriots "are making a mockery of themselves."

"If the leadership of the York 912 group wanted to make a positive impact in York County and in Pennsylvania, they would be focusing their efforts on defeating Barack Obama, Bob Casey and Eugene DePasquale," he said.

"The leadership, not the members, of the York 912 group is misguided, ill-informed and are coming from a standpoint and a viewpoint where they don't understand the processes upon which legislation gets done," he said. "It takes more than just five representatives and a couple of senators in York County to pass legislation."

Republicans from the southeast and southwestern parts of the state typically don't have conservative positions, he said, but York is fortunate to have pro-business conservative leaders, he said.

"I will stand by each and every one of my legislators in York County for the job they have done thus far," he said.

He said he doubts the 912 group's leadership is actually conservative. He said they're "on the very fringe of what is right and just," and want to "bring down" the Republican party.

Newberry Township resident Bill Bishop, vice president of the tea party group, said its focus has been Republicans because Republicans claim to stand for smaller government and fiscal responsibility.

He said it would be nice to have Republican candidates who do what they say they will.

"I don't want to bring anybody down," he said. "I want to make it right."

-- Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5436,, or follow her on Twitter at @YDYorkCounty.