Butler Focus: Will the Real G.O.P. Please Stand Up? A National Power Struggle Goes Local.

In one deep-red pocket of rural Pennsylvania, three warring factions each claim to represent the Republican Party. Tensions boiled over in a scuffle over a booth at a farm show.

By Charles Homans

The New York Times

Jan. 24, 2023

BUTLER, Pa. — Zach Scherer, a 20-year-old car salesman and Republican activist in Pennsylvania’s Butler County, decided to run for a seat on the county commission this year — a move that ordinarily would mean seeking the endorsement of local Republican Party leaders.

In Butler County, this raised an unusual question: Which Republican Party?

Last spring, the officially recognized Butler County Republican Committee was divided by a right-wing grass-roots insurgency, then divided again by a power struggle among the insurgents. There have been a lawsuit, an intervention by the state Republican Party and a dispute over a booth at the local farm show.

Butler, a rural county in western Pennsylvania where Donald J. Trump won nearly twice as many votes as Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2020, now has three organizations claiming to be the true tribune of local Republicans. All of them consider the others illegitimate.

“There is, in effect, no committee,” said Al Lindsay, a four-decade veteran of the local party, who was ousted as committee chairman last year.

The partisans in Pennsylvania agree about one thing, if not much else: Their fight is a microcosm of the national struggle for control over the Republican Party, one that began with Mr. Trump but has been inflamed by the party’s weak showing in the midterm elections.

That struggle has played out in national arenas like Kevin McCarthy’s days-long fight to win the speakership of the U.S. House of Representatives, and in a contentious race for the chair of the Republican National Committee ahead of this week’s meeting.

But it is being fought just as intensely at state and county levels, as Trump loyalists and right-wing activists who took control of party organizations in recent years face resistance from rivals who blame them for the party’s losses in November.

Such conflicts often occur below the radar of even local news outlets. But they are likely to shape state parties’ abilities to raise money, recruit candidates, settle on a 2024 presidential nominee and generally chart a path out of the party’s post-Trump presidency malaise.

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“We believe that the way we’re going to change our national scene is by changing our local committees,” said Bill Halle, the leader of one of the two insurgent factions within the Butler party.

What to Know About the Trump Investigations

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Numerous inquiries. Since leaving office, former President Donald J. Trump has been facing several investigations into his business dealings and political activities. Here is a look at some notable cases:

Classified documents inquiry. The F.B.I. searched Mr. Trump’s Florida home as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into his handling of classified materials. The inquiry is focused on documents that Mr. Trump had brought with him to Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence, when he left the White House.

Jan. 6 investigations. In a series of public hearings, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack laid out a comprehensive narrative of Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. This evidence could allow federal prosecutors, who are conducting a parallel criminal investigation, to indict Mr. Trump.

Georgia election interference case. Fani T. Willis, the Atlanta-area district attorney, has been leading a wide-ranging criminal investigation into the efforts of Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia. This case could pose the most immediate legal peril for the former president and his associates.

New York State’s civil case. Letitia James, the New York attorney general, has accused Mr. Trump, his family business and his three adult children of lying to lenders and insurers, fraudulently inflating the value of his assets. The allegations, included in a sweeping lawsuit, are the culmination of a yearslong civil investigation.

Manhattan criminal case. Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, has been investigating whether, among other things, Mr. Trump or his family business intentionally submitted false property values to potential lenders. As a result of the inquiry, the Trump Organization was convicted on Dec. 6 of tax fraud and other crimes.

The current rifts date most directly to Mr. Trump’s loss in 2020, when his relentless claims of a stolen election divided Republican leaders between those who took up Mr. Trump’s cause and those who wanted to move on.

In several closely contested states, state party leaders loudly supported his election claims, and backed the Republican candidates who earned Mr. Trump’s endorsements by doing the same. But many of those candidates were extreme or erratic politicians who would go on to lose in November, and their nominations have caused enduring divisions.

A sign says “The swamp runs deep! All the way to Butler County.”
A sign for the Butler PA Patriots, a grass-roots group involved in challenging county Republicans’ leadership.Credit…Justin Merriman for The New York Times
A sign says “The swamp runs deep! All the way to Butler County.”

In Michigan, major G.O.P. donors pulled back after the state party co-chair, Meshawn Maddock, took the unusual step of openly supporting election deniers favored by Mr. Trump ahead of the party’s nominating convention. Those candidates all lost in a statewide G.O.P. rout in November.

In Georgia, Brian Kemp, the Republican governor seeking re-election, went so far as to build his own political organization separate from the state Republican Party, whose chairman, David Shafer, backed Trump-endorsed Republican primary candidates. Mr. Shafer is among the targets of a special grand jury investigating whether Mr. Trump and his allies interfered in the 2020 election.

“I think it’s unforgivable,” Jay Morgan, the Georgia party’s executive director in the 1980s, said of Mr. Shafer’s handling of the party. Mr. Morgan, who is now a lobbyist in Atlanta, said he has not recommended that any of his corporate clients donate to the state party. “It breaks my heart,” he said.

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Mr. Shafer did not respond to a request for comment.

In Nevada, multiple former officials in the state party have called on its current chair, Michael McDonald, to resign after the party backed several losing election-denying candidates.

“The Republican Party could be great here; it really could,” said Amy Tarkanian, the former chairwoman of the Nevada G.O.P., who was expelled from her county Republican committee after endorsing the Democratic attorney general candidate last summer. “But they made themselves irrelevant with their toxicity.”

Harrisburg Republicans Are Leveraging Abuse Victims for Political Gain

     
House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, speaks to reporters beside a map of three vacant Allegheny County legislative districts that will be the subjects of special elections next year. (Capitol-Star photo by Peter Hall)

 House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, speaks to reporters beside a map of three vacant Allegheny County legislative districts that will be the subjects of special elections next year. (Capitol-Star photo by Peter Hall)

Long-delayed justice for abuse victims has become hostage to the GOP’s partisan attack on voting, abortion rights

By J.J. Abbott

PA Cap[itol-Star

Jan 11, 2023 – Last week, Harrisburg Republicans, who suffered an overwhelming defeat at the ballot box in 2022, celebrated the election of new state House Speaker Mark Rozzi. We’ve learned in the days since that they did so not for Rozzi, a Berks County Democrat, or the hope of finding bipartisan consensus but for their own cynical, purely political reasons. 

Rozzi, nominated and supported by both Republicans and Democrats, ran for speaker to advance his life’s work: creating an opportunity for justice for fellow adult victims of child sexual abuse. GOP leaders calculated, instead, that Rozzi’s election to the speakership would further their own political goal of advancing a series of unrelated constitutional amendments covering partisan policy proposals that failed to garner enough support to become law through the usual channels. 

In 2022, this GOP package included two election changes borne out of the GOP’s 2020 election denialism, a legislative power-grab around regulations, and a complete ban on abortion rights without any exceptions. Then Republicans lost the governor’s race, nearly all competitive federal races, and 12 House seats and their majority in the state House

The amendment allowing victims of childhood sexual abuse an extended window to sue their attackers garnered wide bipartisan support in three previous legislative sessions. However, the GOP, fresh off losing up-and-down the ticket, now seems to be threatening to withhold their support for a final vote unless they leverage it to add their hyper-partisan agenda into the state constitution, effectively holding victims of abuse hostage to conspiracies spun by former President Donald Trump.

To assuage the fears of victims and advocates and try to prevent bitter fights over unrelated policies, Gov. TomWolf – with Rozzi’s backing – called a special session to focus on getting the window to justice on the ballot by the May primary. Some thought this would help avoid partisan fights over elections and abortion amendments that lack the same urgency or consensus. 

Republican leaders were incensed at the prospect of losing this leverage and immediately attacked the governor for calling the special session. Senate Republicans went as far as to say their politically-charged amendments were “equally important” as justice for these victims.

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According to a report by NBC10 in Philadelphia, “​​House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler says there are other, more urgent things they need to prioritize ahead of child sex abuse.”

Seriously? Have they no shame? 

In openly admitting they want to hold justice hostage, GOP leaders justified the need for a special session focused on the most urgent matter: justice for these victims. 

In addition to no moral comparison between their partisan amendments and justice for abuse victims, there is no urgent need or policy rationale for these election and regulation changes other than the political goals of the Republican Party. 

Take elections as one example.

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Pennsylvania law already requires ID to vote and mandates state-run audits of every election. Voter impersonation almost never happens and audits typically find only small computation errors, if anything at all. So while nearly three-in-four Pennsylvania voters said in 2022 exit polls that they were confident PA had fair elections, GOP leaders continue to push these amendments because Republicans think they will help them win elections.

For years, Pennsylvania’s counties outlined urgently needed election policy updates. Unfortunately, in a similar act of political gamesmanship, those bipartisan, consensus changes also remain victims to GOP hostage-taking.

A much more responsible approach would be to engage in the traditional legislative process of building consensus towards some sort of comprehensive elections reform bill, instead of ramming bad policy into the constitution because you failed to pass it the right way.  

GOP leaders seem ready to force their members to engage in a raw political exercise of derailing and delaying justice for abuse victims over these other amendments.

In 2018, four incumbent Republican senators lost re-election after they voted against a statutory change similar to the proposed constitutional amendment. The GOP’s latest legislating by hostage-taking creates a tough partisan pill for these members to swallow with huge political risks.

This unseemly approach is a reminder of why voters overwhelmingly rejected the GOP last election after decades of their control of Harrisburg lawmaking.

Voters are tired of business as usual in Harrisburg and clearly rejected the GOP’s extreme agenda in 2022. But Republican leaders in Harrisburg prove once again that they don’t care what the voters think. 

J.J. Abbott served as press secretary and deputy press Secretary for Gov. Tom Wolf from 2015 until 2020. He now serves as executive director of Commonwealth Communications, a Pennsylvania progressive communications non-profit. 

U.S. House Jan. 6 committee: A look at the roles played by PA’S Perry, Mastriano

     

An image of a mock gallows on the grounds of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is shown during a House committee hearing. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

 An image of a mock gallows on the grounds of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is shown during a House committee hearing (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite/The Conversation).

BY: MARLEY PARISH –

Pennsylvania Capitol-Star

JANUARY 6, 2023 

After interviewing more than 1,000 witnesses, reviewing millions of materials, and holding 10 public hearings, a U.S. House committee released its final 854-page report detailing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and how former President Donald Trump influenced efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Thousands of supporters, fueled by misinformation about the election results, traveled to Washington, D.C. for a “Save America Rally” hosted by Trump that ended with a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol and hundreds facing arrest for their actions on Jan. 6.

Two Pennsylvania Republicans — U.S. Rep. Scott Perry and Sen. Doug Mastriano — played a role in casting doubt on the results that elected now-President Joe Biden and helped further efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, the U.S. House committee outlined in its final report released last month.

Here’s a look at what the committee said about the role played by Perry, R-10th District, and Mastriano, R-Franklin, in the days leading up to the U.S. Capitol attack:

‘A key congressional ally’

Perry, a Trump ally and early supporter of the “Stop the Steal” campaign, refused to testify before the House committee, dismissing it as “illegitimate,” a decision that resulted in lawmakers on the bipartisan panel referring him — and four other Republicans — for ethics charges last month.

Despite his lack of participation in the committee’s investigation into Jan. 6, he played a key role in the findings outlined in its final report, which identifies him as a “key congressional [ally]” in Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results.

Perry was one of 27 Republican lawmakers who signed a Dec. 9, 2020, letter asking Trump to appoint a special counsel to “investigate irregularities” in the 2020 election. He also attended a Dec. 21 meeting at the White House, alongside 10 other Republican lawmakers, to strategize objections to the electoral results on Jan. 6.

The House report also further outlines previously detailed efforts by Perry to push for the appointment of Jeffrey Clark, an environmental lawyer, as acting attorney general to block election certification and spread election disinformation.

Perry introduced Clark to Trump, which violated Justice Department and White House policies. He also texted Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, from Dec. 26, 2020, to Dec. 28, pressing him to call Clark.

“Eleven days to 1/6 and 25 days to inauguration,” Perry wrote in a text. “We gotta get going.”

Perry also called acting U.S. Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue to suggest that the Justice Department wasn’t doing anything to address election allegations, identifying Clark as someone who “would do something about this.”

On. Dec. 27, Perry emailed Donoghue and alleged that Pennsylvania election officials counted 205,000 more votes than were cast. However, the claim — also made by Trump and other supporters — was false.

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former Trump White House aide, testified last year that Perry was among a handful of Republicans who sought a presidential pardon after the Jan. 6 attack. Perry has denied the claim.

Close contact with Trump

Mastriano, a vocal Trump supporter and failed gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania, received a subpoena from the House panel last year and appeared to testify. However, the committee said he “logged out before answering any substantive questions” or taking an oath.

It’s no surprise that Mastriano was an asset to Trump’s attempt to cast doubt on the 2020 election results. But the final committee report details just how much the Republican senator was in contact with the former president and his staff before Jan. 6.

The report details the unofficial hearing Mastriano organized after the 2020 election in Gettysburg to discuss unsubstantiated claims of fraud. Trump was expected to attend but instead called in. The former president called Mastriano on Nov. 30, interrupting a radio interview, and telling listeners: “Doug is the absolute hero.”

On Dec. 5, Mastriano emailed Trump’s executive assistant with a Supreme Court brief to support a lawsuit filed by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16th District, to throw out mail-in ballots. 

On Dec. 14, Trump’s executive assistant sent Mastriano an email “from POTUS” that included talking points promoting election conspiracy theories related to voting machines. One week later, Mastriano emailed the president again, attaching a “killer letter” that detailed the Nov. 25 Gettysburg hearing and claiming “rampant election fraud in Pennsylvania.”

Mastriano, along with a group of lawmakers, traveled to the White House on Dec. 23. He then sent emails that suggested he spoke with the former president on Dec. 27, 28, and 30.  

The House committee said Trump spoke to Mastriano on Jan. 5, telling the White House operator that Mastriano “will be calling in for the vice president.” The report states that Mastriano also sent two more emails for Trump with letters to former Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. House and Senate Republican leaders.

Mastriano funded a bus trip to the “Save America Rally” and has denied engaging in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. However, video footage shows he was closer to the violence than he initially claimed.

A Wrong Turn For Southwest Pennsylvania

Photo: The bright lights and early emissions of the Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemical Complex in Potter Township, Beaver County.

Petrochemical plants are an environmental and economic dead end

By Matt Mehalik
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Op-Ed

DEC 11, 2022 – Southwestern Pennsylvania could have a brighter and healthier future — if only our state and region made better economic investments. After all, you get what you pay for.

Instead, the region is on a path to a dead-end by pursuing a futile, harmful fossil-fuel based economic strategy. Just last month, Shell’s massive polyethylene resin plant began production near Pittsburgh and is already proving to be a threat to the area.

What’s worse, Pennsylvania taxpayers are bankrolling it. Pennsylvania granted Shell $1.65 billion in state tax credits in 2016, one of the largest tax incentives in state history. In addition, in November the state legislature and governor passed and signed a bill that provides over $2 billion in subsidies over 20 years for natural gas, hydrogen and petrochemical industries — with less than a half-day’s notice and no public hearings.

Additionally, the Department of Energy is looking to provide $8 billion in additional federal subsidies for fossil-based hydrogen hubs. Despite alternative strategies for accelerating decarbonization and promoting inclusive economic growth, our region’s leadership doubled down on a call for fossil fuel subsidies, as detailed in “Our Region’s Energy Future” by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development earlier this year.

The Shell subsidy alone would be enough to cover a payroll of $95,000 per year over 25 years for the 400-600 permanent employees the plant was expected to employ. Shell stated that at peak construction, the site employed more than 8,500 workers. However, these temporary jobs mostly went to construction workers from other states, and have dropped now that the plant is open.

Why should taxpayers continue to subsidize a mature industry that does not deliver jobs and prosperity widely to our communities, and that also locks in harmful air, water and climate pollution?

The Pittsburgh region still suffers from some of the worst air pollution in the country. Allegheny and Beaver County for example, have elevated cancer risks and rates of asthma, heart disease and early deaths. Pennsylvania as a whole has the greatest number of excess deaths due to exposure to fine particle air pollution from fossil fuel sources per person in the country. And half of the region’s pollution still comes from industrial plants.

Emissions from the new Shell plant will add to the already-devastating concentration of pollutants in our air, and undermine the country’s progress on meeting national climate goals. The Shell plant in Beaver County would be the second highest hazardous air polluter in the state, and the 20th most polluting in the country.

The Shell plant is permitted to emit 522 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and 30.5 tons of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) per year. These chemicals are, according to the USEPA, known to “cause cancer and other serious health impacts.” VOCs for example, are also known to be damaging to lung tissue. The 159 tons of fine particles the plant will release per year will further contribute to respiratory and cardiac diseases in the region.

The people of Southwestern Pennsylvania should feel confident that the air we breathe won’t make us sick. We have the right to live and work in clean, safe and healthy environments. Why are we subsidizing the opposite of this vision, particularly when it undermines national climate goals as well?

The plant is estimated to release 2.2 million tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions per year: That’s the equivalent of the emissions from 474,000 passenger vehicles, which is more than half the number of vehicles registered in Allegheny County. The plant will also produce plastic resins that will be used to manufacture more single-use plastic goods in a world that already has too much plastic. Today, 36% of plastic production goes toward single-use plastics, specifically plastic packaging.

These are not investments we should be making or celebrating in a region that shows so much promise in going beyond the fossil fuel economy. Further, they are not a proven way to secure long-term jobs or economic growth. Studies show that wind and solar manufacturing would employ more people than comparable investments in oil and gas: More than 15,000 jobs for the same investment that is producing only a few hundred jobs at the Beaver County plant.

Our neighbors in New York State understand this. According to New York’s “Clean Energy Investment Report 2022,” New York added over 24,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector between 2015 and 2021. That’s a growth of 17% after the governor announced a $1.5 bllion investment in clean energy.

New York is continuing these fossil-free investments, and the growth is accelerating. These are not temporary jobs; rather, they are being built on a solid foundation because they are not based on extracting resources that will someday run out, and because they align with the health, climate and overall well-being needs of communities. They are long-term investments, not short-term stopgaps.

Community organizations in the region understand this. Reimagine Beaver County released a vision in 2019 that outlined a more economically viable future than petrochemicals, one made possible by investing in four major sectors of economic development: energy innovation, green chemistry and manufacturing, sustainable agriculture, and riverfront recreation and tourism.

Just think of where our region would be if we had embraced this vision, instead of propping up petrochemicals and fossil fuels.

That’s why the Breathe Project calls for imagining a brighter, healthier and more prosperous future than the one promised by fossil fuels and petrochemicals. This includes building a new workforce with diverse jobs in solar, wind and other clean technologies that will include everyone from blue-collar workers to high-tech researchers. It also includes transitioning to electric cars, buses and trucks; improving bicycle lanes; and providing more public transportation options.

While our policymakers continue to fail us, we’re glad that other leaders have stepped in. We recently appreciated a huge boost from Mike Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Beyond Petrochemicals campaign that will invest $85 million in new funding for local advocacy groups in these efforts.

As someone who grew up in the Monongahela Valley, I am ready to see economic and environmental optimism for our region, based on a different vision that recognizes that fossil-fuel-based industries are not in Pittsburgh’s best interests, now and into the future. It is time to go in a different direction. Stop throwing good money after bad investments. Stop subsidizing a mature, private industry that casts burdens on our communities while allowing a narrow few to reap large profits at our expense.

Our economic future should not, and will not, be hitched to subsidizing new uses for dirty materials like petrochemicals. We can have healthy people, healthy workers, a healthy economy and a healthy environment. We deserve a bright future.

Matt Mehalik is Executive Director of the Breathe Collaborative and its communication platform, the Breathe Project.

How Summer Lee’s Historic Win In PA.’s 12th Congressional District Reverberates Beyond Politics

Photo: Democrat Summer Lee gives a speech after Republican Mike Doyle conceded the race in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.

By Megan Guza
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

NOV 13, 2022 – Summer Lee’s historic victory in Tuesday’s midterm election secured her a place in history as Pennsylvania’s first Black congresswoman, but experts and organizers say her win speaks to a broader movement that is focused on representation and beliefs rather than solely electability.

“I think this is a moment that Black voters have been waiting for for quite some time here in Pennsylvania — to know that our voices are being heard and that our needs will begin to get to be met,” said Kadida Kenner, executive director of the New Pennsylvania Project, an organization that focuses year-round on registering Pennsylvanians to vote.

Ms. Lee’s underdog campaign earned her a U.S. House seat last week, but it began in earnest in 2018 when she unseated a 10-year Democratic establishment incumbent in the primary for the Pennsylvania House 34th District.

In her campaign for Congress, she faced replacing the retiring Mike Doyle, a 15-term moderate Democrat, all while going up against a Republican candidate of the same name.

Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny, Josh Shapiro’s running mate and the lieutenant governor-elect, will be the first African American to hold an executive branch elective office in Pennsylvania.

“She is an amazing story of organizing and campaigning and, in many ways, proving the skeptics wrong,” said Debbie Walsh, director of Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics.

She said Ms. Lee’s win is particularly notable because of the odds she had against her: women of color face myriad systemic issues on top of a lack of resources and questions of electability.

Ms. Lee acknowledged those long odds herself in an election-night speech as outlets such as CNN and NBC began calling her race.

“Our work is not done,” she said. “We had to go through ugly to get here. There’s a reason why there had never been a Black woman — ever — to serve in the history of Pennsylvania. They’re not going to let up on us. They’re not going to relent.”

The historic nature of Ms. Lee’s election reverberated far beyond Western Pennsylvania: From the New York Times and MSNBC talk shows to Teen Vogue and Essence, writers and analysts took note of the Mon Valley native.

Ms. Kenner said Black voters — particularly Black women — have acted as a firewall in recent years against extremist policies and legislation and overall come to “the defense of democracy.

“So to know that our voices are being heard, that we can put people who look like us into the highest levels of government — not just here in Pennsylvania but in Congress and D.C. and the presidency, the vice presidency — it just says that … progress is happening,” she said. “It doesn’t always happen as fast as you want it to happen, but it is happening.”

Summer Lee to be 1st Black woman from Pa. in U.S. House after defeating Mike Doyle in 12th district

Black candidates were elevated to state and federal offices in historic firsts nationwide last week.

In Maryland, Democrat Wes Moore became the state’s first Black governor, while Democrat Anthony Brown was elected the first Black attorney general in Maryland. Andrea Campbell, too, became the first Black attorney general in Massachusetts history.

In Connecticut, Democrats Erick Russell and Stephanie Thomas will become the state’s first Black and out LGBTQ treasurer and secretary of state, respectively.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov.-elect Austin Davis, of McKeesport, will become the highest serving Black man in the state.

“I’m excited to know that Black folks, Black children, and all people are going to see a Black man in the second-highest level of executive leadership in the state in Austin Davis,” Ms. Kenner said.

Mr. Davis, currently serving in the statehouse as the representative from the 35th District, acknowledged his history-making night during a victory remarks late Tuesday night.

“Pennsylvania has elected its first Black lieutenant governor in our Commonwealth’s history,” he said. “I can’t even put into words what this moment means for me and my family … and the message it sends to millions throughout Pennsylvania and the nation.”

Indeed, Ms. Walsh said, the election of Black candidates give children new figures to look up to. She said Ms. Lee’s election is particularly significant for Black girls.

“It just opens up a world of possibilities of things that Black girls in her district can look to her and say, ‘a member of Congress can look like me,’” she said. “She becomes a powerful role model, and it’s important for the future so that new generations of young Black women will step forward and want to follow in her footsteps.”

Megan Guza: mguza@post-gazette.com.

A New, Massive Plastics Plant in Southwest Pennsylvania Barely Registers Among Voters

Environmentalists in Beaver County alarmed by harmful emissions from the plant once it opens say they are discouraged by most voters’ inattention, but not deterred.

By Emma Ricketts

Inside Climate News
November 5, 2022

Photo: Shell’s new petrochemical plant in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Credit: Emma Ricketts

Environmentalists Fear a Massive New Plastics Plant Near Pittsburgh Will Worsen Pollution and Stimulate Fracking


Oct. 27, 2017 – A New Shell Plant in Pennsylvania Will Soon Become the State’s Second Largest Emitter of Volatile Organic Chemicals


ALIQUIPPA, Pa.—From the tranquility of her garden in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Terrie Baumgardner worries that her grandchildren will grow up without access to clean air, clean water and a safe space to play outdoors.

For decades, Beaver County’s economy has been dependent on polluting industries—first steel, and more recently natural gas drilling. Many longtime residents, who remember the prosperity brought by the steel industry, have welcomed the construction of a massive new Shell petrochemical plant and the politicians that support it.

Baumgardner and other environmental activists are discouraged that local residents and politicians favor the continuation of fracking and the new mega plastics plant it has spawned, but they are not giving up their fight.

“People say that’s what we do in Beaver County—we trade our health for jobs,” Baumgardner said. “But it’s unfortunate, because it doesn’t have to be that way now.”

A reluctant activist, Baumgardner first became involved in environmental issues in 2011, when she learned about the dangers posed by fracking. Concern for the environment and health of local residents led her to canvas for signatures in 2016 as Shell moved toward building the plastics plant.

Spanning nearly 800 acres along the Ohio River, the plant is expected to open later this year. The facility will convert fracked gas into 1.6 million metric tons of polyethylene per year.

Polyethylene, made from ethane, a form of natural gas, is the key building block in numerous common plastic products—from food wrapping and trash bags to crates and bottles.


Despite assurances from Shell that the facility will be safe for the surrounding community, environmental activists have warned that the plant will cause air and water pollution, and a protracted dependence on fracking.

Under Shell’s permit, the plant can release up to 159 tons of fine particulate matter and 522 tons of volatile organic compounds per year. Exposure to these emissions has been linked to issues in the brain, liver, kidney, heart and lungs. They have also been associated with miscarriages, birth defects and cancer.

“They’re going to unload all of these toxic chemicals, hazardous air pollutants, volatile organic compounds and millions of tons of CO2 gas. What’s going to happen?” asked Bob Schmetzer, a local councilman from nearby South Heights and a long-time spokesperson for Beaver County’s Marcellus Awareness Committee. He has opposed the plant since it was first proposed 10 years ago.

Jack Manning, a Beaver County Commissioner, does not share these concerns. “I have great faith in the technology and in the competency of those that will be running the facility,” he said. “It’s a state-of-the-art, world-class facility.”

Manning blamed people’s apprehension on unfair comparisons between the environmental impacts of the plant and those of the steel mills that used to occupy the area. “Those heavy particulates are a different type of pollution,” he said.

Shell has assured residents of the safety of its plant. “At Shell, safety is our top priority in all we do and that includes being a good neighbor by communicating about plant activities that could cause concern if not expected,” Virginia Sanchez, a Shell spokesperson, said in a statement. “When we are in steady operations, it is our goal to have little to no negative impact on our neighbors as a result of our activities.”

For activists, these assurances do little to allay concerns. On a grassy hillside overlooking the massive complex, Schmetzer spoke with his friend and fellow activist, Carl Davidson. While the plant is not yet operational, the grinding sounds of industrial machinery and screeches of train cars disturbed the clear fall day.

Photo: Bob Schmetzer and Carl Davidson, standing above the petrochemical plant. Credit: Emma Ricketts


Davidson, a self-professed “solar, wind and thermal guy,” wore a Bernie cap and alluded to his youth as a student leader of the New Left movement in the 1960s. While he estimates that around one-third of residents were concerned about the plant’s potential impacts from the beginning, he expects this number to grow once it opens. “People are starting to see two things,” he said. “Number one, there is all kinds of pollution that they didn’t know about. And second, all the jobs that were promised aren’t real.”

The plant sparked hope for a revival of economic prosperity in the area. However, now that construction is largely complete and thousands of workers have finished working on the site, the plant is expected to only employ about 600 people going forward, according to Shell.

While opponents wait anxiously for the plant to begin operations, they don’t think it will influence next week’s elections. The Shell plant has been a non-issue in the tight race for the 17th Congressional District in Beaver County between Democrat Chris Delluzio and Republican Jeremy Shaffer, both of whom support continued fracking.

In the state’s closely watched U.S. Senate race between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz, both of whom support fracking, the environment has barely come up in a nasty campaign focused on abortion rights.

Similarly, fracking and the environment have hardly been mentioned in the governor’s race between Democrat Josh Shapiro, the state’s attorney general, and Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Trump supporter and election denier.

Beaver County, while only counting for 1.3 percent of the votes cast in any given election in Pennsylvania, is a bellwether, according to Professor Lara Putman of the University of Pittsburgh. “It is socio-demographically similar to counties that, collectively, make up about one-quarter of Pennsylvania’s population. So in that sense, when Beaver shifts other places are usually shifting as well,” she said.

Baumgardner called the political candidates’ silence “disheartening.”

“I wish they would have the courage to speak up, to take a position and stick with it,” she said.

However, she understands the political risks associated with taking an environmental stand in a community that believes its economic fortunes are tied directly to pollution. She just wishes this wasn’t still the case. “We have alternatives,” she said. “We just need our political leaders to embrace them and get serious about renewables and removing the subsidies on fossil fuels.”


According to Davidson, the key to awakening the public is to ensure that alternatives are tangible. Good ideas aren’t enough to make people give up the job opportunities they have, he said. Clean energy projects are great in theory, but until workers can see a real job with similar wages, many will continue to support the status quo.

Progress might be slow, but Baumgardner, Davidson and Schmetzer remain hopeful that the realities of the plant will sway public opinion once residents’ senses are assaulted with the acrid smells and cacophony of relentless sound they expect the new plastics plant will emit. They each stand ready to educate people on its health and environmental impacts, as soon they are ready to listen. They may be discouraged, but are not deterred.

“Nothing is going to shut me down as long as my grandkids are here,” Baumgardner said.


Emma Ricketts is a graduate student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She focuses on politics, policy and foreign affairs reporting, with a particular interest in climate change and environmental issues. Previously, Emma practiced as a lawyer in a New Zealand-based commercial litigation team where she focused on climate-related risk.

Shapiro for Governor: He Could Be Our First Jewish President. But First He Needs to Beat a Far Right Christian Nationalist in PA

Shapiro doesn’t think of himself as a moderate or establishment Democrat, the terms journalists often use to describe him. Instead, he calls himself a “populist.”

Devoutly Jewish, Josh Shapiro wants to persuade voters that his opponent’s Christian nationalism doesn’t represent the values of the state.

By Holly Otterbein
Politico

Sept 14, 2022 – PHILADELPHIA — In one of the poorest neighborhoods in one of the poorest big cities in the country, blocks away from where a woman was gunned down just the day before, Josh Shapiro is singing with a group of Black pastors.

Shapiro, a type-A attorney general running to be the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, rocks in his pew. When a reverend asks the churchgoers to lift up their voices, he looks her in the eye and finishes her sentence, pronouncing “me” when she croons, “What God has for me, it is for me.” He then proceeds to give a 30-minute speech that was supposed to be closer to half as long.

Unlike some before him, Josh Shapiro hasn’t downplayed his religion out of a fear of appearing different. To the contrary, he’s made his faith — and fighting anti-Semitism — a central part of his political persona.

“I want you to know that being up here on the pulpit means a lot to me — and it is a place where I feel comfortable,” says Shapiro. “I feel comfortable here because this is a place of spirituality, this is a place of purpose.”

Shapiro, 49, who describes himself as a Conservative Jew from the Philadelphia suburbs, talks about being raised to bring faith “out in the community and make a difference.” He refers to Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the spiritual icons who forged a friendship during the civil rights movement. He quotes from an ancient collection of Jewish teachings: “No one is required to complete the task, but neither are we free to refrain from it.”

The battle for governor in Pennsylvania is one of the most consequential races in the country: It could determine whether women have the right to an abortion and all voters have the right to cast a ballot in a pivotal battleground state. Shapiro’s Republican opponent, Doug Mastriano, led the movement in the state to overturn Joe Biden’s election and opposes abortion with no exceptions.

Mastriano, a state senator who is widely seen as the archetype of the rise of Christian nationalism in the GOP, is courting MAGA-aligned Evangelicals and other conservative Christians. Though he rejects that label, he has said the separation of church and state is a “myth.” Mastriano also has ties to antisemites, and this week he used an antisemitic trope, portraying Shapiro as out of touch with everyday Pennsylvanians for attending what he called “one of the most privileged schools in the nation,” a Jewish private school.

Shapiro’s response has not been to decry the entry of religion into the race; in some ways, he has amplified it. He says he doesn’t want to tell anyone “what to believe.” (“I’ll be a governor that relies on my faith and my upbringing to actually look out for everybody,” Shapiro says. “And I think he’s the exact opposite.”) But he refuses to cede Pennsylvania’s churches to his opponent. Instead, he deliberately highlights his religiosity to appeal to Christians and people of other faiths who might feel alienated by Mastriano’s brand of religion-tinged conservatism.

If Shapiro can fend off the far-right firebrand, he would catapult into the position of one of the most prominent Jewish elected officials in the country — and be talked about within political circles as a future presidential or vice-presidential candidate. And he’d do it by being a new kind of Jewish politician. Unlike some before him, Shapiro hasn’t downplayed his religion out of a fear of appearing different. To the contrary, he’s made his faith — and fighting antisemitism — a central part of his political persona.

“People are looking for someone who has strong faith. It almost doesn’t matter what denomination it is,” says former Democratic governor Ed Rendell.

Shapiro sees his Judaism as a tool to bond with people, not as something that sets him apart. On this sun-drenched September morning in Philadelphia, at least, his strategy seems to be working.

Speaking to the dozen powerful pastors of nearby AME churches, all of whom could help him turn out critical Black voters in November, Rev. Dr. Janet Jenkins Sturdivant says Shapiro is “not a perfect man.” But he is a “man of God — and all we need is someone who will listen to God.”

Josh Shapiro in a Quiet Rage

“NO good jews.” “America jews themselves are a cancer on any society.” “I hope no one votes Jew.”

The frothing messages from users of Gab, a far-right social media network, flash on the screen. A narrator explains that Mastriano’s campaign paid the website, the same one where Robert Bowers posted antisemitic screeds before police say he massacred 11 people in 2018 at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. Mastriano, the spot hammers, is “way too extreme.”

Voice Of Aliquippa: Gino Piroli Was Champion For Community

By Garret Roberts
Beaver County Times

HOPEWELL TWP. – A leading voice for Aliquippa and the Beaver Valley has been silenced.

Sept 1, 2022 – Longtime Aliquippa historian, sports reporter and Times columnist Gino Piroli, 96, died Saturday at his Hopewell Township home surrounded by his family. And in the days since, people from throughout the Beaver Valley have shared their respect and admiration for a man who not only shared tales of the community but also helped shape it in so many ways.

“We were fortunate to have such a positive role model to emulate,” said David Piroli, speaking for the family. “He was a bridge between the generations that came before to ours of today.”

Gino Piroli played an influential part in the creation of various athletic organizations across the Beaver County community, with his legacy of service being honored by the Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame in 2016. He also served in numerous public roles and influenced many in the generations to follow.

Serving in the Navy during World War II, Piroli was always willing to help and be an active part of his community. Both before and after the war, Piroli was an active coach and athlete in Aliquippa, serving as a leader for softball and basketball teams within the Aliquippa Community League and the Jones and Laughlin sports programs.

Piroli would begin his influential sports writing career in 1961, serving as a reporter for The News for over 27 years. During this time, he would quickly rise through the ranks to become the sports editor at the publication, making a name for himself with his writing skills.

In addition to his career in writing, Piroli could be heard on the local airwaves at various points over the decades. He was a play-by-play announcer for games around Beaver County and hosted shows on WBVP and WMBA.

Adding to this deep involvement with sports in Beaver County, Piroli was the founder of the Aliquippa Sports Hall of Fame in 1972 and served as the chairman of the organization. He also served as a charter member in the creation of the Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame in 1975, later being inducted into the organization’s Class of 2016.

Piroli’s influence wasn’t just in Aliquippa, as he was also the founder of the Hopewell Basketball Boosters and served as the first commissioner of the Beaver County Bantam Basketball League. Piroli was heavily involved with the Hopewell Township Little League as well, acting as a coach, manager and officer for the league over a period of 17 years.

Beyond the world of sports, Piroli’s community involvement includes his role as the Aliquippa postmaster, a member of the Hopewell Township Commissioners and serving as the President of the Aliquippa Hospital Board of Directors. Throughout the years, he was also known as a leader for various local church and library organizations.

In 1998, Piroli began a popular column with The Beaver County Times. Discussing his love of the Aliquippa area and the history of the steel town, the series continued for over 24 years, with the last one posted this past May.

“I don’t know how you could even begin to categorize his legacy, because it goes in so many different directions,” said Tom Bickert, a former managing editor at The Times who worked closely with Piroli. “He was all about sports, but he was also all about the community, especially in his columns for The Times. He established a standard for reporting on the history of the community. I don’t think there’s anybody out there today who could even come close to knowing and sharing and being a champion for Aliquippa the way he was.”

Sharing some of his own experiences as a member of the Aliquippa community, Piroli often gave readers an in-depth history of what makes the old steel town special. Friends and family described his enthusiasm for the project, which helped many younger generations learn about the region their families remember.

“He is one of the last of the Greatest Generation,” David Piroli said. “He contemplated retiring his article from The Times due to the absence of his generation. We expressed to him how much the recollections and stories he passed on in the Times articles were the memories of the parents and grandparents of today’s readers.”

“He just loved sharing what he knew about Aliquippa with other people,” Bickert said. “It was never about the money, it was always about wanting people to know what he knew about the town, the community and the people. Anybody who came from Aliquippa who had any kind of national standing or national notoriety, Gino knew the person and he would share stories about them. He was a priceless historian for the community.”

One of those impacted by Piroli’s writings was fellow history columnist Jeffery Snedden, who grew up reading the column in the Times “Little News” newspapers.

“I was always fascinated with our local history, specifically the stories I would hear from my parents and grandparents about the glory days of Aliquippa and J&L Steel,” Snedden said. “Gino’s writings gave several generations of Beaver Countians a peek behind that curtain into the golden years of our area. For others, his frequent columns were a welcome reminder of days gone by. Whether he was educating readers about the labor industry, remembering an old colleague, or simply writing about the history of his beloved hometown of Aliquippa, Gino Piroli was loved and appreciated by thousands of people each and every week.”

Serving as both an inspiration and mentor, Piroli was one of the first people to give Snedden feedback on his column when it began at The Times.

“He called me to say that he enjoyed my writing and that he had learned a lot from reading it,” Snedden said. “That simple validation meant the world to me, and it gave me confidence as I crafted my own era of local history coverage for Times readers. Over the years, Gino would provide me with vital research and a helping hand in my work. I cherished his friendship and I am blessed to have learned from the man I would often call ‘Mr. Aliquippa.’”

For his role in local athletics, Piroli was honored as the Aliquippa Sportsman of the Year in 1972 and Hopewell Junior Chamber of Commerce Sportsman of the Year in 1973. He was also named Citizen of the Year by the Aliquippa Chamber of Commerce in 1980 and honored for his service by the Sons of American Revolution in 2000.

Visitation will be Wednesday from 2 to 7 p.m. at Aliquippa’s Anthony Mastrofrancesco Funeral Home, located at 2026 McMinn Street. Memorial contributions can be contributed to the B.F. Jones Library.

“We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and respect that has been shown by so many,” Piroli’s family said in a statement.

This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: Voice of Aliquippa: Gino Piroli was champion for community

‘Scorched Earth Campaign’: Group Says 3 Officials From PA Threaten American Democracy

Photo: Mastriano at Jan. 6 Attack on Capitol

By Bruce Siwy
The Times: Pennsylvania State Capital Bureau

Three prominent Pennsylvania Republicans have been identified as “a grave danger to American democracy” in a new report.

The report — expected to be issued this week by the Defend Democracy Project, an organization founded by two men who worked for the Obama campaign and administration — gives these distinctions to state senator and gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-10) and U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-16). Authors cited the trio’s involvement in an array of activities related to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to challenge the 2020 election results.

“These three individuals all took part in unprecedented attempts to overturn the will of American voters, but that is not all they have in common — Mastriano, Perry, and Kelly continue to pose a grave danger to American democracy,” the report states. “Together with other MAGA Republicans, they are leading a scorched earth campaign to consolidate power over elections for decades to come, both in Pennsylvania and across the country.”

Michael Berman, a state director for the Defend Democracy Project, characterized Trump and some of his allies as part of an “ongoing, violent criminal conspiracy” in a call with reporters Tuesday.

The organization’s mission is to “work with leading organizations, noted experts and critical validators to make sure this plot to overturn elections can’t go forward under the cover of darkness,” according to its website. It’s working in six other states besides Pennsylvania — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

A “wanted” flier distributed by activists with the 10th District Network that accuses U.S. Rep Scott Perry (R-10) of sedition.

In their rationale for Mastriano’s inclusion, the Defend Democracy Project listed the following concerns:

His call for treating the popular vote as non-binding for presidential electors if the “election was compromised.”


His legally questionable proposal to force all Pennsylvanians to re-register to vote.]


His use of campaign cash to bus supporters to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.


And his attempts to bring an election audit to Pennsylvania, similar to what was conducted in Arizona.

Mastriano — who’s demonstrated a routine avoidance of media outside of explicitly right-wing circles — has consistently doubled down on unproven claims of widespread voter fraud. Earlier this year his bill to expand the use of poll watchers across the commonwealth was vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, who cited concern that the measure would undermine “the integrity of our election process and (encourage) voter intimidation.”

Regarding Perry, the nonprofit noted:

Testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson stating that Perry met with Trump officials bent on overturning the 2020 election.


His use of conspiracy theories to urge investigations from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, according to records provided by Meadows.


His work as a liaison between the White House and Pennsylvania Legislature in coordinating efforts to delay or object to the commonwealth’s Electoral College votes for now-President Joe Biden.


Perry’s office did not return a call by press deadline. Earlier this year he said he’d done nothing wrong in relation to these matters.

“My conversations with the president or the Assistant Attorney General, as they have been with all with whom I’ve engaged following the election, were a reiteration of the many concerns about the integrity of our elections, and that those allegations should at least be investigated to ease the minds of the voters that they had, indeed, participated in a free and fair election,” Perry said in a statement in January.

House investigators said May 12, 2022, that they have issued subpoenas to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and four other GOP lawmakers, including Perry, as part of their probe into the violent Jan. 6 insurrection, an extraordinary step that has little precedent and is certain to further inflame partisan tensions over the 2021 attack. (AP

Kelly, meanwhile, was cited for:

His unsuccessful court challenge to the legality of 2020 mail ballots in Pennsylvania.


His vote to overturn the 2020 election results.
An allegation by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) that he helped to orchestrate a false elector scheme.


Comments such as his claim that former President Barack Obama “is to run a shadow government that is gonna totally upset the new (Trump) agenda.”


Asked in July if he still believed that the election was stolen from Trump, Kelly told an Erie Times-News reporter: “Well, we’re already what, almost two years into this administration? So I think that’s past tense. There’s no use discussing it today. Nothing’s going to change today. I stated my opinions back when it took place.”

Kelly’s office did not return a phone call by press deadline.

What’s on voters’ minds:’In a whirlwind of trouble’: PA poll reveals top concerns (spoiler: It’s the economy…)

About the Defend Democracy Project
The Defend Democracy Project describes its mission as ensuring that “American voters determine the outcome of elections.” It was established earlier this year.

According to Berman, the organization was founded by Leslie Dach and Brad Woodhouse.

An online bio for Dach states that he served as senior counselor to the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services as its global Ebola coordinator. He’s also served as senior adviser to six presidential campaigns, including Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run.

Woodhouse, in his bio, is characterized as “a longtime Democratic strategist, having previously served as President of some of the nation’s leading progressive groups including Correct the Record, American Bridge 21st Century, and Americans United for Change.” It also states that he worked as a senior strategist for the Obama campaign and communications director for the Democratic National Committee.

Berman said the Defend Democracy Project examined the public records and statements of politicians across the country and compiled its list based on those who objected to certifying the 2020 election or implied that it was “stolen” from Trump.

Bruce Siwy is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network’s Pennsylvania state capital bureau. He can be reached at bsiwy@gannett.com or on Twitter at @BruceSiwy.

GOP Fascism: Doug Mastriano’s Election-Takeover Plan

Photo: Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano speaks during a rally at Archery Addictions on May 13, 2022 in Lehighton, Pennsylvania. With less than a week until Pennsylvania’s primary election on Tuesday May 17, polls have Republican candidate Doug Mastriano as the front runner in the Governor’s primary race. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Stop the Steal is only a pretense for seizing control.

By Amanda Carpenter

The Bulwark

JULY 5, 2022 – By now, political junkies are familiar with the rucksack of election-denying baggage that Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano schleps around: He organized a faux post-election legal hearing for Rudy Giuliani in Gettysburg; he asked Congress to deny Pennsylvania’s electors; he spent thousands of campaign funds busing people to the Capitol on Jan. 6th; he was filmed crossing police barricades; some of his supporters were arrested for their activities that day, and he visited Arizona to observe its disastrous Cyber Ninjas audit in hopes of replicating it in Pennsylvania.

Those are only the highlights of what Mastriano has done in the past. But what about the future? People like Mastriano are never going to let Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss go. If anything, Trump’s “Stop the Steal” lies provide a pretext for actions intended to ensure MAGA types win in future elections.

How will they do it? Well, Mastriano has some ideas. (Well above and beyond hiring Trump’s throne-sniffing flack Jenna Ellis as his legal adviser.)

Although Mastriano evades scrutiny by blockading typical media interviews, with some help from his insurrection-friendly friends, he doesn’t hesitate to talk about his plans when he feels comfortable. Put those snippets together, and it shows Mastriano has a pretty well-thought-out election takeover plan in mind.

His platform includes the following:

–loosening restrictions on poll watchers to make it easier to challenge votes;


–repealing vote-by-mail laws;


–appointing a fellow 2020 election-denier to be secretary of state who could enable him to decertify every voting machine “with a stroke of a pen”;


–forcing all Pennsylvania voters to re-register;

–and defunding the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.


Let’s take them one by one.

Last month, Mastriano’s legislation to loosen restrictions on poll watchers passed both houses of the General Assembly. Its passage on party-line votes by the GOP-controlled legislature is not surprising, since one of the problems that frustrated Trump supporters in 2020 is that they could not recruit in-county residents in blue areas, such as Philadelphia, to serve as poll workers and make challenges to votes. Mastriano’s bill changes that.

If the bill were signed into law—which Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has said he will not do—it would increase the number of poll watchers permitted by candidates from two to three, kill in-county residency requirements for poll watchers, and give poll watchers a “clear line of sight to view and hear” election workers and voters “at a distance of six feet or less.”

What could these poll watchers do with this increased capacity? Per Pennsylvania state guidance, poll watchers are empowered to “make good faith challenges to an elector’s identity, continued residence in the election district, or qualifications as an eligible voter.”

Such challenges are directed to the judge of elections, who “has the obligation to determine if the challenge is based on actual evidence and whether there is a good faith basis to believe that the person is not or may not be a qualified elector.” Democratic critics of the bill object that the close proximity of poll watchers brought in from out of the county raises the likelihood of voter intimidation.

In a statement, Trump encouraged Pennsylvania Republicans to tie passage of this bill and other election-related restrictions to the state budget:

Just as Trump called for, Mastriano has also promoted legislation to ban dropboxes and private funding for elections, as well as to eliminate “no excuse” mail-in voting and the permanent absentee voter list.

But Mastriano’s potential powers as governor far exceed that of a state senator when it comes to controlling Pennsylvania’s elections.

Unlike many other states where the secretary of state is an elected position, in Pennsylvania, the governor gets to make an appointment for the position. Mastriano already has his pick in mind and, although he hasn’t provided a name, he has teased that with this appointment and his powers, he could “decertify every machine in the state with a stroke of a pen via the secretary of state.” He said, as captured via audio, here:

“I’m Doug Mastriano, and I get to appoint the secretary of state, who’s delegated from me the power to make the corrections to elections, the voting logs, and everything. I could decertify every machine in the state with the, you know, with the stroke of a pen via my secretary of state. I already have the secretary of state picked out. It’s a world-class person that knows voting integrity better than anyone else in the nation, I think, and I already have a team that’s gonna be built around that individual.”

This is why Mastriano probably feels like he has a sporting chance to reset the voter rolls and force all of Pennsylvania’s 9 million voters to submit new voter applications to re-register to vote.

Federal voting laws prohibit such a practice, but that doesn’t deter Mastriano from campaigning on it and may not prevent Governor Mastriano from trying it—and creating a massive tangle of legal problems in the face of looming election deadlines.

Where would those legal challenges be decided? Most likely, in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. And for that, Mastriano has another idea in mind in case things don’t go his way.

If the state’s highest court doesn’t do as he pleases, he thinks it should be defunded, which is something he’s called for after the 2020 election. Here he is on a podcast* in November 2020:

“I wish the General Assembly, we would do our darn job here, and make them feel some pain. We could, we could, rein in elements. Even, we even, budget and fund the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. If we are so, we’re out there as you know, shouting outrage about how they’re rewriting law, then, okay, maybe we should defund them. And let them figure out how they’re going to run a business without a budget. …” Read More

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