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.

Editors’ Picks

Saunas Are Filling Up, but Are They Actually Good for You?How Parenting Today Is Different, and HarderEveryone Wants Your Email Address. Think Twice Before Sharing It.

Continue reading the main story



Continue reading the main story


“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

Card 1 of 6

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.


Continue reading the main story


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.


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.


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).


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.