Trump endorses Jan. 6 participant in Pa.’s GOP governor primary days before election

Former President Donald Trump has endorsed state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Frankin, in Pennsylvania’s high-stakes primary for governor, dealing a potentially fatal blow to establishment Republicans who had hoped to head off a victory by the far-right politician who has trafficked in false claims of election fraud.

“There is no one in Pennsylvania who has done more, or fought harder, for Election Integrity than State Senator Doug Mastriano,” Trump said in a statement he released on Saturday morning.

Mastriano is “a fighter like few others, and has been with me right from the beginning, and now I have an obligation to be with him,” Trump added.

Mastriano leaped to statewide prominence in 2020, emerging as a prominent voice of the anti-shutdown movement, where he led protests against Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic management policies.

In the days after the 2020 election, he openly questioned President Joe Biden’s legitimacy, and was photographed at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Mastriano bused supporters to the rally that preceded the Capitol insurrection, and has denied participating in the riot, but video has shown him closer to the building than he has claimed to be. He has since been subpoenaed by the U.S. House committee investigating the deadly day.

Mastriano, a former U.S. Army colonel, has held a steady lead in most pre-election polls. A May 9 Trafalgar Group poll of 1,000 voters showed Mastriano taking 27.6 percent of GOP voters’ support. Former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, followed in second place at 17.6 percent. Former Delaware County Councilmember David White finished third at 15.1 percent, while former Trump-appointed federal prosecutor William McSwain, of Philadelphia finished fourth at 14.4 percent.

Pa. GOP governor hopeful Mastriano campaigned at event promoting QAnon

Republicans have tried to coalesce around Barletta in the race’s closing days, with two candidates, Pennsylvania state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, and former U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart, of Allegheny County, each dropping their candidacy to endorse the former Hazleton mayor.

At a news conference in Harrisburg on Thursday, Barletta, who was one of Trump’s earliest supporters, stayed away from directly attacking Mastriano, who similarly commands a huge following among Trump-friendly Republicans.

Trump earlier endorsed television physician Dr. Mehmet Oz, who is locked in a statistical dead heat with hedge fund millionaire David McCormick and conservative influencer Kathy Barnette, who mounted a late surge to break into the top tier of candidates.

Pennsylvania’s primary election is on Tuesday, May 17.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

Pennsylvania GOP governor hopefuls make their pitch -- without Trump support -- in sharp-elbowed debate

With less than a month to go before the May 17 primary election, four candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor faced the cameras on Wednesday night for a televised debate that was broadcast and streamed across the state.

GOP hopefuls Lou Barletta, Doug Mastriano, Bill McSwain, and Dave White made the polling cut to be included in the debate broadcast by ABC-27 in Harrisburg, and shared statewide.

In a fast-paced and occasionally testy 60 minutes, the Republican hopefuls sparred over their respective experience and qualifications for office as each tried to build the case that they’re best suited to take on Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who’s running unopposed in next month’s primary election.

First up, the candidates:

Barletta, 66, an early supporter of former President Donald Trump, is the former mayor of Hazleton, Pa., in northeastern Pennsylvania, and a former GOP member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mastriano, 58, of Franklin County, also is a Trump supporter. Mastriano, who has trafficked in baseless claims of election fraud, was subpoenaed by the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Mastriano was at the Capitol, but has denied participating in an attempt to halt the certification of now-President Joe Biden’s election.

An early guide to Pennsylvania’s 2022 Senate and governor’s primary election

McSwain, 52, is the former, Trump-appointed top federal prosecutor for the Philadelphia region. Despite that, Trump issued a stinging rebuke to McSwain, urging his supporters to back any GOP hopeful except the veteran prosecutor on May 17. In an unusual statement, Trump hammered McSwain, calling him a “coward” who “did absolutely nothing on the massive Election Fraud that took place in Philadelphia and throughout the commonwealth,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

White, 60, is a former Delaware County councilman, union pipefitter and HVAC contractor. He’s spoken out in favor of voter ID and vocational education. He has been notably critical of critical race theory and government regulations.

The Trump Factor:

Unlike the Republican race for U.S. Senate, the former president has stayed notably silent in the GOP gubernatorial derby. Several of Wednesday’s debate candidates — Barletta, McSwain, and Mastriano, each have played up their ties to the ex-president. One candidate notably not on the debate stage, Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, has former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway on his payroll. Corman debuted a campaign commercial this week featuring both Conway and a photo of him on the golf course with Trump.

Pa. GOP governor hopeful Mastriano campaigned at event promoting QAnon

So what’s the governor do, anyway?

The job is a big one. Pennsylvania’s governor serves a four-year term. They can only serve two, consecutive terms (but could technically come back for a third after waiting four years.)

As the commonwealth’s chief executive, the governor is the boss and sets policy for hundreds of thousands of public workers, from state troopers and DMV clerks to environmental permitting staff and unemployment and Medicaid caseworkers. The governor can also attempt to change the regulations or rules governing many of these agencies internally without legislative approval.

Here’s where the candidates agreed — and disagreed — on some of the key issues.

Infrastructure and the gas tax:

Using the January collapse of Pittsburgh’s Fern Hollow Bridge as a jumping off point, the four candidates were asked how’d they fund infrastructure repairs — especially if Pennsylvania’s gas tax, among the highest in the nation, is suspended, as some Republicans have proposed.

Each of the four candidates said they supported using the fuel tax for its intended purpose, and not paying for the Pennsylvania State Police, which relies on the gas tax and license fees for a portion of its funding.

“We should take the State Police out of the highway fund, and put it into the general fund, freeing up $300 million for infrastructure,” said Barletta, who also highlighted his experience serving on the U.S. House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Mastriano said taxpayers were “lied to” about the tax hike, which was intended to pay for a $2.3 billion transportation funding bill passed under the administration of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in 2013, arguing that “if we spend the money where it needs to go, we can get the roads and bridges where we need to be.”

White acknowledged that fuel taxes are an important way to get infrastructure fixed,” but he said the state needed to go further and “get rid of some of those regulations to get [our] roads and bridges fixed.”

McSwain used the evening’s first question to take a swipe at the competition, arguing, as he would throughout the night, that he was the only non-politician standing on the debate stage.

“Let’s start with Senator Mastriano since he is standing here right to my right,” McSwain said. “He claims to be a fiscal conservative, but look at his record. He has voted again and again for Governor [Tom] Wolf’s spending increases.”

Mastriano jabbed back, saying, “Nonsense is still nonsense, especially when spoken by an attorney … I’m the only one up here who did something about election integrity … he [McSwain] chickened out.” The former is a reference to Mastriano’s efforts to push for an investigation of the 2020 election results, even though there is no evidence showing fraud.

Trump and Electability

All four candidates tried to cloak themselves in the Trumpian mantle. Asked whether his electability had suffered because of the former president’s snub, McSwain argued that he was the only candidate to serve in the Trump administration as the top federal prosecutor for the eastern part of the state.

“I’m proud of my record as [United States] Attorney,” he said. “I put rioters and looters in jail. I stopped heroin injection sites. I pushed back against Philadelphia’s dangerous sanctuary city policy. I stood up for the law-abiding citizens of this commonwealth.”

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Mastriano faced additional scrutiny because of his presence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, arguing he was exercising his constitutionally protected rights to free speech and free assembly. He also batted aside published reports Wednesday about his appearance at an event in Gettysburg last weekend that promoted QAnon, and conspiracy theories about the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Mail-in ballots and Election Reform:

All four candidates said they would support the elimination of the no-excuse, mail-in balloting that was authorized in 2019 under a law, passed with bipartisan support, known as Act 77.

“You have so many people who are now questioning our democracy and our elections,” White said. “They have no confidence in it. In 2014, 2018, you knew who was elected and who won … that all changed with Act 77 and the people who voted for it should be held accountable.”

Mastriano, who voted in favor of the bill, complained that it had been “hijacked by Democrats, rewritten by Wolf and [former Secretary of State Kathy] Boockvar, and abetted by ZuckBucks,” the latter is a reference to Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg.

McSwain pronounced the law unconstitutional.

In a bit of campaign hyperbole, Barletta also vowed to repeal the law, saying “We know dead people have been voting in Pa. all our lives. Now they don’t even have to leave the cemetery. We have a process to use absentee ballots. We also have to have voter ID. We need to bring integrity to our elections.”

Abortion Rights

All four candidates said they opposed abortion rights, and would sign legislation restricting it if elected. Mastriano and White said they would not support exceptions in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of a pregnant person is in danger. Barletta and McSwain said they would support such exceptions.

Asked further if they believed doctors should be punished for performing illegal procedures, Mastriano, Barletta, and White all said yes. Barletta and White also said they supported counseling, but not punishment, for pregnant people. McSwain said he couldn’t answer a hypothetical question, but did allow that “you should only be punished if you’re breaking the law.”

Natural gas exploration

All four candidates raced to outdo each other in their support for natural gas exploration, and what they said were its salutary effects on the state’s economy.

“Drill baby drill. We need natural gas,” Barletta quipped.

Economic Development

All four called for reducing Pennsylvania’s corporate net income tax, which, at 9.99 percent, is among the highest in the nation. Wolf, a Democrat, also has called for reducing the tax. The state House voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to cut the tax, WGAL-TV in Lancaster reported. The bill now goes to the Senate. All four also vowed to encourage an environment more friendly to businesses, slamming Wolf for his pandemic shutdowns.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

Pennsylvania GOP governor hopeful Doug Mastriano campaigned at event promoting QAnon

A top-tier Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor, among other GOP luminaries, put in an appearance at an event in Gettysburg last weekend that promoted QAnon and conspiracy theories about the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to published reports.

The candidate, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, attended the conference called “Patriots Arise for God and Country,” according to Right Wing Watch, a website that monitors the far right.

Mastriano was joined by Republican lieutenant governor hopeful Teddy Daniels; Maryland gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox; Liz Harrington, a spokesperson for former President Donald Trump; and former Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis, according to Philadelphia Inquirer, which first reported the story.

The conference was organized by far-right activists Alan and Francine Fosdick, who have prompted QAnon conspiracy theories, according to RightWingWatch. The conference included the screening of a video claiming that the country is experiencing a “great awakening” that will expose “ritual child sacrifice” and a “global satanic blood cult,” the Inquirer reported.

Once part of the GOP fringe, QAnon adherents have become an increasingly mainstream part of the Republican base. They claim among other things, that “a group of Satan-worshiping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our politics and media,” the New York Times reported last September. Adherents rallied around former President Donald Trump, whom they believed was going to save the country from that cabal of elites and Democrats.

Mastriano, R-Franklin, who has consistently led polls of the crowded Republican primary field, raised money at the event, the Inquirer reported. Organizers reportedly auctioned off a portrait of Trump for $4,000, with the proceeds benefiting Mastriano, the newspaper reported.

According to Right Wing Watch, co-organizer Francine Fosdick held a sit-down with QAnon conspiracy theorist Sheila Holm, where they discussed how “the government worships Lucifer and is controlled by “The Order of Paladin,” “The Wiccan Order of Knighthood,” and the New World Order,” Right Wing Watch reported.

During his appearance on Saturday, Daniels “complained that he often gets accused of being ‘uncivil,’ but he defended himself by insisting that the right can only be civil with the left once ‘we beat the crap out of them’: “We will be civil on our terms, not theirs,’” according to Right Wing Watch.

Mastriano, who has been vocal about his own Christian beliefs, told the audience on Saturday that he’ll win this November’s general election because “my God will make it so” and vowing to boost energy production to make the state more competitive.

“It’s gonna be beautiful,” Mastriano said. “Pennsylvania will be the freest, most hopeful, most constitutionally based state in the nation. People are gonna want to move here — and Maryland as well — … You think Florida looks good, it’s going to be amateur hour.

Mastriano, who was subpoenaed by the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, said he regards the summons as a “badge of honor,” the Inquirer reports. Mastriano was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, but has denied participating. Video, however, apparently shows him closer to the building than he claimed.


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

Republicans denounce Putin’s war on facts, but are silent on the one at home

There’s a lot that’s terrible about Russian strongman Vladimir Putin’s brutal attempt to erase Ukraine from the map of Europe.

From the incalculable humanitarian disaster that has seen millions of Ukrainians flee their home country, to the appalling carnage on the streets of Mariupol that was devastatingly humanized with the death of a pregnant woman and her unborn baby, the costs of Putin’s unjustified war of conquest will be with us for decades to come.

But the truth also has become collateral damage these last weeks, as Putin has twisted language beyond meaning to justify his atrocities. Russian officials and conspiracy theorists have, for instance, promoted the baseless claim that the attack on the maternity hospital in Mariupol was “staged,” USA Today reported.

This week, Russian television news producer Marina Ovsyannikova was detained and fined for interrupting a broadcast, and accurately describing Putin’s action for what it is: A war. She could be imprisoned for saying what’s obvious to the entire planet.

As I wrote last week, Republicans, suddenly realizing that democracy is worth defending, have stepped up to denounce Putin and defend the same democratic institutions they tried to undermine on Jan. 6.

Speaking at a closed-door fundraiser last week, former Vice President Mike Pence said there was “no room” in the GOP for “Putin apologists,” NBC News reported. And while he didn’t mention his old boss, former President Donald Trump, by name, it was hard to escape who he was was talking about, NBC News noted.

Trump has yet to explicitly condemn Putin, saying at a recent rally in South Carolina that Putin “happens to be a man that is just driven, he’s driven to put it together,” NBC News reported.

But by failing to step up to denounce Trump, and by failing to condemn the violence perpetrated at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Republicans are abetting the same war on truth at home that they’re rightfully slamming Putin for conducting abroad.

And with their silence, they are allowing a pernicious rewriting of history to take root.

I didn’t have to look further than my own inbox for proof.

One reader, taking exception to my description of the Capitol insurrectionists as a “murderous horde,” demanded to know “how many people did the ‘murderous horde’ murder?”

When I pointed out the well-documented chants of “Hang Mike Pence,” (which the former president has defended), the presence of a gallows at the Capitol, and that intent mattered as much, if not more than, the actual act, he dismissed it, arguing, “Nobody was going to hang anyone.”

Federal prosecutors did not feel the same, alleging in the days after the attack that rioters intended to “capture and assassinate” elected officials. And certainly the law enforcement agents who transferred Pence to a secure location on the Capitol grounds, where he remained for four hours, were not being cavalier about the clear and present danger the former vice president and other lawmakers faced on that horrible day.

My correspondent remained undeterred, writing that “there was riots (sic) because an election was stolen from the American people. and don’t give me that BS that there is no evidence. There is plenty of evidence but unfortunately no one is going to do anything about it.”

None of that is true.

But that’s what failing to explicitly denounce and debunk the myth of the stolen election gets you. That’s what chasing out members of your own party who speak the truth about the terrible cost of Jan. 6 gets you. That’s what happens when you call an insurrection “legitimate political discourse.”

Another correspondent questioned my decision to refer to the events of Jan. 6 as the “sacking of the Capital (sic).”

The definition of sacking is looting, raiding, plundering, and robbery. What recent events does that more accurately describe? Did any of those actions take place there?” the reader asked, attempting the inevitable “But Black Lives Matter” deflection.

In fact, yes, all of that happened, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington D.C., which has been prosecuting cases related to the insurrection.

“The government continues to investigate losses that resulted from the breach of the Capitol, including damage to the Capitol building and grounds, both inside and outside the building,” the office said in a statement posted to its official website. “According to a May 2021 estimate by the Architect of the Capitol, the attack caused approximately $1.5 million worth of damage to the U.S. Capitol building.”

More than 725 people were charged in the insurrection, according to federal prosecutors. Of that number, more than 225 people were charged with “assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees, including over 75 individuals who have been charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer,” prosecutors said, adding that “approximately 140 police officers were assaulted Jan. 6 at the Capitol including about 80 U.S. Capitol Police and about 60 from the Metropolitan Police Department.”

A further 10 people were arrested and charged with allegedly assaulting journalists and destroying their equipment; roughly 640 people were charged with entering or remaining in a restricted federal building or grounds; 45 were charged with destruction of government property, and more than 30 were charged with theft of government property.

All of which sounds a whole lot like the “looting, raiding, plundering, and robbery,” to which my correspondent referred.

Again, that’s what silence in the face of an attack on facts gets you. That’s what complicity in an assault on the very foundations of our democracy gets you.

The GOP can’t have it both ways. If they’re going to attack Putin’s war on facts, they have to step up and stop the one at home.


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

Pittsburgh bridge collapses ahead of Biden visit on infrastructure; 10 injured

Emergency crews were at the scene of a bridge collapse in Pittsburgh on Friday morning, hours ahead of President Joe Biden’s visit to the region, where he was set to tout the benefits of his federal infrastructure law and other administration achievements.

According to the Tribune-Review of Pittsburgh, the bridge, which carries Forbes Avenue over the Fern Hollow Creek in the city’s Frick Park, collapsed Friday morning with vehicles, including a Port Authority bus, on the span. The bridge, between South Braddock and South Dallas Avenues, is a central artery to the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.



Shortly before 9 a.m, the Tribune-Review reported that 10 people had been injured, none life-threatening, and three people had been taken to hospital. Because they necessitate detours and road closures, presidential visits typically snarl traffic in host cities.

Biden is set to visit a research lab in Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood neighborhood, the Post-Gazette reported Friday. Gov. Tom Wolf is slated to appear with Biden during his visit, according to an advisory from Wolf’s office.


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

As officials make pitch, Pittsburgh in the running to host 2024 RNC

Politico reports that Pittsburgh is among the finalists to host the Republican National Convention.

Also in the running: Milwaukee, Nashville, and Salt Lake City. The latter two, it must be candidly said, are a shade or two redder than the Steel City. Milwaukee, like Pittsburgh, is located in a key 2024 battleground state.

According to Politico, Republican National Committee officials are set to visit each city in the coming months before making a decision in the spring. The discussion over a convention site is expected to top the agenda at the RNC’s winter meeting.

Closer to home, new Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald are among the Pittsburgh notables backing the bid.

Gainey, a former Democratic member of the state House until his swearing-in a week ago, wrote a letter over the weekend to RNC Chairperson Ronna McDaniel making the case for his hometown, the Post-Gazette reports.

“Pittsburgh is a world class city primed for economic recovery and downtown revitalization as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gainey wrote, according to the Post-Gazette.

Fitzgerald, a Democrat, jumped in with a separate letter last November making his own sales pitch, the newspaper reported.

In that letter, Fitzgerald boasted of Pittsburgh’s allure as “a major meeting destination,” with “fantastic and affordable accommodations,” the Post-Gazette reports. Fitzgerald also bragged about the city’s food scene, the newspaper added.

“Perhaps just as importantly for the site committee, Pittsburgh is conveniently located and easily reached by air, car and train,” Fitzgerald wrote.

Allegheny County Republican Chairman Sam DeMarco also weighed in, writing in December that picking Pittsburgh would “significantly add to the experience of your attendees,” according to the Post-Gazette.

According to Pittsburgh City Paper, Pittsburgh has never played host to a presidential nominating convention, a week marked by much pomp and circumstance, but, in recent years, zero political drama.

However, the city was the site of the GOP’s first organizing convention in 1856, the Post-Gazette noted.

Philadelphia hosted the RNC in 2000, where George W. Bush took the party’s nomination. The Democrats gathered in Philadelphia in 2016 leading up to Hillary Clinton’s winning of the nomination.

In a statement to Politico, an RNC spokesperson said the national party is “grateful for and appreciative of the overwhelming interest from cities across the country to host the 2024 Republican National Convention. We’ll continue the process, review bids, and communicate with potential hosts to hear more about what their cities have to offer.”

Our Stuff.
It’s Farm Show Week. Here’s a look, by the numbers. Cassie Miller has the story in this week’s edition of The Numbers Racket.

A woman incarcerated in Allegheny County Jail tells the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism that she was forced to spend her recreational period — some four hours a day — painfully shackled to a table.

A panel of experts convened on the occasion of last week’s anniversary of the Capitol insurrection to say there’s still more work to be done on state and federal elections before the 2022 midterms, Darrell Ehrlick, of our sibling site, The Daily Montanan, reports.

Prison violence punishes LBT women, and it can kill, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News report, in the latest installment in an ongoing series of stories.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry says it’s investigating ‘increasingly aggressive and sophisticated’ efforts to steal unemployment compensation benefits. And the agency is urging employers and workers to report any suspicious activity, I report.

The Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has asked a court to order officials in Fulton County to release all information requested as part of an open records request related to a third-party review of the 2020 General Election, Marley Parish reports.

En la Estrella-Capital: Los equipos de intervención ofrecen una forma única de combatir la violencia armada de Filadelfia. Y la prohibición gradual del peral de Callery comenzará el próximo mes.

On our Commentary Page this morning: The Netflix hit ‘Don’t Look Up!is a documentary masquerading as satire, opinion regular Dick Polman writes. Pennsylvania should resolve to go big on reducing methane emissions in 2022, Joseph Minott of Clean Air Council writes. The new legislative maps can restore representation for Pennsylvania’s growing Latino communities, veteran advocate Erika Almirón writes. And Laila Martin Garcia, of the New Pennsylvania Project writes in English and in Spanish on the lessons of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Elsewhere.
Legislative Republicans are pushing for even more control over redistricting, the Inquirer reports.

The state House is expected to vote as soon as this week on the proposed congressional map, Spotlight PA reports (via WITF-FM).

Staffing shortages will shutter 20 Pittsburgh public schools and programs today, the Tribune-Review reports.

More than 80 Philadelphia schools will temporarily go virtual because of staffing shortages, WHYY-FM reports.

Some restaurants are seeing a drop-off in business amid the latest surge in cases, PennLive reports.

Militia members rallied in Lancaster County three days before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. LancasterOnline explains why.

As expected, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, has jumped into the 2022 race for governor, USA Today’s Pennsylvania Capital Bureau reports.

The federal government is offering some help to ease a shortage of school bus drivers, the Morning Call reports.

The Citizens’ Voice profiles the chairperson of Wilkes-Barre’s city council, who’s starting her second term at the helm.

GoErie introduces readers to the patrons of the Erie Public Library’s bookmobile.

A Washington County police chief is retiring after 30 years on the job, the Observer-Reporter reports.

The U.S. Treasury Department says tenants nationwide received $2.9 billion in rental relief last November, Roll Call reports.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:
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What Goes On
The House comes in at 12 p.m. today.
8 a.m., 515 Irvis: House State Government Committee
9:30 a.m., G50 Irvis: House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee
10 a.m., 523 Irvis: House Judiciary Committee
Call of the Chair, 140 MC: House Appropriataions Committee

WolfWatch
Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept
Belated best wishes go out to stalwart reader Mandy Nace, who celebrated on Sunday. Hope your big day was a good one.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s some new music from Foals. It’s ‘Wake Me Up,’ which is kind of perfect for a morning newsletter.
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Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
Anaheim got past Detroit 4-3 in a shoot-out on Sunday. In his NHL debut, Ducks goalie Lukas Dostal made 33 saves on the way to the win.

And now you’re up to date.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

Dem congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon car-jacked and robbed in Philadelphia

U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District, was carjacked and robbed on Wednesday afternoon after finishing a meeting in Philadelphia’s FDR Park, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, citing her office and city police. The suburban Philadelphia Democrat was not injured.

Scanlon was walking alone to her car around 2:45 p.m. on the 1900 block of Pattison Avenue, when two men approached her and demanded her car keys and personal belongings, a spokesperson told the newspaper.

According to the Inquirer, “Scanlon handed over her purse — including personal cell phone, federal government cell phone, and personal ID. One of the men then drove away in her 2017 Acura MDX, while his accomplice followed in what police described as a second dark-colored SUV.”

Scanlon’s Acura was found at a shopping center in Newark, Delaware, around 9 p.m., and five people inside it were taken into custody, Delaware State Police said, according to NBC News.

In a statement, Scanlon thanked the “Philadelphia Police Department for their swift response, and appreciates the efforts of both the Sergeant at Arms in DC and her local police department for coordinating with Philly PD to ensure her continued safety.”


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

Pennsylvania Republican pushes effort to nullify Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for business

U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-12th District, and dozens of his fellow Republicans in the U.S. House are pushing an effort to overturn the Biden White House's vaccine mandate for private employers.

On Wednesday, the central Pennsylvania lawmaker introduced a resolution nullifying the administration's order that companies with more than 100 employees require those workers to be fully vaccinated, or show a negative test at least once a week.

“[Two hundred] Republicans in the House & Senate are standing [with] the American people in opposition to Biden's vaccine mandate on businesses," Keller wrote on Twitter. Our Congressional Review Act resolution puts every member of Congress on record: You're either for this blatant gov't overreach or you're against it."

Taking to Twitter, Keller's fellow Pennsylvania Republicans lined up in support.

“I stood with my colleagues this evening in support of [Keller's] Congressional Review Act legislation to block Pres. Biden's misguided, unnecessary and frankly unconstitutional vaccine mandate," U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-11th District, wrote on Twitter.

“I'm proud to join [Keller] on this bill," U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16th District, wrote on Twitter. “Fining employers $14,000 *per violation* will hurt our economic recovery and potentially destroy some companies. We can't afford to lose more workers and worsen our supply chain problems even more than we're already seeing."

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District, pushed back against Keller's effort in an answering tweet:

Here's the text of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution:

“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to ''COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard" and such rule shall have no force or effect."


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

GOP congressman wouldn’t say if he was vaccinated -- now he has COVID

Another prominent Pennsylvania Republican lawmaker has tested positive for COVID-19.

In a statement, the office of U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, said the central Pennsylvania legislator had tested positive for the virus and “will continue working while quarantining at home."

Perry's “symptoms are quite mild, and he's looking forward to a full recovery," the statement reads.

Special Report: Dozens of members of Congress are vaccinated against COVID-19, but some still hesitate; How Pa. did

“Like so many of our friends and neighbors, Congressman Perry has tested positive for COVID-19," the statement reads, in part. " … This is a personal health matter and our office will not have further comment."

The statement is silent on whether Perry, a firebrand conservative who has been critical of pandemic mitigation policies, has been vaccinated against the virus. Perry was among the Pennsylvania lawmakers who did not respond to the Capital-Star's questions about his vaccination status.

In a Sept. 30 Facebook post, Perry came out against the vaccine mandates imposed by the Biden administration.

“Folks, if you want the vaccine, by all means, get the vaccine," Perry wrote. “You shouldn't have to worry about being forced or fired. Not nurses, not docs, not First Responders, nor our Troops. Consent, never coercion."

On Monday, Perry was elected the next chairman of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, according to Axios. He's also come under scrutiny for efforts to help former President Donald Trump undermine the results of the 2020 election.

Last week, Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, announced he'd tested positive for the virus, derailing a planned public announcement of his GOP gubernatorial candidacy. Corman formally declared on Tuesday in a statement.

Other members of Pennsylvania's congressional delegation, including U.S. Reps. Matt Cartwright, D-8th District, and Mike Kelly, R-16th District, also have either tested positive for the virus, or have quarantined after coming into contact with someone who had it. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., also tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, indicating that he likely had the virus, according to a published report.


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

How a suburban Pennsylvania school board race became a Trumpian battleground

The late U.S. House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip" O'Neill used to famously say that “all politics is local," meaning that it was hard to impose a national framework on the often quirky world of local campaigns.

These days, thanks to the ubiquity of social media, cable news, and the rise of big money in politics that steers the conversation, the exact opposite appears to be true: Local campaigns have turned into microcosms of the arguments that we're having at the national level.

Need proof? Look no further than an unsigned letter that landed in mailboxes across Camp Hill Borough, a picturesque community of some 7,911 people that's a mile or two across the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg, last week (Full disclosure: I live in Camp Hill, and have a child in the local schools).

The anonymous letter, which is riddled with both spelling and factual errors, targets Democratic school board candidates Karen Mallah, Josceylon Buchs, and Melanie Gurgiolo, warning that their “election will do serious and permanent harm to our exception (sic), small and excellent school district due to their radical agenda they intend to jointly pursue if elected."

It was sent to borough residents who have yard signs supporting Buchs and Mallah. Gurgiolo told the Capital-Star that she is not using yard signs during the fall campaign cycle.

You can read some of the more extravagant claims below.

If a lot of that sounds familiar, that's because it should. The letter echoes talking points about critical race theory, the shameful legacy of slavery, and other dire talk about inclusion for transgender athletes that's become a staple of conservative talk radio and cable television.

The claim about critical race theory, like the other assertions in the letter, is false.

Like every other K-12 school, Camp Hill does not teach critical race theory — a reality backed up by Superintendent Daniel Serfass who pointed that out in an online letter to parents over the summer. But that didn't stop some local parents, led by attorney Marc Scaringi, a Trump loyalist, from trying to conflate CRT with a since-suspended equity council, FOX-43 reported.

In an email to the Capital-Star, Gurgiolo, a school board incumbent, said she'd spent her four years on the board “[working] hard to serve the students and community of Camp Hill rather than a political agenda, so I find this letter to be a collection of fear-mongering talking points that mischaracterizes both my candidacy and my record."

She added that “while the letter implies that I have yard signs in the community, a resident of Camp Hill would know that this is not the case, so it is my hope that this anonymous and ill-informed correspondence came from outside our district."

Reached for comment Wednesday, Mallah said: “To those of you who have my signs in your yard: thank you for your support. Some of you know me well; others have learned about my ideas, experience and hopes for service to our district by hearing, or reading, my own words.

“For anyone else who is interested, I invite you to do as this letter's anonymous author says, in reference to his statements about me: 'If you question this, please contact me and ask me specifically if I will either propose or support any of these changes in the school district.' With that in mind, allow some time, I'm a talker and I look forward to meeting you," Mallah concluded.

Buchs added that she was “deeply disappointed and saddened by the slanderous, grossly inaccurate, and divisive nature of the entire letter and of politics today. The only truth contained in the letter was the statement about 'contact them and ask.'

“It's easy, if we're not taking the time to become informed, to make false assumptions, presumptions, and to listen to narratives that are completely inaccurate," she continued. “I hope that voters will be curious, to seek out information — from legitimate and credible sources — in order to inform their voting decisions."

The anonymous letter also lit up a community Facebook site, with some local progressive pols taking to Twitter to voice their displeasure as well.

“A friend in Camp Hill just sent me this letter that was left at their house. I am horrified," Colleen Gray Nguyen, who's running for state House tweeted. “The homophobia, transphobia, and racism of the … GOP are on full display here. It also shows how critical school board elections are this year."

Shanna Danielson, a former Democratic state Senate candidate from York County, and a veteran progressive activist, also jumped into the fray.

“Gone are the days of subtle fear mongering by republicans. Now they just straight-up lie and shout their racist, homophobic BS via letters on your door," she tweeted.

One Republican school board aspirant, David La Torre, also denounced the letter.

“I condemn this hateful letter and the attack on three people who are willing to serve their community as volunteer elected officials," La Torre wrote in a Facebook post. “Being on a school board is among the most noble endeavors a person can do for their community.

“If you wrote this, and you're reading this — do me a favor and don't vote for me," he added.

The letter is vile. There's no getting around that.

Its assertion that the district's reputation will suffer by allowing transgender athletes to play on the team that corresponds with their gender is not only the worst kind of transphobia, it also defies sciencewhich has not deterred some deeply conservative state lawmakers from trying to impose a ban. Thankfully, the bill appears to be going nowhere fast.

Already racist, the hateful rhetoric about the 1619 Project and disgusting clatter about critical race theory take on a particularly vile tone when you take into consideration that one of the candidates targeted in the anonymous mailer — Mallah — is Black.

And Nguyen and Danielson aren't wrong about what's at stake in these so-called “off-year" races — the term itself does a grave disservice to the importance of these contests.

That's because the all-volunteer, unpaid positions are hugely important. That's not least because school board members make ground-level decisions about policy and curriculum matters that directly impact every part of students' lives.

But of equal importance, for some ambitious pols, they're also the farm league for the General Assembly and beyond. Thus ideological litmus tests of the variety unfolding in Camp Hill and elsewhere take on a critical importance.

These contests also are reflective of the demographic and political shifts taking place across suburbs and exurbs nationwide.

While it remains a Republican-stronghold, Cumberland County, which is home to Camp Hill, is getting more and more purple, presenting a promising long-term opportunity for Democrats, as the Capital-Star's Nick Field reported back in June. And as PennLive reports, it is becoming ever more diverse.

Camp Hill, now a Blue oasis for Democrats, is in the vanguard of that shift, hence the intensity of this local-level fight.

Which means, unfortunately, that we're going to be seeing more of this kind of racist and homophobic street-fighting as a dwindling number of ideologues try to defy both demographics and progress and cling to power however they can.

The borough's voters — my neighbors — can decide on Election Day whether they want to repudiate it. The choice doesn't seem that tough.

Our Stuff.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visited Allentown on Wednesday, where she asked the region's exploding Hispanic population to put their faith in her husband to deliver on his promises, Correspondent Katherine Reinhard reports.

Black and Hispanic activists from the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia asked the bipartisan commission in charge of the decennial redrawing of Pennsylvania's legislative maps to make sure their voices are heard and honored, Cassie Miller reports.

Pennsylvania's Democratic establishment has lined up behind Attorney General Josh Shapiro for governor in 2022. Will the commonwealth's voters follow them? Reporting from Pittsburgh, Stephen Caruso takes up the question.

Nine months after the top Republican in the Pennsylvania state Senate vowed to make transparency a major priority in the Legislature, lawmakers are inching toward some lobbying reform, Marley Parish reports.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 5,012 new cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to more than 1.49 million since the start of the pandemic, I report.

Penn State University President Eric Barron has announced that all employees at the University Park campus in Centre County, regardless of whether they work on a federal contract, must provide proof of vaccination by Dec. 8. The new policy also applies to those working remotely, Marley Parish reports.

A summit in Philadelphia addressed the link between gun violence and the environment, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

The Biden administration has named a Maryland environmental official to a key EPA post with oversight of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic region, our sibling site, Maryland Matters, reports.

On our Commentary Page this morning, a Colorado State University scholar explains how Nobel winners made possible our current predictions of global warming and modern weather forecasting. And a 'Truth and Healing Commission' could help Native American communities traumatized by the government-run schools in Pennsylvania and elsewhere that tried to destroy their culture, a University of Montana scholar writes.

En la Estrella-Capital: Conociendo a Jesús Rivera: De trabajador de almacén a dueño de negocio, por Q'Hubo News. Y ser profesor de inglés ya no es lo que era: los nuevos métodos y sus ventajas.

Elsewhere.
Speaking of school boards, Spotlight PA has its local guide to voting in these important elections (via the Inquirer).

The state has hit its 70 percent vaccination goal, the Post-Gazette reports. As we report above, however, cases and hospitalizations are still worryingly high.

PennLive has its guide to what you need to know about mail-in voting (You can read ours here.).

Lancaster County's multiracial population increased during the last Census, LancasterOnline reports.

The PIAA Board has voted to shorten the length of preseason practices from 15 to 10 days, the Morning Call reports.

Wilkes-Barre's recovery plans include $300 for qualifying households, the Citizens' Voice reports.

In his ongoing corruption trial, federal prosecutors say Philadelphia Councilmember Bobby Henon 'punished' Verizon to aid a donor, WHYY-FM reports.

WESA-FM delves into the reapportionment of Allegheny County's council districts.

City & State Pa. profiles Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland.

Talking Points Memo reveals what it says are U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's, D-Ariz., 'secret policy demands.'

Here's your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:


What Goes On
10 a.m, 101 Walnut St., Harrisburg: The Pa. Dept. of Education holds a ground-breaking for a new library
11 a.m., Phoenixville, Pa.: House Democratic Policy Committee

WolfWatch
Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It's Your Birthday Dept
Best wishes go out this morning to Tara Murtha at the Women's Law Project, and to CBS-21 producer Christina Maisel, both of whom celebrate today. Congratulations, and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation
Here's a tune from WILD that was recently shared with us. It's 'It Only Gets Better' — surely a welcome message on any day.

Thursday's Gratuitous Hockey Link
Toronto hung on for a 2-1 win over Montreal in an Original Six match-up for its season opener on Wednesday night. The 'Leafs' Jack Campbell made 31 saves on the way to the win.

And now you're up to date.


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

Republicans are the clowns in the debt ceiling circus -- and their act isn't funny anymore

It's way past political cliche, but that old “Popeye" comic strip where J. Wellington Wimpy promises to pay a short-order cook tomorrow for a hamburger he plans to eat today is still the best way to describe Republican intransigence this week over a vote to extend the nation's debt ceiling that's soared past cartoonish farce.

In case you missed it, on Monday, Republicans in the narrowly divided U.S. Senate voted to block the approval of new borrowing intended to pay for old debt that they're complicit in racking up.

While entirely unsurprising, the GOP's united front on the debt ceiling is the most transparent kind of political cynicism.

As Bloomberg reports, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his fellow Republicans are pressing Senate Democrats to use the fast-track process known as reconciliation to raise the debt ceiling without GOP votes. That's the same process the Democrats want to use to bypass the GOP to pass the Democratic Biden administration's sprawling domestic agenda.

With the Senate deadlocked at 50-50, and a midterm election looming, Republicans want to make Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, of New York, and his fellow Democrats look as bad as possible as they look to recapture control of the 100-member chamber.

“There is no chance, no chance the Republican conference will go out of our way to help Democrats conserve their time and energy, so they can resume ramming through partisan socialism as fast as possible," McConnell said Tuesday as another attempt to raise the debt ceiling flopped, CBS News reported.

But, and this is an important but, the inescapable reality here is that McConnell and the GOP are responsible for the spending that's led to the current standoff, and they're working as hard as they can to evade responsibility for it. That's some galactic dissonance for a party that's tried to portray itself as a champion of fiscal responsibility.

And even that doesn't hold up under even casual scrutiny.

These are the same Republicans, after all, who voted for the former Trump administration's deficit-exploding tax cut for the wealthy. And they are the same Republicans who voted for a two-year extension of the debt ceiling in 2019, according to Politico. And that monster bill boosted federal spending by hundreds of billions of dollars.

There are real world consequences here that also bear repeating: The bill that the GOP currently opposes also would authorize billions of dollars in aid for parts of the country hit by extreme weather, and keep the federal government operating past Thursday, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Laura Olson wrote earlier this week. A shutdown would stop the flow of government assistance when so many Americans desperately need it.

After Monday's failed vote, Schumer correctly blamed Republicans, accusing them of “playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States," Olson reported.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Republicans are the clowns in the debt ceiling circus. The act isn't funny anymore

It's way past political cliche, but that old “Popeye" comic strip where J. Wellington Wimpy promises to pay a short-order cook tomorrow for a hamburger he plans to eat today, is still the best way to describe Republican intransigence this week over a vote to extend the nation's debt ceiling that's soared past cartoonish farce.

In case you missed it, on Monday, Republicans in the narrowly divided U.S. Senate voted to block the approval of new borrowing intended to pay for old debt that they're complicit in racking up.

While entirely unsurprising, the GOP's united front on the debt ceiling is the most transparent kind of political cynicism.

As Bloomberg reports, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his fellow Republicans are pressing Senate Democrats to use the fast-track process known as reconciliation to raise the debt ceiling without GOP votes. That's the same process the Democrats want to use to bypass the GOP to pass the Democratic Biden administration's sprawling domestic agenda.

With the Senate deadlocked at 50-50, and a midterm election looming, Republicans want to make Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, of New York, and his fellow Democrats look as bad as possible as they look to recapture control of the 100-member chamber.

“There is no chance, no chance the Republican conference will go out of our way to help Democrats conserve their time and energy, so they can resume ramming through partisan socialism as fast as possible," McConnell said Tuesday as another attempt to raise the debt ceiling flopped, CBS News reported.

But, and this is an important but, the inescapable reality here is that McConnell and the GOP are responsible for the spending that's led to the current standoff, and they're working as hard as they can to evade responsibility for it. That's some galactic dissonance for a party that's tried to portray itself as a champion of fiscal responsibility.

And even that doesn't hold up under even casual scrutiny.

These are the same Republicans, after all, who voted for the former Trump administration's deficit-exploding tax cut for the wealthy. And they are the same Republicans who voted for a two-year extension of the debt ceiling in 2019, according to Politico. And that monster bill boosted federal spending by hundreds of billions of dollars.

There are real world consequences here that also bear repeating: The bill that the GOP currently opposes also would authorize billions of dollars in aid for parts of the country hit by extreme weather, and keep the federal government operating past Thursday, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Laura Olson wrote earlier this week. A shutdown would stop the flow of government assistance when so many Americans desperately need it.

After Monday's failed vote, Schumer correctly blamed Republicans, accusing them of “playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States," Olson reported.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.