GOP Pounces on Sturla “Womenfolk” Remark
By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor
Republicans in Harrisburg have jumped on comments made by House Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster), who suggested that gas drilling workers are responsible for an increase in sexually transmitted disease rates in the Marcellus shale region.
“…exactly what are all those things the drillers are doing for the local communities?” wrote Sturla in an email to Capitolwire. “Patronizing the bars at night? Driving up the cost of rental housing? Spreading sexually transmitted disease amongst the womenfolk?”
The comment resulted in immediate outrage from House Republicans, whose caucus issued a press release that highlighted reactions from its female members (and Rep. Matt Baker, for good measure).
“Drunks and promiscuous ‘womenfolk’ – that is what the House Democrat leaders are calling the hard-working men and women living within the Marcellus Shale region,” Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) said.
“These mischaracterizations and stereotypes of Marcellus workers, most of which are hard-working Pennsylvanians, does nothing productive,” Rep. Donna Oberlander (R- Armstrong/Clarion) said. “These comments are absolutely inappropriate and cross the line of decency.”
The PA Republican Party joined in as well.
“I don’t know what is more offensive, Sturla’s reference to Pennsylvania women as “womenfolk” or his assertion that we are promiscuous? Rep. Mike Sturla should apologize for these incredibly stupid comments and his Democratic colleagues should denounce them immediately,” said Vice Chair Joyce Haas in a press release.
Sturla said that his comment was intended to characterize and implicitly criticize the attitude of gas drilling workers. He apologized for his choice in words, but stuck hard to his underlying point.
“If somebody was offended by the way I said it, I apologize for that. For anybody that knows my wit – and I guess it doesn’t come through in an email – my intent on referring to ‘womenfolk’ was that’s how I viewed how guys from Texas and Oklahoma that are coming in to Pennsylvania view the women in Pennsylvania. Everyone that I’ve talked to related to health issues in the Northern Tier says sexually transmitted disease have spiked.”
Asked to characterize the GOP’s reaction, Sturla was blunt: “Kill the messenger.”
“There’s been nothing that’s been said that’s refuted any of the factual information I talked about. Here you have the man who has proposed an impact fee saying, you know what, the impact fee wouldn’t actually do enough.”
Sturla’s entire email comment, as quoted in Capitolwire, is below:
“Also, aside from building roads so their trucks can get to drill sites and doing a little stream work to mitigate damage from their road building, exactly what are all those things the drillers are doing for the local communities? Patronizing the bars at night? Driving up the cost of rental housing? Spreading sexually transmitted disease amongst the womenfolk? Causing school districts to ask local governments to ban truck traffic on local roads during school bus pick up and drop off times so kids don’t get killed? Upgrading emergency preparedness equipment to handle a well blow out? Running compressor stations that have decibel levels equal to a jet engine?…Really community oriented stuff…”