A week of new beginnings for the Pennsylvania GOP, an interview with VP Mike Pence on 6ABC gets national attention, plus Democrats selected a candidate for a state House seat in Chester County. All of that and more are in this week’s Ups and Downs.
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Cutler, Benninghoff, and Oberlander. There’s new leadership for Republicans in Harrisburg. After House Speaker Mike Turzai resigned on June 15, a number of Republicans will have new roles within their caucus after the leadership vote this week. A few of the most noteworthy changes include House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler being elevated to Speaker, Majority Whip Kerry Benninghoff moving up to Majority Leader, and state Rep. Donna Oberlander taking over as Republican Majority Whip.
Andy Reilly. Although Turzai’s departure signals a new era at the state capital, the news out of the GOP state committee truly signifies the end of an era in Pennsylvania Republican politics. Bob Asher, longtime Republican National Committeeman well known for being a prolific fundraiser, sent out an email to GOP state committee members this week announcing that he will not seek another term. He was most recently unanimously re-elected along with Christine Toretti in May 2016 and has filled the role since 1988. PAGOP Secretary Andy Reilly appears to have a clear path to succeeding Asher.
PA Fracking Oversight. A report from Attorney General Josh Shapiro slammed the state’s oversight of the natural gas drilling industry after the conclusion of a grand jury report. The AP reports that the two-year investigation concluded that the state failed to prevent the natural gas drilling industry from “sickening people and poisoning air and water. Shapiro said that these fracking companies were “given a free pass by unprepared agencies and the public was harmed. Plain and simple.” The jurors provided eight recommendations moving forward for the state.
Dianne Herrin. The Democrats have selected their candidate for the state House’s 156th District. West Chester Mayor Dianne Herrin earned the party nod over four other candidates with 75% of the votes on the first ballot, according to the Daily Local News. The Democratic committee voters selected Herrin for the party nomination after state Rep. Carolyn Comitta won the party nod for the state Senate’s 19th District. Herrin will face Republican Len Iacona for the seat in the fall.
Middletown. Sadly, after 166 years, the Middletown Press & Journal will publish its last edition on July 1, citing the hit the paper took from COVID-19.
Brian Taff. Landing an interview with the Vice President is always a big deal, but it’s even more significant when that interview turns into a national story. Taff, an anchor at 6 ABC in Philadelphia, interviewed VP Mike Pence this past weekend and pressed him on seeing if he would say, “Black Lives Matter.” After multiple attempts of trying to get Pence to say those words, the VP reiterated that “all lives matter,” which garnered headlines from outlets across the nation.
Capitol Hill Accountability. There can never be enough eyes on Harrisburg and the addition of several award winning journalists is sure to benefit the commonwealth. Scott Fisher, Candy Woodall, and J.D. Prose have all been selected by Gannett’s 14 Pennsylvania outlets and the USA Today Network’s Atlantic Region to form a state capitol bureau.
Philadelphia. Pennsylvania’s largest city is slated to be the first big city in the nation to make it “illegal for employers to fire, discipline, or otherwise retaliate against workers who speak up about unsafe coronavirus conditions,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The bill, which unanimously passed City Council and has support from Mayor Jim Kenney, is being lauded by the leader of UPS union Teamsters Local 623 as protecting the “most essential resource America has: the worker.”
Zack Cole. The GOP Trafford councilman made transphobic comments on Facebook on Father’s Day when he commented on Gov. Tom Wolf’s Facebook page wishing Health Sec. Rachel Levine, a transgender woman, a “Happy Father’s Day to Richard Levine as well,” according to the Tribune Review. Cole didn’t apologize, but seemingly backtracked in a Facebook post of his own saying the comments were “in bad taste.”
TWEET OF THE WEEK
An important message courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Going to your community pool to stay cool? If you or a family member has diarrhea, stay home! It only takes one person having diarrhea in the water to contaminate ALL of the water in a pool. Learn more: https://t.co/44afevWjdK pic.twitter.com/ml3jVdhL5C
— PA Department of Health (@PAHealthDept) June 24, 2020