Pa. legislative Republicans show irresponsibility — again — in new COVID outbreak

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

It’s been a long year, considering it’s just been a week.

I can’t list the entire magnum of chaos that happened this past week in D.C., so I’m going to focus on the ones that immediately impact voting in Pennsylvania and Chester County.

Keeping it local, it looks like the Republicans in the legislature were saved from themselves when State Rep. Paul Schemel (R-Franklin Co.) tested positive for COVID-19 — but likely added to disruption on Election Day and night.

The Schemel positive test prompted prompted GOP House leadership to adjourn until Oct. 19. At least one local State Rep., Melissa, Shusterman, is now in self quarantine because Schemel attended committee meetings with her without wearing a mask.

The good news: with just three days left in the session before the election, it will be more difficult for Republicans to pass their resolution for an “election integrity” commission. Many fear Republicans will use said commission to try to overturn the results of the election in favor of President Donald Trump.

I personally think it is unlikely — were legislative Republicans attempt to override the will of the people, I don’t think it would end well. Folks are at a fever pitch and I have to think it would spark violence, potentially even against members who support this. Obviously, I don’t condone that, but it seems a stretch to assume that the citizens of Pennsylvania will meekly accept reversing the results of an election.

The bad news: it is also less likely that the legislature will pass a bill to allow early canvassing — that is allowing county Voter Services to open and count the multitude of mail in ballots before Election Day. Republicans have been railing about election results needing to be available on Election Night and yet are literally making it impossible.

The worse news: Schemel and his colleagues have been wildly irresponsible, refusing to wear masks and potentially infecting their colleagues just to make a political point. Their infantile war against Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic restrictions look even stupider (which is saying something) with another member coming down with COVID.

Okay, moving onto the Trump Campaign’s ridiculous lawsuit over poll watchers.

Let’s be clear: the polls are not open, yet. There are no polls to watch until Nov. 3. What Trump’s people want to do is practice voter intimidation and prevent voters from coming in to drop off or request ballots. There is no right to have “watchers” in any Voter Services office.

And what are they going to watch? People putting ballots in drop boxes? This is nothing more than an exercise in thuggery and vote suppression. Hopefully, the courts will reject it as such.

The law is also very specific about who can be a poll watcher: they have to be from the same county. I know this well. I think I might have been the first person in Pennsylvania to be allowed to serve as a poll watcher outside his home precinct.

Republicans fought this, at the time, vociferously — they had loads of manpower and didn’t need much to move people around. Democrats — this was 2002 – needed to move people around. As the then Zone Leader for my area, I was asked to serve as a poll watcher in Birmingham (I live in Pocopson) by the Rendell Campaign. Litigation ensued. We won and it became the law of the state.

Now, while there is a clear law on who can and cannot serve as poll watchers, the Trump campaign is seeking to ignore the law in order to intimidate voters, mostly in urban areas.

As I wrote this past week, the Republican Party — in what is increasingly looking like its death throes — is trying to limit who can vote because party leaders know they can’t win a fair election at this point.

Based on what I saw Friday at Voter Services, when I dropped off my ballot, as there was a constant stream of people coming to put their ballots in the drop box, they should be worried that voters have turned strongly against them. I expect voter turnout to at near record levels in the county based on what I’m seeing and hearing.


In the past few weeks, I was leaked some internal polling done by campaigns showing Trump trailing in Chester County by more than 20 points.

Honestly, I kind of dismissed them as being outliers or potentially using mis-calibrated samples, all of the other data I saw suggested Trump was trailing somewhere between 12 and 15 points, with more recent samples closer to the latter number.

Enter this week’s ABC/Washington Post poll.

It showed Trump losing the collar counties of Pennsylvania — Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Bucks — by a 69-31 margin.

That’s Trump trailing by 38 points.

I wasn’t able to find individual county breakouts, so parsing the numbers a bit, it’s safe to assume that Trump is probably doing worse than 38 points in Montgomery and Delaware counties. Which is saying a lot, obviously — less than a decade ago, both were solidly Republican.

But even with that, the numbers from the ABC/WaPo poll don’t add up without Trump being down at least 20 in Chester County and probably a few points more.

And let’s be honest, this week probably didn’t help.

While Joe Biden needs to run up massive numbers in Philly and the burbs to win Pennsylvania — which increasingly looks likely — there is also the impact down ballot.

With a 12-15 point race, it already seemed likely that John Kane would knock off state Sen. Tom Killion (R-9) — polling numbers I saw suggested a 15-point race (in the real world, I assumed it was more like 8). If the presidential race is 20 or more, that race could turn into a blow out.

Similarly, the state house races in 160 and 156 that looked strong for Democrats — one a defense, 156 with West Chester Dianne Herrin (D) and Len Iacono ( R) seeking to replace State Rep. Carolyn Comitta, who is running for state Senate (and also likely to win the 19th seat, replacing the retiring Sen. Andy Dinniman over Republican Kevin Runey).

In the 160th, Democrat Anton Andrew who nearly knocked off State Rep. Stephen Barrar in 2018, is now seeking to replace him as Barrar is retiring. Craig Williams is the Republican in the race.

Those races appeared to be safe Democratic wins, already, so it doesn’t change the math in terms of the Democrats winning back the majority in the House.

However, if Trump truly is down more than 20 points, two other Republican-held seats will be at least competitive: the 26th House District, currently held by Tim Hennessey and the 13th District seat, currently held by John Lawrence.

The 26th is probably the most vulnerable and it is possible that Hennessey has overstayed his welcome. Democrat Paul Friel has run a strong campaign and seems poised to take advantage if the recent polling is accurate.

The 13th, which encompasses the most conservative portions of the county, will be a tough lift for Democrat Richard Ruggieri, due to the tough demographics of the district — also with Lincoln University students largely off campus and not voting locally, it’s going to be tough to find enough votes. But — if Trump is as unpopular as polling suggests — the votes may be out there with disaffected Republicans wanting to send a message to their party.

It’s worth watching the numbers — and almost hard to think of Democrats sweeping the entire legislative delegation for the county, just a few years after scraping just to win one or two seats was a major effort. But  in a year where anything seems possible, it’s now far from impossible.


I have nothing to say about President Trump’s diagnosis with COVID-19 and subsequent hospitalization, beyond hoping he and First Lady Melania Trump get well shortly — and the same for all of his staff and other elected officials recently struck with the virus.

Stay safe, be smart and wear a mask when you leave your home.

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