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Bid to curtail Wolf's emergency powers leads 54-46


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
May 19, 2021
Election results, Capitol company, tight deadline, blocked nominee, toxic tort, life story, and Pennsylvania's alien terrain. Today is Wednesday.

It's the morning after Pennsylvania's spring primary, and this is what we know.

Voters appear poised to back two proposed constitutional amendments that will curtail Gov. Tom Wolf's executive power, though the Associated Press has yet to make a final call. 

Should the 54-46% lead hold, it would be a victory for Republican lawmakers who have clashed repeatedly with Wolf's administration over the state's approach to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Two other ballot questions passed easily, while GOP voters selected appeals judge Kevin Brobson to face Democrat Maria McLaughlin this fall for an open state Supreme Court seat. 

In Pittsburgh, incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto was defeated by state Rep. Ed Gainey, who is poised to become the first Black leader of the city. Across the state in Philadelphia, District Attorney Larry Krasner easily held off a challenge from homicide prosecutor Carlos Vega. And in Harrisburg, City Council President Wanda Williams won the Democratic nod for mayor.

THE CONTEXT: The Department of State declared the primary a success, though there were issues reported in a handful of counties.

In a statement, two top House Republicans described the issues as "significant." 

"While results are still coming in, it is crystal clear that our Election Code is in dire need of significant reform focused on accountability, security, and training," said Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff and Rep. Seth Grove, who leads the committee that considers election-related legislation.

Spotlight PA will have more election coverage today. Stay tuned.

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"She doesn’t have an entourage, which is kind of awesome of her."

—Chester County detective Christine Bleiler on actress Kate Winslet, who was coached by Bleiler for her leading role in "Mare of Easttown."
VACCINE UPDATE: Top medical experts agree that social media claims about vaccine "shedding" are pure misinformation. COVID-19 vaccines do not contain a live virus. There also isn't any evidence that vaccines cause reproductive problems. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call its vaccine hotline at 1-800-232-0233, or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX).
Thanks, Kathleen E., for this shot of Sullivan Falls. Another beautiful hiking spot to hit up as the weather warms. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.

CAPITOL CONNECT: Attendees at state Sen. Doug Mastriano's maybe-running-for-governor fundraiser in Chambersburg included a recently raided Rudy Giuliani and a suspected Jan. 6 insurrectionist named Sam Lazar. HuffPost reports Lazar took pictures with Mastriano at the Saturday event. Both men were at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Mastriano, a prolific peddler of 2020 election fraud theories, says he left when things turned violent.

TIGHT TURNAROUND: The deadline lawmakers face for redrawing Pennsylvania's political maps is extra tight this year due to pandemic-related delays and slower-than-normal returns of census results. That narrow window has some pushing to start the data-driven process without the data, WHYY reports. A delayed 2022 primary is also on the table.

NO NOMINEE: Gov. Tom Wolf is recalling his nomination of Hayley Book to the state's Public Utility Commission board, StateImpact reports. The reason? State GOP lawmakers say they'll veto any nominee until Wolf walks away from a regional greenhouse gas initiative. They also don’t like that Wolf joined without their approval.

'FOREVER CHEMICALS': The Delaware County District Attorney’s Office is suing dozens of chemical makers for their role in contaminating local fire facilities with highly toxic "forever chemicals" known as PFAS, sometimes resulting in levels thousands of times higher than advisable under federal guidelines, The Inquirer reports. 

LIFE STORY: Ben Mosbah Saidi's body was found under a York County bridge, near a makeshift encampment. A month later, the York Daily Record reports the life that ended there started 4,500 miles away in Saidi's native Tunisia. He had come to America to train with the French Foreign Legion, but mental health and substance use issues quickly reared their heads.

FLY OVER: UFOs are having a moment, with "60 Minutes" reporting they're regularly spotted in restricted U.S. airspace and a report on the subject due to Congress next month. Meanwhile, the true believers of Kecksburg, Pa. are probably wondering what took everyone so long.

IN MEMORIAM: Star of screen and Pittsburgh native Charles Grodin has died at the age of 86 from bone marrow cancer, NPR reports. You may remember Grodin from films like "Midnight Run," "Beethoven," "The Heartbreak Kid," or his unrivaled performances as a talk show curmudgeon

LIGHT UP: Take a (virtual) nickel tour of the Erie Land Lighthouse, a 49-foot-tall, 154-year-old maritime beacon with stunning views, courtesy of Erie Times-News. Also get to know Pat Scutella, who won a 1994 lottery that let him live there on one condition: he act as caretaker, per the AP.

FLOWER HOUR: Two ultra-rare "corpse flowers" have bloomed at Temple University, PhillyVoice reports. The blooms are famously brief and happen only every seven to 10 years. Why are they called corpse flowers? That's easy. It's because they smell like rotting flesh. 

COURSE TERMS: Penn State's student titles are going gender-neutral. Per TribLIVE, the university's Faculty Senate recommended removing gendered and binary terms from course and program descriptions last month, favoring "first-year" over "freshman" and "student" over gendered pronouns.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Invincible

Congrats to our daily winners: Mary Ellen T., Craig W., Barbara F., Irene R., Yvette R., Michelle T., Susan D., Dixie S., Theresa T., Myles M., Patricia M., Don H., Neal W., Mike B., Elaine C., Janet C., Al M., Eddy Z., Jill K., Beth T., Lex M., Elizabeth W., Jimmy N., David I., Jill A., Suzanne S., Mark O., Kathy B., Christine M., Tish M., Johnny C., Meg M., John A., Dennis M., Tom L., Carol D., Diane P., Patricia R., Debra K., Dianne K., Damon D., Theodore W., George S., Kevin H., Joel S., Christine M., Mary Kay M., Karen W., George W., James B., Skip B., Cynthia P., Chris M., Kim C., and Ed R.
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