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GOP sues to block Dem-scheduled special elections

Plus, the latest on Pa. Senate GOP's languishing 2020 probe.

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
Monday, December 12, 2022
Control chamber, case quash, big money, transition pick, rejected recounts, leak looks, holiday house, pretzel-gate, and pronouncing Pennsylvania.
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Time and again, Spotlight PA's impactful investigative journalism has driven positive change for the better. From policy reforms to increased government transparency to returning money to taxpayers, our reporting gets results and holds our government and officials accountable

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— Colin Deppen, PA Post Editor

Pennsylvania House Republicans are suing to block three special elections called by Democrats last week amid an ongoing tussle over which party controls the lower chamber following last month's midterms.

The suit, filed in Commonwealth Court by House GOP Leader Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster), argues that the special elections were illegitimately called by House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton (D., Philadelphia). 

McClinton scheduled the contests after having herself sworn in early as majority leader in an unpublicized ceremony on Wednesday. 

If the courts side with Cutler, it would delay filling three empty, Democratic-leaning seats until at least March. It would also allow the GOP to maintain some measure of power into spring, potentially complicating the opening months of Democratic Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro's administration.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: With majority at stake, Pa. House Republicans sue to block special elections set by Democrats.

THE CONTEXT: Democrats won 102 seats in the 203-member body Nov. 8, which party leaders say gives them control of the chamber.

But three of those seats — all in Allegheny County — are vacant following one lawmaker death and two resignations. Cutler said those vacancies leave Republicans with a 101-99 majority in the House.

Allegheny County Democratic Committee members met Sunday to choose the party's nominee for the special election to replace longtime state Rep. Tony DeLuca (D., Allegheny), who died weeks before Election Day. 

Chris Potter of WESA reports Penn Hills Democratic Committee Chair Joe McAndrew won Sunday's ranked-choice voting.

Members of the county committee will meet Dec. 17 for nominations in the other two contests, the same day their Republican counterparts are expected to pick that party's candidates for all three races.


"F— you."

—Philly Mayor Jim Kenney to Brian Tierney at a Pennsylvania Society event after Tierney remarked on-air about Kenney's apparent distaste for his job
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» THE EXIT: Join us Thursday, Dec. 15 from 3-3:30 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A with Pennsylvania’s 47th governor, Tom Wolf, on his two terms, his legacy, and what comes next for the state. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

The Bucks County Justice Center in Doylestown at sunset. Thanks for sharing, Michael P. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania

The facade of the courthouse in Bucks County below a multi-colored sky.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.SUBPOENA STOP: Spotlight PA and Votebeat report the Wolf administration is looking to finish off a GOP-led push to obtain sensitive information on millions of voters for a contested review of Pennsylvania's 2020 election. Administration lawyers told a court that a subpoena for the information expired with the last legislative session on Nov. 30 and that GOP lawyers have acknowledged as much.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.CAMPAIGN CASH: The total cost of this year's governor's race topped $100 million, setting a new spending record for the contest while highlighting Pennsylvania's notoriously lax campaign finance laws. Spotlight PA reports that good-government advocates are worried the high-water mark indicates a new normal that would entrench incumbents and shut out good candidates with less money.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.MAGA MIX: Democratic Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro ran as the anti-MAGA candidate. That's made one transition team pick stand out among a bevy of Republican power players and lobbyists: That of James Schultz, a former Trump White House lawyer who spurned his Republican Party to endorse Shapiro. The Intercept reports Shapiro's team has framed the pick as a big-tent effort to encourage bipartisanship.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.RECOUNT RULINGS: Judges in AlleghenyBlairChester, and Cumberland Counties are the latest to reject requests for local 2022 election recounts. Court hearings are pending elsewhere as Pennsylvania officials look to have all results statewide certified by the end of this week. Spotlight PA and Votebeat reported on the unprecedented wave of requests, most of which target Democratic wins.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.MULTIPLE VIOLATIONS: Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection investigated last month's massive natural gas leak at a storage well in Cambria County and found numerous violations at the site and the well's operators at Equitrans Midstream to be less than cooperative, via WJAC. According to Bloomberg (paywall), federal authorities are also investigating the leak of climate-warming fuel.
Support Spotlight PA's investigative journalism for Pennsylvania and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.

IN PROTEST: Penn State will not suspend or expel senior Bram Woolley of Allentown, whose arrest at a protest against a Proud Boys event on campus drew misdemeanor charges and demonstrations in his defense.

HOUSE TOURS: If you missed Sunday's Holiday Open House at the governor's mansion, fear not: The residence will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on December 19, 20, 21, 22, and 23 for holiday tours.

SNACK ATTACK: Pennsylvania's native pretzel powerhouse, Auntie Anne's, was accused on TikTok of putting the same amount of nuggets in its small and regular sized cups. The Today show decided to investigate.

COWBOY CITY: Philly wasn't just the birthplace of the American experiment. Billy Penn reports it also gave us the American cowboy hat.

NAME IT: WESA's Katie Blackley tweeted a photo of a must-have item for on-air talent in Pennsylvania: a pronunciation guide for town names.

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. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Friday's answer: Adversarial

Congrats to our weekly winner: David S.

Congrats to our daily winners: Barbara F., Michelle T., Kimberly D., Don H., Susan N.-Z., Vicki U., Jon W., Craig W., Chuck M., George S., Susan D., Wendy A., Judith D., Becky C., James and Anne B., Dianne K., Elizabeth W., Bill S., Kim C., Stanley J., and Irene R.
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