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|Key appointment, meet Mark, Casey's prognosis, rising variant, Perry in the spotlight, DNA evidence, and the butter sculpture has arrived.|
Democratic Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro has named Republican Al Schmidt as Pennsylvania's next top election official, the choice coming just over two years after Schmidt was targeted by the likes of former President Donald Trump for his steadfast defenses of the 2020 election Trump lost.
Shapiro has tapped Schmidt as the next secretary of the commonwealth, a key position focused on the administration of elections statewide.
The selection, announced Thursday, marks Shapiro's first cabinet-level appointment and a symbolic one given the threats Schmidt faced for refusing to heed Trump's unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud.
"Al Schmidt has a proven track record of defending our democracy, protecting voting rights, and standing up to extremism — even in the face of grave threats — and I am proud to nominate him to be Pennsylvania's next Secretary of the Commonwealth," Shapiro said in a news release.
Read Spotlight PA and Votebeat's full report: Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro taps Trump target Al Schmidt to be Pa.’s top election official.
THE CONTEXT: Schmidt served as a city commissioner overseeing elections in Philadelphia for 10 years and was the only Republican official in Philadelphia to oversee voting during the 2020 presidential contest.
In an interview with Votebeat and Spotlight PA, Schmidt said his priorities included improving voter registration processes as well as the way votes are cast and counted, positions that align with Shapiro's.
Schmidt also stressed the need to push back on election misinformation in response to a question about how the state could better support local election directors who are now fleeing the occupation in droves.
Schmidt, who must still be confirmed by the state Senate, said, "A great benefit will be that I’ve run elections on the ground for the past 20 years, really knowing what counties need to be successful."
|NOTABLE / QUOTABLE|
"When the House has its full complement of members, Leader Joanna McClinton will become Speaker Joanna McClinton."
—State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D., Philadelphia) on the compromise that saw moderate state Rep. Mark Rozzi elected as speaker of the House and plans to pursue the Democratic Party's first choice after looming special elections
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Victoria Iron Furnace in Dauphin County, via @yatsko. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
|ROZZI'S RECORD: Who is state Rep. Mark Rozzi, and what does his record say about how he'll approach being Pa. House speaker? Spotlight PA looks at Rozzi's decade as a legislator, his rapid and largely unexpected rise to the rostrum, and what he might prioritize in his time in the role. Rozzi, a survivor of clergy abuse who has spearheaded legislation addressing that issue, has given few hints publicly. |
JANUARY 6: Today marks two years since the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. Related criminal cases against Pennsylvania defendants are still wending their way through the courts, and new details are being released about former President Trump's pressure-filled communications with top Pennsylvania Republicans (paywall), including then-state House speaker Bryan Cutler, in the run-up to the attack.
CANCER DIAGNOSIS: Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Bob Casey has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. In a statement issued on Thursday, the three-term Democrat said he will undergo surgery in the coming months and is expected to make a fully recovery, adding, "I am confident that my recommended course of treatment will allow me to continue my service in the 118th Congress with minimal disruption."
NEW VARIANT: The COVID-19 pandemic has entered another calendar year and another variant is on the rise. CNN reports XBB.1.5 may be "the most transmissible subvariant of Omicron to date." The CDC reported that it accounted for roughly 40% of new cases in Pennsylvania through the end of last week. Lehigh Valley Live reports COVID cases in Pennsylvania hospitals and deaths are up overall.
STARRING ROLE: It has been a chaotic week for Republicans in the U.S. House, and Pennsylvania's Scott Perry has played a central role. The Inquirer (paywall) reports that the York County Republican has emerged as a leader of the conservative rebellion against Republican leader Kevin McCarthy's speaker bid. As of Thursday, no speaker was named or congresspersons sworn in.
HAMLIN HOPES: Damar Hamlin has begun to communicate in writing with his family after collapsing during Monday night's NFL game. His first question, doctors said, was "Did we win?" Hamlin's hometown of McKees Rocks is watching closely, PennLive (paywall) reports. "He's not an NFL star, I mean, he is, but he's just one of our kids," a local teacher said.
IYKYK: U.S. Rep.-elect Summer Lee (D., Allegheny) said if she could teleport anything from her home district to Washington D.C. it would be french fries on salads, and the beltway folks said french fries on a what?
BLENNDED: Speaking of regional delicacies ... Pittsburgh Independent went looking for answers when a yinzer beverage beloved for over a century, Reymers' Lemon Blennd, suddenly disappeared.
BUTTER BABY: See this year's Pennsylvania Farm Show butter sculpture, which was unveiled on Thursday. It's got a butter baby, a butter tree, a butter calf, butter plant, and a theme: "Rooted in Progress."
GOING DUTCH: If you're looking to learn a new language this year, the Berks History Center would like to recommend Pennsylvania Dutch.
Unscramble and send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.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
N T P O H Y E E
Yesterday's answer: Phenotype
Congrats to our daily winners: Susan D., Charlotte B., Barbara F., Scott R., Briann M., Jon W., Don H., Patricia M., Kim C., Bill S., Elaine C., John F., Vicki U., Starr B., Judith D., Susan N.-Z., Dianne K., Stanley J., Kimberly D., James B., Dennis M., Wendy A., Bill S., Michael P., and Myles M.