Candidates giving Pa. a black eye

York Dispatch editorial board
Congressman Scott Perry

When it comes to national politics, Pennsylvania is in an enviable position. Its role as a swing state means presidential candidates can take neither its voters nor the issues that are important to them for granted.

And the state’s U.S. Senate campaigns — with their ability to throw the body’s balance of power either left or right — likewise attract outside attention. Candidates and their surrogates visit; campaigns fill local airwaves and news pages with their messages; voters get the information they need and the attentiveness they deserve.

It is, in short, a welcome spotlight.

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And it is very unlike the kind of national attention the state has come in for lately, courtesy of a pair of election-denying Republican lawmakers tethered neither to the needs of state residents nor, evidently, reality.

Rep. Scott Perry and state Sen. Doug Mastriano both managed to garner unflattering headlines last week — no small feat during news cycles that saw former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort raided by FBI agents seeking top-secret documents while its owner was pleading the Fifth hundreds of times in front of a New York attorney general investigating his business practices.

Perry and Mastriano have come under increasing scrutiny from lawmakers investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection and related efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election. Judging from last week’s developments, they won’t be disentangling themselves from the probes anytime soon.

In the space of just a few days, Mastriano stonewalled the House Jan. 6 Committee, Perry saw his cellphone seized by FBI agents and Republican state lawmakers were subpoenaed by the FBI in an ongoing investigation of efforts to appoint a slate of “alternate electors” loyal to Trump.

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The eruption of activity marks the latest efforts by officials to get at the bottom of the various efforts employed by unseemly lawmakers like Mastriano and Perry to subvert the Constitution and reverse the results of the 2020 election.

Perry has the notorious distinction of being the first known member of Congress to have his phone seized, an act he likened to “banana republic tactics.”

It is not the first time the York-area lawmaker’s name has surfaced during investigations. Among his efforts to boost Trump’s baseless claims of a stolen election, he connected the defeated president with a little-known Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark. Trump hoped to install Clark as attorney general so he could pressure officials in states the president lost (like Pennsylvania) to appoint alternative electors – a democracy-dissolving plan on which Perry was all in.

The conspiracy-embracing congressman also pushed a cockamamie claim that Italian satellites were used to change Trump votes for Biden, attended a December White House 2020 meeting at which ways to keep Trump in power were discussed and, according to the House committee, unsuccessfully sought a pardon.

Mastriano’s no better. Like Perry, he sought to throw out the state’s 6.8 million presidential ballots and install hand-picked electors. He led a couple of busloads of locals to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and, like GOP candidates and office-holders in increasing numbers, largely refuses to engage with responsible media outlets.

Here’s the kicker: These two bald-faced election deniers want your vote. Perry is seeking a sixth term in Congress, where he chairs the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus; Mastriano is the Republican candidate for governor, an office he would use to “decertify” voting machines and guide the legislature in selecting presidential electors.

In other words, kiss Pennsylvania’s king-maker status as a vital swing state goodbye if Mastriano makes it to the governor’s residence.

The continuing efforts of Perry and Mastriano to undermine the very foundation of representative government ought to disqualify them from participating in it. Perhaps voters will feel the same way come November.

In the meantime, efforts to uncover their roles via Jan. 6 investigations ensure they will continue to give the state continued — and unflattering — national attention.