Pa. Republicans need to just say they’ll respect the election results. Period | Friday Morning Coffee

September 25, 2020 7:13 am

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman offers a response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2019-20 budget proposal. (Screenshot from Capital-Star video)

(*This post was updated at 11:32 a.m. on 9/25/20 to include Tweets clarifying the position of Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre)

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

With one very, very loud exception, we have always found Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, to be a pretty reasonable fellow. A sharp-elbowed partisan, to be sure, but not a human flame-thrower of the Wagner/Mastriano/Metcalfe school.

Which makes his comments in a bombshell new story by The Atlantic running down potential Electoral College scenarios if the popular result is still in flux more than a month after Election Day — which now seems a very real, and very disturbing, possibility — all the more telling.

The 10,0000-word story, meticulously reported by Barton Gellman, raises the possibility that lawmakers in Republican-controlled Legislatures in the key 2020 battleground states, including Pennsylvania, would directly appoint electors if the popular vote is not resolved – a scenario that would award Trump Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, and likely hand him the election.

That’s where Corman comes in.

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 27: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination on the South Lawn of the White House August 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump gave the speech in front of 1500 invited guests. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Speaking to GellmanCorman said he hoped for clear results on election night, a scenario that seems wildly optimistic under even the most ideal of circumstances.

“The longer it goes on, the more opinions and the more theories and the more conspiracies [are] created,” Corman told Gellman, who added that if if the fight over the results drags into December, then Corman said the Legislature wouldn’t have any choice but to appoint electors.

“We don’t want to go down that road, but we understand where the law takes us, and we’ll follow the law,”  Corman told Gellman.

Corman’s spokeswoman, Jenn Kocher, stressed to the Capital-Star’s Elizabeth Hardison on Thursday that the Senate’s No. 2 Republican hopes not to have to appoint electors. But, “he will do whatever the law directs,” Kocher told Hardison.

(c) Scott Van Blarcom –

*Corman offered some further clarity in a series of Tweets on Thursday night:

That’s reassuring. But Corman does not explicitly say he’d accept the results. Saying so out loud would solve a lot of problems.

In a statement released Thursday through a spokeswoman, Pennsylvania Republican Chairman Lawrence Tabas criticized Gellman’s reporting and said the statewide GOP remains committed to a timely and accurate count.

While not questioning the accuracy of Gellman’s reporting, state party spokeswoman Vonne Andring said Tabas’ remarks to Gellman were taken out of context.

Here’s the relevant section from Hardison’s story Thursday:

Tabas told …  Gellman that he spoke with the Trump reelection campaign about the possibility of the Republican-controlled legislatures in battleground states directly appointing electors if the popular vote is not resolved – a scenario that would award Trump Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral college votes, and likely the election.

Gellman says this maneuver would rely on a little-used power in the U.S. Constitution, which allows states legislatures to appoint electors in any manner they see fit.

States have ceded this responsibility to voters since the 19th century, Gellman writes, even though the constitution does not explicitly require it, and the Supreme Court affirmed in 2000 that a state “can take back the power to appoint electors.”

“I’ve mentioned it to them, and I hope they’re thinking about it too,” Tabas told The Atlantic, referring to the Trump campaign. “I just don’t think this is the right time for me to be discussing those strategies and approaches, but [direct appointment of electors] is one of the options. It is one of the available legal options set forth in the Constitution.”

And here how Gellman framed the Pennsylvania section of his story, which seems entirely in-context: 

“In Pennsylvania, three Republican leaders told me they had already discussed the direct appointment of electors among themselves, and one said he had discussed it with Trump’s national campaign.”

The U.S. Constitution (National Constitution Center photo)

And so here’s the really important part: Tabas did not offer a hard “no” when he was asked whether Republicans would do the inconceivable, and actually set aside the will of millions of Pennsylvania voters and install Trump-friendly electors if the popular vote results are still in doubt nearly five weeks after the election.

Yes, the Constitution gives the GOP that authority, just as the Constitution gives the Republicans on Capitol Hill the authority to try ram through a new U.S. Supreme Court justice with just five weeks to go before Election Day.

But that’s separate from the question of whether they should at a time when the delicate threads that hold the country together seem in real danger of coming entirely undone. The answer there seems a clear no.

So Corman and his fellow Republicans can say two things to reassure Pennsylvania voters. And they’re not hard:

1. Yes, they will respect the election results.
2. No, they won’t usurp the will of millions with what amounts to a constitutional escape clause.

Corman has said again and again that he doesn’t want Pennsylvania to fall prey to the dysfunction that’s hobbled Washington D.C. This is the time for him and his colleagues to stand up and prove they mean it.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Here’s Hardison’s full story on the unusual broadside the state Republican Party fired off against the Atlantic on Thursday.

Right on schedule, Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed legislation that would have blocked his ability to combat greenhouse gas emissions, Stephen Caruso reports.

Reporter Ryan Deto, of our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper, explains what a ‘naked ballot’ is, and why it will lead to your mail-in ballot not getting counted.

Legal experts explained the implications of a conservative U.S. Supreme Court on Pennsylvania. — and the nation’s — LGBTQ residents, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, Rob Altenburg of PennFuture says lawmakers should work on moving Pennsylvania into a clean energy future, instead of trying to stymie the Wolf administration’s efforts to fight climate change.

En la Estrella-Capital: la solución del programa de asistencia de alquiler estatal avanza con respaldo bipartidista. Y la legislatura está lista para terminar un septiembre problemático sin resolver sus dos mayores problemas.

U.S. Reps. Scott Perry, R-10th District
, and Lloyd Smucker, R-11th Districthave broken with the White House and said they’d accept the results of the election, the York Dispatch reports.
Breonna Taylor protesters occupied Interstate 95 in Philadelphia on Thursday night, the Inquirer reports.
Pittsburgh Catholic Bishop David A. Zubik has issued a letter ahead of the election, offering the region’s Catholics guidance on how to cast their ballots in accordance with church teachings, the Tribune-Review reports.
PennLive runs down Joe Biden’s and Donald Trump’s positions on issues that could help decide Pennsylvania (paywall).
The Morning Call
 lays out high school football crowd plans in the Lehigh Valley.
Federal investigators have discarded improperly cast ballots for President Donald Trump in Luzerne County, the Citizens-Voice reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

So it turns out there’s an upside to Philly’s tailgating ban — FDR Park in the city is a lot quieter, WHYY-FM reports.
WITF-FM talks to Democratic 12th Congressional District candidate Lee Griffin, who’s running against GOP U.S. Rep. Fred Keller.
The Cut explains what to do if you want to become a poll worker. 
looks at the White House’s ‘abortion tightrope’ when it comes to a new SCOTUS pick.

What Goes On.
10 a.m, G50 Irvis: The House Democratic Policy Committee is meeting for some reason. Set per-diems to ‘stun.’

Gov. Tom Wolf
 has called on U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to not vote to confirm a new U.S. Supreme Court justice before the election. As we’ve previously noted, that horse is way out of the barn.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out in advance to long-time reader Teresa Colarusso Rybnick, of Scranton, who celebrates on Saturday. Congrats and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
Are The Killers the world’s greatest covers band? There is certainly an argument to be made for it. Witness this sublime live collab with The Pet Shop Boys on “Always on My Mind.”

Friday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
 runs down 20 of the most bonkers stats from an already very weird 2020 season.

And now you’re up to date

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.