With attacks on voting, abortion access, GOP looks to post-Wolf era. Are Dems ready? | Friday Morning Coffee

June 11, 2021 7:04 am

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a news conference in Philadelphia on Thursday, 6/10/21. (screen capture)

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

In just the space of a couple of days this week, Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled House passed not one, but two, bills aimed at chilling and dramatically restricting the rights of people who can get pregnant.

The majority-GOP Senate passed a bill kneecapping the authority of the commonwealth’s top public health official that’s so sweeping it could bar the state health secretary from requiring people to wash their hands to halt the spread of disease.

And then, just for good measure, a senior House Republican rolled out an election code rewrite that includes, among other things. a Voter ID proposal, which already has been shown to depress turnout among Black voters.

Amidst all this, progressives have been able to console themselves with a single sentence that’s appeared again and again in news coverage over the last six years: “Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto the legislation.”

But if it’s not clear to Democrats already, it should be: With this assault on voting rights, on bodily autonomy, and the rights of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians (via a bill attacking transgender youth athletes), legislative Republicans, with the 2022 election looming, clearly are looking to the post-Wolf era, when the Democratic governor will be term-limited out of office.

And all those issues, as utterly undemocratic and inhuman as they are, also are red meat for the GOP’s Trumpian base. And that’s what this is all about.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams.

Wolf was in Philadelphia on Thursday, where he appeared with a multi-generational, multiracial coalition of lawmakers and advocates, where he again vowed to veto the shopworn, anti-choice legislation that the House approved this week: a Down Syndrome abortion ban and a measure mandating the disposal of fetal remains.

When he was asked about the inescapable political reality that there’s going to be a time, not too long from now, where he’s not going to be around as a bulwark against this kind of mean-spirited legislation, Wolf said he hoped that “Pennsylvanians will recognize they need someone in the Governor’s Office who is a backstop,” against such legislation, and that they elect a General Assembly that “recognizes it has no role in the decisions made by” people who can get pregnant.

It’s a very Wolfian sentiment. But underneath it is the recognition that the 2022 campaign is going to be a street fight.

And as the online news site Spotlight PA recently reported, the GOP has a clown car’s worth of Trumpian loyalists, including former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta and state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin (who has yet to formally declare), who are vying for the spot behind the wheel.

The Democratic field is far thinner, with Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who’s no stranger to a tough fight, who is the odds-on favorite to be standard-bearer.

Signe Espinoza, acting executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, speaks during a news conference in Philadelphia on Thursday, 6/10/21 (screen capture)

Ultimately, Democrats are going to have convince Pennsylvanians that their multi-generational, multiracial, and diverse coalition is the commonwealth as it’s going to look to their children and grandchildren, and that the aging, white, and overwhelmingly male GOP is the past.

You could see and hear a bit of that future on Thursday in the words of Signe Espinoza, the acting executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, which is the political wing of the reproductive health organization.

She told her own story about getting an abortion while she lived in Oregon, the ease with which she had the procedure, and reflected that she could never have obtained such critical healthcare in the same way in Pennsylvania.

“Their time will come,” she said, referring to Republicans. “And we will always win.”

State Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Philadelphia (Facebook).

Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Philadelphia, told more of that story of the changing face of Pennsylvania, relaying the tragic toll that maternal mortality is taking on Pennsylvania’s communities of color.

As the Capital-Star’s Cassie Miller reports this morning, new data shows that Philadelphia’s Black maternal morbidity rates are “among the highest in the nation”

And while Republicans profess to be concerned with life, these issues have languished without action, Cephas pointedly observed. The same could be said, she added, of GOP inaction on gun violence that impacts children; of lead contamination in pipes and water supplies, and a host of other issues.

“It is a significant time in the history of our country .. instead the Republicans want to waste our time and waste our tax dollars,” she said.

Today’s legislative debates are tomorrow’s election issues. It’s all well and good for Democrats to praise Wolf for his steadfastness against Republican excesses over the last six years. But the real fight, the one where Wolf won’t be there to save them, is still to come.

And Democrats can’t forget that for a minute. Too much is at stake.

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

Our Stuff.
Cassie Miller
leads our coverage this morning, with a look at a new report revealing that Philadelphia’s Black maternal morbidity rates are ‘among the highest in the nation.’

A senior Republican in the state House has released a rewrite of Pennsylvania’s election code that includes a Voter ID requirement, Stephen Caruso reports. Gov. Tom Wolf says he’ll veto any bill “if it’s a voter suppression bill.”

The Legislature formally drove a stake through Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 disaster declaration on Thursday. Wolf does not have the power to veto it. Marley Parish has the story.

The Department of Labor & Industry is still trying to fix problems with its new unemployment compensation computer system and urging patience, Cassie Miller also reports.

A Pittsburgh activist got some face time with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg this week. She urged him to do something about mass transit, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, I have some advice for Democrats who find themselves continually vexed by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Rich Askey of the PSEA has some thoughts about the need for real charter school reform. And an expert recommends three ways schools can improve STEM learning for Black students.

En la Estrella-Capital: Después de un año de Zoom y teletrabajo, el personal del Capitolio regresa a Harrisburg. Y Trump presiona al Senado Republicano que apruebe la auditoría legislativa de las elecciones del 2020.

Philadelphia City Hall (Image via

Philadelphia City Council is weighing a $20 million measure to boost affordable housing, the Inquirer reports.
Allegheny County’s only coal-fired power plant will close in September, the Post-Gazette reports.
PennLive tries to break down what the end of Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 disaster declaration means for Pennsylvania.
Luzerne County Council candidate Ronald Knapp has requested a recount of the results of the May 18 primary, the Citizens’ Voice reports.
WHYY-FM updates on the varied experiences Pennsylvanians are having with the state’s new unemployment computer system.
Like other jurisdictions, Erie is facing a lifeguard shortage, GoErie reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day.


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A post shared by Dustin Venn (@strangerphilly)

The annual Pennsylvania Society gala will return to the New York Hilton in December, PoliticsPA reports.
A bipartisan U.S. Senate group is claiming they’ve reached a compromise on infrastructure funding, Roll Call reports.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
State Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Fayette, holds her annual golf outing at Carmichaels Golf Club in lovely Carmichaels, Pa. Admission runs $200 to $1,000.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out to Drew Murren at Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy, who celebrates today. Congratulations and enjoy the day, sir.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a groove from Disclosure and London Grammar to get you into Friday morning. It’s ‘Help Me Lose My Mind.’

Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Las Vegas eliminated Colorado in Game 6 of their West Division series to advance to the Stanley Cup semi-final. The Knights beat the Avs 6-3.

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.