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Politics & Government

Local politicians share differing perspectives — and occasional fundraising pitches — on Jan. 6

Congress Judiciary Guy Reschenthaler
Anna Moneymaker
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Pool The New York Times | AP
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 24, 2020.

On Thursday, western Pennsylvania Democrats loudly denounced the deadly insurrection carried out by pro-Trump extremists at the U.S. Capitol building one year ago. Local Republicans who had voted against certifying the presidential election results, by contrast, kept a much lower profile — though one did try to raise money by again raising the specter of stolen elections.

In the early morning of Jan. 7, 2021, just hours after Trump supporters who falsely believed the election had been “stolen” stormed the Capitol, Republican Congressmen Mike Kelly and Guy Reschenthaler both voted against accepting Joe Biden's victory in Pennsylvania.

A year later, Reschenthaler has kept a low profile, issuing no statements about the anniversary. But in a fundraising email sent one day before the anniversary, he asked supporters to “stand with me for election integrity.”

“The Left’s election policies lack common sense,” the email reads. “Will you help me stop the Left from stealing our elections?”

Reschenthaler did not respond to questions Thursday about whether he believes Biden was legitimately elected, or whether he stands by his vote against certification. In an interview with WESA last spring, he repeatedly declined to say whether Biden's presidency was legitimate, and said he was unconcerned with the idea that his vote would give credence to the false theories that stoked Capitol rioters.

A spokesperson for Kelly, meanwhile, said that the Republican believes Biden was legitimately elected and that he “supports the results of the Electoral College vote tally completed on the morning of Jan. 7, 2021 and the transition of power to the Biden administration.”

“I once again condemn the violent actions of those who attacked the U.S. Capitol,” Kelly said in a statement. “[T]hose who broke the law should be held accountable.”

Kelly said the bipartisan Jan. 6 commission, which was formed to investigate the attack, should “avoid partisan investigations” and focus on building security measures.

When asked if Kelly stood by his vote against certifying the 2020 results, his press secretary, Matt Knoedler said “Rep. Kelly remains concerned about the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s Act 77 voting reform law, which he used to challenge Pennsylvania’s electoral vote results.”

Act 77 expanded mail-in voting and was passed in 2019 with broad support from Democrats and Republicans. But following the November 2020 election, Kelly joined a lawsuit that aimed at throwing out the mail-in votes of millions of Pennsylvanians.

Local Democrats, meanwhile, spoke forcefully about the anniversary this week.

Democrat Conor Lamb, who represents Allegheny County suburbs and Beaver County, called the insurrection “a turning point for our whole country.”

A year ago, Lamb spoke on the House floor hours after the building had been secured. He said that the uprising "was inspired by lies, the same lies that you're hearing in this room tonight. And the members who are repeating those lies should be ashamed of themselves." That provoked a Republican outcry that generated national headlines.

Pittsburgh Democrat Mike Doyle tweeted on the anniversary that Americans should never forget the sacrifices that law-enforcement officers made to protect democracy, called on Congress to pass legislation to protect elections, and pledged to fight disinformation in his final year in the House.

Sen. Bob Casey joined Doyle’s call for voting-rights legislation and said the attack was “one of the darkest days in our Nation’s history.”

“Instead of accountability and remorse, members of the Republican Party continue to undermine our elections and our democratic principles,” Casey said. “If we do not restore and strengthen voter protections nationwide, a future authoritarian could succeed where the former President and his insurrectionists failed.”

Other Pennsylvania Democrats, including some who weren’t in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, seemed eager to condemn the attacks as well.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is running for U.S. Senate, recalled in a press release Thursday that one day before the insurrection, he was removed from his post presiding over the Pennsylvania Senate when Republicans refused to seat Democrat Jim Brewster. Brewster's narrow re-election victory was at the time being challenged in court in a dispute over mail-in ballots.

“I look back on January 5th in Harrisburg as a warm-up to what happened in D.C. the next day, January 6th,” said Fetterman. “It’s impossible to ignore the parallels.”

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Josh Shapiro sent out a fundraising email on Thursday, touting his record to protect voting rights for Pennsylvanians.

“The attack we all witnessed one year ago makes it very clear that the people who incited, defended, and participated in these attacks on our democracy cannot be allowed to gain full control of our state’s government," the solicitation said. "But if we lose this next election, that’s exactly what will happen — which is why I need your help today, folks.”