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Toomey incites local GOP outrage

Local Republicans have joined the wave of county parties rebuking Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., after he voted to convict former President Donald Trump at his impeachment trial this month.

Toomey drew outrage from his own party after the Feb. 13 vote, in which he joined 50 Democrats and six fellow Republican senators who claimed Trump is guilty of inciting an insurrection.

County-level Republican parties across the state have since voted to formally censure Toomey, joining allies in other states who have publicly attacked or sought the removal of Republican lawmakers who turned against Trump.

“(Toomey) voted against acquitting President Donald J. Trump in the politically motivated Senate impeachment trial, inflicting tremendous damage to the Pennsylvania GOP and the Republican committee of all 67 counties,” the Centre County Republican Party said in an official statement released Feb. 14. “Toomey continues to use the Republican banner while actively working against conservative values, principles and elected Republicans in public office.”

Other county parties have joined the effort, both in deep-red central Pennsylvania and in the state’s metropolitan areas. Cambria County GOP officials were said to be considering an official rebuke, and officials outside Pittsburgh spoke publicly against the senator.

“We did not send him there to vote his conscience,” Washington County GOP Chairman Dave Ball told KDKA-TV. “We did not send him there to ‘do the right thing’ or whatever he said he was doing.”

The Blair County GOP is set to discuss a censure vote in the coming two weeks after a proposal cleared its Executive Committee, party chairman Jim Foreman said Friday.

While Foreman said he doesn’t want to take a public stance that could influence the final vote, he acknowledged support for the move among some in the party.

“There’s definitely an adequate state of concern” to warrant a discussion, he said.

Even at the state level, leaders of Toomey’s party have expressed disappointment.

“I share the disappointment of many of our grassroots leaders and volunteers over Senator Toomey’s vote today,” state GOP head Lawrence Tabas said in a statement shortly after the acquittal vote.

It’s not only Pennsylvania activists and officials who have struck against their own senator over impeachment. Across the country, senators who voted for Trump’s guilt have been beset by angry questions and votes to condemn them.

Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who voted to acquit Trump, has faced the former president’s wrath. After McConnell delivered a speech criticizing Trump’s actions during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Trump announced he would support primary challenges against the influential senator.

“Mitch is a dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again,” Trump said in a written statement. “He will never do what needs to be done, or what is right for our country.”

The split demonstrates the risk facing Republicans who seek to run across the state and country next year. While Trump remains broadly unpopular, he retains passionate support in his own party — forcing candidates to walk a careful line during the approaching midterms.

Senate race ‘toss-up’

Whatever becomes of Toomey and his place in the GOP, a new senator will occupy his seat in 2023.

The fight for Toomey’s Senate seat is on, with one Democrat — Lt. Gov. John Fetterman — now officially in the running. Fetterman has already boasted of a surge in donations and had drawn national attention.

No Republican hopefuls have formally joined the race, although several rumored names have circulated.

Whoever wins the nominations, the race could attract significant spending and news coverage, with two prominent political forecasters identifying the race as a “toss-up.” Pennsylvania kept its reputation as a key swing state in November, with President Joe Biden beating Donald Trump by 80,000 votes and a little over 1% in the final tally.

With Toomey and at least three fellow Republican incumbents stepping down for the 2022 race, Democrats hope to extend their razor-thin margin in the Senate.

Judge vote on hold

A GOP-backed plan to amend the state Constitution and claw back court seats is on hold and is unlikely to move until at least November, according to a report this week in the Beaver County Times.

The proposal drew controversy in the last few weeks, after the plan to elect appellate judges by geographic districts narrowly passed a state House committee. Under the amendment, judges would be elected by districts rather than statewide — a move critics said amounted to court gerrymandering, because it would effectively guarantee some GOP judges in red areas.

The amendment would have to pass a second full vote in the House this year before a statewide referendum, initially planned for May.

Now, with the bill tabled in place of other legislation, it would have to wait until at least November. And if it doesn’t make it through the house this session, the clock would reset and it would have to pass in two more consecutive sessions, because of a constitutional rule.

There is “no established timeline for when it may come up this session,” a spokesman for the state House majority leader told the newspaper this week.

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