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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: 2 Pa. lawmakers are joining Andrew Yang’s new party

June 22, 2023

HARRISBURG — Two Western Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers on Wednesday joined former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang in the state Capitol Rotunda to condemn what Mr. Yang described as worsening political warfare.

Mr. Yang, an entrepreneur whose 2020 campaign gave him widespread name recognition, was the main attraction at a news conference that showcased Sens. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, and Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, signing up to be part of Mr. Yang’s new Forward Party. The party allows those who sign on to retain their political registration but asks them to commit to creating a less-toxic political atmosphere.

State Reps. Valerie Gaydos, R-Allegheny, and Marla Brown, R-Lawrence, stood behind Mr. Yang as the event started. They did not speak during the event, and neither of them signed any documents or made public pledges of support. Mr. Yang said they “came here of their own volition because they heard what we are doing.”

Later, Ms. Brown said she attended because she has introduced legislation to end Pennsylvania’s closed primary election system and allow all voters — not just those registered with the major political parties — to take part in primaries.

In a separate interview, Ms. Gaydos said she came because politicians have lost their focus.

“We’re too politicized,” she said. “We have to stop treating politics like a sport and start acting like representatives of the people.” 

Ms. Boscola, a lifelong Democrat who frequently votes with Republicans, represents a perennial swing county — one of only two in Pennsylvania, along with Erie, that voted for Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden. Earlier this year, she and Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, also introduced a bill to end Pennsylvania’s closed primary system. On Wednesday, she blasted the way she said political discussions have become more fractured during her 20-plus years as a lawmaker.

“It is disturbing. It is alarming,” Ms. Boscola said. “The tribal warfare is not leading us in any positive direction.”

Mr. Williams, a lawmaker for more than 30 years who has often broken with Democrats by supporting charter schools, described himself as an African-American man born in “the greatest country in the world.” He said disparate groups of people have lived together in the U.S. “because we have a government that is supposed to represent the people through democracy.”

“I refuse to be bullied or intimidated by an ideology” that overrides the will of the people, Mr. Williams added.

While maintaining their status as Democrats, both Mr. Williams and Ms. Boscola signed a pledge to uphold Forward Party ideals.

Gov. Josh Shapiro, shown in a public appearance in March, has pushed for an increase in the state minimum wage and for tax credits for new nurses, teachers and police officers. Bills on both concepts passed the state House Tuesday.

Ford Turner

The Pa. House approves bills for $15-an-hour minimum wage and tax credits, but opposition looms in the Senate

Given that they will continue to caucus with Democrats in the Senate and that Republicans already control the chamber, their moves on Wednesday will likely have no significant impact on the flow of legislation.

Ford Turner: [email protected]  

First Published June 21, 2023, 1:59pm