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Sen. Yudichak Switches From Democrat To Independent; Senate Democrats To Name New Senate Environmental Committee Chair

On November 19, Sen. John Yudichak (I-Luzerne) announced he will become a registered Independent and "work to change the political conversation from one of divisiveness to one that empowers the voice of every citizen who wants government to work for people, all people."

Marc Levi of the Associated Press reported Sen. Yudichak will caucus with the Republican Caucus in the Senate, rather than the Democrats.

Sen. Yudichak served as the Democratic Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and on the Game and Fisheries and Transportation Committees.

Senate Democrats will now be naming a new Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee.

Sen. Yudichak released this statement about his decision--

A century and half has passed since President Abraham Lincoln spoke at the Gettysburg battlefield to help us understand how a divided nation could produce so much human carnage and tear apart the institutions of government that were designed to hold together the shared ideals of our republic.

A mural of President Lincoln at Gettysburg adorns the chamber wall of the Pennsylvania Senate.  It serves as constant reminder of the tremendous sacrifice made by the soldiers at Gettysburg and, in recent years, it has helped me contemplate how bitterly divisive our own politics has become.

Our nation and our Commonwealth are, again, in the throes of a fierce public debate where politics has become more about choosing sides than it is about working together toward “a more perfect union.”

The new battlefield is in cyberspace where the weapons of destruction are social media platforms, rather than rifles and bayonets.  Nevertheless, the corrosive nature of the “us versus them” era of politics is dangerously undermining our institutions of government and eroding any sense of common purpose.

The people of northeastern Pennsylvania sent me to Harrisburg to be their voice in state government and get things done for a region that has struggled to recover from the harmful economic and environmental impacts wrought by the decline of the coal industry. 

We are in the midst of a robust economic resurgence in northeastern Pennsylvania—thousands of new jobs are being created, thousands of acres of abandoned mine lands have been reclaimed and repurposed, and thousands of acres of our mountainsides have been added to the Pinchot State Forest to protect the environment.

All of our progress is the product of bipartisan legislative coalitions that have brought together Democrats and Republicans to forge strong public-private sector partnerships to deliver on the promise and power of government to get real things done for people. 

Throughout my career, I have worked to build relationships across political ideologies and regional boundaries.  

I am an ardent supporter of working families, and the unions that built the middle class.  I stand with legal professionals who use our justice system to protect the rights of citizens against the powerful.  I support our chambers of commerce that help small businesses grow and set the stage for corporations to create private sector jobs.  

And, I am for finding a balance between protecting our environment and supporting a diverse, robust energy industry in Pennsylvania.

Working outside the confines of an extremist political ideology is the foundation of my political career in Harrisburg, and it has helped me serve the people I care about the most—the people of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Regrettably, political extremists in both political parties fail to see the value in building relationships and strengthening our institutions of government.  These “purist” politicians, instead, are driven to serve the insatiable appetite of social media sites that need outrage and hate to garner interest and engagement.

Over the course of my two decades in the state legislature, I have always tried to put people above the passions of partisan politics.

When a citizen comes to me to ask for help, I do not ask their political persuasion; I help them.  When a community seeks aide to enhance the quality of life in their town, I do not ask to see their voter registration numbers; I help them.  

When important legislation is advanced, I do not ask if a Democrat or Republican sponsored the bill; I ask how will the new law help the people of Pennsylvania.

Today, “purist” politicians demand that you choose a battle camp.  You must pass their litmus test, and declare if you support “us” or “them.”

President Barack Obama was right when he recently opined that the world is complicated, and it is a mistake for us to fall for the trap of “purist” politics.  Government is complicated too, and it requires collaborative leaders who can build coalitions across the broad, beautiful diversity of our electorate to deliver real results for people.

The acrimonious change in our public discourse has compelled me to consider how I can continue to best serve my constituents and the citizens of Pennsylvania.  Do I allow the “purist” politicians to marginalize and silence the people of northeastern Pennsylvania?  

The answer is very clear to me.  I will stay true to the values of northeastern Pennsylvania, and I will work to ensure their voice is always heard in Harrisburg.

I come to this deeply personal decision with much thought and deliberation—I will become a registered Independent.  And, I will work to change the political conversation from one of divisiveness to one that empowers the voice of every citizen who wants government to work for people, all people.

I choose the politics of “we” over the politics of “us versus them.”  I choose to reject the “purist” politicians who now stand as unyielding impediments to the only thing that motivates me to be in politics—getting real things done that make a true difference in people’s lives.

Registering as an Independent is the only way I can faithfully and fully serve the people of northeastern Pennsylvania who have blessed me with the opportunity to serve them.

As an Independent, I will continue to put people above politics.  I will continue to support Democratic ideas as well as Republican ideas when it is clear that they serve the greater good and help government work for people rather than the narrow interests of partisan “purists.”

Pennsylvanians deserve a state government that works for all people regardless of race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or political party.  

The “great task remaining before us” is to live up to the ideals that unite us as a Commonwealth for a common purpose—serving the citizens of Pennsylvania.

Senate Republican Leaders

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) issued the following statement regarding Sen. John Yudichak leaving the Senate Democrat Caucus.

“We are pleased to welcome Senator Yudichak as a member of the Senate Republican Caucus, as he changes his party affiliation from a Democrat to an Independent.  John Yudichak has always been an independent voice that has put the representation of his constituents ahead of political party.

“John is unquestionably a dedicated public servant and a strong voice in Harrisburg.  We applaud his decision to do what is in the best interest of his constituents in Luzerne and Carbon Counties.

“We look forward to Senator Yudichak joining our Republican members of the Senate in our Caucus, as we work together to create an appropriate balance in the Pennsylvania Legislature.”


AP-Marc Levy: Sen. Yudichak’s Defection From Democrats Reverberates Thru Harrisburg

Rep. Stephen Bararr (R-Delaware), Rep. Cris Dush (R-Jefferson), Rep. Steve McCarter (D-Montgomery) Announcement Retirements

[Posted: November 19, 2019]


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