HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Voters sent shockwaves through Pennsylvania’s Capitol Tuesday night as several longtime incumbents and some leaders lost to unknown challengers backed by a conservative group that specializes in bumping off Republicans that are not conservative enough.
Leo Knepper, political director for Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania (CAP), says he is feeling good about how things went last night. House Appropriations Chairman Stan Saylor and Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne, however, are not feeling the same.
“Just because you have an ‘R’ behind your name doesn’t mean you’re doing the right thing,” Knepper said.
CAP is a conservative watchdog that goes after Republicans it does not deem conservative enough Saylor and fellow York Countian Keith Gillepsie lost to CAP-backed newcomers Wendy Fink and Joe Dorsey.
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“If you are saying to your constituents that you will abide by a certain set of principles you better do it,” Knepper said.
Saylor and Browne, both trailing Jarret Coleman by 30 voters, didn’t fight hard enough, in CAP’s view, to keep spending down, nor did they resist Governor Tom Wolf’s shutdowns and mandates enough.
“What happens with appropriations chairman is they’re in there making sausage and a lot of folks don’t like the way the sausage is made,” said Christopher Nicholas, Eagle Consulting Group.
CAP labeled longtime incumbents as career politicians, which is no compliment in a GOP primary. “Stan Saylor can’t say he hasn’t been in office 28 years because that’s how long he’s been in office,” Nicholas said.
Sending incumbents packing sends shockwaves through the capitol and sends a clear message, Knepper says, to Republicans voting for tax hikes and pension increases. “If you do the right thing you won’t have to worry.”
But in booting Saylor, Nicholas says York County Republicans signed up for “a slightly more conservative member who has no pull in the legislature and will not be able to get a whole lot done for her little slice of the world which is fine that turn over happens all the time. I guess they’re gonna be happy with that.”
Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania has six candidates — four won, one lost, and one leads Browne by 30 voters.