The Pennsylvania Senate leader resisted his pro-Trump wing for months. Now he wants a MAGA makeover.
After Jake Corman was elected by his colleagues in January as head of the Pennsylvania Senate, he recalled entering the chamber at the age of 12 to see his father sworn in as a senator from the state.
âIn a way, I have been a part of this Senate institution for over 40 years,â Corman told lawmakers.
For months, the Center County Republican has walked a fine line as the move to discredit the 2020 election results garnered support from some of his pro-Trump colleagues. No there was no evidence of widespread electoral fraud, he said in November. But, he wrote in a January letter to Congress, there were “inconsistencies” that needed to be investigated.
As late as June, he insured colleagues he was resolutely turned towards the future: “We do not need to question 2020.”
It all fell apart last week, as Corman the institutionalist made common cause with conspiracy theorists and die-hard MAGA.
He committed to conducting a “full forensic investigation” election – an idea fueled by baseless allegations of widespread electoral fraud and modeled on the widely criticized partisan journal in Arizona.
Now Corman will have to ride the politically tenuous process of conducting a complicated – and possibly very expensive – audit that many senators in his Republican caucus do not fully support. And he must do it without the support of the only Republican senator and Trump supporter, Doug Mastriano of Franklin County, who has become the face of the election denial movement in Pennsylvania.
In a rare show of power, Corman last week unceremoniously stripped Masstriano of his leadership role doing the review, tapping another Conservative senator to replace him.
The power movement almost immediately questioned Corman’s reasoning and motivations: what caused the breakup? Was this a legitimate disagreement over the process or an unscrupulous decision by the political kneecap of Mastriano, who has a close relationship with Trump and who, over the past year, has amassed a vocal follow-up and energetic supporters of the former president, not just in Pennsylvania, but across the country?
The way Corman walks this political tightrope will be the first real test of his leadership. It could also affect not only his re-election next year, but any potential hopes for a higher post.
âMastriano is the only guy who fights from the start. Senator Corman says we will have a full forensic audit of the 2020 election, and we are taking it at its word, âsaid C. Arnold McClure, chairman of the local GOP in Huntingdon County, part of which is in the Corman district. .
“What will all of this mean on the road?” The longevity of Senator Corman is in danger. I expect Masstriano to stick around for a while.
Jason Thompson, spokesperson for Corman, said the senator was not available for an interview. Thompson did not respond to questions sent by email.
Under a new owner
Interviews with more than half a dozen Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers, officials and strategists suggest that two major factors led to Corman’s decision. He is running for re-election next year and faced increasing pressure in his district to pursue a review. And he saw an opening to resolve a headache that has plagued the Senate GOP caucus for months: How to deal with Mastriano, a likely candidate for governor that stoked the ire of rank-and-file Republicans at the Harrisburg establishment.
But while some moderate Republicans were happy to see Mastriano âput in his place,â as one agent put it, they don’t want to be associated with a circus atmosphere that has taken hold in Arizona this year. For a while, amateur listeners examination of ballot papers under ultraviolet light for watermarks – which QAnon adherents believed it would help prove the election was stolen. There was no watermark.
“By taking the Mastriano audit, Jake Corman was able to separate the message from the messenger,” said Republican political consultant Dennis Roddy. “While this neutralizes Mastriano, it leaves Corman the owner of the message and now it’s up to him to figure out how to phrase it.”
Early reviews weren’t great, as some of Trump’s most vocal supporters have made it clear that they don’t accept Corman as one of their own.
“It’s a scandal,” Steve Bannon, Trump’s former White House strategist, ranted on his podcast Friday after Corman ousted Masstriano. âCorman has nowhere to hide.
Those in Trump’s orbit who still doubt Corman MAGA’s good faith have pointed to his establishment background and close ties with lobbyists.
First elected in 1998, Corman represents the 34th Senate District in central Pennsylvania. It spans the counties of Center, Mifflin and Juniata, and part of the county of Huntingdon. It is the same seat his father, Doyle Corman, held for 21 years.
Corman has been a member of the GOP Senate leadership team for more than a decade, including as majority leader from 2015 to last year. He is considered a moderate Republican and has built a reputation as a pragmatist who is unafraid to speak his mind.
For months, stretching back to last year, he has largely kept his distance from the baseless allegations of electoral fraud by Trump and the Pennsylvania politicians who promoted them.
When Rudy Giuliani visited Gettysburg for a hearing led by Mastriano in late November to broadcast election grievances, Corman was absent and sent a deputy to monitor him.
When Mastriano wanted the legislature to send a pro-Trump list to the Electoral College, GOP leaders made it clear that this was not legal. Yet Corman finally sent letter urging Congress to delay certification results, shortly before a violent pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan.6.
And instead of pursuing an “audit” like the Arizona Senate, Corman in December formed a bipartite committee to review the Pennsylvania electoral system. It held hearings, heard expert testimony and produced a report recommending changes to state law.
“We have to figure out how to move forward, how to put in place something that everyone trusts,” he told the Senate on June 14, the same day he told them he was not. t was not necessary to question the elections.
This deliberate process has not seemed to satisfy Republican activists.
âA lot of us felt this was a bit short, in terms of information etc.,â said Jim Smith, Mifflin County GOP chairman. âThat’s why we wanted the full forensic audit to fill in the gaps left by this investigation. “
Trump himself intervened, issuing a statement in June slamming Corman, saying among other things: “Why is Pennsylvania State Senator Jake Corman fighting so hard that there is no medical audit? Legal of the 2020 presidential election scam? Corman fights like he’s a radical leftist Democrat.
For its part, Matriano in July sent letters to three counties, including Philadelphia, demanding virtually all election-related equipment and materials, under threat of a subpoena. They refused to comply, and Mastriano planned to convene a committee he chaired to vote on subpoenas.
That never happened, and Matriano blamed Corman last week. The Senate leader fired back, accusing Masstriano of “great notoriety” and the installation of Senator Cris Dush (R., Jefferson), another Conservative brand, as the journal’s new chief.
After the storm that followed, however, Corman cemented his transformation, favoring statements questioning the integrity of President Joe Biden’s victory. He told a pro-Trump interviewer on Monday that he lacked faith in the 2020 election results and made a commitment to “get to the bottom” of things.
And he gave legitimacy to the baseless fraud allegations without explicitly endorsing them: “We have to get the voters lists, we have to get the ballots – things of that nature – so that we can compare them to see: who has. voted, where did they live, were they alive?
Basic facts about how the exam works remain unclear, including how it would be funded, who would conduct it, and how and where equipment and ballots would be stored.
Pennsylvania counties have already conducted pre-certification audits, and most of them participated this year in a ârisk mitigationâ audit based on randomly selected ballots from across the state.
Smith, Mifflin’s GOP chairman, said the âinitial shockâ of Corman’s ousting Mastriano had âsomehow subsidedâ – though internally within the Republican caucus, even some of the Corman’s more staunch supporters recoiled from the severity of his punishment of Mastriano.
âI think some people are still mad at him,â Smith said. âAnd some – as long as the audit goes on – they’re willing to sit back and see what comes out of it. “
McClure, the chairman of the Huntingdon County GOP, said frustration with the Leader of the Senate has been growing for some time. âPeople here are furious with Bill 77, and they blame Corman for it,â he said, referring to the state law of 2019 which expanded postal voting.
McClure noted that the region had already ousted another pro tempore Senate Speaker: Robert Jubelirer of Blair County in the 2006 primary. upset followed by reaction to big pay increases in the legislature.
âHe was the most powerful elected Republican in Pennsylvania. And he was ousted. So there is a precedent, âsaid McClure. âVoters will ultimately decide how it all plays out. “
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