County Dems Shocked By Sen. Yudichak Party Flip
State Sen. John Yudichak called the leader of the Luzerne County Democratic Party on Monday night and revealed the shocking news. He would announce Tuesday he was abandoning the Democratic party to register as an independent. “I knew it was going to be a crazy day,” John Pekarovsky, the party chairman, said Tuesday following Yudichak’s announcement. “Obviously, my phone is going crazy.” Pekarovsky said Yudichak pledged that his values haven’t changed, he’s still a strong supporter of working people, but he’s grown frustrated with the partisan ship in Harrisburg. “He feels he could get more done for our area, the state and the country as an independent,” Pekarovsky said. The party chairman said Yudichak, in the state legislature since 1999, was the unquestioned leader of the Democrats and now the party must regroup. He said he was in touch with state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-121, of Wilkes-Barre, to organize a summit of party leaders. “He called and is very upset by it,” Pekarovsky said. Pashinski declined to comment when reached on Tuesday. State Rep. Mike Carroll, D-118, of Avoca, who once served as Yudichak’s chief-of-staff in the state House, reacted to Yudichak’s decision by saying he’s “been a dedicated public servant for many years.” “I expect him to continue serving our region professionally,” Carroll said. State Rep. Geralrd Mullery, D-119, said Yudichak “knows his district better than anyone.” “If he believes the best way to serve the constituents of the 14th Senatorial District is as an Independent, I respect his decision,” Mullery said. “Party politics has become increasingly tribal. Simply having an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ after your name generates automatic antipathy from a large swath of your constituency, regardless of your positions on the issues.” Mullery said constituents clearly could see Yudichak’s tireless work to try to avoid the closures of White Haven Center in White Haven and state Correctional Institution at Retreat in Newport Twp. Some local Republicans in the state legislature saluted Yudichak’s history of bipartisanship. “During our time serving together in the state Senate, John Yudichak and I have worked together in constructive manner on a wide range of regional initiatives and projects and significant pieces of legislation,” state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, of Lehman Twp. said. “I have deep respect for his commitment and his people-first approach to helping families and communities. Those qualities are what matter most in public service, not party affiliation. The frustrations he expresses in his announcement are ones we all should give serious thought to.” State Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-116, of Drums, had similar praise for Yudichak. “I am proud to call Senator Yudichak our senator. Senator Yudichak has always put people first over politics. He is an absolute role model in bi-partisan efforts and has always been able to remain fiercely independent despite political pressures,” Toohil said. “Northeastern Pennsylvania and Luzerne County in particular is having a very hard time with the direction in which the new Progressive Democratic party is headed.” Staff writer Stephanie Panny contributed to this report.