Senate GOP wants Democrat to prove she meets residency rule
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republicans who control Pennsylvania’s Senate want a Democrat who is the apparent winner in the race for an open suburban Pittsburgh seat to prove she meets the residency requirement to serve in the chamber, senators said Wednesday.
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said Republicans plan to ask Democrat Lindsey Williams to show how she meets a constitutional requirement that newly elected senators must have lived in Pennsylvania for the prior four years.
“She needs to have the ability to come in and lay out that she does meet the requirements and, if she does, that’ll be the end of it,” Corman said. “If she doesn’t, then we’ve got an issue that we need to deal with.”
Corman would not say how Republicans will handle it if they decide that Williams doesn’t meet the requirement. Republican senators discussed the matter for the first time Wednesday during a closed-door caucus meeting.
A judge threw out a Republican-backed lawsuit last month challenging Williams’ eligibility, saying the plaintiffs had missed a seven-day period in March to challenge her nomination petition for the primary ballot.
The judge did not settle the question of whether Williams met the requirement. Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, say they support Williams and believe that she meets the residency requirement.
But Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, said, given what is known about Williams’ residency, “it’s a legitimate concern.”
Republican Jeremy Shaffer has conceded the election in Allegheny County to Williams. The Associated Press has not called the race, and votes in Allegheny County were still being counted, elections officials said Wednesday.
Corman said he wants the matter decided before January, when senators are sworn in for a new two-year legislative session.
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, will develop the process for Williams to prove her residency, whether formal or informal, Corman said.
On Wednesday evening, Scarnati’s office said the Republican caucus has an obligation to ensure that Williams meets all the constitutional requirements to be a senator.
“We will develop a fair plan that gives Ms. Williams due process to set forth to the Senate why she believes she meets the residency requirement,” Scarnati’s office said in an email.
Costa said any such process may be unprecedented. He said he is happy to meet with Scarnati to discuss it, but that he is not willing to agree to any sort of process yet.
Williams, 35, is an attorney for the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and was making her first bid for public office.
Republicans lost at least four seats in Nov. 6′s election and hold a 28-20 advantage in the chamber, with votes still being counted in two races that were too close to call, including Williams’ race.
The question is where Williams lived on Nov. 6, 2014.
Republicans cite her vote in Maryland in the November 2014 election, a Maryland address listed on a Pennsylvania speeding ticket she paid in November 2014 and her December 2014 voter registration in Allegheny County.
Williams has maintained that she accepted a job offer in Allegheny County in the days before Nov. 6, 2014, and had begun moving by then.