In New TV Ad, Pa. Democrats Hit Republicans over Failed Clergy Sex Abuse Bill | Wednesday Morning Coffee

By John L. Micek
Patriot News
October 24, 2018

With at least a half-dozen seats in play in the Nov. 6 elections, the Pennsylvania Senate Democrats' re-election wing is out with a new ad hitting the GOP majority over last week's breakdown of a bill that would have handed some relief to the survivors of sexual abuse.

The new ad, "Window," put out by the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, will air in the Philadelphia-area, where Democrats are contending for several GOP Republican seats. The GOP currently has a 33-16 majority, with one vacancy, in the 50-member chamber.

The bill makes note that the legislation, which would have opened a narrow, two-year retroactive window for civil lawsuits, overwhelmingly passed the state House. But it was never called for a vote in the Senate, where President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, offered an alternative proposal that would have allowed survivors to sue individual perpetrators, but not the institutions that enabled or covered up abuse.

That was widely viewed as a move to inoculate Pennsylvania's Roman Catholic diocese against any costly civil litigation. It outraged survivors, who accused the GOP of putting the interests of the church above theirs.

The House "agreed to put partisanship aside and do what was right for victims," the ad charges, as images of Senate leadership and several GOP incumbents facing re-election flash on the screen. "But Republicans in the Senate? They just walked away. No vote. No debate. No justice."

A quick fact-check on the image above.

Senators, who are elected to four-year terms, face the voters on a staggered, two-year schedule. This year, senators who represent even-numbered districts are on the ballot.

So while it is true that Scarnati was responsible for the bill's failure, his 25th District seat in northwestern Pennsylvania will not be on the ballot for another two years.

State Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, is retiring. His son, also named Stewart Greenleaf, is running to replace him in that suburban 12th District seat. Democrats are banking on name-confusion in that contest.

Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery faces Democrat Katie Muth in his 44th District race. But as PennLive reported on Sept. 18, Rafferty, a former GOP candidate for attorney general, "stood alone" among his colleagues in his support for that two-year "window' for civil litigation.

The remaining GOP senators, Majority Leader Jake Corman, of Centre County; Pat Browne, of Lehigh County; Robert Tomlinson, of Bucks County, and Thomas McGarrigle, of Chester County and Bob Mensch of Montgomery County, are all in districts that Democrats are looking to flip on Election Day.

In a statement, Sen. Vince Hughes, of Philadelphia, the chair of the Democrats' re-election effort, called the GOP's failure to bring the bill to a vote "a tragedy."

"Republicans just walked away from victims and protected the perpetrators of sexual assault. Not a single Republican was willing to stand up to their leadership. Nobody spoke out. Nobody even sent a tweet," Hughes said.

Hughes continued: "Every Republican owns this failure. "They elected this leadership, and as a result, victims have been silenced once again. We will take up this fight again in January--unless they call us back into session sooner--but the only way we'll change the result is if we change the Senate."

The 30-second commercial, which will also air on digital platforms across the state, is the first such advertisement that the SDCC has released "in recent memory."








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