HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday withdrew his nominee to be Pennsylvania’s top elections official, accusing state Senate Republicans of turning the confirmation process into a partisan charade.
Wolf said Republican leaders were seeking a “record number” of hearings to confirm his acting secretary of state, Veronica Degraffenreid, and said she has been the victim of desperate and baseless smears by the top-ranking GOP leader.
Wolf nominated Degraffenreid to head the Department of State in March, calling her a nationally respected elections administration expert with experience heading up voting operations in North Carolina.
She ascended to the head of the department after Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar abruptly resigned in February because her agency had failed to advertise a proposed constitutional amendment.
Wolf says the highest-ranking state senator, Republican Sen. Jake Corman of Centre County, has accused Degraffenreid of hiding something without giving her an opportunity to respond.
In response, Corman issued a statement saying the Senate was not obligated to honor Wolf’s request to withdraw her from consideration and the GOP caucus is considering how to proceed with her nomination.
The governor said he was convinced Senate Republicans “plan on using her confirmation as an opportunity to descend further into conspiracy theories and work to please the former president by spreading lies about last year’s election.”
“There were no irregularities, no conspiracies and no fraud that occurred,” Wolf said.
He said Degraffenreid will continue in the secretary’s role on an acting basis.
Wolf’s move comes as Republicans in Pennsylvania’s state Senate are pushing forward what the GOP calls a “forensic investigation” of last year’s presidential election, scheduling a Senate committee meeting for Wednesday to vote on subpoenas that they say will seek “communications and other election records from the Pennsylvania Department of State.”
Legislative Republicans maintained their significant majorities last November in an election that many of them have complained about at the urging of former President Donald Trump, who lost Pennsylvania as part of his reelection defeat.
Corman and other Republicans also have repeatedly distorted the actions of judges and state officials in the months leading to the 2020 general election, perpetuating the baseless idea that Democrats won through widespread fraud.
Corman said he had valid questions about the Department of State’s performance, including the failure to advertise the amendment, actions related to voter security and the language of constitutional amendments. He said the agency has “administered recent elections in a way that is deeply partisan.”
Wolf said legislative Republicans have peddled election lies and misinformation for a year.
“They have threatened county election officials with subpoenas of election systems that would do nothing but destabilize our election system and cost taxpayers millions of dollars — all in service of protecting Donald Trump’s feelings about his election loss,” Wolf said in a release.
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