Vote on Toomey censure by Chester County GOP on hold

Chester County Republican committee members postponed a meeting set for Tuesday to consider a resolution censuring U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey for his vote during impeachment hearings for former President Donald Trump in order to get guidance from their state counterparts.

State GOP committee members expect to meet Wednesday night to decide whether to censure Toomey, a two-term senator with a solid conservative reputation, amid a GOP backlash over his vote to convict Trump during the impeachment trial earlier this month for the role he played in inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, members said.

The state party chairman, Lawrence Tabas, emailed committee members Monday to schedule the meeting. He emailed them on Feb. 13, moments after the Senate vote, telling them to expect a meeting.

A censure vote is a symbolic gesture that may have no real effect on Toomey since he isn’t seeking re-election next year.

Toomey was one of seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump of “incitement of insurrection.” Ultimately, Trump was acquitted of the charge because the 57-43 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for conviction.

Members of the Chester County GOP committee had drafted a proposed censure resolution the week after Toomey’s vote, and had submitted it for consideration at the party’s annual nominating convention last week. The document accused Toomey of having harmed the party at its local and state roots, and having “devalued” the influence the state would have in national politics.

The vote by Toomey was “unconstitutional, dangerous in its precedent, divisive, and lacking in due process and regard for the rights of the accused,” the resolution, authored in part by South Coventry committee member Mark Woolfrey, stated.

“Senator Toomey has violated the trust of his voters, failed to fulfill and represent a very large majority of motivated Pennsylvania voters, and neglected his duty to represent the party and the will of the people who elected him to represent them,” the proposed resolution reads.

Thomas Donohue, GOP executive vice-chairman, said the local leadership had decided to cancel the meeting Chairman Dr. Gordon Eck had announced at the Feb. 16 nominating convention until the state committee took action. 

There are 13 current members of the state committee from Chester County, including former county Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh, an ardent and early supporter of Trump; former state Rep. Becky Corbin, former county Controller Norman McQueen, and county committee Assistant Secretary Trish Milanese, among others, according to the committee’s website. 

At least one former Republican elected official from the county has publicly criticized the censure move.

“To me, this is absolutely astounding,” said former U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello of West Goshen, who left office in 2017 but who is considering a run for statewide office in 2022, including Toomey’s open seat.

“The purpose of the county Republican committee s to elect Republicans,” Costello said last week s news of the censure movement broke.  “Doing this with the attention it will bring will push even more Republicans away. It is not helpful in electing Republicans; it will help the Chester County Democratic Committee elect more Democrats.”

Other county parties have already moved to censure Toomey, and a resolution to censure Toomey came up for discussion at the state party’s leadership committee meeting on Feb. 6, weeks after Toomey said Trump committed “impeachable offenses” in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

On Thursday, Toomey said on KDKA-AM radio that the party can’t look the other way when a president “tries terrible and illegal and unconstitutional means of staying in power.”

“That’s not acceptable, that’s not conservative, that’s not Republican,” he told the Pittsburgh station.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

To reach staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.

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