After many of them spent the past two months sowing doubts about the legitimacy of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, Republican elected officials from Lancaster County on Wednesday uniformly decried the violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol by rioters who were incited by President Trump’s speech earlier in the day.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker of Lancaster County, who went from reluctantly conceding Biden’s victory in November to joining seven of his GOP colleagues in pledging to dispute Pennsylvania’s electoral votes, was reached by phone late in the afternoon from a location inside the Capitol complex where he was sheltering with members of his staff.
Smucker condemned the attack on Congress, posting to Twitter around 4 p.m., “I am horrified by the violence and destruction at the Capitol. This is not who we are as a country. Please go home now.”
But even after one of the nation’s branches of government was forced to flee from an angry mob, Smucker said he still objected to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes being counted for Biden.
Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who has opposed Trump’s efforts to undermine the results of the presidential election, called the break-in of the Capitol “an absolute disgrace.”
Former Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican who served two terms in Congress, said he was “sad and angry” about the attacks. “This mob is abhorrent. The blame lies squarely with the president. His many incitements are responsible,” he said.
“@JoeBiden did what presidents do in trying to bring us together. All Americans should support his message of healing. And to the seditionists: Go home!”
Gov. Tom Wolf, whose administration has been repeatedly targeted members of Pennsylvania’s Republican congressional and legislative delegations who are seeking to overturn the presidential election, called the attack an “attempted coup.”
“We had a free and fair election. The results were clear. Republicans from Pres. Trump to PA legislative leaders need to stop the disinformation and tell their supporters the truth before there’s further violence,” Wolf said.
State Rep. Bryan Cutler, a Peach Bottom Republican and speaker of the House, said “any act of violence or destruction is a crime and should be treated as such.”
“Peaceful transitions of power are something our country has responsibly proceeded with since our founding and should serve as an inspiration to the rest of the world,” Cutler wrote in the joint statement with Republican Rep. Kerry Benninghoff.
“An objection to the electoral process is within the rights of members of Congress and has been exercised by members from both sides of the aisle at different times in our nation’s history. However, that process leads to debate and dialogue, not violence and mayhem. We strongly condemn any act of violence and destruction and pray for all those impacted today.”
Both Cutler and Benninghoff signed a letter to the state congressional delegation in November urging them to dispute Pennsylvania’s electoral votes.
Sen. Ryan Aument, a Republican from Lancaster County who signed a Jan. 4 letter asking Congress to set aside Pennsylvania’s electoral votes, said: “There is no excuse for the violence at the US Capitol. This is not patriotism. This is despicable and should not be tolerated under any circumstances. Peaceful protests are a right; violence is a crime,” Aument wrote.
Aument’s Republican colleague from Lancaster County, Scott Martin, who also signed the letter, said, “America was built upon the foundation of both the right of our citizens to peacefully protest and the need for the democratic process to peacefully unfold. The violence in Washington, DC, today violates both of these foundational pillars. It is wrong, it is unpatriotic, and it must end. Those who have engaged in committing violent acts must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Local party leaders
The Republican Committee of Lancaster County issued its own condemnation of the attack in Washington. “Violence and destruction is not patriotism. The actions of those occupying the Capitol will overshadow the thousands of peaceful supporters in D.C. today. We must do better and condemn violent lawlessness.
An angry Diane Topakian, chair of the county Democratic Party, said the blame for Wednesday’s chaos lies solely with the president. “We can put this on Donald Trump. He has been egging on his base to do exactly this since November, but specifically since last week. … This is at the feet of Donald Trump and the Republican leader in the capitol who haven’t had the guts or morality to stand up to him the last four years and this is the natural outcome of this.”
Lancaster County Commissioner Josh Parsons, a Republican, posted on Twitter, “Political violence, anarchy, or assaults on police are not acceptable in America. They should be met with the full force of the law wherever they occur. God bless the police and first responders.”
Parsons’ fellow Republican commissioner, Ray D’Agostino, tweeted: “I am saddened and disheartened to see the violence at the Capital Complex in our nation’s capital. Political violence has no place in a democratic country that prides itself on working together to solve problems and on the rule of law.”
Commissioner Craig Lehman, a Democrat, told LNP | LancasterOnline: “I pray for and call on all persons of goodwill to join together and speak out in support of the peaceful transition of power resulting from a free, fair and lawful election.”
State Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster city, said that what was most disturbing to him was that some of the participants at this protest “thought they had the right to personally violate the members of Congress" by breaking into their offices.
Republican state Rep. Steve Mentzer of Manheim Township said, “Violence against the rule of law and order is not acceptable in our nation, ever.”
Reporting by LNP’s Gillian McGoldrick, Carter Walker and Sam Janesch