Some 23 Republican members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives have formed a state freedom caucus, aiming to be the conservative voice in an increasingly Democrat-leaning state. The caucus was announced Monday in Harrisburg with an introduction by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) who chairs the U.S. congressional House Freedom Caucus.
“We stand for the millions of Americans who feel that government [has] left them behind and they don’t have a voice. We’re bringing that voice,” Perry said in front of a small gathering of representatives who will be members of the Pennsylvania caucus.
“People don’t vote for Republicans to come to their state capitol and work out deals in the back room with leftist Democrats,” Perry added. “People say, ‘Well, these are a bunch of radical extremists.’ That’s what the press likes to say: ‘radical extremists.’ I will remind everybody here … the Republican party isn’t the one that [has] offered socialists up to run for office and hold office and promote their policies. These are folks that believe in the Constitution, take an oath for a reason, and want to abide by it, want to stand by the principles that they go out and talk to people about.”
Legislators: Fulfill Your Promises
The caucus will be a bloc of representatives who stand together against the pressures of state government and legislative leadership, Perry said, and who will pressure the rest of the state legislature’s Republicans to do what they told voters they were going to do.
Without inspired Republican leadership, Perry said, Pennsylvania has elected “the most radical, the [most] leftist and the most partisan governor, probably of our lifetime, getting ready to take office right now. We certainly can’t have a legislature that’s going to agree with every single thing that is destroying the commonwealth and destroying our country.”
Perry was referring to Democrat Josh Shapiro, who will take office as Pennsylvania governor in January, after eight years of leadership by Democrat Tom Wolf.
Pennsylvania could be leading the energy revolution in the United States, Perry said.
“People that are at the bottom of the economic spectrum oftentimes have to heat their homes with kerosene, because they can’t afford anymore. Kerosene is now over $7 a gallon. Pennsylvania could be leading it. But we just elected a governor who stands against all of those things,” Perry said. “We can’t have a legislature that is unwilling to push back on that agenda that is destroying our commonwealth.”
By Invitation Only
Pennsylvania Republican state Rep. Dawn Keefer will chair the newly established freedom caucus, which is a state version of the federal caucus established in 2015. Vice-chair is Republican state Rep. David Rowe.
Pennsylvania Freedom Caucus members must be invited to join. The caucus will not make its list of members public; members may choose whether to identify themselves as members.
Standing in the Gap
“We have a defined, clear, ideological stand that we’re taking,” Keefer said of the group’s agenda. Keefer said the caucus will address issues such as “reigning in regulations, anything that would increase the scope and power of government. We plan to protect Pennsylvanians from that overreach of government.”
Keefer envisions the caucus as “standing in the gap and making sure that government is working for the people, not the other way around.”
Regarding state Republicans as a whole, “We need a clearly defined plan that gets buy-in from all members,” Keefer said. “We haven’t had that this past session. We’ve been lacking it for a couple of years, for sure. So, let’s get a plan. Let’s get everybody at the table and come up with an agreement. This isn’t about running roughshod and everybody getting their way. This is about coming up with a plan that can move the commonwealth forward.”
Caucus vice-chair Rowe called out “an unelected and unaccountable bureaucracy” as a threat to constitutional freedoms. “We are here to be the defenders of the freedoms we have and the fighters to reclaim the freedoms we have lost,” he said. “Freedom will not be lost on our watch.”
‘I Fear for my Grandchildren’
Pennsylvania state Rep. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon) has decided not to run for a fourth term, but to work for property tax relief and election integrity as a private citizen, in which capacity he believes he can accomplish more. Ryan will be involved with the freedom caucus, however, and with two days left in his term, he offered some reasons why an organized conservative voice is needed in the Pennsylvania legislature.
“We saw during the pandemic, things that I never thought I would see in a free world,” Ryan said. “As a grandparent, I fear for my grandchildren who are being subjected to decisions over which they have no control, because of protectionism that’s been granted to bureaucracies outside of their controls and parental influence.”
Ryan added, “I am extraordinarily concerned that our freedom of assembly becomes chastised, challenged, and ridiculed because of certain groups … but I can assure you, [we’ll ] make absolutely certain that we will reestablish the flag of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from the highest mountaintop, and we will shout out in one voice that we are one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
A Nationwide Movement
Andy Roth, president of the State Freedom Caucus Network, said Pennsylvania is the eighth state to form a freedom caucus in the year since the network launched.
“We create [freedom caucuses] to help conservative lawmakers come together, organize and fight for the principles we believe in: family, faith, and freedom,” Roth said. “Setting up state freedom caucuses creates a direct link with the House Freedom Caucus in the U.S. Congress.” Roth called the federal freedom caucus a “conservative north star” in Congress.
The first state freedom caucus was formed in Georgia in December 2021, followed by Mississippi, South Carolina, Nevada, Illinois, South Dakota, and Arizona.