Scarnati drops opposition to seating Williams on swearing in day, but keeps her residency an open question

Scarnati drops opposition to seating Williams on swearing in day, but keeps her residency an open question

Author: Stephen Caruso/Friday, December 28, 2018/Categories: News and Views

A top Senate Republican said in a statement Friday he was dropping his opposition to the seating of a Democratic Senator-elect, having previously questioned the residency requirement.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) said in a release that he recommends his caucus seat Lindsey Williams as the elected Senator of the north Pittsburgh suburban 38th District. However, he left open reexamining her residency if new documentation emerged.

Williams, a teachers’ union official, defeated Jeremy Shaffer, a local township commissioner, for the seat formerly held by Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny). Shaffer bested Vulakovich in the May primary. Williams went on to win the general by 800 votes.

In a statement, Williams called the last few weeks stressful but complimented the Republican caucus for its handling of the residency examination.

“I appreciate their professionalism and efficiency in bringing this matter to a close as quickly as possible so that I can get to work doing the job I was elected to do for the people of District 38," Williams said.

A lawsuit before the election failed to dislodge Williams from the ballot, as a Commonwealth Court Judge threw the case out, saying a challenge should have been filed earlier. However, his ruling left open the option for action by Senate leadership.

Senate Republicans have cited their final say in who does and does not match the state constitutional qualifications to serve. As evidence is against her, they cite Williams voting in Maryland four years to the day before her November victory.

The state constitution says a Senator must be a Pennsylvania resident for four years before they stand for election

“The Lindsey Williams issue gives myself and [my] caucus great pause,” Scarnati said a week after the election.

Reportedly, Williams handed over a file with signed affidavits of friends she was staying with after accepting a job offer in Pittsburgh in late October 2014 as proof to Scarnati’s office.

The debate also received national attention with coverage from The Intercept, Salon and Esquire. Democrats have attempted to tie action against Williams to Republicans stripping power from Democratic governors in Wisconsin and North Carolina.

In his statement, Scarnati pointed to a vague constitutional definition of residency and placed his trust in William’s documentation.

The same day as Scarnati’s announcement, Democratic elected officials and supporters gathered in Pittsburgh and at the Capitol to protest Republican opposition.

This breaking story will be updated with additional details as they become available.

Stephen Caruso is the Harrisburg bureau chief at The PLS Reporter. Have a question, comment or tip? Email him at or call at 845-891-4306.