Pennsylvania State Senator John Yudichak announced on Tuesday that he will be switching his political affiliation from Democrat to Independent due to a disconnect with an increasingly leftward-moving party.
“As an Independent, I will continue to put people above politics,” Yudichak said in a press release. “I will continue to support Democratic ideas as well as Republican ideas when it is clear that they serve the greater good and help government work for people rather than the narrow interests of partisan ‘purists.'”
The state lawmaker has represented Pennsylvania’s 14th senatorial district for three terms and is not up for re-election until 2022. Yudichak suggested that leaving the party is the only way he can faithfully serve his district, which covers the northeastern part of the state and includes Carbon, Luzerne, and Monroe Counties.
“From an administrative standpoint if there was an independent caucus I’d be in the independent caucus but there were only two. That’s something that I’m trying to change,” Yudichak said over Twitter. “I’d like to change the conversation where we get out of this idea that it’s us vs them. I think it’s a false choice for Pennsylvanians, I think it’s a false choice for Americans.”
Pennsylvania Democrats were able to flip five State Senate seats blue during the 2018 election cycle, which reportedly pulled the party even further to the left. Yudichak’s decision to leave the party will make him the commonwealth’s sole Independent state senator and brings the minority caucus from 22 seats to 21; Republicans currently control 27 seats, with one vacant seat in a solidly red district scheduled to be filled in January through a special election.
Despite being an Independent, Yudichak has decided to caucus with the Republican Party and will likely be assigned new committee assignments going forward.
“This is unique,” Yudichak said. “I’m an Independent. I’m going to be fiercely independent. I’ve been independent by nature, now it’s going to be by party.”
During a phone call with The Patriot-News, Harrisburg’s largest newspaper, Yudichak put forth that the Democratic caucus has not been supportive of issues important to the region he represents and it has therefore become increasingly difficult for him to adequately serve his constituents. Accordingly, Yudichak cited certain issues, such as passing tax credits to help the waste coal industry and helping to prevent state prisons and centers for individuals with intellectual disabilities from closing, as areas where he lacks support.
“It became clear to me that I was going to be a marginalized voice, or worse, a silent voice, if I continued in that caucus,” Yudichak told local reporters.
“Our Democratic caucus prides itself on our advocacy for working people, for fair wages, affordable and accessible health care, and access to every opportunity the Commonwealth has to offer — regardless of race, gender, or creed,” Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa said in statement. “This Democratic caucus and the Democratic Party as a whole promotes a ‘large tent’ approach.”
“And we welcome debate and diverse opinions within our membership, and will continue to do so,” he continued. “We’re extremely disappointed to see Senator Yudichak turn his back on those values and his Senate colleagues who have supported him since his first election to this chamber in 2010.”