Democratic state Rep. Chris Rabb says that a recent altercation with Republican colleague Rep. Daryl Metcalfe left him so concerned for his personal safety that he’s filed a formal complaint.
The encounter occurred at last week’s State Government Committee hearing that made headlines after Metcalfe, who chairs that committee, gutted a bill with 110 co-sponsors that would have established an independent redistricting commission.
Rabb, who is assigned to the committee, took issue with Metcalfe’s last-minute end-around on what he described as a crucial reform to prevent gerrymandering in the future.
“I said that it was a new low, even for him, because he had us vote on an amendment that we hadn't had the time to read,” Rabb said in a phone interview. “It was an anti-democratic, underhanded move.”
After a brief back-and-forth, Metcalfe, who represents Butler County, reportedly said to Rabb, “We’d have a very different conversation on the street.”
The Philadelphia-based Rabb said he perceived this as a thinly veiled threat, adding that Metcalfe’s reputation as an outspoken gun owner with a history of aggressive outbursts left him concerned enough to file a formal complaint with the chief clerk’s office, which handles House security matters.
“I assumed he was threatening me. I don’t know if he only meant that he wanted to fight me – which I would have taken over being shot in the streets,” Rabb said. “It’s widely believed that he carries a firearm on the House floor. Given his racist beliefs, I didn’t want to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Stephen Miskin, a spokesman for the House Republican Caucus, said Rabb had blown the exchange out of proportion. He said that Rabb had sought to bait Metcalfe into an altercation.
“It’s just crazy. I don’t know how Rep. Rabb took it that way. Rep. Metcalfe was speaking conversationally while Rabb was speaking highly excitedly, with profanity-filled language,” he said. “The Democrats on that committee try to provoke Metcalfe. I think everyone is kind of shocked that Rep. Rabb even wrote anything.”
Miskin did not comment on Rabb’s assertion that Metcalfe carries a firearm to House committee hearings.
Metcalfe is a controversial figure in Harrisburg who has repeatedly drawn attention for actions like inviting white supremacists to testify at his committee hearings, implying that Parkland shooting victims were crisis actors, comparing undocumented immigrants to alien invaders, and making repeated anti-gay statements.
Rabb has said that he has heard little from Metcalfe since the verbal exchange – although not for a lack of opportunity.
“I work in the same room as Daryl. I’d maybe like an apology or clarification of his intent. Oddly enough, I have not received any communication from his office.”