By mid-January, many people have either given up on their New Year’s resolutions – or they never bothered to make them in the first place. It’s not too late for our friends in the General Assembly to resolve to make a fresh start to go along with all the fresh faces: More than 50 new members joined the legislature earlier this month, each with their own sets of priorities, platforms and preconceived notions.
But there’s another “P” that these members brought with them to Harrisburg: a promise that they made during their inaugurations to the people of Pennsylvania they would do their jobs in good faith.
Not three weeks into the calendar year, and we are already beginning to see a breakdown of this particular pledge in the state Capitol.
Mark Rozzi, a longtime Democrat and child sex abuse survivor, shook up Pennsylvania’s political power dynamic when Democrats and Republicans threw their support behind him to be the next speaker of the House. They called him a consensus candidate who would help bring unity to Harrisburg. And in a public address, Rozzi promised to govern as an Independent, proclaiming he would not caucus with Republicans or Democrats and would change his voter registration. Days later, though, news broke that he reneged on that promise, telling Republican state Rep. Jim Gregory, his friend and colleague – and a fellow child abuse survivor – that he had reconsidered. He couldn’t commit.
Pennsylvania isn’t the only state that has been forced to grapple with this kind of behavior. Just look at New Jersey’s Jeff Van Drew, who, for 17 years, was a Democrat in that state’s legislature. In 2018, he won the 2nd congressional district, representing much of South Jersey, but before he had even served one year in Congress, Van Drew announced he was switching parties to join the GOP. Democrats were furious at his defection. He was criticized for running a bogus campaign and being a pro-Trump traitor, pivoting so sharply that he wound up voting against the certification of the 2020 election results.
In New York, there is no bigger story than George Santos, the Long Island Republican Member of Congress who manufactured virtually his entire life story. We all now know that Santos lied, but if there are no consequences for his actions, what’s to deter the next young political aspirant from plagiarizing his playbook?
This flip-flopping, fabricating facts and craven behavior all erode the trust and confidence voters place in the people they choose to represent them in government. But unlike Santos and Van Drew, Rozzi may still have a chance to follow through on his promises to the people of Pennsylvania. This is his moment to resolve to make a brand-new start – and set the right example for the freshmen.