It may be late in the legislative session, but one Democratic lawmaker in the state Senate is making a last-ditch effort to prevent politicians who attended the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection from running for office ever again.
State Sen. Art Haywood, a Democrat representing parts of Montgomery County and Philadelphia, is introducing a measure that seeks to disqualify officeholders from the ballot if they have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S.
The resolution, if passed, would apply to politicians – both current and former – who have sworn an oath to protect and uphold the U.S. Constitution and later participated in an insurrection or rebellion against the U.S. government. The measure would place pressure on Pennsylvania’s secretary of state to enforce a provision in the Constitution – Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment – that bars such candidates from holding public office.
Haywood said the measure, Senate Resolution 357, would only apply to people who have previously held or currently hold public office, and would not pertain to people who designated themselves as “alternate electors” for former President Donald Trump in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.
“It makes it clear that current or former public officials who took an oath of office to defend the United States – whatever their public office may be – that should they have engaged in insurrection, they will be barred from office and elections here in Pennsylvania,” Haywood told reporters at a virtual press conference.
Haywood said decisions on which candidates meet this criterion would be determined by the secretary of state.
While he wasn’t mentioned by name, the presence of Republican gubernatorial nominee and state Sen. Doug Mastriano loomed over Haywood’s announcement. Mastriano, who serves in the same chamber as Haywood, was elected the state’s GOP nominee for governor in May and was present on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6. He has maintained he never entered the building, but has nonetheless been subpoenaed by a congressional committee investigating the riot.
Mastriano’s general election opponent, Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro, has made Mastriano’s presence at the Capitol a frequent line of attack throughout the campaign.
Haywood suggested that the measure could serve as a deterrent to future political violence.
The resolution is supported by Free Speech For People, a nonprofit government watchdog group, which praised Haywood’s effort during a press conference on Wednesday. John Bonifaz, the organization’s president, said that Haywood’s resolution is “a critical step forward in ensuring that the mandate of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment is followed.”
“Every secretary of state, every chief election official across the country has a duty and responsibility to ensure that those who seek to appear on their state ballots meet the qualifications for the office for which they seek,” Bonifaz said.
The introduction of the resolution comes as Free Speech For People engages in a nationwide effort, the 14Point3 Campaign, aimed at preventing lawmakers with ties to Jan. 6 from running for office.
A spokesperson for Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman said the department is aware of Haywood’s resolution and “will thoroughly review the joint resolution if it is introduced.”
Free Speech For People wrote to Chapman earlier this year, arguing that she should disqualify Mastriano from office.
With just seven session days left in the current legislative term, it’s unlikely that Haywood’s resolution will gain enough traction to advance through the General Assembly. But Haywood said the potential for political violence – like what was seen at the U.S. Capitol in 2021 – should be reason enough to act on the resolution.
“This is a current threat. Political violence from Jan. 6 and those who were fomenting it are still around. They are still a threat to our nation – potentially a threat following this Nov. 8 election.”
A spokesperson for Senate Republicans declined to comment on Haywood’s resolution.