Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro has made his pick for Pennsylvania’s next top elections official, choosing Philadelphia Republican Al Schmidt as his nominee for secretary of state.
Schmidt is the current president and CEO of Committee of Seventy, a Philadelphia-based government watchdog organization. Prior to joining the group in 2021, Schmidt spent close to a decade on the board of Philadelphia City Commissioners, which oversees elections within the city.
Schmidt rose to national prominence following the 2020 presidential election for his resolute defense of the city’s elections, which came in the face of pressure and false claims of voter fraud from former President Donald Trump. In a statement announcing the nomination, Shapiro said Schmidt “has a proven track record of defending our democracy, protecting voting rights and standing up to extremism.”
“Al will bring an extraordinary level of integrity, determination, and expertise to our Administration – and I know he is ready to continue the hard work of preserving and strengthening our democracy at the Department of State,” Shapiro said. “I look forward to Al’s partnership, service, and leadership in this critically important work.”
State law requires that Schmidt receive approval from a majority of lawmakers in the state Senate in order to be confirmed as secretary of state.
Schmidt left the Philadelphia City Commissioners in 2021 to take over at the Committee of Seventy, a nonprofit that advocates for reforms to elections, money in politics and government ethics.
He testified before the U.S. House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol last year, detailing threats he and his family received from supporters of the former president.
“After the president tweeted at me by name, calling me out the way that he did, the threats became much more specific, much more graphic and included not just me by name, but included members of my family by name, their ages, our address, picture. of our home – just every bit of detail that you can imagine,” Schmidt told the committee.
In a statement released on Thursday, Schmidt called the nomination humbling and promised to safeguard the state’s elections if ultimately confirmed by the Senate.
“Our elections are the foundation of our democracy, and I look forward to working with anyone – regardless of party – to ensure they remain free and fair here in Pennsylvania, and that we do more to ensure every eligible voter can make their voice heard,” Schmidt said.
Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman said Senate lawmakers will closely consider every nomination Shapiro sends their way.
In a statement, Pittman said secretary of state “is an extremely important position as it relates to the fair and efficient administration of elections. We will fully exercise the Senate's due diligence before taking any action on this, or other nominations."
This story has been updated to include a comment from Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman.