News & Politics

State lawmakers join forces with the Forward Party

The two lawmakers will now be aligned with the Forward Party but will remain registered as Democrats.

Former Democratic presidential candidate and current Forward Party co-chair Andrew Yang speaks in Harrisburg.

Former Democratic presidential candidate and current Forward Party co-chair Andrew Yang speaks in Harrisburg. Justin Sweitzer

Andrew Yang’s newly established Forward Party is taking root in Pennsylvania. 

And based on the reception the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate received from state lawmakers in the Pennsylvania General Assembly on Wednesday, there seems to be at least some appetite for new political solutions in Harrisburg. 

Longtime Democratic state Sens. Lisa Boscola and Anthony H. Williams both announced their affiliation with the Forward Party – and while the two will remain registered Democrats, both expressed frustration with the tribalism in the nation’s politics in general and the chamber’s in particular, and made the case for a collaborative, reform-minded approach to governing. 

“We’re here today because, one, we see the edges creeping into the main of our politics,” Williams said, noting that his voting record can, at times, stray from that of his own party. “I refuse to be bullied or intimidated by an ideology that, frankly, doesn’t represent the interests of my people.”

Boscola told reporters she hasn’t caucused with Senate Democrats since last December. A spokesperson for the Senate Democratic Caucus clarified that Boscola has been attending caucus meetings via Zoom.

Boscola said she affiliated with the Forward Party because the organization’s values align closely with her own. She added that the partisan nature of politics, in Harrisburg and beyond, warrants some changes.

“The discourse in this building has gotten really bad,” Boscola said. “I’ve never seen it like this. It’s getting worse and worse. The extremes of both parties are taking over. They’re taking over our caucuses.”

“My own colleagues vilify me when I vote with Republicans at times. Democrats and Republicans all have good ideas, right? They do,” Boscola said.

“Everybody back home just wants us to solve some problems and get things done,” she added.

The Forward Party was formed last year and is co-chaired by Yang and Christine Todd Whitman, a former Republican governor from New Jersey. The party supports implementing ranked-choice voting and nonpartisan primaries, and has frequently emphasized the importance of welcoming voters from all political stripes. 

Following Wednesday’s press conference, which included appearances from Yang and Forward Party President and CEO Lindsey Williams Drath, Boscola and Williams signed a Forward Party pledge, which prioritizes “bottom-up” solutions, diverse thinking, collaboration, grace and tolerance and election reforms, according to the party. 

Republicans currently hold a 28-22 majority in the state Senate. In a statement, state Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa said the Democratic Party remains inclusive and that Wednesday’s events could improve idea-sharing among lawmakers. 

“Our party is inclusive, they’re staying part of it, and this new group will be a useful exchange of ideas we can together fold into our goals,” Costa said. 

Two GOP lawmakers from the state House – state Reps. Valeria Gaydos and Marla Brown – were also in attendance at the press conference. 

Yang said the Forward Party will provide resources to legislators that affiliate with the party. 

“We will support Democrats, Republicans and independents alike,” he said. “We want to do the right thing, and also want to reform our structures and systems to help provide more genuine independence and diversity of thought in our politics.”

This story has been updated.