Incoming Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) is planning to cross party lines and nominate Republican Al Schmidt as secretary of the commonwealth.
Shapiro, who is set to take office on Jan. 17, lauded Schmidt’s integrity Thursday and alluded to his work on Philadelphia’s Board of Elections during the firestorm that erupted in the 2020 election. Schmidt has been an unabashed critic of former President Donald Trump and his allies’ efforts to challenge elections.
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“Al Schmidt has a proven track record of defending our democracy, protecting voting rights, and standing up to extremism — even in the face of grave threats — and I am proud to nominate him to be Pennsylvania’s next Secretary of the Commonwealth,” Shapiro said in a statement, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Unlike other states, which opt to hold elections for the secretary of state post, the Pennsylvania governor nominates the state’s top elections official. Schmidt is the first publicly announced Cabinet pick for Shapiro, who handily dispatched Republican Doug Mastriano in the governor contest during the 2022 midterm elections.
“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,” Shapiro added.
Trump prematurely declared victory in Pennsylvania in 2020 and sought to impede Philadelphia from finishing its voting tabulations, but Schmidt refused to capitulate. He later told the Jan. 6 committee he suffered threats for crossing Trump, who ultimately lost Pennsylvania to Biden in 2020.
“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, pictures of our home, just every bit of detail that you can imagine,” Schmidt testified.
Now that he is set to be nominated, Schmidt must get confirmed by a two-thirds vote in the state Senate to secure the post. Republicans maintained control of the Pennsylvania Senate in the midterm elections.
Schmidt is poised to receive a Presidential Citizens Medal from President Joe Biden Friday. He stepped down from his perch at Philadelphia’s election board in 2021 to spearhead the Committee of Seventy, a pro-democracy nonprofit organization.