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Higgins joins Pipe in criticism of Corman, Benninghoff

BELLEFONTE — Centre County commissioner Mark Higgins has entered the chat.

Just one day after the Democratic chair of Centre County’s Board of Commissioners Michael Pipe called on two Pennsylvania Republicans from the county to condemn outgoing President Donald Trump for “inciting and enticing” extremist supporters prior to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week, Higgins offered his own thoughts on the matter.

Higgins spoke during the “public comment” portion of Tuesday’s meeting.

“As an American citizen, I must speak out about the violence and racist hate we are experiencing. These are serious problems. Our country is on fire. Some of us, Vice Present (Mike) Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Pat Toomey and many others are trying to put the fire out. Others, including PA Senate Jake Corman (R-Benner), President Pro Tempore of the PA State Senate and possibly the most powerful Republican in the state, and Representative Kerry Benninghoff (R-Bellefonte), the PA House Majority Leader, are throwing gasoline on the flames,” Higgins said.

He talked about allegations of voter fraud by both Corman and Benninghoff. Pennsylvania was a key state in the Presidential election, as one of several victories that paved the way for President-elect Joe Biden. Higgins took exception to those allegations.

“Alleging voter fraud or significant voter irregularities in the most recent Pennsylvania election is a heinous lie. More than two months have passed and there is not one allegation backed by evidence. Over 60 judges have refused to even open a case yet a significant minority of Pennsylvanians, and Centre County residents, believe this lie. I know Jake Corman and Kerry Benninghoff have repeated this lie on numerous occasions. This does not make their lie true. You are being deceived. Please listen to your vice president and U.S. senator and reject assault, attempted kidnapping, murder and the overthrow of democracy in America by domestic terrorists. I ask Jake Corman and Kerry Benninghoff to please stop lying so people stop dying,” Higgins continued.

On Monday, Pipe said Corman, Benninghoff and their GOP colleagues in Harrisburg must take responsibility for “fanning the flames” of Trump’s baseless claims of widespread election fraud through their challenges to Pennsylvania’s election results.

“It is appalling that Senator Corman and Representative Benninghoff, two of the most powerful elected officials in Pennsylvania, have yet to denounce the President for his role in the horrific acts of domestic terrorism we collectively witnessed last Wednesday,” Pipe said in a statement that was released prior to the news conference. “It is imperative that they use their positions of influence within Pennsylvania to fully condemn the main source of inciting and enticing the acts of domestic terrorism, from Washington D.C. to the recent crimes committed by white supremacists right here in Centre County. Their silence is complicity in the same violence they claim to disavow.”

Pipe asked why Corman sent a letter without public knowledge to McConnell (R-Ky.) and U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) asking them to delay the counting of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes. The vote to reject the certification of the Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes by the U.S. House and U.S. Senate failed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers. However, neither Corman or Benninghoff have admitted defeat or congratulated Biden on his presidential win.

“Sen. Corman and Rep. Benninghoff have gone to great lengths to spread disinformation about the fairness and security of the 2020 General Election. They have propagated the myth of a stolen election by their numerous statements and letters sent to the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation, calling on them to raise objections to the certification of the electoral votes of Pennsylvania. There is a direct and undeniable connection between these attempts to undercut the results of Pennsylvania’s presidential election results and the violent coup attempt of Jan. 6. Corman and Benninghoff’s cynical political tactics have led them to prioritize their personal interests above the safety of Pennsylvanians and our democracy,” Pipe continued.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Republican commissioner Steve Dershem was asked if he held President Trump “responsible for the events that happened last week at the Capitol.”

“I’m going to let history and the politically ambitious judge the President,” Dershem said. “I’m going to continue loving my family and friends to protect things that we value here in Centre County. I do take exception, to what I do consider hate speech and hate rhetoric in the county. I stand absolutely, positively with my county to make sure that those issues are addressed and we provide a safe environment for everybody in our community.”

Dershem refused to criticize his fellow Republicans Corman and Benninghoff.

“I think the main issue that I have in this election was there were so many aberrations in the election system that both the Department of State and the state Supreme Court indicated that there were concerns. I don’t know specifically if there were allegations of fraud here in Centre County, but I do know that there were some legitimate concerns that Rep. Benninghoff and Sen. Corman both shared. I share some of those as well,” Dershem said.

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