Pa. Senate GOP’s ‘grown-up’ eyes a sandbox battle

     Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi of Delaware County is facing a challenge for leadership of the state Senate. (AP file photo)

    Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi of Delaware County is facing a challenge for leadership of the state Senate. (AP file photo)

    The suburban Philadelphia Republican who has prompted grumblings over his actions as Pennsylvania Senate majority leader is gearing up to defend his high-ranking role Wednesday when lawmakers return to Harrisburg to elect their caucus leaders.

    Sen. Dominic Pileggi, who represents parts of Delaware and Chester counties, will be challenged by Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, according to a letter hand-delivered to members of the GOP caucus.

    Corman is expected to run on a slate with the current President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, and Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh County. The high-stakes internal election is even more dependent on member-to-member relationships than the already fraught process of advancing policy. Legislative staffers are advised to butt out.

    Caucus leadership positions also come with a bump in pay from the base salary of a state senator.

    Freshman senator and staunch conservative Scott Wagner, R-York, was one of two lawmakers to publicly condemn Pileggi’s leadership style this fall, claiming he purposefully stalled priorities of the far right.

    “You know, a lot of things weren’t accomplished that could have been accomplished because you know it wasn’t a priority for Sen. Pileggi,” said Wagner.

    If the leadership challenge indicates conservatives’ aggravation with Pileggi, it’s not clear that Corman and Browne would present an equal and opposite force. Both lawmakers have pushed for greater education funding in recent years, and Browne voted against a “paycheck protection” bill to prohibit automatic deductions of union dues from schoolteachers’ paychecks. Wagner had pushed aggressively for a floor vote on the measure, which ultimately came up short.

    Both the Senate and House GOP caucuses solidified their already strong majorities after the election. The House GOP’s leadership elections are also scheduled for next week. Current Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, is expected to run for the House’s top leadership slot and replace retiring Speaker Sam Smith, R-Jefferson.

    It isn’t clear who will run to fill Turzai’s slot as majority leader.

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