Senate Republicans will not oppose inauguration of Lindsey Williams |
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Bob Bauder
Democratic state Senator-elect Lindsey Williams (center) of West View mixes with supporters before a rally in the Allegheny County Courthouse.Democratic state Senator-elect Lindsey Williams (center) of West View mixes with supporters before a rally in the Allegheny County Courthouse on Dec. 28, 2018.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati on Friday said he would recommend that Senator-elect Lindsey Williams of Allegheny County be sworn in with other lawmakers at the Capitol on New Year’s Day.

The decision ends months of wrangling between senate Republicans and Democrats over whether Williams met a four-year residency requirement to hold office. Scarnati’s statement came several hours after Democrats rallied at the Allegheny Courthouse to demand that she be seated, but officials said they doubted it had an impact on the timing of Scarnati’s announcement.

“While these last few weeks have been stressful for me personally, the Republican caucus and its leadership has been extremely fair and thorough in their evaluation of the situation,” Williams said in a statement. “I appreciate their professionalism and efficiency in bringing this matter to a close as quickly as possible so that I can get to work doing the job I was elected to do for the people of District 38.”

The state Constitution requires senators to live in a district for at least four years prior to an election. Scarnati said he would recommend the swearing-in because the state Constitution contains no clear definition for residency.

Williams had submitted more than 100 pages of documents to Republican leadership to prove her eligibility and Scarnati said he presumed the documents were truthful. He left open the possibility that the GOP could revisit the issue if members find other documents that conflict with the ones Williams provided.

Sen. Jay Costs of Forest Hills, the Senate minority leader, said he considered the issue closed and is looking forward to celebrating Williams’ swearing in.

“It says that they will seat her and that’s that,” Costa said. “I’m pleased that senate Republican leadership reviewed the documentation and reached the conclusion that Lindsey should be seated.”

Williams, 35, of West View in November defeated Republican Jeremy Shaffer, a Ross commissioner, to replace outgoing state Sen. Randy Vulakovich. The 38th District includes a large portion of the Alle-Kiski Valley, a small section of Pittsburgh and suburban communities in Alle­gheny County’s North Hills.

Williams moved to western Pennsylvania from Maryland in 2014 to take a job as communications and political director for the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers. She said she stayed with friends in Shaler while hunting for an apartment.

Documents provided to the GOP included a sworn affidavit from her friends that she spent the night of Nov. 6, 2019 at their home. It became the key element in determining whether she was eligible to take office.

Since the election, Williams has opened Vulakovich’s former office at the Shaler municipal building and has been meeting with constituents.

About 50 residents, representatives of organized labor and Democratic officials gathered with Williams at the Allegheny County Courthouse at noon. The crowd included Costs of Forest Hills, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman of Braddock, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and other political leaders.

“I have maintained that my top priority is my constituents; former Senator Vulakovich and his staff have been incredibly generous in ensuring that no services have been missed during the transition,” Williams said.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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