Josh Shapiro Chooses Republican Al Schmidt, Targeted by Trump in 2020, to Oversee Pennsylvania Elections

FILE - Al Schmidt, former city commissioner of Philadelphia, testifies as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, on June 13, 2022. Schmidt, a former Philadelphia election official who has told of enduring death threats whipped up by Donald Trump for defending the city's 2020 vote-counting against the former president's election lies, will be nominated for the top election administration post in Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro's administration. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

By Graham Harrington

January 6, 2023

Schmidt upheld democracy in Philadelphia during the 2020 Election, pushing back against Donald Trump’s lies about election fraud. He has told the Jan. 6 committee that his family received death threats after Trump called him out on Twitter.

Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro has nominated Philadelphia Republican Al Schmidt to be Pennsylvania’s secretary of the commonwealth, the top election official in the state.  

Schmidt’s nomination, announced Thursday by Shapiro, sets him up to oversee what is expected to be a hard-fought 2024 election in a critical presidential battleground. Schmidt is Shapiro’s first Cabinet selection to be revealed ahead of his Jan. 17 inauguration.

The position oversees how the state’s 67 counties run their elections, giving them guidance and assistance on how to manage them — a task that has grown in complexity and importance with the advent of the state’s no-excuse mail-in voting law and conspiracy theorists inspired by former President Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

With active election deniers implicated in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election representing Pennsylvania at the federal and state level, such as US Rep. Scott Perry, (R-Dauphin), and state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin), Schmidt’s record of upholding democracy in the face of extreme pressure from members of his own party makes him an ideal candidate for the position, Shapiro said.

“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,” Shapiro said in a statement. “I know he is ready to continue the hard work of preserving and strengthening our democracy.”

Schmidt is notable for his status as one of the few Republican leaders who stood up to Trump’s bid to overturn the 2020 presidential election while serving as Philadelphia’s city commissioner. Schmidt was singled out by Trump on Twitter and later testified before the Jan. 6 committee that his family had received death threats in the wake of Trump’s online harassment. 

“What was once a fairly obscure administrative job is now one where lunatics are threatening to murder your children,” said Schmidt before the committee.  

After the 2020 election, Schmidt resigned from his role as city commissioner to serve as the President and CEO of the Committee of 70, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization aimed at fighting corruption and enacting nonpartisan election reform.

Schmidt’s nomination is subject to confirmation in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

On Friday, Schmidt and 11 other key figures in defending the United States Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection will receive the Presidential Citizens Medal from President Joe Biden in recognition of their efforts in protecting democracy. 

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.


  • Graham Harrington

    Graham Harrington is The Keystone's social media manager. As a multimedia journalist, he has written for the Denisonian, PAC News, and Today’s Patient. Graham lives in Delaware County and is a graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio.

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