Reader Opinion: Jeremy Shaffer uses misdirection to avoid answering questions about his politics in state senate race

By November 4, 2018 No Comments


A recent Jeremy Shaffer campaign mailer

Casey Swartz
West View Borough

Jeremy Shaffer currently serves as a Ross Township Commissioner. Now, he wants to represent the entire 38th State Senate District in Harrisburg.

In early September, Ross Township Commissioners voted on an ordinance to establish local nondiscrimination protections for residents, including protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The ordinance passed 5-2 along party lines. There was one noticeable absence: Jeremy Shaffer.

Originally, Shaffer claimed that he was traveling and unable to be present for the vote, declining to say how he would have voted.

After the debate with Lindsey Williams on Thursday, Shaffer told The Incline that he believed nondiscrimination protections are a statewide issue best resolved in Harrisburg, not via a patchwork of municipal ordinances. But he has not offered any solution to the statewide legislation that has been held up by a neighboring Republican elected official for more than a decade. He has not publicly committed to vote in support of statewide nondiscrimination protections. It’s hard to imagine that someone who didn’t vote for and won’t publicly commit to  protections for his own neighbors would fight for those same protections for all Pennsylvanians.

During the debate, Shaffer conflated hate crimes protections, religious freedom, and nondiscrimination legislation. Those three things are not the same. In recent days, he has repeatedly used his concern for the Tree of Life shooting as shield behind which to claim he supports hate crimes legislation, though there is no evidence from any of his previous rhetoric or votes that he believes this. I’m concerned this is coming disturbingly close to exploiting the synagogue shooting that took the life of a Ross Township resident, Dr. Richard Gottfried, to pretend he’s a moderate. He’s not.

I’ve also noticed that while Mr. Shaffer includes sexual orientation in his proposed reforms, he does not mention gender identity or gender expression. Not once. Ms. Williams, who is an active ally of the LGBTQ community, pointed out this strange exception during the debate, but Mr. Shaffer did not clarify or amend his statement. A statewide approach that does not include gender identity and gender expression is a problem, not a solution.

Shaffer’s lack of sincerity on these issues is evidenced by his failure to cast a vote on the Ross Township ordinance. He had the explicit opportunity to protect his current constituents and make a clear statement on his plans for a path to statewide protections. He did not take it.

Mr. Shaffer has also repeatedly attempted to undermine and mislead his constituents about his opponent. He has openly endorsed tactics such as suing her over bogus residency requirement complaints and posting campaign signs that label her a socialist.

A recent mailer from his campaign emphasizes that Ms. Williams is an unmarried woman without any children and a renter, implying that this has some bearing on her qualifications to serve in public office. If Mr. Shaffer really believes we should not discriminate or oppress people who belong to protected classes, why is he suggesting that Ms. Williams’ family status and housing choices disqualify her as a public servant? Does Mr. Shaffer not realize that family status is a protected class? Does he think renters who live in the 38th District are second-class citizens? Does he truly not understand how renters do contribute to the tax base and the local economy? How can we count on him to represent the interests of working class and senior citizen residents who rent their housing?  

The answer is clear: we can’t. I’ll be voting for Lindsey Williams on Tuesday, and I hope my North Hills neighbors will join me.

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