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Buttigieg Was Slow to East Palestine but Rushed to Philly. DVJ Asked Him Why

It took nearly three weeks for U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to make time to come to the scene of a Feb. 3 toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, just minutes from the Pennsylvania border.

Former President Donald Trump, hauling thousands of bottles of “Trump Water” along the way, made the trip before Buttigieg did.

But it took less than three days for “Mayor Pete” to travel to Philadelphia and hold a press conference at the site of the I-95 bridge collapse, letting affluent suburbanites know he was on the job.

“This tragic crash is having an outsize impact on commuters and goods moving up and down the I-95 corridor,” Buttigieg told the press. “It’s a key artery for the movement of people and goods. That’s why it’s important to get this restored quickly.”

Why did Buttigieg clear his calendar for a Philly visit after waiting so long to show up in rural, red-state Ohio? DVJournal asked him that question at Monday’s press conference.

“When I went [to East Palestine], I decided to break from the precedent, the norm, that generally transportation secretaries don’t go to active response sites,” Buttigieg said. “Part of what I found was important — especially when you saw all the politicization and misinformation that the people of East Palestine had to deal with — is that we’re just in a new world in terms of the importance of presence to help make sure everybody understands what is happening, the coordination that is happening, the teamwork that’s happening.

“And so, in the same way that I value the ongoing conversation that I have with people I spend time with on the ground in East Palestine, I value the opportunity to be both on the ground and coordinating over the phone with everybody who’s involved in the [Philadelphia] response.”

Buttigieg’s claim that his learning curve covers the disparity was met with skepticism. Critics argue the slow response in East Palestine was more evidence that rural, largely White communities are a low priority for the East Coast elites who dominate the Democratic Party.

In February, CNN reporters tried to downplay criticism of Buttigieg’s absence. “Former President Trump is going to Ohio today,” reported CNN anchor Poppy Harlow. “East Palestine, to be specific, the site of the toxic train wreck in a county where he won more than 70 percent of the vote in 2020… the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, hasn’t been yet. Trump capitalizing on that?”

The Washington Post noted at the time that Trump carried East Palestine with nearly 70 percent of the vote. It quoted former Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan (D), “who said that what he described as the slow response from the federal government reinforced the idea that officials in Washington don’t care about voters in Ohio.”

“You want to show the people in that community … that when something like this happens that their government is able to react in an effective and efficient way, in an immediate way,” Ryan said. “The feedback we’re hearing from the community, people in the community, is that nobody cared.”

On the other hand, Philadelphia is a Democratic stronghold along the Acela corridor and a large contingent of Black voters — a key part of the coalition that made Biden his party’s nominee and, eventually, president. Biden, who at age 80 rarely travels for politics, has already made multiple stops in the area since taking office. And he is scheduled to appear in Philadelphia on Saturday, where he will receive the AFL-CIO’s endorsement.

The class divide and partisan politics are obvious, Republicans say.

Pothole Pete continues to play politics as he flirts with battleground state Pennsylvania while turning a blind eye to solidly red Ohio,” said Republican National Committee spokesperson Rachel Lee. “Buttigieg’s political aspirations have long been clear, and voters know exactly where his true priorities lie.”

State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) took issue with Buttigieg’s claim that he had to appear in person to address “politicization and misinformation.”

“The genuine fear and concern from the residents affected by the train derailment were never about politics or ‘misinformation,’” Mastriano said. “My Senate committee (veteran’s affairs and emergency preparedness) held the first hearing in the nation to hear testimony from those folks. They expressed fears that they may never feel comfortable living in their communities again.

“I’m pleased to see that Mayor/Secretary Pete visited the I-95 site so quickly,” added Mastriano. “But it shouldn’t have taken him over 20 days to come to East Palestine to tour the disaster zone and hear the concerns of the residents.”

Kim Bedillion, president of the Pennridge Area Republican Club, noted Buttigieg’s lack of experience and what many see as a troubled record ionthe job. “One would hope that Secretary Buttigieg’s relatively speedy response to the I-95 overpass collapse when compared to his three-week delay in visiting East Palestine is not politically motivated, but considering that East Palestine has a Republican mayor and Philadelphia is decidedly Democrat, politics may very well have played a part.”


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Bucks County Republican Club Fights for Election Integrity

The Pennridge Area Republican Club takes election integrity seriously.

It has been asking politicians to sign a pledge that includes support for requiring voters’ photo identification, proof of citizenship, proof of residency, and ending no-excuse mail-in ballots, with only absentee ballots as provided in the law before Act 77. It also wants voters to use paper ballots.

At least five state senators, including Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, have signed so far according to Pennridge member Stephen Sinclair. Another 16 state representatives, along with county commissioners and sheriffs, have signed the declaration as well. And a growing number of candidates running for the State House are on board, too.

“One of our local state representatives, Craig Staats, who serves the 145th District (the north and northeast region of Bucks County) has committed to this effort,” Sinclair said.

Club president Kim Bedillion said, “Millions of Americans have lost confidence in the election process. State laws were amended without consent, outside money was used to boost vote counts in certain areas, poll watchers were not permitted access to watch the process, drop boxes went unmonitored, and the list goes on. It is important to our Republic that voters remain engaged in the election process. To that end, we must restore confidence in our elections.”

“Our club members are committed to restoring election integrity to Pennsylvania. Our election integrity committee is meeting with local election officials and law enforcement, petitioning legislators, and recruiting poll watchers. That is part of the DNA of our club. We don’t just complain about a problem. We roll up our sleeves and get to work on the solution,” she said.

Since Pennsylvania adopted Act 77, which permitted mail-in ballots and the state Supreme Court added drop boxes, residents have complained about an opaque process that might be a venue for voter fraud.

At a rally in Wilkes-Barre Saturday night, former President Donald Trump mentioned Act 77 and called on the state legislature to repeal it. He also urged voters to go out in person on Election Day, rather than mailing in their ballots or using drop boxes. Trump rallied in support of Mastriano and Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican running for the U.S. Senate.

Although a Commonwealth Court judge ruled Act 77 unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court, which has a 5-2 Democrat majority, overturned that decision.

The Pennridge Republican Club meets the second Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. at Keelersville Club, 2522 Ridge Road in Perkasie.

On Sept. 14, Diane Haring will discuss how to submit Right-to-Know requests to school districts. Megan Brock, a mother who is fighting Bucks County for documents related to the county’s COVID policy and a possible cover-up, is also expected to talk to the group.

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