By James Oliphant
(Reuters) - Pennsylvania's newly elected Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro has named a Republican who resisted former President Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud to oversee the battleground state’s elections.
Al Schmidt, Shapiro's pick, previously served as vice chair of Philadelphia’s Board of Elections and pushed back against Trump’s efforts to stop the counting of votes in the 2020 presidential election, incurring the wrath of Trump and his supporters.
Schmidt also rejected Trump's claims that thousands of dead people were counted as Democratic votes in the election, calling the allegations "fantastical" and "ridiculous."
President Joe Biden narrowly won Pennsylvania, and the state became a central front for Trump’s bogus fraud assertions. It is one of a handful of states that swing between backing Republicans or Democrats, and is again expected to play an important role in deciding the 2024 presidential election.
Pennsylvania law allows the governor to choose the state's elections chief. That made last November’s election, in which Shapiro defeated Republican Doug Mastriano who backed Trump's election lies, particularly consequential in the wake of efforts by Trump and his supporters to undermine the 2020 results.
Schmidt, who served on Philadelphia's city commission for a decade, 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 on Thursday.
Last year, Schmidt testified before the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 siege of the U.S. Capitol, telling the panel that he and his family were targeted by Trump’s supporters after Trump accused him by name of failing to investigate massive “corruption.”
“The threats became much more specific, much more graphic, and included not just me by name, but included members of my family, by name, ages, our address, pictures of our home – every bit of detail you can imagine,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt’s nomination must be confirmed by Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Senate. Shapiro will be sworn into office on Jan. 17.
(Reporting by James Oliphant; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Bill Berkrot)