A state senator in Pennsylvania said he’s leaving the Democratic Party to become an independent, asserting the party’s so-called tent “is shrinking every day.”
State Sen. John Yudichak made the announcement on Nov. 19.
“As an Independent, I will continue to put people above politics. I will continue to support Democratic ideas as well as Republican ideas when it is clear that they serve the greater good and help government work for people rather than the narrow interests of partisan ‘purists,’” he said in a press release.
Referencing the division during the Civil War, Yudichak said the country is, “again, in the throes of a fierce public debate where politics has become more about choosing sides than it is about working together toward ‘a more perfect union.’”
The lawmaker said he’s already been working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle: “Working outside the confines of an extremist political ideology is the foundation of my political career in Harrisburg, and it has helped me serve the people I care about the most—the people of northeastern Pennsylvania.”
“Regrettably, political extremists in both political parties fail to see the value in building relationships and strengthening our institutions of government. These ‘purist’ politicians, instead, are driven to serve the insatiable appetite of social media sites that need outrage and hate to garner interest and engagement,” he added.
“When a citizen comes to me to ask for help, I do not ask their political persuasion; I help them. When a community seeks aide to enhance the quality of life in their town, I do not ask to see their voter registration numbers; I help them. When important legislation is advanced, I do not ask if a Democrat or Republican sponsored the bill; I ask how will the new law help the people of Pennsylvania,” he continued.
“I choose the politics of ‘we’ over the politics of ‘us versus them.’ I choose to reject the ‘purist’ politicians who now stand as unyielding impediments to the only thing that motivates me to be in politics—getting real things done that make a true difference in people’s lives,” he wrote.
The switch makes Yudichak the only Independent in the Pennsylvania state senate. Republicans hold a 27-21 majority following the change.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa said that Democrats were disappointed to see Yudichak betray the party’s “large tent” values, according to the Associated Press. Yudichak responded that the Democrats’ tent “is shrinking every day.”
Yudichak, 49, was elected to the state’s House of Representatives in 1998 and to the state senate in 2010. He defeated two challengers that year and ran unopposed for re-election in 2018.
Yudichak represents District 14, which went for Democratic President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 before voting for Republican President Donald Trump in 2016.
The district includes all of Carbon County and parts of Luzerne County. It has about 250,000 residents, according to the 2010 Census.