This story has been updated to reflect comments made by PA Sen. John Yudichak.
Despite late maneuvering by ambitious pols, both Republicans and Democrats in the PA Senate stuck with their respective caucus leadership teams.
On the Democratic side, rumors were flying over the past week that state Sens. John Yudichak and Anthony Williams were eyeing Sen. Jay Costa’s leadership seat – but neither could muster enough votes for a serious challenge. Yudichak eventually took an ultimately unsuccessful shot at indicted Sen. Larry Farnese’s spot as caucus secretary.
However, the senator is not taking the loss lightly. In a phone interview with City&State, Yudichak called for Farnese to step down from Senate leadership over federal bribery charges.
"He quite frankly should have stepped down from the post already," Yudichak said. "We are beyond a minority now and it's an irresponsible message to send to the voters. If Sen. Farnese continues to serve in a leadership position...he puts all Democratic members at risk."
The Northeastern PA politician cited "Rule 35" of the PA Senate code, which calls for indicted members of Senate leadership to be relieved of their positions until the conclusion of a trial. However, Democratic party lawyers said the current language only applies to indictments that directly relate to a politician's leadership role, which Farnese's does not.
Yudichak said he would like to amend the code so that it applied to any indicted official in a leadership position.
"I'm not a lawyer; I'm not going to litigate the phrasing," he said. "But I know what the court of public opinion will decide. I'd like to see a rule change to make it less ambiguous."
Farnese did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Yudichak's statement.
Besides reading up on obscure Senate regulations, Yudichak appears to have been busy in other ways. A source said that lawyer and former Philadelphia controller Jon Saidel had made calls on Yudichak’s behalf in the run-up to a caucus vote.
Yudichak acknowledged that he mentioned his leadership bid to Saidel, whom he said he's known for over 20 years.
Saidel "asked me how I was doing and I said, 'We're making a run,'" Yudichak recalled about a recent encounter. "If he made some calls on my behalf, that was as an old friend."
Saidel offered only a curt denial to questions about his alleged attempts to influence party leadership.
“Only senators vote,” he wrote in an email to City&State. “They decide who leads them.”
Republicans similarly returned their full leadership team to another term.
Both Senate votes came a day after a House leadership vote that saw the appointment of Republican state Rep. Stan Saylor to be Appropriations chair, but little else of consequence.