Fellow Chester County members of the state House Republican Caucus say it is too soon to say what political implications to draw from the decision by state Rep. Curt Schroder, R-155th, of East Brandywine, to vote with 99 Democrats and five other Republicans to oust Speaker John Perzel, R-172nd, of Philadelphia, could have on his political future.
The majority, instead, voted to install state Rep. Dennis O'Brien, R-169th, of Philadelphia, in Perzel's place after William DeWeese, D-50th, of Greene County, who had been the Democratic speaker candidate, placed his name on the floor.
State Rep. Chris Ross, R-158th, of East Marlborough, says he disagrees with Schroder's decision, but he believes it is unclear how that decision could impact his relationship with the GOP caucus.
"All actions have impacts, but we are in the early days," Ross said. "And it will take time to say what impact this decision will have, and it will depend on the behavior of the new speaker."
Ross said he personally supported Perzel for re-election as speaker because he promised reforms and an equitable bipartisan sharing of committee chairmanships.
Schroder expressed skepticism toward Perzel's stated desire to bring reforms to the chamber, calling it "a deathbed conversion."
"I disagree about him not being sincere," Ross said. "He got the message at this point from the elections."
State Rep. Carole Rubley, R-157th, of Tredyffrin, said Schroder's decision could have an impact upon his standing in the Republican caucus, but she doesn't feel the leadership would likely take retribution against him for supporting O'Brien.
"We need to work to regroup, and work for a better agenda for Pennsylvania," Rubley said.
Schroder's strong political disagreements with Perzel have not been a secret. He made that clear when he decided to run for majority leader in November while it still looked as though Republicans would retain their majority.
State Rep. Sam Rohrer, R-128th, of Berks County, and state Rep. David Steil, R-31st, of Bucks County, who also supported Schroder's bid for majority leader, were also among the six Republicans who broke ranks with the rest of the caucus to support O'Brien.
"There is no secret that I had a difference with John Perzel's style of leadership, and I thought that electing Dennis O'Brien would be a new beginning because he is a person with integrity, honesty and convictions," Schroder said. "He is the right type of leader to turn things around in Harrisburg."
Schroder said Perzel's leadership brought the General Assembly's popular reputation to new lows, which was made clear in the November election.
The Democrats' razor-thin 102-101 majority in the chamber meant that the announcement by state Rep. Thomas Caltagirone's, D-127th, of Berks County, last week, that he would support Perzel for speaker, placed DeWeese's candidacy in jeopardy.
"DeWeese was stuck with 101 votes, which was not enough votes to win, which opened the door to start a discussion to come up with a consensus candidate who would lead the chamber in the way it should go," Schroder said Wednesday. "I could not and would not have voted for a Democrat for speaker, and I told DeWeese that I could not vote for him."
Schroder said O'Brien was not his first choice for speaker. He had initially supported state Rep. John Maher, R-40th, of Alleghany County, for the post, but that move didn't find traction. After Maher's candidacy fell through, O'Brien emerged as a candidate for speaker.
O'Brien approached Schroder to ask for his support, which he pledged to do after O'Brien assured him of his intent to remain a Republican.
"I have had my differences with Denny on policy matters, but I have always come out of the policy battles with a tremendous amount of respect and admiration," Schroder said. "Even at times where we have disagreed, I've found he is a straight shooter with a new style."
Schroder said O'Brien has pledged to start a commission to forward the process of reforming legislative rules, and he views his election as "a new beginning for the General Assembly."
County GOP Chairman Joseph "Skip" Brion expressed support for Schroder's continuing place in the county Republican Party.
"Rep. Schroder is part of the Chester County Republican delegation, and I support Curt, who voted for a Republican," Brion said. "I spoke with him last night, and he told me that he did what he felt he had to do in terms of the reforms he sees need to be made in Harrisburg."
He said Schroder intends to keep working for reforms in Harrisburg, which the voters showed support for in November.
"Curt voted his conscience in terms of what he wanted to see in terms of changes," Brion said. "He does a great job and works hard for both Republicans and Democrats, and there is no reason to think that he will not continue to be a good representative."