From the courtroom to the ballot box? Wertz, Laughlin could square off in 2024 election

On May 19, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly sat in a Pittsburgh law office to be deposed for a defamation lawsuit filed by fellow Republican, state Sen. Dan Laughlin.

Both Kelly and Laughlin in July 2022 were the subjects of an Erie Reader column that focused on their actions following the 2020 presidential election and how another GOP lawmaker had asked President Donald Trump to issue sweeping pardons for members of Congress who voted to overturn the election results in Trump’s favor or anyone who signed legal briefs as part of a Texas lawsuit that attempted to do the same.

Kelly, who had voted against certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes on Jan. 6, 2021, and also signed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Texas lawsuit, had called a press conference that month to protest the Erie Reader column and call on his then-Democratic opponent in his re-election campaign to denounce the piece.

Laughlin, on the other hand, stayed mostly silent. It wasn’t until later, when he filed the lawsuit, that Laughlin argued that the column had unfairly targeted him for signing a separate brief. The friend-of-the-court brief Laughlin had signed explicitly stated that the signatories were not taking sides in the Texas election lawsuit.

In other words, while Kelly, a major Trump supporter was actively trying to overturn the election results, Laughlin, who has openly criticized Trump, was not, he contended. It’s also why he took the column’s author to court and Kelly did not.
Still, the seven-term congressman from Butler found himself surrounded by lawyers who peppered him with questions for 90 minutes on a Friday afternoon in May.

“I don’t think I’ve ever read it in its entirety because I thought from the beginning, this is another one of those cheap acts that someone who is not courageous enough to run for public office himself does,” Kelly said at one point.
Little did he know, but the author of the Erie Reader article, Erie County Democratic Party chairman Jim Wertz, had already been considering a run for office.

In fact, five days after Kelly’s deposition, Wertz established the “Friends of Jim Wertz” political action committee with the state.

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