HARRISBURG — After 20 years in the Pennsylvania Senate, Joe Scarnati has announced he plans to retire at the end of the year, calling it a personal and not political decision.
“Today I am announcing that I will not be seeking a 6th term as senator for the 25th Senatorial District,” Scarnati said in a press release late Wednesday. “At the end of this year, I will have served the people of the 25th Senatorial district for 20 years.
“With the support of my Senate colleagues, I have spent the last 14 of those years in the position of President Pro Tempore and served as Pennsylvania’s 31st Lieutenant Governor from 2008 to 2011,” he said. “I have worked with five governors and throughout this time I am proud to have been a leading advocate for rural Pennsylvania values.”
While rumors of his pending retirement have been circulating since last year, nominating petitions were being circulated to put his name on the ballot for the May primary.
“While I am greatly humbled by those who have once again supported my petition to have my name on the ballot, after many conversations with family and close supporters I have made a personal, and not political, decision that I will not be filing my petitions,” he said.
“My concern with leaving office has always been in large part wanting to ensure the 25th Senatorial District is well represented after my departure from the Senate,” Scarnati said.
He commented that he was the first senator elected as an independent.
“I was disappointed by the choices that our sitting senator at the time had made, and could not support his candidacy,” he said of Bill Slocum. The first-term senator had been indicted by a grand jury in 1999 for knowingly discharging sewage into Brokenstraw Creek while he was sewage plant manager, and later borough manager, in Youngsville. Slocum was a Republican, and Scarnati switched his political party to run against him.
Scarnati was victorious as an independent.
“My independent streak never ended there in my tenure,” Scarnati said late Wednesday. “I have always believed that both sides of the aisle must work together on behalf of our constituents and compromise on issues without compromising on our values. At the same time, I have always sought to protect working families and their hard earned tax dollars.
“Since the days of Governor Ed Rendell’s Administration, I have actively blocked the massive proposed tax hikes on workers and businesses as proposed by his Administration and others who have followed,” he said.
Scarnati has been a longtime supporter of local economic development, including at University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, the City of Bradford, Straub in St. Marys, Bradford Regional Medical Center, Domtar Paper in Johnsonburg, Emporium Hardwoods, Bradford YMCA and many more.
“I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished for the Commonwealth during my time in the Senate,” the Brockway native said. “We have overseen the largest Republican majority since Eisenhower was president (34-16). We have protected the unborn by supporting a strong pro-life agenda.
“We have fought to safeguard our 2nd Amendment rights that the liberal left continues to attack. In 2012, we passed a landmark Marcellus Shale Impact Fee bill to ensure responsible drilling and investments in our local communities,” he continued. “We have prioritized job growth and creation across Pennsylvania. We have fought for historic levels of school safety funding — and will continue that fight.”
He expressed his appreciation to his family for their support.
“I thank my family for their unwavering support over the last two decades. Serving in public office is not something that you do alone,” Scarnati said. “I am looking forward to traveling and spending more time with my wife Amy, our children and grandchild. I also look forward to helping my parents, who are both in their 80s.”
He commended his colleagues, staff and co-workers, and expressed his appreciation to his constituents.
“I sincerely thank my constituents for the honor of representing them. While the announcement of my future departure comes today, I will still be actively engaged in serving my district and the Senate for the next nine months,” he said late Wednesday. “I also look forward to continuing to lead the effort this year to maintain our Senate Republican Majority. Following my departure from the Senate, I will be taking a more active role in my business and evaluating other opportunities.”
He represents the 25th Senatorial District, which includes Cameron, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, Potter and Tioga counties and portions of Clearfield County.
In 2015, Scarnati and his wife, Amy, purchased the Dan Smith Candy Company, which started in Brookville and currently has five locations; Brookville, Clarion, Ridgway, DuBois and Indiana, Pa.
The company was started as an ice cream company in 1946, transitioned to candy in 1953 and was successfully operated by the Smith family for 60 years before the sale to the Scarnatis.
Margie Brown, a St. Marys City Council member and half-time broadcast communications professor at University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for the 25th District seat.
A Jefferson County Republican, Dr. James M. Brown, had announced he will seek the nomination to run for the seat as well. A director in the Brockway school district, he worked as an educator for 40 years.