The Lead

Pa. GOP candidate says he’ll bring ‘strong men’ to intimidate pro-mask school boards

By: - August 30, 2021 12:16 pm

Masks and temperature checks will likely be the norm for many U.S. school-going kids until a COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for children under age 12 (NurPhoto/Getty Images).

A Republican political hopeful from the Lehigh Valley has threatened to bring “20 strong men” into school board meetings and demand that elected officials who back mask mandates either “leave or…be removed.”

Steve Lynch, a personal trainer who is running for Northampton County executive, made the threat during a rally in Harrisburg on Sunday night.

The rally included a smattering of causes, from anti-vaccine and anti-mask sentiments and  right-wing militias to still-loyal supporters of former President Donald Trump.

In a portion of his speech noted by two independent journalists, Lynch told the crowd of roughly 200 people that he needed men to come “when we walk into those school boards” that approved mask mandates.

According to a map produced by University of Pennsylvania political science student Gianni Hill, eight of 10 Northampton County school districts have implemented a mask mandate.

“Forget going into these school boards bringing data, you go into those school boards to remove them, that’s what we do,” Lynch said, claiming that “they don’t follow the law.”

Lynch added that once the board members had been removed, “we’re going to replace them with nine parents. And we’re going to vote down the mask mandates that evening.”

He continued: “This is how you get stuff done.”

“Forget writing your legislators. Forget it. They’re not listening. You gotta do something,” Lynch said. “When I see criminals trying to take my rights and my beautiful children and everything they are going to do, you’re going to have to take my life. I’ll die on this hill.”

The crowd cheered Lynch after he finished the remarks.

According to the Morning Call of Allentown, Lynch attended Trump’s “Stop the Steal” Jan. 6 Washington D.C. rally, which preceded the storming of the U.S. Capitol — in which a pro-Trump mob tried to disrupt Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s victory.  

Lynch said he did not participate in violence. He also tried to downplay the incident after the fact, sharing discredited theories that left wing groups led the mob, and does not believe Biden fairly won the 2020 election.

Lynch, who ran unopposed in the GOP primary, faces Democratic incumbent Lamont McClure in November. 

McClure called for law enforcement to investigate Lynch for the remarks.

Lynch “participated and tried to incite a coup to overthrow our nation, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that he’s threatening local school boards with violence,” McClure told the Capital-Star.

Lynch did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Both journalists who recorded Lynch said that Lynch was a candidate for Pennsylvania governor in 2022. The Capital-Star could not verify this claim.

A majority of Americans — about six in 10 — support mandatory mask wearing in schools, according to a poll commissioned by the Associated Press that was released this month.

Republicans, from the grassroots to the state Legislature, have questioned the legitimacy and effectiveness of public health measures throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes masks mandates in school. 

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has said he cannot impose a mask mandate, and that it must be approved by the legislative. His emergency powers were curtailed earlier this year when voters approved a constitutional amendment written by the GOP-controlled General Assembly.

Wolf sent a letter to the General Assembly’s Republican leaders asking for them to pass such a mandate.

In a response to Wolf, Republican leaders said that they “believe that the current approach — allowing local officials to manage and respond as needed — makes the most sense and should be continued.”

Despite a request from Gov. Wolf, GOP lawmakers won’t mandate masks in K-12 schools

The state’s school code is largely absent language about student health and safety. 

It only mentions that all vaccine, communicable disease, and health screening policies must be posted online, to the extent that such policies “are required to be adopted by the school district under Federal or State law.”

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.