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Conservatives at Pa. Leadership Conference rail against abortion and emphasize border security

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John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
April 6, 2024

CAMP HILL — The second day of the 2024 Pennsylvania Leadership Conference was jam-packed with panel discussions addressing expected GOP views on issues like abortion, the U.S. southern border, and winning over Latino voters. But the one overall message was to call on conservatives to be involved in the upcoming election. 

“I’m here to tell you that now is the time more than any other time in our lifetimes to reject what the radical left wants you to be, which is to be discouraged, and instead dig ever deeper than we ever have before because this is the year 2024, when we take this country,” said Kevin Roberts, President of the Heritage Foundation.

Roberts thanked those in attendance for being the “unsung heroes” of the conservative movement in the U.S., claiming that they are fighting in what he calls the “Second American Revolution.” 

“I’m not necessarily suggesting that we’re going to enter a season of warfare,” Roberts said. “But what I am suggesting is, at least figuratively, that the radical left has brought this culture of war to our feet. And we darn well better wake up and fight.”

He detailed his vision for Project 2025, which is the agenda they support if former President Donald Trump wins the presidency and Republicans win a majority in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House. 

This plan includes selecting a new FBI director and deleting the “liberal code” that created the agency, removing regulations that they view as burdensome to investing in natural resources, and calling for the elimination of the “most rotten part of the federal government,” the U.S. Department of Education, Roberts said.

Tom Homan, former Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for part of Trump’s presidency, got a thunderous round of applause when he detailed what his day one plans would be if Trump wins and appoints him to serve in the administration. 

“I’m going to run the biggest deportation operation this country has ever seen,” Homan said.

But courting Latino voters into the conservative movement was also top of mind during multiple sessions on Friday. 

“Latinos fled top down governance. They came to America for want of opportunity, for want of American style freedom. They are willing to work hard and earn the American dream,” said Daniel Garza, President of The LIBRE Initiative, a center-right Latino organization, which recently launched its Pennsylvania chapter

Although exit polling shows that President Joe Biden won the Latino vote in Pennsylvania over Trump in 2020, recent polls suggest Trump is closing the gap with this demographic and Republicans believe there’s potential to build a winning coalition with them.

Both campaigns recognize the importance that the growing Latino population in the Keystone State can play in the upcoming election, particularly in Philadelphia and sections of the Lehigh Valley. 

Anti-abortion ‘culture war’

Since the Dobbs decision, Democrats have won elections across the nation on the message of restoring Roe v. Wade, including in Pennsylvania. The issue became a lightning rod during the 2023 general election, when abortion rights groups hammered away at state Supreme Court Republican candidate Carolyn Carluccio for her past anti-abortion stances. Outside groups spent more than $19.5 million on that race.

“We are in a culture war,” said Cheryl Allen, former Pennsylvania Superior Court judge, who is with the right-wing Pennsylvania Family Institute. “In a culture war, the first thing that is sacrificed is the truth.” 

“That’s what we see going on in our society,” she added. “They want to criminalize, even in the state of Pennsylvania, they basically at the end of the day want to criminalize and discredit the pro-life movement, pregnancy care centers, while labeling them as extreme.”

Abortion is legal up to 24 weeks in Pennsylvania.

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro was criticized during Friday’s session for canceling the state’s contract with Real Alternatives, which supports and partners with anti-abortion centers. Abortion rights organizations have celebrated Shapiro’s decision as “an enormous win.”

Shapiro was also the focus of criticism during a panel discussion with state Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), and state Reps. Valerie Gaydos (R-Allegheny) and Rob Mercuri (R-Allegheny), hosted by Greg Moreland, Pennsylvania state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, about the divided nature of the state legislature. 

The panel blasted Shapiro’s $48.3 billion budget proposal, describing it as fiscally irresponsible. 

Mercuri took a jab at the Protecting the Right to Organize, or PRO Act, which would amend the National Labor Relations Act to make it easier for workers to organize and stiffen penalties against employers who violate it. He called it “anti-American.”

The AFL-CIO has touted the PRO Act, which Biden supports, as legislation that will benefit workers across the nation, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says it negatively affects independent contractors, pointing to the law in California. 

The first panel of the day, which was titled, “Books, Bongs, and Abortion: Protecting Children from the Left’s Agenda in PA hosted by Pennsylvania Family Institute,” expressed opposition to Shapiro’s support for the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Multiple panels also highlighted support for school choice, or vouchers, and PASS scholarships, which took center stage during the budget negotiations last year, and disagreed that there is a climate crisis. 

More than a century of scientific evidence, however, continues to show that human activity, including fossil fuel use have “warmed Earth’s surface and its ocean basins, which in turn have continued to impact Earth’s climate,” according to NASA.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate David McCormick and U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-10th District) also spoke at the conference  on Friday, both urging conservatives to embrace voting by mail, despite Trump railing against it. 

Vivek Ramaswamy, a former presidential candidate and potential cabinet appointee should Trump win the White House, delivered a stump speech on Friday evening stressing the importance of the 2024 presidential election, describing it as conservatives’ “1776 moment.” 

“This isn’t one of those ordinary elections where it’s about increasing the corporate tax rate or increasing it 1% here or there, this isn’t one of those elections,” Ramaswamy said. “This is one of those elections where the future existence of our country is on the line.”

Dinesh D’Souza, a controversial conservative author and filmmaker, was the scheduled featured speaker for the evening. 

Saturday, the third and final day of the conference, includes a forum with the two Republican attorney general candidates, speeches from Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity, U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser (R-9th District), panels on mobilizing voters, and annual straw poll results.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.