Bucks County Dems want Doylestown committee woman to resign after her Jan. 6 sentencing

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Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from Republican Committee Chair Pat Poprik. Questions from this news organization were sent to an incorrect email address earlier this week, delaying her response.

A Republican committeewoman from Doylestown Borough is facing calls for her resignation from local Democratic leaders after being sentenced to 60 days in jail for entering the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

While Dawn Bancroft, 60, will face three years’ probation as part of her July 21 sentencing, the misdemeanor charge she pleaded guilty to in September won’t prevent her from serving as a local committeewoman, or in other elected office. She won the post in the May 17 primary.

State Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-10, chair of the Bucks County Democratic Committee, and Connor O’Hanlon, chair of the Doylestown Democrats, say Bancroft’s participation in the insurrection should have GOP leaders calling for her resignation.

“(Bancroft) is completely unfit to serve as a committeeperson of any party. Her actions on Jan. 6, 2021, including her stated desire that day to find and shoot Speaker Nancy Pelosi, disqualify her from holding any position,” Santarsiero, of Lower Makefield, said. “The Bucks GOP should take swift action to remove her as a committeeperson.“

Dawn Bancroft
Dawn Bancroft

Bancroft’s arrest in late January came after she shared a video with a friend showing her and Upper Black Eddy resident Diana Santos-Smith inside the Capitol building during the insurrection.

"We broke into the Capitol. … We got inside, we did our part. ... We were looking for Nancy to shoot her in the friggin’ brain but we didn’t find her,” Bancroft said in the video, according to court documents.

During her sentencing two weeks ago, Bancroft called her remarks “inappropriate, childish and foolish,” and her attorney, Carina Laguzzi, insisted her statement about shooting the Speaker of the House was “bravado” in the moment, according to a report from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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U.S. District Court of Judge Emmet G. Sullivan called her comments “unacceptable” as he handed down her sentence in Washington, D.C., last month.

“There has to be a message to the others out there that these type of comments have no place in a democratic, civilized society,” he said.

Bancroft won the GOP committee seat in Doylestown Borough Ward 2 Precinct 2 while awaiting sentencing, winning with 102 votes to her opponent Danielle Labrake’s 90 votes, according to county election results.

O’Hanlon said Bancroft’s victory in May was “frustrating” given that news of her arrest was widespread and common knowledge for local Republicans and Democrats.

“I think it’s incumbent upon their party leadership to step up and denounce these actions and, frankly, call for (Bancroft’s) resignation from that position. But they didn’t call for anything before (the primary) … we all know what she did,” O’Hanlon said.

Bucks County Republican Committee Chair Pat Poprik told the Inquirer in July that the committee would “have a conversation” with Bancroft about her position.

On Friday, Poprik told this news organization she doesn't believe Bancroft would resign if asked, but said that the committee does have in its bylaws a procedure for removing a member, a process that has already started by forming an internal ethics committee.

"(The ethics committee) will meet, it’s like a hearing, (Bancroft) gets to come give her side, and then the ethics committee recommends. It’s a whole multi-pronged procedure," Poprik said.

"You can’t just get rid of them. You can’t just fire them. You have to go through a whole process and we’re doing that," Poprik added.

Andy Meehan, president and founder of the Right for Bucks political nonprofit, said Bancroft is “paying her dues” and it should be the county leadership who should step down.

“The people who should resign are the leaders of the Bucks County Republican Party Committee, (Poprik) and Joe Cullen, and (Bancroft) is paying her dues … and she should not resign at all from the Republican Committee,” Meehan, a staunch critic of establishment Republicans, said during a phone interview Wednesday.

Meehan’s group touts an “America First” agenda and in 2020 unsuccessfully ran against Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1, in that year’s primary.

O’Hanlon said his concern about Bancroft’s committee position and lack of response from the county’s GOP leaders bodes a shift farther to the right for the local Republican Party.

What does a committeeperson do?

Committee members play an important role in the basic operation of the Republican and Democratic committees in Pennsylvania, according to longtime Pennsylvania political analyst G. Terry Madonna.

“As a committeeperson your job is to handle political matters within the precinct,” Madonna said Wednesday.

State GOP committee bylaws allow any person eligible to vote as a Republican to be elected or appointed as a committee person for a four-year term. An elected committee member can only be voted out of office at the end of their term, or they can resign.

O'Hanlon said a committee can also appoint a person to a vacant local precinct.

The job can vary depending on the county or local committee, but generally a committee person is knocking on doors to remind members of their party to vote and urge non-voters to register for their party ahead of an election.

Committee members also hand out literature to voters entering polling places, typically for the candidates the county or state committees have agreed to endorse.

“If the party endorses someone within the county, there’s the presumption that the (committee members) will go along with that endorsement and work with that person but that’s no guarantee. That’s no certainty given the factions that exist in those parties,” Madonna said.

Committee members also have a vote in who the county will endorse in upcoming elections, and O’Hanlon said that influence and “a New Republican party” that seems to be emerging from Trump supporters like Bancroft is the more concerning problem.

The New MAGA

In a 2021 letter to the editor, Meehan described the county Republican party as a “dysfunctional family” after the November 2020 election and Jan. 6 attack.

Poprik told this news organization in the months following the election and insurrection that the GOP had lost some members due to the political rift the two events had caused.

The GOP fracture between establishment Republicans and Trump loyalists isn’t a local issue, as this year’s midterm primary races for governor and U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania showed.

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Republican nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz narrowly defeated Dave McCormick by a margin of less than 1,000 votes, triggering an automatic recount by the Department of State.

Despite Oz getting Trump’s endorsement in April, it was political commentator Kathy Barnette who had a surprise surge of support days before the primary.

Barnette cast herself as the Make America Great Again candidate, and she was able to take nearly 25% of the 1.34 million votes cast in the Republican race.

Barnette seemed to appeal to populist conservatives who doubted the conservative values that Oz or McCormick claimed to hold.

In the governor’s race, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who has long supported unfounded claims of election fraud by Trump in 2020, managed to win the party’s ticket even as party leaders made an 11th-hour push to bolster one of the more moderate candidates.

In the final days before the primary, an all-out effort pushing support behind former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, who was Mastriano's closest adversary in the polls, brought more than 100 endorsements from current and former members of Congress, state senators, county commissioners and other offices to keep Mastriano from taking the ballot spot.

Mastriano took nearly 44% of the nearly 1.35 million votes cast in his race, the other 54% spread across eight other candidates showing a clearly fractured GOP electorate.

Republican endorsements for Mastriano’s opponent, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shaprio, have since started to come in as GOP members say the Franklin County official’s stances on election reform, abortion and other issues are too extreme.

Even in a deep blue area of Bucks County like Doylestown Borough, where July 25 voter registration records show Democrats make up 50% of the 6,837 voters, O’Hanlon said Bancroft’s continued committee seat sets a troubling precedent.

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Bucks County Democrats want Jan. 6 protestor to resign from GOP office