Recounting Daryl Metcalfe's career as he announces retirement from Pa. legislature | Pittsburgh City Paper

Recounting Daryl Metcalfe's career as he announces retirement from Pa. legislature

click to enlarge Recounting Daryl Metcalfe's career as he announces retirement from Pa. legislature
Daryl Metcalfe
State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry) has long been known in the Pittsburgh area as one of Pennsylvania’s most conservative and controversial politicians. His more than two decades in state politics has been filled with seemingly intentional efforts to rile up liberals and progressives over issues like firearms, climate change, immigration, and LGBTQ rights. His career representing southern Butler County was pioneering in a way, as his dogma of “owning the libs” at all costs now has an even stronger hold on Pennsylvania and the country’s Republican politics. His pro-gun rallies attracted support from white nationalist groups.

But that career in Harrisburg is coming to an end. Metcalfe announced on Jan. 4 that he will not be seeking re-election and that he is retiring from his career in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

“After family discussions, prayerful consideration and affirmation that God is calling me to a new adventure in life, I do not plan to seek re-election for state representative in 2022,” said Metcalfe in a statement. “I plan to finish my current term of office.”

Metcalfe added that he is thankful to the voters who put in him office term after term and is “honored by the broad and deep base of support from citizens across the state who supported my work to limit government, protect taxpayers and defend liberty.”

Taking a deeper look at the work produces a myriad of controversial headlines.

Metcalfe made an initial splash in the late 2000s for fear mongering over undocumented immigrants. In 2007, he said Pennsylvania was experiencing an "illegal alien invasion,” which he declared “a huge cost to my constituents, to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania." At the time, the Pittsburgh area had very few undocumented immigrants, and even today, the region has some of the lowest percentages of foreign-born residents of any region in America.

He sponsored five bills that year that would have required employers to verify Social Security numbers of job applicants or risk losing business licenses or permits; authorized state police to enforce federal immigration and customs laws; required law-enforcement officers to report citizenship statuses of people they arrest; revoked the professional licenses of people who knowingly employ undocumented immigrants; and eliminated public benefits for undocumented immigrants. Many of these bills would have been moot anyway. For example, undocumented immigrants don’t qualify for benefits in Pennsylvania. In fact, they still can’t even procure drivers’ licenses.

But Metcalfe’s push to demonize immigrants wasn’t grounded in facts. He told City Paper in 2007 that he had met some undocumented immigrants during a stint in the Army patrolling the border near El Paso, but he said he had little interaction with them.

"I don't speak Mexican," he said back then.

In the early 2010s, he shifted his legislative focus to anti-abortion bills, including a bill to strip funding from Planned Parenthood. In that same era, Metcalfe became well-known for spreading homophobia and anti-LGBTQ legislation. He blocked efforts to bring civil rights and nondiscrimination protections to LGBTQ Pennsylvanians, and he decried same-sex marriage.

In 2017, his homophobic actions all came to a head when he freaked out after a Democratic colleague touched his arm gently during a committee meeting on land-use policy.

Metcalfe blurted out in response, “Look, I'm a heterosexual. I have a wife, I love my wife, I don't like men — as you might. But stop touching me all the time.” (City Paper found that Metcalfe does, in fact, not have a problem with other men touching him, as long as they are Republicans.)

Even so, a video of the incident went viral, and many called for Metcalfe to be stripped of his committee chair role. But because of his seniority, he was entitled to the chair, or so Republicans said, and he was transferred in 2019 to another committee, the state House environmental committee.

There, he went viral again for saying that reducing carbon dioxide emissions will kill his vegetables, which is easily disproved by science. “I enjoy my vegetables, and plants need CO2, so I want to make sure we have plenty of CO2 out there so we have green grass and green vegetables growing,” he said in 2019 during a committee meeting.

Interspersed in between all these controversial incidents were Metcalfe taking to social media to rant against Labor Day, share conspiracies about Jeffrey Epstein, and even target City Paper. Metcalfe also tried, unsuccessfully, to impeach former Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

And even though Metcalfe’s career was most defined by who he antagonized, it appears he has been overtaken in that arena by other now-more-prominent conservatives. After over two decades of lib owning, he is no longer even mentioned among the most prominent far-right figures in Pennsylvania. That distinction appears to now be given to a rotating cast of characters — whether it was Sean Parnell before he dropped out of the Senate race; or state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who took part in the Jan. 6 insurrection; or state Rep. Russ Diamond, who compared COVID vaccines to sexual assault. Either way, Metcalfe has been conspicuously absent from this action for some time.

In his retirement announcement, Metcalfe said he plans “to continue fighting in defense of our God-given rights and our Constitution wherein they are affirmed!” Maybe that means he is planning to seek higher office. Or maybe it just means he will continue to troll on Facebook.

Either way, it appears Pennsylvania's rabid far-right contingency has moved on to the next controversial figure.