The mailers, which were sponsored by the conservative PAC Commonwealth Leaders Fund, read, “Emily Skopov wanted to keep local businesses closed as our families and neighbors struggled,” an apparent reference to business closures during the coronavirus pandemic. Included in the mailer is an apparent quote from an April story in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star that reads, “putting Pennsylvania back to work is bad for Pennsylvanians,” and attributes that quote to Skopov.
Skopov, who lives in Marshall Township, says she never wrote a sentence like that in her op-ed published in the Capital-Star. And there is no sentence or quote that matches what the mailer says in the body of the April 12 op-ed. The apparent quote is taken from the headline of the op-ed, but it only uses a part of the headline. The full headline is “This Turzai bill putting Pennsylvania back to work is bad for Pennsylvanians | Opinion,” in reference to former state House Speaker Mike Turzai.
Skopov says she didn’t write, or even suggest, a headline for her op-ed. She says she merely submitted the letter to the statewide publication. Capital-Star editor-in-chief John Micek confirms that the editorial staff wrote the headline, not Skopov, as is customary for publications.
And now, here's the original headline, as it first appeared on the Capital-Star in April. It's one of the worst hack jobs I've ever seen. The makers of that amateur hour mailer should know far better. pic.twitter.com/viu0sXMgeB— ByJohnLMicek (@ByJohnLMicek) July 14, 2020
“It’s not even my own words,” says Skopov. “It’s just a bald-faced lie.”
Furthermore, Skopov says the op-ed in question is a criticism of a specific bill that Turzai put forth in April calling on all construction projects in the state to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, when all of the state was still in the red phase. Skopov is running in Turzai’s old district, and in April, Turzai was still in office, although he had announced in January he would be not-seeking re-election.
“The thrust of [the op-ed] was that we need people to get back to work, but we shouldn't have to choose between that and health and safety,” says Skopov. “The thrust was in no way, ‘Let’s keep people home.’”
She criticized Turzai’s bill, HB 2400, for having no specific guidelines. The bill, which eventually passed the House but not the Senate, is literally one sentence long and seeks a waiver to Gov. Tom Wolf’s coronavirus plan for “all public and private construction activities that can adhere to the social distancing practices and other mitigation measures defined by the Centers for Disease Control to protect workers and to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.” Skopov called it an "ill-informed policy," and says that if Turzai and Republicans at the time wanted to reopen parts of the state’s economy, they should have at least emulated other states who issued detailed plans about reopening that include specific measures addressing any potential spread of COVID-19.
“I would like to see bi-partisan collaboration to help people live through this,” says Skopov. “There were other states that proposed legislation for people to get back to work that was so incredibly in depth.”
A request for comment to Matt Brouillette, who founded Commonwealth Leaders Fund PAC, went unanswered.
Skopov called the mailer “pathetic” for attempting to distort her message, and says it is a sign her opponents are afraid that she will flip the seat into Democratic control.
“They have nothing else that they can talk about,” says Skopov. “If they have to lie and sink that low in July, that shows what trouble they are in.”
District 28 has long been a Republican stronghold, but the affluent, suburban district is quickly becoming a swing district. In 2018, Skopov came within 9 points of Turzai, who received 54% of the vote. This was the closest general election Turzai has ever faced. In 2018, Democratic Gov. Wolf actually carried the district by about 10 points. In the 2020 primary election, Democrats tallied more votes there than Republicans.
Skopov also criticized her 2020 opponent, Republican candidate Rob Mercuri, for not calling out the mailers lying about her record. She says that after he won his GOP primary, Mercuri called her and said he wanted to run an “honorable race, on an exchange of ideas.”
Today, PA House Speaker Turzai announced his was stepping down on June 15th. His seat in the suburbs north of PGH was until very recently a conservative bastion in Democratic Allegheny Co., that may be changing. In last week's primary Dems narrowly outvoted Reps in the primary. pic.twitter.com/vA6b4Hu7Rk— Ben Forstate (@4st8) June 10, 2020
The Mercuri campaign didn’t respond to this story by press time.
And Skopov notes this isn’t the only political attempt to distort who she is. A survey was recently sent out to voters in the district and claims that “Emily Skopov is a Hollywood filmmaker who has spent the majority of her life working in the movie industry and living among left-wing liberal celebrities in Los Angeles, and will put their interests above our western Pennsylvania values.”
The Skopov campaign shared screenshots of the survey with Pittsburgh City Paper, but hasn’t been able yet to determine their origin.
Skopov did work in the TV and film industry, including working on the show Xena Warrior Princess, and does have some celebrity friends like Pittsburgh-area native Zachary Quinto, but she says she hasn’t spent the majority of her life in LA. She grew up in New York and says she lived in a “blue-collar household” and went to public school.
“That lie does not give me credit for that, and doesn't mention that I am raising a family that has only known Pittsburgh as their home,” she says.