Examining 'The Daryl'

A headline in the Allentown Morning Call over a profile of the state Legislature's most outspoken conservative asks, "Daryl Metcalfe: Bluntly honest boat-rocker or power-hungry zealot?"

It's an interesting question introducing an equally-interesting subject.

(You can read the profile by going to mcall.com. It's under "news" and "Pennsylvania.")

But the answer might not be either-or. The answer might be both.

There are, to be sure, lots of conservative lawmakers in Harrisburg. None is as unabashed as "The Daryl."

Take his description and his quote at the very top of the piece.

"For 15 years as a Pennsylvania lawmaker, state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe has lived and governed by four strict dictates:

"Be good to my God. Be good to my family. Be good to my Constitution. To hell with anyone who does not adhere to those beliefs or the teachings of his Reformed Baptist faith."

It then quotes Metcalfe, a Western PA (Butler County) Republcan: "What I read in Scriptures drives me in life."

Metcalfe, in case you've missed his oft-stated positions, sees SEPTA as "welfare," immigration as "the alien invasion," enforcement of any federal gun laws as criminal behavior, all taxes as evil and gays as affronts to God.

"My being in office is not as much a job as it is a mission," he told the newspaper.

Now the interesting thing is this. Metcalfe for a long time was viewed as an anomaly, just one fringe player at the far edge of a broad spectrum of ideologies.

Lately, however, his influence has ticked up. As chairman of the House State Government Committee, he's positioned to block legislation he personally opposes. And he's getting noticed for trying to stop efforts to address the state's infrastructure problems and Medicaid expansion.

He said of Gov. Corbett -- who supports the former and is looking for ways to implement the latter -- "If I had been his lieutenant governor, he'd be facing me in a primary."

A mark of Metcalfe's growing impact is an anonymous website, therealdarylmetcalfe.com, that calls him a big spender and a zealot and that could come from opponents on either the right or the left.

It's created political buzz.

It attacks him for his use of per diems, daily expenses lawmakers can claim, and for his stated views on gays, immigrants and guns.

Metcalfe, on his own website, called the attacks "libelous."

It is unclear whether Metcalfe has ambitions beyond his House seat. But what's becoming clear is he's drawing increased attention. That alone could help answer the question of whether he's a boat-rocker, a zealot or both.