Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Policy disagreement? Or old-fashioned bar fight?

Policy disagreement? Or just an old-fashioned bar fight?

Policy disagreement? Or old-fashioned bar fight?

Pa. State Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton/Lehigh.
Pa. State Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton/Lehigh.

Policy disagreement? Or just an old-fashioned bar fight?

Sen. Lisa Boscola (D., Lehigh) was asked to leave a Harrisburg bar late Tuesday night after a heated conversation she had with one of her colleagues from the opposite side of the aisle, Republican House Speaker Sam Smith, as well as a separate run-in with a woman who was at the bar with a lobbyist.

The woman took to Facebook afterwards, claiming in a post that Boscola hit her.

In an interview Wednesday, Boscola acknowledged she was asked to leave the bar, but said she did not strike anyone.

“When you hit somebody there is a physical act of `stay away from me,’” she said of the woman. “Unless she was in my face. I do not know what her motivation is. I need to figure that out. Because in this business, it could be misinterpreted. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt as well. No one wants to hurt anyone in this business. Especially a woman. You know what I’m saying.”

Boscola did say that she and Smith had a “very, very heated” conversation that began with discussion about a bill that would ban legislators from accepting cash gifts, and then moved to other policy issues.

“I am a fiery person,” said Boscola, “that is just how I am. And words went back and forth. It got very heated and sometimes people who are around you get protective of you.”

She added: “When you are in my face on an issue, I am going to stick up for myself. Especially as a woman. Some of those leaders talk to you in ways that are sometimes condescending. You have to fight back with words.”

Boscola, who has acknowledged a past addiction to alcohol, would not say whether she had been drinking that night.

Smith, in a statement, said only that he hopes Boscola "gets whatever help she needs for her problems."

He called her version of events Tuesday night "a clear indication of her own denial of the situation and I feel sorry for her."

For her part, Boscola did say the bar on Second Street is not a place she normally goes to socialize – it is considered more of a hangout for Republicans – and that she was, in some ways, “in the lion’s den.”

That, she said, is possibly why she was asked to leave. She believes others should have been asked to go as well.

One thing she will try to do: talk to the woman who made the Facebook posting, which has since been taken down.

“Two women, let’s just talk,” she said. “There is no way I would intentionally try to hurt anybody.”

--Angela Couloumbis


**Updated Thursday at 10:57 a.m. to reflect a statement from House Speaker Sam Smith (R, Jefferson).

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About this blog

Commonwealth Confidential gives you regularly updated coverage of the state legislature, the governor and the workings of the state bureaucracy. It is written by Angela Couloumbis in the Inquirer's Harrisburg bureau, based in the statehouse, and by the newspaper's far-flung campaign reporters.

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