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These Pennsylvania election skeptics just won the primary and stand poised to affect voting in their counties

 Voting signs in Philadelphia in 2021. In odd-year elections like these, many local candidates cross-file.
Tyger Williams
Philadelphia Inquirer
Voting signs in Philadelphia in 2021. In odd-year elections like these, many local candidates cross-file.

The majority of people running for county commissioner in Pennsylvania who had said the 2020 election was rigged or illegitimate lost their primary race Tuesday.

Spotlight PA had identified 26 election doubters running for that office. Only eight earned enough votes to advance to the general election in November, according to unofficial results posted by each county.

County commissioners determine voting precincts, budgets, and election directors – and have the power to shape voting rules within the county. This impacts ballot accessibility, election security, and public trust in elections.

The candidates on Spotlight’s list expressed explicitly that the 2020 election was illegitimate, fraudulent, or involved a conspiracy to manipulate outcomes.

All the people on that list, compiled by Spotlight PA, were Republicans.


Among the election doubters who advanced, five were incumbents.

Joe Gale, a two-term Montgomery County commissioner, was the only incumbent to lose – after failing to receive an endorsement from the Montgomery County GOP.

Gale is best known for his strong support of Donald Trump and frequent clashes with his fellow commissioners, most notably during the pandemic. He once claimed to prioritize “personal liberty in the face of COVID-19 totalitarian overreach.”

Gale was defeated by two Republican newcomers, including Thomas Dibello, who has expressed doubts about the legitimacy of the 2020 election. Dibello was endorsed by the Montgomery County Republican Committee earlier this year.

If elected, he said he would eliminate drop boxes, which he claims “have only resulted in alleged dishonest practices.” There is no evidence to support his claim that drop boxes compromised election security in 2020.

Larry Padora, a Tamaqua businessman and lifelong conservative Republican, emerged as a winner in Schuylkill County. He previously served as the president of the borough council in New Ringgold.

Harry Haas, a former Luzerne County Council member, won his primary election. He supported efforts to investigate Dominion Voting Systems in 2020 despite no proof of any wrongdoing by the company.

He also tweeted that Gov. Tom Wolf “decertified voting machines in 2019 to coerce the purchase [of] $4M new ones” and committed “election violations” by approving Pennsylvania’s 2020 election results – despite no proof to support his claims.


Four of the eight victorious candidates won first place in their respective primaries.

Todd Graybill, a Republican county commissioner from Juniata County, was first elected in 2015. He has shared social media posts questioning election security in Pennsylvania, including one claiming to have found “illegal ballots” that affected Arizona’s 2020 election results.

“We’ve known this all along. It’s in many other states as well like Ga.[,] Pa. etc…” he wrote on Facebook in 2021.

He also shared an article that falsely claims thousands of invalid ballots “could have changed” 2020 election results.

“And did,” Graybill wrote.

Nick Sherman, seeking his second term as Washington County Commissioner, won his race by over 10 points, positioning him as a strong candidate for the November elections. Sherman played a key role in overseeing the county’s local elections in 2020, which he claims were free of widespread corruption – unlike the rest of the state.

“Had other counties operated like Washington County,” he told the Washington Post about the 2020 election. “Donald Trump would have retained the presidency.”

He wrote in an op-ed last year that he opted not to install ballot drop boxes in Washington County in 2020 “because of the lack of security and the high probability of voter fraud.” He cited election conspiracy theories about “ballot stuffing” from the widely debunked film, “2000 Mules.”

“Eliminating drop boxes will allow for a more secure election and add integrity to the process,” he wrote.

None of the election offices in states that allowed the use of drop boxes in 2020 reported any instances in which the boxes were connected to voter fraud or stolen ballots. Likewise, none reported incidents in which the boxes or ballots were damaged to the extent that election results would have been affected.