Lehigh Valley

Party leader: Brennan case is a 'terrible tragedy'

Party leader: Brennan case is 'terrible tragedy'

Lehigh Valley Democrats are doing damage control after one of their own was arrested this week, accused of drunk driving and beating his wife.

The party is now looking at back-up plans for this fall's elections.

Democrats were stunned to hear of state Rep. Joe Brennan's arrest on Wednesday.

"It's a terrible tragedy," said Lehigh County party chairman Rick Daugherty, who is also running for Congress this fall.

Fountain Hill Police accuse Brennan of assaulting his wife before driving away drunk with a .20 blood alcohol level.

In a request for a protective order, Brennan's wife claimed, "[He] choked me with both hands around my neck, punched me in the lips, [and] pushed/wrestled me to the floor of the porch."

It was Brennan's second DUI this year. A judge has now barred the lawmaker from contact with his wife and kids.

"It's a difficult situation, given the charges that have been made, for him to go forth and run a campaign this fall," said Muhlenberg College political analyst Chris Borick.

For Democrats, the timing couldn't be worse. Brennan is up for re-election in three months, and last week was the deadline to remove his name from the ballot.

"It will make it a lot harder," Daugherty said.

If Brennan drops out or quits the legislature altogether, Democrats will still have to convince people to vote for him.

If he wins the election, the party could then field another candidate in a special election -- but only if Brennan agreed to step down from office.

"We would look to position ourselves to have an excellent candidate for a special election," Daugherty said.

Borick said lawmakers could also strip Brennan of committee assignments, or even remove him from office, if he's convicted.

"That's rare," he said, "and that's usually taken care of in some way before it ever gets to the point where the legislature itself, as a body, has to deal with a member."

Brennan's opponent, Republican David Molony, has not commented on the situation.

If there was a special election, Daugherty said at least three people have already expressed interest in running.

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