POLS ON THE STREET: Goofy, Donald Duck Are Kicked out

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STATE REPS. Maria Donatucci, L, and Joanna McClinton were among dozens of Phiadelphia governmental leaders who addressed participants in the Women’s March from the steps of the Art Museum.

Monday, the earth moved underneath every Pennsylvania congressman as well as all who would unseat them.

On that day, the State Supreme Court ruled that Pennsylvania’s congressional redistricting plan, which was passed in 2011 when Republicans controlled the General Assembly and the Governor’s Mansion, violates the State Constitution. That document contains specific language requiring that districts be as contiguous as possible and strive to avoid splitting local governmental boundaries.

It’s a commandment that all General Assemblies have winked at when drawing new district lines. Their effective mission has always been to preserve incumbents and favor parties in power.

In this case, though, the 2011 Republicans created districts spectacular in their disregard for geography. The most famous may be Congressman Pat Meehan’s (R-Delaware) 7th District, whose bizarre shape has been dubbed “Goofy Kicking Donald Duck.” But the two cartoon characters are not alone on the Keystone State political map.

What politics made, politics can unmake. The SC now has an elected Democratic majority of 5-2. That majority made the decision to read the law as it stands.

The Pennsylvania Republican Party will fight back. PAGOP released a statement criticizing the decision as “a partisan attempt to overturn the will of the legislature” and vowed “to support efforts to secure a stay from the United States Supreme Court, similar to the recent stay granted in North Carolina.”

But North Carolina is a shaky reed for PAGOP to stand on. That action was a federal case based on the U.S. Constitution. This is a matter entirely governed by state law. The Pennsylvania SC has said it can draw a new map in time for the May primary and the Department of State has said it can carry it out. PAGOP would have to show the Pennsylvania Constitution violates the U.S. Constitution. That’s a tough fourth and long.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez sneered back at PAGOP, “In Pennsylvania and across the country, Republicans have gerrymandered congressional maps to rig elections in their favor.” He called the Pennsylvania SC decision “a victory for democracy and another blow to the Republican Party’s nationwide effort to game the system.”

Where Am I Running? Pols Must Now Ask

All across Pennsylvania, then, incumbents and challengers are stymied in their campaign planning, which they should be polishing in late January. While they still want to run, they cannot, at this time, know where to run.

AT THE Martin Luther King Awards luncheon at the Sheraton City Centre Hotel were, L-R, Lewis C. Nash, Sr.; Leona G. Dixon; Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai, who is running for governor; and Ward Leader Calvin R. Tucker.

Congressman Bob Brady (D-Phila.) is the longest-serving congressman in Southeastern Pennsylvania, having passed through two redistrictings. He’s on hold, he says; and so is everyone else, regardless of what they say.

“Nobody knows what district they’re going to be in,” he pointed out. “You can’t set up canvassing operations, media plans, local liaisons until you know where you’re running.”

An influential map presented by Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, based on mathematical professionals, offers one easy path forward for the SC on a fast track. It would certainly improve Democrats’ chances overall, but it could easily create problems for Democratic as well as Republicans, incumbents as well as challengers, in certain districts. So no contestant sleeps easily tonight.

Congressional candidates enjoy one advantage denied to their State legislative colleagues, however. They don’t have to live in their districts whereas State-office candidates must. Brady, if he chooses, can run for a seat in Pittsburgh without having to move from Philadelphia.

In practice, it doesn’t work well that way. It is best to campaign from close to home.

Goofy, Mickey’s Loss May Be Dan’s Gain

In the case of Philadelphia Ward Leader Dan Muroff, however, district-line chaos may his best friend. His 9th Ward, Chestnut Hill, lies just outside the current 7th Congressional District. But incumbent Meehan’s true base is in Delaware County – where, as it happens, Muroff also has roots. If Meehan is stripped of his fanciful GOP allies in rural Dutch Country, where he is not really better known than Muroff, and winds up in a genuine suburban district that he has not been working of late, Muroff could outpoint him. Delaware County proper has been sliding away from the GOP and 2018 does not look to be a good year for them.

Muroff has picked up the endorsement of Plumbers Union 690. Business Manager John Kane said, “The men and women of Local 690 are proud to put our strong support behind a Delaware county native and a strong supporter of organized labor. Dan’s record of service speaks for itself. He has a deep understanding of the important role unions have played in making our nation strong and he is dedicated to protecting the right to organize when many in DC want to strip that right away.”

“In addition, Dan is a fighter – he has the experience and the dedication to take on Pat Meehan, who, while in D.C., has simply followed the direction of Paul Ryan and now Donald Trump, both of whom would rather unions not exist. Local 690 will do all it can to ensure Dan Muroff is the Democratic nominee to take on and defeat Pat Meehan.”

This week, Muroff won a deeper opening against Meehan, who paid off a young female staffer with taxpayer funds after she resisted his sexual advances. That Meehan has a law-enforcement background.

Muroff beat others to the punch when he said, “What the hell, Pat Meehan?” and called for him to resign from the House Ethics Committee, which hears such complaints, immediately. Shortly thereafter, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that Meehan was off the committee.

Year of the Woman? Nina Hopes so

Going after Congressman Brady’s 1st District seat, wherever that may turn out to be, is former Deputy Mayor Nina Ahmad, a Northwest Philadelphia resident who has a strong base in both Asian and women’s activism. Ahmad cheered the State SC redistricting decision and accused Brady of being involved in the 2011 plan that has just been overturned.

Pennsylvania currently has zero female representation in Congress – out of 20 members. Ahmad, a former chair of Philly NOW, believes that her unique background and skills make her uniquely qualified to break that glass ceiling.

“On the day of the Women’s March, we learned that Congressman Pat Meehan has used taxpayer money to settle a sexual-harassment claim. “This is why I marched and why I’m running,” Ahmad said when she formally kicked off her campaign. It should be noted, however, that, unlike Muroff, she is not running to unseat Meehan.

Breaking News in State Rep Races

The 197th Legislative District in the Feltonville area of North Philadelphia will see a challenger to incumbent State Rep. Emilio Vázquez. That’s Edward Lloyd, who has run for office since 2010.

WHEN the House of Representatives resumes session, State Rep. Curtis Thomas, Jr., R, announced at Mt. Olive Holy Temple in North Central, he will introduce legislation calling for a hike in the state minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $15/hour. It hasn’t been raised for 29 years. His bill will seek an end to sub-minimum tip-based jobs, include a cost-of-living adjustment and allow municipalities to set their own minimum wages higher than the state standard. He was joined by John Meyerson, convener of Raise the Minimum Wage PA.

Lloyd is a retired public-safety expert. He has been a committeeman for 30 years and has served on Democratic State Committee for 12 years. He used to be chairman of the Democratic 42nd Ward Committee but is concerned about the leadership of that committee in recent years.

Lloyd argues he actually beat Leslie Acosta in 2014 when she won that state rep seat, but was stripped of victory by a court ruling.

Lloyd is partner with Orlando Acosta (no relation to Leslie) in a federal lawsuit charging that Vázquez’ victory in a 2017 special election was rife with fraud. Lloyd’s lawsuit has been consolidated with a similar suit brought by Cheri Honkala and Lucinda Little, the Green and Republican candidates in that unusual race.

“It’s been my dream since I was little, to be a state representative,” Lloyd said. “I want to serve the people in my district, who have not been well treated by their elected officials.”

Lloyd plans a concurrent run for Congress in the 1st District. His aim there is to draw votes away from the incumbent. He claims a team of door-to-door volunteers.

VOLUNTEERS swarmed the street outside the new office at Broad & Girard of 181st Legislative Dist. candidate Malcolm Kenyatta. Kenyatta is the grandson of Muhammad Kenyatta, who ran for mayor in 1975. He was elected junior block captain at the age of 11 and as a delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. He is active in the Liberty City Democratic Club, Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse, the Philadelphia Chapter of National Organization for Women’s Education Fund and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and Equality PA.

In the busy Democratic primary contest for the 177th District, the seat now held by retiring State Rep. John Taylor (R-Northeast), former Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, who represented Northeast Philadelphia and eastern Montgomery County for a decade as the member of Congress from Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District, announced her endorsement of Maggie Borski.

Schwartz stated, “A native of Northeast Philadelphia, Maggie is a young woman who has answered the call to run for office in a state where women are woefully underrepresented in elected office. Maggie’s intelligence, passion, and commitment to public service will be a great addition to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.”

In South Philadelphia’s 184th District, currently held by State Rep. William Keller, challengers Elizabeth Fiedler and Tom Wyatt both launched door-to-door campaigns this week.

In North Philadelphia’s 181st District, which State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas, Jr. has long served, Malcolm Kenyatta was endorsed yesterday at his office at Broad Street & Girard Avenue by Asa Khalif, Philadelphia leader of Black Lives Matter; by Joe Khan, who ran last year for district attorney; and by anti-gun activists Pastor Clarence Wright and Jamira Burley.

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