POLS ON THE STREET: More Candidates, Fewer Views on May 15

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HUNDREDS gathered outside City Hall last week to hear Bernie Sanders endorse lieutenant governor candidate John Fetterman.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s upending of congressional districts has sparked a volcanic explosion of congressional contestants in both major parties’ primaries.

Associated Press reports more candidates – 84 in all – are questing for primary nominations for the state’s congressional districts than at any time since 1984. But back then, the State had 23 congressional seats to go after; today it has only 18. There is traffic congestion in the congressional lane for sure this spring. It is an exciting time to be alive and in politics in the Keystone State.

But the competition is largely personal and rarely policy-based. Increasingly, the platforms of Republicans and Democrats fall in lockstep with their party teams. Intraparty debate on matters of substance scarcely happens anymore. All Democrats echo that Trump is bad and guns must be controlled; all Republicans bleat that Trump is good and taxes must be controlled.

ONE SPECTATOR sported Bernie Sanders socks. Photo by Bill Myers

Intraparty debate on issues is a thing of the past. Primary candidates now compete on personal style and tribal allegiance.

Both parties have lost something, and America has lost something, in this devolution.

Bipartisan GOP’ers Are Most at Risk in Congress

If the forecast “Blue Wave” of Democratic votes sweeps away Republican congressmen in Southeastern Pennsylvania – a likelihood after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s revision of congressional boundaries as of the 2018 general election – then an ironic loss will be of moderate Republicans in Congress.

NEWLY released from prison, performer Meek Mill humbly thanked the array of public officials who joined him at the Constitution Center in a broad-based appeal for parole reforms. Among leaders at the event were, L-R, State Rep. Joanna McClinton, State Sen. Larry Farnese, Congressman Dwight Evans and Gov. Tom Wolf.

Delaware Valley congressmen tend to rate high in bipartisanship, according to the Lugar Center at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.

Eight congressmen from this region, al Republicans, ranked among the top 10% of Republicans in bipartisanship. Scoring high were Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks), Ryan Costello (R-Chester), Pat Meehan (R-Delaware), Charlie Dent (R-Lehigh), Chris Smith (R-Monmouth), Frank LoBiondo (R-Cumberland) and Tom MacArthur (R-Burlington). The least-bipartisan of the lot, MacArthur, scored 31 out of 435.

By contrast, the most-bipartisan Democratic congressman in our area, Brendan Boyle, scored only 98.

If, as many observers predict, America will be in trouble should the outcome of this year’s national election yields a Congress even more partisan and even less focused on the national consensus and the national good. We all need patriots who can talk across party lines.

A FUNDRAISER at Haute in Center City attracted supporters to Congressman Dwight Evans for his re-election bid. Among them were, L-R, State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, Ward Leader Bernadette Wyche, Evans, State Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald and State Sen. Art Haywood. Photos by Wendell Douglas

Ellsworth on the Rise?

There has been a lot of buzz of late about the least-funded candidate in the three-way Republican gubernatorial primary, Pittsburgh attorney Laura Ellsworth.

For months, health-care maven Paul Mango and waste-removal magnate State Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) have been duking it out expensively in primary competition – both are self-funded business millionaires. They have pumped millions into negative ads attacking their male rival, while ignoring Ellsworth.

Ellsworth laid back and coalesced $500,000 for a last-week TV ad campaign, which was all sweetness and light, positive in its thrust. Have Wagner and Mango succeeded in tarnishing each other through their negative advertising? Are Republican women in particular leery of blustering Republican men in 2018?

STATE REP. hopeful Nick DiDonato, Jr. and congressional candidate Larry Arata traded endorsements in South Philadelphia. L-R were Joe Pepe, DiDonato, Arata and Eric Keller. Photo by Wendell Douglas

There are murky signs Ellsworth may be moving up from a third-place position in the polls. She clinched the endorsements of major dailies in Harrisburg and Philadelphia. And one-third of Republican voters are still undecided in this race.

There are no policy differences in thjs race, as noted above. It’s a popularity contest, pure and simple. We suspect most Republican primary voters will pull a lever based on who worries them least.

The winner of the Republican primary must go up against incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. Although he faces no primary opposition, he too has begun to run TV commercials. Sitting as he is atop a vast pile of cash, he can afford to keep doing so from now till November. And his spots are relentlessly nice, positive and record-based starting with job-creation initiatives – a style Ellsworth has emulated in her primary campaign.

In 2016, it took nastiness to win. But political styles fluctuate wildly from cycle to cycle. Betting on nastiness in 2018 may not be the best way to catch the voter’s heart in 2018.

Wolf’s 7th Dist. Move Incites GOP Protest

J.R. ROWAN, C, candidate for state legislator in the 177th District, joins Councilman Mark Squilla, consultant Joe Russo and 39th Ward committeemen in a major push to get out the word to vote “J.R.” Photo by Joe Stivala

Congressman Pat Meehan (R-Delaware) having stepped down, his 7th District seat lies vacant. Gov. Tom Wolf has the power to call a special election to fill that seat, and he has done so – on Nov. 6, the same date as the election of a full term for a new member of Congress to serve a brand-new district, starting Jan. 1, 2019.

So this will be a special election to fill a seat that will disappear in two months.

The Republican Party of Pennsylvania’s Chairman Val DiGiorgio cried foul over this schedule, describing Wolf as “having seen fit to sow the seeds of voter confusion” by this move. PAGOP is right; it is hard to imagine one voter out of 20 will understand why they are voting for two different congressional candidates on the same day.

Wolf calculates this confusion will help Democrats more than Republicans. And he’s right. With Rs already on the defensive in Southeastern Pennsylvania suburbs, they cannot afford to invest in a 60-day national office in a district spread over five counties. Ds, on the offensive, can target a shared message across the old 7th, which includes several new congressional districts they hope to make gains in.

Wooing Amazon Favors Lifestyle over Money

A cry has gone up over “transparency” with regards to the tax and other incentives being offered by Philadelphia, as well as rival cities, in its bid to capture the second hub of Amazon. Philadelphia is a finalist, as is its sister city Pittsburgh.

Every city attempts to lure major investment with tempting tax breaks and other publicly funded amenities. And every public watchdog tries to find fault with these lollipops.

If reporting is to be believed, both parties are wasting their breath. After an Amazon team scouted Pittsburgh last week, local sources said the internet giant’s front people showed no interest in public financial bait.

Instead, they asked about lifestyle amenities. How many were Pittsburgh’s engineering graduates? How long is the commute? What is the salary range? What are the restaurants and coffee shops like? And how are the bike lines coming along?

The message is we can’t buy investment from Amazon by offering givebacks to its corporate bottom line; we must concentrate simply on being a city that pleases people that Amazon wants to work for it.

Tribune Backs Evans for Re-election

NEVER SHY about switching party labels in his storied career, Milton Street, has become a Republican once again, running in the 181st District in North Central. Ward Leader Mike Cibik hosted a fundraiser for Street at Cibik’s Society Hill home. Photo by Wendell Douglas

The Philadelphia Tribune endorsed Congressman Dwight Evans’ re-election to Congress, calling him “the most-effective elected official in the city and state” after his years of dedication and public service to Philadelphia.

Here’s what the Tribune said:

“Dwight Evans is one of the most effective elected officials in the city and state.

“He is both a practical visionary and a doer. He has a proven track record of turning around the West Oak Lane community where he served as longtime state representative prior to being elected congressman. He has successfully worked toward fighting food insecurity and growing businesses as a member of the Committee on Agricultural, and the Small Business Committee in the House of Representatives.

“Evans has fought to get a policy he started in Harrisburg, which sets aside grant money to fund the opening of supermarkets in neighborhoods where there are limited options, to the federal level. The initiative has led to supermarkets opening in the city.

“Since our district recently changed from District 2 to District 3, a lot of Philadelphians aren’t aware that they have a fantastic representative fighting for them in Congress – and it will only help Congressman Evans and this campaign if more folks hear about it.”

Philly for Change Calls Its Picks

The Progressive Group Philly for Change has named its endorsements in the primary.

For Philadelphia State House races, PfC wants Joe Hohenstein in the 177th, Malcolm Kenyatta in the 181st, Elizabeth Fiedler in the 184th and State Rep. Chris Rabb in the 200th.

John Fetterman is its choice for lieutenant governor.

PfC went with incumbent Congressmen Brendan Boyle in the 2nd District and Dwight Evans in the 3rd District.

STATE REP candidate Melissa Scott was endorsed by the National Organization for women at the lovely former home of C. Delores Tucker in W. Mt. Airy. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Scott Scores NOW Embrace

Melissa Scott, candidate in Northwest Philadelphia’s 200th Legislative District, was endorsed by Philadelphia NOW and the Black Women Leaders of Color. The presser took place at the homestead of legendary political firebrand C. Delores Tucker on Lincoln Drive.

Scott discussed the income-inequality gender gap for both African American women and all women as a whole.

Fiedler Racks up Two New Endorsements

Candidate in the 184th Legislative District Elizabeth Fiedler grabbed the endorsements of two progressive bodies from different generations: Americans for Democratic Action and Keystone Progress.

THE RACQUET CLUB of Philadelphia was the site of Councilman David Oh’s Spring Fundraiser. The beautiful venue was well attended by a diverse group of supporters that is typical of Oh’s events. L-R were Phil Bonner, former House Speaker John Perzel, Wilfredo Rojas and Oh.

Fiedler says she earned these endorsements because of her support for workers’ rights, reproductive rights, criminal-justice reform, environmental justice and public education.

“South Philly has an opportunity to send a smart, independent, and unflinchingly progressive woman to the General Assembly. Elizabeth has made a compelling case that she possesses both the progressive vision of how Harrisburg can and must do better, and the ability to articulate that vision to leaders from across the commonwealth. This is not the year to look back or settle for the status quo; it’s a time to move forward and work together, and Elizabeth Fiedler is the leader to get us there in the 184th District,” said Sam D’Urso of Philly for Change.

Dan Doubet, executive director of Keystone Progress, said, “Elizabeth Fiedler will not only be a singularly powerful legislator, she is the embodiment of a movement to transform Pennsylvania to a state that works for everyone.” Doubet added. “For us, it’s about outcomes in people’s lives, not just what happens on election day.”

Borski Wins Torsella’s Nod

Maggie Borski was endorsed by Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella in her campaign for State Representative in the 177th District. Torsella has served as treasurer since 2017, and has previously served as U.S. Representative to the United Nations for Management and Reform, Chairman of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, and President of the National Constitution Center.

THE ELITES of the 35th & 55th Ward Dems held a joint ward party at the Harmonia Club in Bridesburg, which had a great turnout enjoyed by many. The joint ward party brought out the likes of host Ward Leaders Robert Dellavella, Bill Dolbow, State Rep. Jason Dawkins, City Commission Chair Lisa Deeley and Congressmen Brendan Boyle, among others. Photo by Harry Leech

“Maggie is the kind of leader we need in Harrisburg. It’s time that we start electing more young, dynamic, qualified leaders like Maggie who can put an end to the corruption and special interests that have been plaguing our state,” Torsella said.

“I am proud to have Treasurer Torsella’s support because he is a proven leader who fights for working families, accountability, and transparency in government. These are values I will fight for wholeheartedly, and I look forward to working with the Treasurer to bring about real change in Harrisburg,” Borski said.

Note to Pols: Live Where You Run

Last week, we reported that 181st Legislative District aspirant Kenneth Walker was removed from the ballot due to petition irregularities.

In fact, he was removed from the ballot because a judge determined Walker does not live in the district.

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