POLS ON THE STREET: In Governor’s Race, Bucks Tell the Story

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REPUBLICAN gubernatorial hopeful Scott Wagner, 4th from L, came to his South Street office for an informal meet-and-greet with voters. He was joined by a bevy of supporters, including congressional candidate Brian Leib, 3rd from R, and Tracey Fisher, R, a leader in ex-offender services. Outside, though, Laborers’ Local 332 members defiantly hoisted Tom Wolf signs. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Money doesn’t always win political races. But it is a useful prognosticator of their outcome.
That’s because money follows other numbers – money is a number itself and is spent by people who know numbers. So political spending tends to measure where the big spenders think they will get the most bang for their buck.

In Pennsylvania in 2018, the big spenders are spending on statewide Democrats.

Take incumbent Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf. He has all but doubled his Republican challenger Scott Wagner’s fundraising – $15 million to $8.5 million. This money will buy saturation ads of Wolf embracing small businesses, grandchildren and puppies. How can Wagner compete for the casual voter’s eye? All the spiked boots in the world won’t save him from the fact that repetition pays off in advertising, and Wolf can repeat more than he can.

RESPONDING to constituents’ complaints about nuisance stop-&-gos in his communities, State Sen. Anthony Williams arranged a tour of half a dozen establishments in West Philadelphia’s Cobbs Creek. In this stop-&-go, Williams spoke of his concerns with Ward Leader Greg Spearman, L, and Tim Holden and Charlie Mooney of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Photo by Wendell Douglas

It is informative to see who is chipping in big bucks to the Wolf campaign as of Sept. 17.

Pitching in $200,000 or more to Wolf, via various channels, are AFSCME ($750,000), American Federation of Teachers ($500,000), COPE ($250,000), Carpenters Legislative Program of Greater Pennsylvania ($250,000), Committee for a Better Tomorrow ($700,000, Democratic Governors’ Association ($250,000), Fairness PA ($600,000), IBEW ($744,500), 76ers owner Michael Rubin ($250,000), Mid-Atlantic Laborers’ Political League ($500,00), National Democratic Redistricting PAC ($250,000), Pennsylvania SEIU COPE ($750,000), PSEA-PACE ($1,100,000), Steamfitters ($200,000) and United Steelworkers ($200,000).

Aside from himself (Wagner has lavishly underwritten all his political campaigns from his personal fortune), Wagner has received only two clusters of donations of $200,000 or more. John Arnold, CEO of PPC Lubricants, gave the Wagner campaign $550,000 and the RGA Pennsylvania 2018 PAC gave $250,000.

There has been some sniping at the increasingly harsh tones of Wagner’s campaign messaging. But When a candidate lacks the funding to match his opponent, fire and brimstone may be the only way to break through.

Casey Keeps Pace in Fundraising

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s (D-Pa.) campaign announced it raised $2.2 million in the third quarter of 2018 and has $6.7 million cash on hand. Casey has raised more than $21 million during the 2018 cycle from 94,000 donors; 89% of all contributions have been from grassroots donors giving $100 or less.

ALMOST 20 years in the making, Lucien Blackwell Community Center finally opened at 47th & Aspen Streets. State, City and local dignitaries were on hand for the ribbon-cutting and grand opening. Congressman Blackwell’s widow, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, C, was overwhelmed and literally brought to tears. Photo by Leona Dixon

“As we enter the final weeks of this election, Sen. Casey remains in a dominant position, thanks to the overwhelming grassroots support from Pennsylvanians in all 67 counties,” said Campaign Manager M.E. Smith. “Sen. Casey shattered his previous fundraising record and raised more than $21 million this cycle thanks to historic grassroots enthusiasm. The campaign will have the resources necessary to get Senator Casey’s message out and highlight what is at stake for Pennsylvania voters in the closing weeks of this election.”

Casey’s outspent opponent, Congressman Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne) slammed Casey for bad taste in advertising.

Casey pulled a television ad that charged Barletta will take health care away from his own 18-month-old grandson with cancer, from the Scranton market. But he kept running it across the rest of the state.

STATE REP. Mike O’Brien died suddenly this week, concluding a long career of public service. He was passionate about introducing his constituent schoolchildren to the House of Representatives, educating them about its civic function.

David Jackson, a Barletta campaign spokesman, said, “If Sen. Casey thinks his disgusting attack ad against Congressman Barletta and the Barletta family is too insensitive to run in Casey’s hometown, why is he continuing to run it across the state? Sen. Casey has proven he will stoop to the lowest of lows for political gain and will keep digging. He should take his ad down statewide immediately.”

State Rep. O’Brien Dies, Leaving a Hole in Many Hearts

State Rep. Mike O’Brien (D-Kensington) died of a heart attack Monday in his lifelong Fishtown home.

He was 64 and had been suffering from diabetes and a foot infection. He declined to run for re-election, passing on the torch to his Chief of Staff Mary Isaacson. “He was the best mentor I could ever have,” she said.

PHILADELPHIA’S vibrant community of Italian amateur winemakers met in Girard Park to show off and share their creations – and trigger a community party – last weekend. L-R were singer Michael Jones; Dr. Gerard Vernose, a key organizer of Vendemmia; Councilman Kenyatta Johnson; and State Rep. Maria Donatucci.

It was a natural move for him, since he had inherited his seat from State Rep. Marie Lederer, whom he had served as chief of staff for many terms. O’Brien was intimate with his River Wards homeland and proud of his ability to serve its people.

O’Brien, a six-term incumbent, was the Democratic Party’s Urban Affairs Committee chairman in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Gov. Wolf ordered flags to fly at half-staff in memory of O’Brien. “Mike cared deeply for his community and demonstrated his commitment each day he went to work,” he commented.

After graduating from Northeast Catholic High School, O’Brien started out as a butcher. His wife Rita is a schoolteacher. When in office, he was a stalwart advocate for educational funding and management. He maintained the Philadelphia School Board should be elected, not appointed.

PHILADELPHIA NAACP celebrated its annual awards night at the Museum of American Jewish History. Councilwoman Cindy Bass, an awardee, and her daughter Carson linked up with Sheriff Jewell Williams at the NAACP affair.

Jerry Jordan, leader of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, stated he was “heartbroken by the sudden passing of O’Brien. On behalf of our union, I want to extend condolences to his wife and his entire family, friends and community.

“O’Brien was a staunch supporter of Pennsylvania’s educators. He was a state representative who, often against long odds, consistently fought for legislation that benefited working families and schoolchildren. A fine legislator and an even-better human being. He will be sorely missed by the PFT and all the educators, children, and constituents he worked so hard to represent.”

Council President Darrell Clarke, who shared constituents with O’Brien, recalled, “Mike and I go back to the days when we were staffers, navigating bureaucracies and doing our best to help people in need. That experience makes some future politicians cynical – but not Mike. Mike never lost his impatience for progress and change, and in recent years, I have appreciated watching him fight with passion for Philadelphians on the Pennsylvania House floor.

An intimate gathering in Democratic City Committee was held to mark the birthdays of Lonnie Richardson and Charles Bernard, seated C. DCC senior patriarch Bernard has worked there for decades, retaining a history of the local Democratic Party. Richardson has directed its communications for two decades. They are joined by well-wishers Ward Leader Ann Brown, L, and Mary Frances Fogg. Standing are Anthony Amen, L, with Vincent Primavera of Laborers’ District Council. Photo by Joe Stivala

Councilwoman Cindy Bass (8th Dist.) added, “Mike cared about the forgotten. He fought for consumer protections, workers’ rights and environmental health.”

“He was a proud progressive Democrat who was not afraid to fight against the Republican majority,” said Congressman Kevin Boyle (D-Phila.).

O’Brien commanded respect across the aisle in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where he had worked diligently on legislative nuts and bolts for decades.

Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) hailed him as “a strong voice for the citizens of Philadelphia during his 12 years in the House and a man of common sense and integrity. Despite facing health issues, Rep. O’Brien never stopped working hard for his constituents and the people of Pennsylvania.”

Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills remembered him thus: “The people of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania have lost a great champion in Rep. Mike O’Brien today. He was a dear friend and neighbor to all who knew him in his district. He was a leader in ensuring that children have a good, quality education so they can succeed, regardless of their Zip Code. His voice will be missed in Harrisburg, and on behalf of the entire Pennsylvania Democratic Party, we send his family our prayers.”

O’Brien is survived by his wife; a daughter, Bridget, a doctoral candidate at Notre Dame; and by a son, Michael, a marine scientist.

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