POLS ON THE STREET: For Wolf, Casey, It Was All About Moneyball

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SURPRISE! Greeting voters at the 52nd Street station on the Market-Frankford El at 8:15 Tuesday morning was Gov. Tom Wolf, hoping to pull out a strong turnout in West Philadelphia. Voter Amy Bucknor, L, was thrilled to take a selfie with the governor. L-R were also Congressmen Bob Brady and Dwight Evans, Wolf, State Rep. Morgan Cephas, Councilman Curtis Jones and State Sen. Anthony Williams. Photo by Wendell Douglas


But First, Who Won?

It was a good night for Pennsylvania Democrats.

In Pennsylvania and across the nation, it helped candidates in Tuesday’s election to be Democrats.

They held onto their incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf without breaking a sweat. With 99.32% of the vote reported as of 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, Wolf beat his Republican foe Scott Wagner by 17 points as his running mate Casey beat his alternative, Congressman Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne) by 13 points.

Wolf got along well with Philadelphia, slightly outpacing Casey here. In 2014, Wolf carried Philadelphia by 288,271 votes. This year, he won a 359,871 margin. While he didn’t need those votes, strictly speaking, he did need at least half of them to win. The governor will continue to listen carefully to city Democrats for another four years.

DROPPING by Relish in Oak Lane for its traditional election-day lunch was Attorney General Josh Shapiro, flanked here by Imam Sulaiman and State Sen. Vincent Hughes. Photos by Wendell Douglas

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Pennsylvania contributed much to a Democratic takeover as a net of four seats flipped from R to D, in good part due to recent court-ordered redistricting in our Commonwealth. We now send to Washington a delegation balanced R9-D9, a far cry from 2016’s 13-5. And two Republican congressmen survived squeakers that, if they had gone the other way, would have given us an R7-D11 map. Purple once more in Congress we are.

On Capitol Hill Harrisburg, none of Philadelphia’s state senators faced meaningful opposition. There was a flurry in our State House delegation, though, as Patty-Pat Kozlowski lost the 177th Legislative seat formerly held by State Rep. John Taylor (R-Northeast) to Democrat Joe Hohenstein, 59-41%. Kozlowski was well known in that Lower Northeast area but could not overcome the overwhelming Democratic registration advantage. So the most-urban Republican seat in Pennsylvania is no more.

TAKING in the election with relish at Relish in Oak Lane were, L-R, former Mayor John Street, Sherrie Cohen, State Rep. Donna Bullock and Councilwoman Helen Gym. Photos by Wendell Douglas

State Rep. Martina White (R-Northeast) did beat off her foe Mike Doyle 58-42%. She now becomes Philadelphia’s sole voice in the General Assembly’s Republican caucuses.

In a little-reported two-way race in Roxborough’s 194th Legislative District, State Rep. Pam DeLissio (D-Northwest) blanketed Republican challenger Sean Patrick Stevens, 17,825 to 4,450 inside City limits and ran into no trouble in the Montgomery County portion of her district either. Malcolm Kenyatta erased Republican Milton Street in North Philadelphia’s 181st District. State Rep. Brian Sims batted off an independent challenger, James McDevitt – but McDevitt drew 9.5% of the vote, unusual for an independent.

THINK that rain will stop? L-R, Congressman Bob Brady, congressional candidate Mary Gay Scanlon and State Rep. Bill Keller eye the meteorological as well as the political weather outside the Famous 4th Street Deli at lunchtime.

There was no contest in Philadelphia’s three congressional races. Congressman Brendan Boyle won by 79-21% over Republican David Torres. Republican Bryan Leib valiantly tackled incumbent Congressman Dwight Evans in one of the most-Democratic districts in the nation and was rewarded with 5% of the vote. In the new 5th District, which combines a chunk of South Philadelphia with Delaware County and a part of Montgomery, Republican Pearl Kim ran pretty well against Democrat Mary Gay Scanlon, losing by only 2-1 in the city and doing better in the suburbs; but it’s Scanlon who will go to Congress.

Total turnout was more like a presidential year than a midterm. Voter turnout was intense in Center City and most of South, West, North and Northwest Philadelphia. State Rep. Chris Rabb (D-Northwest) won a mind-boggling 31,250 votes – in an uncontested race! Numbers like these point to a horde of straight-ticket Democratic voters.

How Philly Money Talked in the Governor’s Race

There were many reasons for the Dems’ electoral success. Their base has been energized by President Donald Trump’s divisive stances. The pendulum tends to swing back after a presidential victory by one party in the first midterm. And good candidates matter.

But in Pennsylvania particularly, money was a huge factor.

INSIDE the Famous, a lively election-day crowd talked political shop. Among the crew were, L-R, consultants Brian Stevenson, Philip Migliarese III and Dan Stevenson.

As of Oct. 24, incumbent Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf had raised $23.4 million in his quest for re-election, reported the National Institute on Money in Politics; meanwhile, his Republican challenger, former State Sen. Scott Wagner, had come up with just $13.8 million – much of it his own. (Wagner is a millionaire who earned his money in the trash-collection business.)

The disparity in the U.S. senatorial race was even starker. Incumbent Democrat Bob Casey had racked up $18.3 million in contributions while his challenger, Congressman Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne), had pulled in just $4.1 million.

Pennsylvania is a big state with many media markets, two of them – Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – quite expensive. There are only so many TV ads, so many robocalls, so many street workers you can deploy against an opponent who can outspend you by more than 4 to 1.

HOSTS Sid Booker and Shirley Kitchen staged a massive GOTV party at Booker’s Club La Pointe’ in Logan. L-R at the affair were voting activist Dennis Lee, State Sen. Sharif Street, Cynthia Woods, Booker and Sheriff Jewell Williams. Photo by Wendell Douglas

While many Republicans did better in other states, the top of their Keystone State ticket foundered in fundraising. And it showed on election day. That was probably not because all the high rollers in Pennsylvania are Democrats; more likely, it reflects the belief by major donors on both sides of the aisle that their money would be better invested either in Wolf and Casey or in more-competitive races for the U.S. Congress and General Assembly.

Wagner’s outside donors tend to be concentrated in Midstate Pennsylvania, where his business operates. Barletta’s donors were centered in his native Anthracite Region. Both called in a lot of chips at home.

But their money message did not travel well away from home. They didn’t raise much in the small rural counties that turn on for Trump; there isn’t much money to raise there, to be frank. And the two metropolitan fat-cat strongholds of the state shunned the two top Republicans’ coffers.

L-R, CAROL ECKERT, Comcast VP of military affairs, joined with Jim Jenkins; City Veterans Commissioner Capt. Carlo Aragoncillo; State Sen. Sharif Street; Fred Druding, 2020 legislative candidate; and Councilman Allan Domb at Philadelphia’s Veterans Parade, which, in just a few years, has become a stunning tribute to Americans who have served in their country’s armed forces.. Photo by Joe Stivala

Take Wagner, for instance, the more-successful of the two in Philadelphia. He could scarcely find a single donor in this town to donate as much as $10 grand to his campaign – the equivalent of a diner lunch for a serious political donor.

Wolf, on the other hand, received a goodly haul of Brotherly Love from this city.

Let’s start with the trial lawyers. Always inclined toward Democrats, their PAC, Committee for a Better Tomorrow, donated $510,000 to Wolf.

The Obermayer Rebmann law firm gave $471,000 (vs. $17,000 as a we-love-you-too to Wagner).

Other local legal eagles flew with Wolf. The Ballard Spahr firm gave $47,000. The Dilworth Paxson firm gave $23,500. Joan Stern, an Eckert Seamans public-finance expert, gave $17,000. M. Gordon Daniels, who runs the title company Land Services USA, gave $10,500. Labor lawyer Deborah Willig was in for $10,000.

STATE REP candidate Malcolm Kenyatta got a chance to meet Miss Pennsylvania, Olivia Suchko, L, and Miss Philadelphia, Aimee Turner. Veterans Lonnie Williams, L, and Herb Smith joined in the pose. Photo by Leona Dixon

Labor unions were all in with the top Democrats this time around.

Leading the labor pack, as is often the case, was International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, which pitched in $434,250 to Wolf’s campaign. Local 98 is famous for supporting Republicans where it thinks Republicans are good for its members; one can only draw the conclusion that its Business Manager John Dougherty did not think Wagner was either a good friend or a good bet.

On Doc’s heels into the Wolf camp were Steamfitters Local 420, which gave $220,000, and Laborers’ District Council, which gave $177,500. Other building trades climbed aboard the Wolfmobile: Plumbers Local 690, $72,500; Sheet Metal Workers Local 19, $50,000; and Sprinkler Fitters Local 692, $30,000.

Other unions came in behind the building trades. Communications Workers of America (Comcast’s labor counterpart) gave $50,000, Teamsters Local 115, whose members work closely with building trades, gave $35,000; and United Auto Workers gave $25,000.

L-R, POLICE Chief Inspector Tony Boyle led the Police & Fire Bagpipes with strong approval from Councilmen David Oh and Bill Greenlee, former City Controller Jonathan Saidel and Councilman Al Taubenberger. Photo by Joe Stivala

Other hometown businesses ponied up for Wolf. Premier among them was Comcast, at $100,000. Several real-estate operations spent heartily on Wolf: Liberties Duck LP, $20,000; PREIT, $10,000; Richard Oller of GoldOller, $10,000; NWC 2201 South Street Assoc. LP, $10,000.

Joe Zuritsky, the parking magnate, is decidedly for Wolf at $35,200. So is trucker Anthony Cerone at $15,000 and restaurant impresario Stephen Starr at $10,000.

That’s how Big Philly spent on the governor’s race.

Barletta did even worse here, money-wise; however, he ran 2 points ahead of Wagner in the Philadelphia vote on Tuesday.

A lot of money goes into political campaigns; a lot of it is ill-spent. But no one knows which money was ill-spent until Wednesday morning.

After Lowery Brown: a W. Philly Puzzle

State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown (D-W. Phila.) was found guilty of corruption, four years after the initial investigation was launched. Several other city legislators were charged in that notorious sting; Lowery Brown was the only one who chose to go to trial rather than plead guilty.

STATE REP. Vanessa Lowery Brown

Instead, she was found guilty. and will be expelled from the State House of Representatives. She is free to appeal her conviction – but not to remain a state rep.

That opens a door in the 190th Legislative District of West Philadelphia and East Falls. Who will fill Lowery Brown’s seat in a special election?

In a previous year, Democratic 50th Ward Chairman Greg Spearman showed an interest in the 190th seat. But West Philly Democrats may be thinking more strategically this year.

6th Ward Leader Pete Wilson says Spearman, 44th Ward Leader Willie Jordan and he – the three powerhouse wards in this rambling district, which is overwhelmingly Democratic – are planning instead to cultivate younger local talent who can grow in office and become an experienced lobbyist for city causes. State Rep. Morgan Cephas (D-W. Phila.), a newcomer in an adjoining district, is often cited as a role model.

They are actively interviewing candidates for this post. They have several individuals in mind for this job but are very open to any other candidate who contacts them.

52nd Ward Leader Steve Jones is a mystery card in this selection process. While he votes 10 divisions, they do not outvote Wilson, Spearman and Jordan if those three are united.

But Jones commands talent. His 52nd Ward, which embraces the proud middle-class community of Overbrook that is home to former Mayor Michael Nutter, has a lot of inhabitants with white-collar skills that empower state reps. Expect him to play a role in Democratic City Committee’s pick to replace Lowery Brown.

In Lowery Brown’s memory, let us note that by continuing to fight her charge, she served for four extra years in the General Assembly, accomplishing four more years of constituent service at which she was diligent and for which she was respected. It also helped her pay her legal bills, which may have been the wisest choice open to her. She does not come from a monied background.

Young Registrants – Did They Turn out?

JODI RISPER, regional director and organizer with NextGen, asks students at Temple University to fill out a survey in exchange for free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream while encouraging them to vote. Photo by Brad Larrison, courtesy of WHYY.

Voter-registration drives among younger voters appear to have paid off – and especially for the Democrats.

For this election, the number of people 35 and younger registered to vote in Pennsylvania topped the number of registrants over 65, each commanding about one-quarter of the electorate.

This may go a long way toward explaining some of the gains made by the Dems in Tuesday’s election. That’s because more than 60% of younger voters are identifying as Democrats. The big question is whether they will follow through on registration by going to the polls. Historically, younger voters are likely to ignore midterms; maybe only 20% of them wind up voting. Old-timers, on the other hand, tend to be stuck in their ways regarding the duties of citizenship.

If young voters’ habits did change this year, that will have impacted many races. Republicans cannot hope for corresponding gains among older constituents, who already show up at the polls. Advantage Democrats.

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