POLS ON THE STREET: Mary Gay Scanlon Makes a New First

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CONGRESSWOMAN Mary Gay Scanlon

BY JOE SHAHEELI
MARY GAY SCANLON has become the first woman in Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation since 2014.

Congresswoman Scanlon (D-S. Phila.) was sworn in last week to an open congressional seat in Southeastern Pennsylvania left vacant after Republican Pat Meehan resigned in April.

Scanlon last week won a special election to fill the remaining seven weeks of Meehan’s term in the Delaware County-based seat. She also won a full two-year term in the Nov. 6 general election.

The last Pennsylvania congresswoman was Allyson Schwartz of Montgomery County, who resigned in 2014 to run for governor in the Democratic primary. Schwartz had also represented Northeast Philadelphia.

STATE SEN. Sharif Street was joined by Nicetown CDC to host the 38th annual Street Family Turkey Drive. A family tradition started by Mayor John Street decades ago, this marks Sen. Sharif Street’s second as a sitting state senator and 20th distribution as the principal family member since the end of Mayor Street’s administration. The distribution passed out more than 2,000 turkeys (20 tons).

Three other women, all fellow Democrats, will join Scanlon in Washington come January: Madeleine Dean and Chrissy Houlahan of the suburbs and Susan Wild of the Lehigh Valley. Scanlon will be able to show them around.

Casey for Prexy? Join the Club, Bob

In politics, the moment an election is over, the next race begins.

So it is with national Democrats. Fresh from their takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives, they are looking for a candidate to take on President Donald Trump in 2020.

Or many candidates. With no obvious heir to party leadership in sight, more than 10 names have been floated – or floated themselves so far. The list of people who are already scheduling speaking engagements in Iowa and New Hampshire is startling at times.

STATE REPS. Isabella Fitzgerald and Steve Kinsey had the assistance of area kids to draw winning numbers for Thanksgiving turkeys in the crowded Corinthian Community Center in North Philadelphia, filled with area residents enjoying a turkey meal provided by the legislators. Photo by Joe Stivala

Add U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) to that list. Having just won another six-year term, Casey is relatively free to roam the country. And he has explicitly left a presidential option open.

Casey, who traditionally positioned himself as a moderate, has moved to the left in the last two years, possibly winning a hearing from younger progressive Dems as they eye the field.

At the same time, Casey points out that he got 44% of the rural vote in his sound 13-point victory over Congressman Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne). That is attractive to Democratic strategists who want to chip away at Trump’s base. It isn’t necessary to win Trump country, argues Casey, just to hold down the Republican margin there.

COUNCILWOMAN Cindy Bass, 2nd from L, distributed hundreds of Thanksgiving turkeys to constituents in her Germantown district. The line of needy citizens was great and the generosity they received from volunteers assisting Bass was fulfilling. Photo by Joe Stivala

Current thinking is that to win in 2020, the Democrats must regain three key Northern Rust Belt states that Trump narrowly won in 2016: Wisconsin, Michigan – and Pennsylvania. They will notice that Casey easily wins the Keystone State.

Mild-mannered Casey is not particularly charismatic, but his demeanor is soothing – about as far from the current president’s as possible. If voters will be looking for a change of style in the White House, Casey would deliver that.

Toomey to Press for Gun Background Checks

Casey’s Republican colleague in the U.S. Senate, Pat Toomey, has vowed to react to the Tree of Life Synagogue slayings in Pittsburgh with a renewed push for federal background checks on gun purchases.

U.S. SEN. PAT TOOMEY

While many states currently require criminal or mental-health background checks for all gun purchasers, others exempt purchasers online or at gun shows and federal law permits this.

Six years ago, Toomey worked across the aisle with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on just such a measure. The National Rifle Association strongly opposed it and it was defeated in the Republican-dominated Senate.

That dominance will grow when the new Congress is seated in January. But Manchin, having survived a re-election bid in good shape, may now have the appetite for a renewed struggle.

Toomey has argued that there is now a willingness among federal legislators to strengthen systems that keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. He has pointed to earlier this year, when the Senate authorized upgrades to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

His success in this venture may depend on how his Republican fellow senators read public opinion in their home states in the light of the 2018 election. Twenty-two of them will be facing re-election in 2020.

President Trump in the past has expressed support for stricter gun controls.

Isenhour Joins Bipartisan Lobby Firm

MARY ISENHOUR

Mary Isenhour, who has been serving as chief of staff for Gov. Wolf, will move to the puissant Harrisburg lobbying firm RooneyNovak Group in 2019. It will become known as RooneyNovak Isenhour.

Isenhour has played a prominent organizational role in Pennsylvania Democratic politics for a long time. She has been executive director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, was state director of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and worked on the campaigns of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. and Gov. Ed Rendell. Isenhour also served as executive director of the Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee.

RooneyNovak Group is currently led by Alan Novak, a longtime chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, and T.J. Rooney, a former Lehigh Valley state representative and past chairman of the State Democratic Party. Isenhour and Rooney have worked together before.

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