POLS ON THE STREET: Can Toomey Pull the Trigger on Gun Control?

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U.S. SEN. PAT TOOMEY says he will introduce a package of gun-control legislation, and that he aims to bring both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump on board.

BY JOE SHAHEELI
In the wake of this week’s horrific pair of mass shootings, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) moved decisively to do what few Republican politicians ever do: urge gun controls.

He has done it before, in 2013. His measures failed then to persuade a Democratic-controlled Senate. It may seem even less likely now that his fellow Republicans, who tend to fear National Rifle Association retaliation, hold the reins.

But Toomey has shown himself to be dogged in his views while retaining good credentials as a conservative. That, combined with his increased seniority and experience, may give him a shot.

Toomey’s measures aim to establish a broad system of universal background checks for gun buyers.

“What I want to do is focus on what I think we can accomplish now, and that is make it harder for people who shouldn’t have firearms to obtain firearms,” Toomey explained. He was clear that he intends to use the recent mass slayings as leverage: “If it creates a momentum, if it creates an opportunity, then we need to seize that opportunity.”

PHILADELPHIA’S biggest National Night Out celebration was at Snyder Plaza in Whitman. It had all the bells and whistles: games, firetrucks, live bands – even a helicopter landing. Genial host was Councilman Mark Squilla. Photo by Wendell Douglas

To seek bipartisan support, he is teaming up with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). That shouldn’t be hard. The challenge will come in persuading two key backers: President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Trump may be doable. His positions on gun control, as on many policies, have been all over the lot but he has at times expressed that criminals and mentally ill people should be screened out of gun purchases. If he gave the nod, Vice President Mike Pence would stand behind his boss. Toomey would then have to persuade only two other Republicans to go along – and that’s not impossible.

First, however, he would have to persuade McConnell to allow the measure to be introduced. That’s a taller order.

STATE REP. Kevin Boyle sponsored another massive party at Fox Chase Elementary School. Photo by Harry Leech. Joining State Rep. Kevin Boyle was Councilman Brian O’Neill, R. Photo by Harry Leech

But Toomey has the August recess to work on the majority leader. And it is possible that McConnell may have a reason to play along.

He is up for re-election this year. And he has never been popular in his home state. He is challenged by former Marine pilot Amy McGrath, who ran strongly in a race for congress last year. If public opinion puts gun violence on the front burner, he may be persuaded to do a nimble parliamentary dance for self-preservation.

Still, most observers are betting that NRA will succeed as before in putting in the last word to McConnell.

If, however, there is a chance to sway him, Toomey is probably the right man to send for the job.

Linda Fields Takes Aim at Daylin Leach

BAKER Playground in West Philadelphia was host to a Saturday party stressing safety and fun. Host Councilman Curtis Jones was joined by, L-R, Police Officers Christos Fountas, Joshua Kelly and Daniel Barr. Photo by Wendell Douglas

For the second time in two years, a prominent Philadelphia-area labor official is making a run for State Senate – in a different district than she did the first time. Linda Fields challenged incumbent State Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery), losing by a respectable 5 points. This time, she is tackling an incumbent fellow Democrat, State Sen. Daylin Leach, in the primary.

This is made possible because Fields owns homes in two different parts of Montgomery County, enabling her to change residences with ease.

Born in West Philadelphia, Fields has a long track record with important city supporters. She has been an organizer as a national organizer and business agent with the National Union of Hospital & Healthcare Employees, District 1199C, since the 1970s, when, working with Local 1199C head Henry Nicholas, she helped to organize Temple Hospital. Since then, she has also played influential roles with national and local AFSCME and AFL-CIO. She is close to Laborers’ Local 135, which is based in Montgomery County.

THE AFL-CIO’S youth wing held a Democratic Debate Watch party at Haute restaurant in Center City, an increasingly popular political hangout. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Fields is endorsed by AFSCME DC 33, District 1199C,ASCFME, AFL-CIO, Transportation Workers Union Local 234 and International Longshoremen Association Local 1291.

It’s no secret why Leach is in trouble. He has been the target of numerous sexual-harassment allegations for the past couple of years – an issue that plays especially poorly with suburban Democratic women in 2019. Leach has stumbled in his search for an adequate response, never a good sign.

While investigators have uncovered no provable basis for legal action against Leach, his Democratic colleagues in June called for him to resign.

At this point, Leach’s best chance for survival may lie in the fact that, as it now stands, the primary is a four-way race. Norristown Area School Board President Shae Ashe has also announced his candidacy as has Sara Atkins, a Lower Merion committee member.

THE VESPER CLUB was filled to capacity with Republicans from across Philadelphia and the suburbs eager to mingle with each other and to meet new PA GOP chair Lawrence Tabas, 2nd from R. Among those in the crowd were LeNard Shotwell, GOP 11th Ward leader; judicial candidate Christylee Peck; and longtime GOP stalwart and Public Record contributor Mike Cibik.

But in a race between two women and two men, with sexual harassment the hottest topic, Fields also looks good.

Party leaders at the state level may exert pressure to get two of the challengers to bow out.

No Mayoral Debate Ahead

As one expected, Mayor Jim Kenney has declined to stage a formal debate with his Republican opponent Bill Ciancaglini in the fall general election.

City Republicans have already decried his refusal. City Council at-large candidate Matt Wolfe tore into Kenney, saying, “I don’t know what is worse: that the mayor won’t engage in a debate with his opponent or his reason for refusing. Debates are a bedrock of the American political system that allowed him to become mayor of a major U.S. city. Mayor Kenney disrespects our city’s and country’s values.”

Kenney will no doubt shrug off this criticism. He has no reason to share a spotlight with his opponent.

In the meantime, the mayor celebrated his birthday last Wednesday. Without debate.

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