POLS ON THE STREET: Turzai Bows out; Wolf Sticks Around

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DEMOCRATIC National Committee Chair Congressman Tom Perez came to town Tuesday to emphasize that health care will be a driving theme of his party’s nationwide campaign this year. He drove that point home by holding a press conference at the headquarters on NUHHCE Local 1199C, the area’s leading health-care union, in Center City. Among those joining him at the event were, L-R, Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, Perez, State Rep. Morgan Cephas, and health [policy experts Tarik Khan, RN and Barbara Wright.

Forceful Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) has put it out that he’s out of the 2020 primary for re-election. This surprised some, because Turzai is a fierce competitor and he seemed a likely gubernatorial candidate in 2022, when Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will step down after two terms.

But Turzai represents the 28th Legislative District, a suburban area of a major metropolis – precisely the sort of demographic that has been cringing from Donald Trump of late. Despite his long incumbency and clout, Turzai only beat his Democratic opponent by 54-46% in 2018, when Trump wasn’t at the top of his ticket. This year Trump is.

The majority leader has turned 60. Perhaps he decided 2020 will be a better year to start racking up a decade of lobbying and consulting, as so many legislative veterans do, instead of continuing on his meager $86,478 salary. It’s the economic version of spending more time with the family.

What will happen next year as a result? Doubtless Turzai will try to engineer a successor both in his district and in his House leadership role. So he will remain popular with fellow Republicans on the Hill, to an extent. But all of them will start to consider life after Mike.

YOUNG DEMOCRATS sponsored a free and lively beer social for “Young Politicos” at Democratic City Committee. Young and old hung out together: L-R, Jim Harrity, State Rep. Mary Isaacson, Beth Finn, Gabby Richards, Fred Druding, Jr. and Jim Jenkins.

So will Wolf. 2020 is an election year, when his leverage on Republicans in the General Assembly peaks. If he’s going to pry a compromise out of them on any of his signature issues – energy tax reform, education funding, infrastructure investments and a minimum-wage hike.

Of all the above, observers note Turzai may be most weakened on the minimum wage. He has been a fierce opponent of increasing it. But the GOP-controlled State Senate has already wavered on that last year. This year, when employment is high but wages remain sluggish and all his House caucus colleagues will be running for their lives, his sway on this issue may wither.

Most Keystone State R legislators now represent stagnant rural and post-industrial districts in the Northeast, Center and West. Their household income is below the state median. Four rock-ribbed Republican counties are even poorer than notorious Philadelphia. Their voters may love Trump; but they would probably also love a raise.

A CHALLENGER in the 175th Legislative District, Vanessa McGrath, holding sign C, held a meet-&-greet for voters at Jerry’s Bar in Northern Liberties. Photo by Wendell Douglas

As a result, Wolf may have more to work with against Turzai this year than he did in 2019.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party has already started to beat this drum. Its immediate response to Turzai’s announcement was: “As speaker, he kept our minimum wage the lowest in America, worked with Betsy DeVos to sabotage public schools, and repeatedly tried rigging elections and silencing PA voters. Turzai’s white flag – on the verge of the 2020 election – is the best sign yet that Pennsylvanians are ready for change inside the statehouse!”

This may not be quite the way Turzai reads the battleground. But it lays the groundwork for a Dem state campaign strategy that does not rely solely on bashing Trump, which may not work everywhere.

Bernie Picks up 215 People’s Alliance Support

WORKING at the Longstreth School in S.W. Philadelphia, State Rep. assembled an impressive team that included the Nomo Foundation, Mural Arts Program – and a host of Common Pleas Court judges led by President Judge Idee Fox. L-R were 1st Judicial District spokesperson Gabe Roberts, President Judge Idee Fox, Melissa Graham and State Rep. McClinton.

Philadelphia-based 215 People’s Alliance endorsed Bernie Sanders for president by a unanimous vote of its 15-member steering committee. In its endorsement, the collaborative highlighted that Senator Sanders has the best policies for working people, and emphasized his ability to mobilize a powerful multi-racial, working-class coalition to defeat Donald Trump.

Mindy Isser, executive committee member of the group, said, “Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the country, and a Bernie Sanders presidency would change that thanks to the homes guarantee, Medicare for All, and federal jobs guarantee.”

“215 People’s Alliance is fighting for the working people of Philadelphia, and we are honored to receive their support,” said Bernie 2020 Political Director Analilia Mejia.

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