The United Democracy Project, a super PAC for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, poured millions to defeat Lee in a Pennsylvania House primary. Similar dark money groups have targeted several progressives.
BY ABIGAIL TRACY Wanity Fair
MAY 19, 2022 – Around seven weeks before Pennsylvania’s primary elections, Summer Lee commanded a lead of 25 points over rival Steve Irwin in the race for Pennsylvania’s 12th District, a blue stronghold encompassing Pittsburgh and its surrounding suburbs. It appeared that Lee, 34, a Black woman and progressive activist who currently serves as a Pennsylvania state representative, would make history.
Then came the outside money. By election day, Democratic groups had dumped more than $2 million into the primary race to defeat Lee—dwarfing the outside money spent attacking Irwin, a mere $2,400. Specifically, the United Democracy Project (UDP)—a political action committee for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)—spent $2,025,297 against Lee and $660,317 in support of Irwin, 62, a Pittsburgh lawyer and county Democratic Party organizer. The ads painted Lee as anti-Israel and claimed she was “not a real Democrat,” following a playbook that moderate groups have run against other progressives nationwide, including against Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman.
Lee declared victory on election night, at 12:30 a.m.; as of midday Wednesday, news outlets still hadn’t called an official winner—the race was too tight. Progressive groups and lawmakers including Senator Bernie Sanders congratulated her on the win. Lee declared, “This is the mightiest movement in the land!” Much of Pennsylvania’s Democratic establishment, including the retiring representative Mike Doyle, whose seat Lee and Irwin are after, had thrown their support behind Irwin. “They say a Black woman can’t win. Well, we came together. We can’t be stopped. We have a lot of work ahead of us. When we set out to do this, we believed a better world was possible; now we have to go do it,” Lee said in her remarks early Wednesday morning.
But the efforts to stop Lee are part of a broader trend in Democratic politics, as super PACs with big budgets have sought to prevent progressives—often women of color—from winning races across the country. “It’s really concerning to see the huge influx of outside money flowing into this race and the disingenuous effort to paint a progressive woman of color and the only sitting elected official in the race as an opponent of the Democratic Party,” a senior progressive official in the House told me.
How did Ohio and Pennsylvania become ground zero for Trumpian unreality? Three Dangers to Defeat
By Tony Norman Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Columnist
MAY 5, 2022 – I was not a fan of J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy” when it was riding high on the bestseller lists a few years ago. Even then, I suspected that there was something forced and inauthentic about it.
I felt vindicated when then Senate-majority leader Mitch McConnell gassed on and on about how great the book was, because that alone meant it was actually terrible. Mr. McConnell then encouraged Mr. Vance to run for the open Senate seat in Ohio in 2018.
Not too long ago, “Hillbilly Elegy” was made into a bad movie by director Ron Howard. Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell and the Republican establishment had moved on from an initial infatuation with Mr. Vance to get behind Josh Mandel, an over-the-top Trump loyalist best known for nearly coming to blows with a 70-year-old rival candidate during a primary debate.
Despite his frantic attempts to earn Donald Trump’s blessings as the Trumpiest of the candidates, Mr. Mandel was outmaneuvered by former Never Trumper J.D. Vance at every turn.
Both candidates willingly debased themselves to get Mr. Trump’s endorsement in ways that would have made a North Korean apparatchik blush.
But even after audio clips of Mr. Vance insulting his autocratic style resurfaced from the 2016 presidential race, Mr. Trump endorsed the author and venture capitalist, knowing that he had an excellent chance of nabbing a servile Senate ally in a crucial state if he won.
Even though Mr. Vance is technically a fellow celebrity whose life had been turned into a movie, he isn’t particularly memorable. Days before the Ohio primary, Mr. Trump still didn’t have a firm grasp of his own endorsed candidate’s name. “We’ve endorsed J.P., right? J.D. Mandel,” he said after deciding it simply didn’t matter and that people would figure it out. “He’s doing great.”
During his victory speech, J.D. Vance wrapped his arms around the entirety of Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda without a scintilla of embarrassment. His transformation into America’s least authentic politician was complete. He needed Mr. Trump’s endorsement, raced to the bottom against determined primary foes to get it, and now has an excellent chance of being elected to a six-year term in the U.S. Senate in November.
As part of the identity shift, Mr. Vance has had to lose whatever integrity he had left to come across twice as dumb as he actually is. He’s devolving before our eyes so that he can be considered more “relatable” to the Trump-faithful in November.
But as odd and dispiriting as the race in Ohio appears to the rest of the country, it may actually pale in sheer awfulness and stupidity to the Multiverse of Madness that is Pennsylvania politics.
Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat has no shortage of Republican operators eager to kiss the ring of the MAGA King even if it meant kneeling in the middle of the Pa. Turnpike to get it.
Just like in Ohio, the Republican establishment has a preference that the former president couldn’t care less about. David McCormick got wealthy in software and hedge fund management and has actually served in a Republican White House where he made powerful friends, including several high profile veterans of the Trump administration.
The problem for Mr. McCormick is that Mr. Trump doesn’t respect meritocratic presumption. Of the seven GOP candidates, Mr. Trump sees only one viable candidate — Dr. Mehmet Oz, the TV doctor Oprah Winfrey launched to fame.
Dr. Oz was able to corral the coveted endorsement largely on the strength of his own celebrity and willingness to genuflect before Mr. Trump on everything, including conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, contempt for Dr. Anthony Fauci and criticism of Democratic governors over “harsh” COVID measures.
Dr. Oz’s reputation as a flim-flam artist precedes him, so he was more likely than the others to land Mr. Trump’s endorsement. His primary opponents have accused the Turkish-born candidate of being a carpetbagger who doesn’t really live in the state, but sees an opportunity to pick up an open Senate seat while benefitting from his two-decade career as a snake oil salesman.
His opponents have recently circulated pictures of Dr. Oz voting in an election in Turkey as recently as 2018. He’s a dual citizen and defends his 2018 vote as his right and responsibility. The problem is that it is impossible to find a photo of him voting in a Pennsylvania election.
Still, he’s considered the Republican frontrunner because in the context of this race, he’s the Trumpiest and has the benefit of the Trump imprimatur.
But the wackiest race of all is the GOP gubernatorial primary. That’s where all the laziest, least distinguished candidates are, some of whom actually scoff at those with actual political experience. Mr. Trump has yet to endorse anyone among the nine candidates, but no one doubts that it is state Senator Doug Mastriano’s endorsement to lose.
Mr. Mastriano is a Christian nationalist and QAnon-friendly politician who organized a bus convoy from Pennsylvania to the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on Jan. 6th. He was spotted on the Capitol grounds that day, but swears he never breached the Capitol itself with the rioters. He was just an innocent bystander as American democracy came close to being permanently hijacked.
Since November 2020 when Mr. Trump lost the presidential race, Mr. Mastriano has demonstrated an unwavering loyalty to the sorest loser in American history. He’s a true believer whose fervent constituency overlaps with the former president’s perfectly, establishing a deeper legitimacy with Mr. Trump than even raw charisma — which he lacks — could.
When Mr. Trump finally gets around to endorsing GOP frontrunner Doug Mastriano as his choice for governor, the Multiverse of Political Madness in Pennsylvania will have its triggering event.
Tony Norman: email@example.com or 412-263-1631 or Twitter @Tony_NormanPG.
April 4, 2022 – The Congressional Progressive Caucus Pac Is Throwing Its Weight Behind A Democratic Socialist Running For The House In Pennsylvania.
The Political Action Committee Is Endorsing State Rep. Summer Lee In The 12Th Congressional District, The Hill First Reported, Offering A Boost In The Crowded Democratic Primary From Top Lawmakers On The Left.
“The Progressive Caucus Has Been Building Power In Congress To Hold Our Party Accountable To The Needs Of Everyday Working People Across The Country,” Lee Said On Monday About The Endorsement.
“They Led The Movement To Pass President Biden’S Full Agenda And Have Been On The Frontlines Of Expanding Our Labor Movement, Advocating For Medicare For All And A Green New Deal And Putting People Back At The Center Of Our Policy.”
Progressive Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) And Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Who Co-Chair The Pac, Called Lee A “Champion For Union Rights And The Labor Movement, A Leader For Environmental Justice And Strong Advocate For Working Families Across Pennsylvania” In A Joint Statement.
Lee, Who Entered The Five-Candidate Primary In The Fall, Has Already Earned The Support Of Other Major Figures Among The Party’S Left Flank, Including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) And Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). She Is Also Backed By National Progressive And Labor Groups Like The Seiu, Working Families Party, Sunrise Movement, Justice Democrats And The Pro-Female Candidate Organization Emily’S List.
“She Has Led The Progressive Movement In The Pennsylvania State Legislature And Has Built Power For Her Community From The Ground Up – Helping Elect Progressives Up And Down The Ballot,” Pocan, Jayapal And Raskin Said Of Lee.
“We Know She Will Bring This Dedication To Progressive Advocacy And People-Powered Organizing To Congress, And We Are So Proud To Endorse Her In This Campaign.”
Lee Is The Pac’S Latest Endorsement. The Committee Is Seeking To Help Elect Progressive Candidates Into Office — Including By Wading Into Intraparty Primaries — That Share Leaders’ Vision For A Fairer And More Expansive Version Of Government.
‘This is what the fight for a habitable planet looks like in real time.’
By Julia Conley Common Dreams
April 9, 2022 – Organizers of the “Coal Baron Blockade” protest which targeted right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s coal empire Saturday afternoon reported that state police almost immediately began arresting campaigners who assembled in Grant Town, West Virginia.
“Sen. Joe Manchin’s policies hurt poor people and hurt our environment so deeply that activists are ready to put themselves on the line,” tweeted the Poor People’s Campaign, which joined grassroots group West Virginia Rising and other organizations in the blockade.
Hundreds of campaigners participated in the blockade of Grant Town Power Plant, which receives coal waste from Enersystems, the company owned by the West Virginia senator’s son. Manchin earns $500,000 per year from Enersystems—”making a very lucrative living off the backs of West Virginians,” said Maria Gunnoe, an organizer of the action, this week.
At least 10 demonstrators had been arrested as of this writing.
“This is what the fight for a habitable planet looks like in real time,” said Jeff Goodell, author of The Water Will Come, of the dozens of campaigners who risked arrest.
Speakers and other participants highlighted the need for a just transition away from fossil fuels including coal, carrying signs that read “Solidarity with all coal workers.”
“My dad worked in a chemical plant until he retired with a disability from acute exposure,” said Holly Bradley, a ninth-generation West Virginian. “We can all find common ground, but Joe Manchin is making it impossible.”
We can best understand the major political parties in the U.S. as constantly changing coalitions with no firm commitment to program or discipline.
The electoral strategic terrain is constantly changing, and we don’t want to be stuck with old maps and faulty models. In 2014, I first suggested setting aside the traditional “two-party system” frame for US politics, which obscures far more than it reveals, and making use of a “six-party” model instead. Every two years, I’ve revised the model, and now, with the November 2022 elections coming up, it’s time for another update. What follows is an abbreviated version of the explanation; you can read it in full here.
Some critics have objected to my use of the term “party” for factional or interest group clusters. The point is taken, but I would also argue that the major parties in the U.S., in general, are not ideological parties in the European sense. Instead, they are constantly changing coalitions of these clusters with no firm commitment to program or discipline.
The Democratic and the Republican Party each contain three such clusters, as they have since 2016. Under the Democratic tent, the three main groups remain the Blue Dogs, the Third Way Centrists and the Rainbow Social Democrats. The GOP umbrella covers Donald Trump’s Rightwing Populists, the Christian Nationalists, and the Never-Trumpers.
But since our last update in 2018, the question of a clear and present danger of fascism has moved from the margins to the center of political discourse. Far from an ongoing abstract debate, we are now watching its hidden elements come to light every day in the media. We also see the ongoing machinations in the GOP hierarchy and in state legislatures reshaping election laws in their favor. Now, the question is not whether a fascist danger exists, but how to fight and defeat it.
So here’s the new snapshot of the range of forces for today.
The Six-Party System
The Right-wing Populists
This “party,” as mentioned, has taken over the GOP and is now tightening its grip.
The economic core of right-wing populism remains anti-global “producerism versus parasitism.” Employed workers, business owners, real estate developers, small bankers are all “producers.” They oppose “parasite” groups above and below, but mainly those below them—the unemployed (“Get a Job!” as an epithet), the immigrants, poor people of color, Muslims, and “the Other” generally. When they attack those above, the target is usually George Soros, a Jew.
Recall that Trump entered politics by declaring Obama to be an illegal alien and an illegitimate officeholder (a parasite above), but quickly shifted to Mexicans and Muslims and anyone associated with Black Lives Matter. This aimed to pull out the fascist and white supremacist groups of the “Alt Right”–using Breitbart and worse to widen their circles, bringing them closer to Trump’s core. With these fascists as ready reserves, Trump reached further into Blue Dog territory, and its better-off workers, retirees, and business owners conflicted with white identity issues—immigration, Islamophobia, misogyny, and more. Today they still largely make up the audience at his mass rallies.
Trump’s outlook is not new. It has deep roots in American history, from the anti-Indian ethnic cleansing of President Andrew Jackson to the nativism of the Know-Nothings, to the nullification theories of John C. Calhoun, to the lynch terror of the KKK, to the anti-elitism and segregation of George Wallace and the Dixiecrats. Internationally, Trump combines aggressive jingoism, threats of trade wars, and an isolationist ‘economic nationalism’ aimed at getting others abroad to fight your battles for you. At the same time, your team picks up the loot (“We should have seized and kept the oil!”).
Trump’s GOP still contains his internal weaknesses: the volatile support of distressed white workers and small producers. At present, they are still forming a key social base. But the problem is that Trump did not implement any substantive programs apart from tax cuts. These mainly benefited the top 10% and created an unstable class contradiction in his operation. Most of what Trump has paid out is what WEB Dubois called the “psychological wage” of “whiteness,” a dubious status position. Trump’s white supremacist demagogy and misogyny will also continue to unite a wide array of all nationalities of color and many women and youth against him.
Trump’s religious ignorance, sexual assaults and a porn star scandal always pained his alliance with the Christian Nationalist faction (Mike Pence, Betsy DeVos, et. al.), and the DeVos family (Amway fortune). They were willing to go along with Trump’s amoral lifestyle for the sake of his pending judicial appointments. The Feb 7, 2022 5-4 Supreme Court ruling on gerrymandering against Black voters in Alabama is only one case in point. The Trump-Christian alliance, nonetheless, has become more frayed since Jan. 6 and the ‘Hang Mike Pence’ spectacle.
2. The Christian Nationalists
This “party” grew from a subset of the former Tea Party bloc. It’s made up of several Christian rightist trends developed over decades, which gained more coherence under Vice President Mike Pence. It includes conservative evangelicals seeking to recast a patriarchal and racist John Wayne into a new warrior version of Jesus.
A good number of Christian nationalists are Protestant theocracy-minded fundamentalists, especially the “Dominionist” sects in which Ted Cruz’s father was active. The ‘End Times’ Domininists present themselves as the only true, “values-centered” (Biblical) conservatives. They argue against any kind of compromise with the globalist “liberal-socialist bloc,” which ranges, in their view, from the GOP’s Mitt Romney to Bernie Sanders. They are more akin to classical liberalism than neoliberalism in economic policy. This means abandoning nearly all regulations, much of the safety net, overturning Roe v. Wade, getting rid of marriage equality (in the name of ‘religious liberty’) and abolishing the IRS and any progressive taxation in favor of a single flat tax.
The classic liberalism of most Christian Nationalist is also a key reason they attract money from the Koch Brothers networks. While the Kochs hold Trump and his populists in some contempt, the Christian Nationalist faction has access to Koch funds and its American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) legislative projects, along with access to the DeVos fortunes. Effectively, Christian nationalist prosperity economics amounts to affirmative action for the better-off, where the rise of the rich is supposed to pull everyone else upwards. Those below must also pay their tithes and pull upward with their “bootstraps.” They argue for neo-isolationism on some matters of foreign policy. But as “Christian Zionists” they favor an all-out holy war on “radical Islamic terrorism,” to the point of “making the sand glow” with the use of nuclear weapons. They pushed for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and ripping up the Iran nuclear deal. All this is aimed at greasing the skids for the “End Times” and the “Second Coming.” With Cruz, Pence and DeVos as leaders, they have become the second most powerful grouping under the GOP tent, and the one with the most reactionary platform and outlook, even more so than Trump himself in some ways.
3. The Establishment Neoliberal ‘RINOs’
This is the name now widely used in the media for what we previously labeled the Multinationalists. It’s mainly the upper crust and neoliberal business elites that have owned and run the GOP for years, but they are now largely out in the cold. This neoliberal grouping included the quasi-libertarian House Freedom Caucus, the smaller group of NeoCons on foreign policy (John Bolton and John McCain), and the shrinking number of RINO (Republican In Name Only) moderates in The Lincoln Project. The Establishment also favors a globalist, U.S. hegemonist, and even, at times, a unilateralist approach abroad, with some still defending the Bush-Cheney disaster in Iraq. Their prominent voice today is Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
We also need to keep in mind the global backdrop to these shifts. The worldwide process of technology-driven financialization has divided the ruling class of late capitalism in every major country into three—a local sector of the transnational capitalist class, the nation-based multinationals, and an anti-globalist national sector. Thus among traditional U.S. neoliberals, some are U.S. hegemonists, but many have a transnational globalist understanding of the world with vast amounts of their money in foreign stock. China and global value chains integrate them with other global capitalists. This is why Trump’s trade policy is so controversial with Wall Street elites of both Republican and Democratic leanings. U.S. economic hegemony makes no sense at this financial and productive integration level. The global three-way division also serves to explain why Trump’s rightwing populism, despite its American characteristics, is connected to the rightwing nationalist-populist rise in all European countries. He is not ‘explainable’ in American terms alone.
This subordination is a big change for the traditional GOP top dogs. They would like to purge a weakened Trump from the party and rebuild, but so far lack the ability. They could try to form a new party with neoliberal Dems. Or, more likely, they could join the Dems and try to push out or smother those to the left of the Third Way grouping. At the moment, however, the much-weakened GOP’s old Establishment is left with the choice of surrender, or crossing over to the Third Way bloc under the Dem tent. A good number already did so to vote for Biden in the Dem 2020 primary and general, expanding the Dem electorate to the right.
Now let’s turn to the Dem tent, starting at the top of the graphic.
4. The Blue Dogs
The Blue Dog grouping has close ties to big corporate interests, including the fossil fuel and health insurance industries and Big Pharma. It has PACs “that raise millions of dollars every cycle from hundreds of corporate PACs, then send maximum donations of $10,000 back out to their members and more business-friendly Democratic House candidates.”
This small “party” has persisted and gained some energy. The recent effort of West Virginia’s Senator Joe Manchin to block or gut Biden’s reforms is a case in point. One earlier reason was that the United Steel Workers and a few craft unions had decided to work with Trump on tariffs and trade. The USW also got firmly behind Connor Lamb (D-PA) for Congress. Lamb won a narrow victory in a rural, conservative Western Pennsylvania congressional district, but with many USW members’ votes. He was endorsed by the Blue Dog PAC, although he is not a formal member of the caucus. Getting into a nearly physical floor fight with the GOP over Jan. 6 “radicalized” Lamb a bit, moving him leftward.
But the small Blue Dog resurgence may not last. On the one hand, the DNC Third Way gang currently loves people like Lamb, and wants to see more candidates leaning to the center and even the right. On the other hand, an unstable Trump out of office has little to offer on major infrastructure plans save for “Build The Wall” chanting at rallies. His potential votes among USW and other union members may shrink.
5. The Third Way New Democrats
First formed by the Clintons, with international assistance from Tony Blair and others, this dominant “party” was funded by Wall Street finance capitalists. The founding idea was to move toward neoliberalism by creating distance between themselves and the traditional Left-labor-liberal bloc, i.e., the traditional unions and civil rights groups still connected to the New Deal legacy. Another part of Third Way thinking was to shift the key social base away from the core of the working class toward college-educated suburban voters, but keeping alliances with Black and women’s groups still functional.
Thus the Third Way had tried to temper the harsher neoliberalism of the GOP by ‘triangulating’ to find neo-Keynesian and left-Keynesian compromise policies. The overall effect has been to move Democrats and their platform generally rightward. With Hillary Clinton’s narrow defeat, the Third Way’s power in the party diminished somewhat, but it gained clout with the Biden victory.
As mentioned above, its labor alliances have weakened, with unions now going in three directions. Most of labor has remained with the Third Way. Some moved rightward to the Blue Dogs while others—Communications Workers, National Nurses United, and the U.E.—endorsed Bernie Sanders and are part of the social-democratic bloc. Regarding the current relation of forces in the party apparatus, the Third Way has about 60% of the positions and still controls the major money.
The key test was the November 2020 battle with Trump: Which political grouping under the Dem tent in 2020 inspired and mobilized new forces within the much-needed ‘Blue Wave’, gave it focus and put the right numbers in the right places? This question brings us to the last of the six “parties.”
6..The Rainbow Social Democrats
This description is better than simply calling it the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), as this article’s first version did. I’ve kept the “Rainbow” designation because of the dynamic energy of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Squad. (The Third Way has kept the older and more pragmatic voters of the rainbow groupings under its centrist influence.)
The “Social Democrat” title doesn’t mean each leader or activist here is in a social-democrat or democratic socialist group like DSA. It means the core groups–the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), Working Families Party (WFP), Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Justice Democrats and Our Revolution and Indivisible—all have platforms that are roughly similar to the left social democrat groupings in Europe. Germany’s Die Linke’s election platform, for example, is not that different from Bernie’s or the Working Families Party. This is made even more evident with AOC and Bernie’s self-descriptions as “democratic socialists” in the 2020 primaries and the general election, where it only seemed to help. The platform, however, is not socialist itself, but best described as a common front against finance capital, war, and the white supremacist and fascist right. This is true of groups like Die Linke as well, which met recently with PDA and Congressional Progressive Caucus members.
This grouping has also been energized by the dramatic growth of the DSA since the 2016 Sanders campaign. Now with nearly 100.000 members and chapters in every state, DSA has already won a few local and statehouse races. They are now an important player in their own right within these local clusters.
This overall growth of this “party” is all for the good. The common front approach of the Social Democratic bloc can unite more than a militant minority of people who identify as socialists. It can draw a progressive majority together around both immediate needs and structural reforms, expressed in a platform like the “Third Reconstruction” program championed by the Poor People’s Campaign.
What does it all mean?
With this brief descriptive and analytical mapping of American politics, many things are falling into place. The formerly subaltern rightist groupings in the GOP have risen in revolt against the Neoliberal Establishment of the Cheneys, Romneys and the Bushes. Now they have rightwing populist and white nationalist hegemony. The GOP, then, can be accurately called the party of the neo-Confederates and the main target of a popular, anti-fascist front. Under the other tent, the Third Way is seeking a new post-neoliberal platform, through President Joe Biden’s reforms. The progressive-center unity of the earlier Obama coalition, with all its constituency alliances, is still in place. At the same time, the Third Way still wants to co-opt and control the Social Democrats as an energetic but critical secondary ally. The Sanders forces have few illusions about this pressure on them, and don’t want to be anyone’s subaltern without a fight. So we on the Left are continuing to press all our issues, but adapting some policies to the common front against the fascist right. If we work well, we will build more base organizations, more alliances, and more clout as we go.
A longer version of this article can be found HERE at the Online University of the Left
The map slightly favors Republicans — with some important wins for Democrats.
Pennsylvania’s new congressional map, as chosen by the state Supreme Court.
By Jonathan Lai Philadelphia Inquirer
Feb 23, 2022 – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has selected a new congressional map that will shape power and politics for the next decade, one that’s largely based on the current map and slightly favors Republicans — but with some important wins for Democrats.
In a 4-3 decision Wednesday, the court chose a map that was drawn by a Stanford professor and proposed by Democratic plaintiffs. It’s a major decision for the justices, one that will draw intense political scrutiny for the court’s elected Democratic majority. It also left the state’s May 17 primary in place, despite worries it would need to be delayed.
Congressional maps are redrawn every decade to reflect changes in population, and Pennsylvania has a history of partisan gerrymandering — drawing maps to unfairly favor one political party. With the state losing one of its 18 seats in the House of Representatives, the new districts will help determine control of Congress and how communities are represented in the years to come.
With at least four competitive House districts, Pennsylvania is a key battleground in this year’s campaign for control of Congress, with Republicans needing to gain just five seats nationwide to take the majority.
The new map was drawn by Jonathan Rodden, a well-known Stanford expert on redistricting and political geography. Rodden drew the map based on the current one, using a “least-change” approach.
It creates nine districts that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020, and eight that voted for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, according to a detailed data analysis conducted for The Inquirer by the nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project. It slightly favors Republicans on multiple measures of partisan skew, according to the analysis.
Looking at the two-party vote share in the two most recent presidential and U.S. Senate elections, The Inquirer classifies six of the districts as strongly Republican, five as strongly Democratic, and three each as leaning Democratic and Republican. Four districts in the new map are so closely divided that either party could realistically win them, the same as in the previous version, and a few others could become competitive in wave elections.
Unlike redistricting in some other states this year, the new Pennsylvania map doesn’t reduce the number of competitive swing seats.
But there are some individual winners and losers within the parties.
Teddy Daniels, a GOP primary candidate for lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania–Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto/AP
Teddy Daniels is running for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor as an award-winning officer, but court records and news archives obtained by Rolling Stone reveal he was caught committing “unbecoming conduct” at one police department and suspended at another
By HUNTER WALKER Rolling Stone
As he asks voters to make him Pennsylvania’s next lieutenant governor, Teddy Daniels has promoted himself as an Army combat veteran, a former police officer, and a successful businessman. He also, perhaps above all, wants them to know that he stands with Donald Trump. Daniels’ support for the former president has included promoting conspiracy theories about the last election and posting video from the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
What Daniels is not advertising is that, according to court documents, his personal history includes domestic-abuse allegations, and the law-enforcement career that he’s made a cornerstone of his campaign has multiple major blemishes. Daniels’ ex-wife claimed in court that he was “physically and mentally abusive” during their marriage and later harassed her at her workplace, and both she and another woman have accused him of being negligent in paying child support.
Court records reveal that during his career as an officer he was the subject of an “internal affairs investigation” that concluded he had engaged in “unbecoming conduct” by “providing deceptive information to an investigator” and “using official state record for personal reasons.” Local newspaper accounts also indicate that Daniels was suspended and ultimately agreed to separate from a different police department in 2010.
But in the modern Republican Party, extreme does not mean fringe. Within the past year, Daniels has scored prime-time appearances on Fox News and a personal meeting with Trump. As he runs for lieutenant governor, Daniels has the support of Doug Mastriano, a MAGA-minded legislator and gubernatorial candidate who’s a close second in early primary polling.
The primary is in May, and as voters weigh whether to nominate Daniels to be the number-two official in the country’s fifth most-populous state, his personal history merits a close review.
Daniels declined an interview request from Rolling Stone and declined to answer a string of written questions about the specific allegations detailed in the court documents, his view of the 2020 election, and his activities on Jan. 6. Instead, he sent Rolling Stone a short statement: “Given that the Liberal rag Rolling Stone idolizes the Boston bomber, it is no surprise they’d grasp at non existent straws in printing FALSE, and MALICIOUS ALLEGATIONS to try to defame a wounded combat veteran, decorated police officer, and leading candidate in Pennsylvania just like they did to Donald Trump with the Russia Hoax and Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.”
In November 2000, Daniels married a woman in Maryland whose identity Rolling Stone is withholding. The pair had a child together in April 2002, and separated roughly three months later. That separation was the beginning of a contentious, decade-long-plus legal saga as the pair argued over child support and visitation, according to the court records reviewed by Rolling Stone.
As their court fight dragged on, in 2013, the ex-wife asked the district court of Maryland for an order of protection citing alleged “domestic violence.” In written statements accompanying the petition, Daniels’ ex-wife claimed he was “physically and mentally abusive during marriage” and that he “pushed, kicked, and hit” her, including an incident where he allegedly “kicked in” a door and left her forearm “bruised.” The court denied the petition and said she “could not meet the required burden of proof” about the alleged physical abuse a decade earlier. The ex-wife did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
However, the ex-wife’s petition for protection documented allegations of Daniels harassing her in 2013 by contacting the hospital where she worked to accuse her of violating a “court order.” The petition included messages Daniels purportedly wrote to a general email address for the president of the hospital to demand his ex-wife’s contact information. “Could you please forward me her office number? I am filing papers next week for her to be served by the Sheriff at work since I have no other contact info,” Daniels wrote. “I do not wish her or the hospital any public embarrassment and hopefully with her office line, things can be worked out before things are brought into the public eye.”
The petition included a follow up email from the hospital’s director of security, who “strongly urge[d]” Daniels not to “continue to harass” his ex-wife “at her place of employment.”
The publicly accessible court records reviewed by Rolling Stone did not contain any response from Daniels and his attorneys to this alleged workplace harassment. In other court documents, Daniels repeatedly suggested his motivation in his dealings with his ex-wife was to see his child. Lawyers who represented Daniels and his ex-wife did not respond to requests for comment.
Daniels’ legal battle with his ex-wife was not his first. In 1999, Daniels sued a woman he’d had a child with in 1996 to get custody and visitation rights and work out child support. During the subsequent legal battle, the woman’s lawyer accused Daniels of having previously “engaged in conduct which has been threatening” to the woman and made her feel “justifiably unsafe.” The presiding court official rebuffed that line of argument, saying that the woman had previously agreed in a consent order to Daniels visiting their child. The woman, whose name Rolling Stone is withholding, could not be reached for comment. Her attorney declined to comment and said they had no recollection of the case from two decades ago.
In both the cases involving his ex-wife and the other woman, Daniels was accused of failing to keep up with child support, the court documents reveal. Court records confirm that Daniels was in “arrears” with child support to his ex-wife in 2002 and 2006. In court documents from 2009, Daniels’ ex-wife described him as “a chronic offender of continuous failed payments” for child support. Daniels’ lawyers contested this claim. Court documents in the legal fight between Daniels and the woman he had a child with in 1996 reveal he was in arrears on his child support to that woman during 2000 and 2001.
Daniels’ police experience is a central part of his campaign. His website boasts that he “was awarded the accolade of Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in 2002.” Daniels declined to answer inquiries about the specifics of the award, including question about where it was presented and by whom.
Court records and newspaper articles suggest Daniels ran into professional trouble at multiple police departments during his law-enforcement career. Daniels’ ex-wife provided the court with a pair of documents indicating he was disciplined for “unbecoming conduct by providing deceptive information to an investigator” and “abuse” of “state record for personal reasons” in 1999 while he was an officer with the police department in Bel Air, Maryland. The court records, which the ex-wife included in her request for the order of protection, did not provide further detail about the alleged violations or include a response to the accusations from Daniels and his attorneys. Daniels did not address specific questions about the allegations from Rolling Stone.
According to the materials Daniels’ ex-wife provided to the court, he received a “letter of reprimand” from Bel Air Police Chief Leo Matrangola in December 1999. “Improper behavior is a matter of habit,” Matrangola wrote to Daniels. “I would like you to understand that any future misuse of police information or untruthfulness will be considered grounds for termination.” A representative for the Bel Air Police Department did not respond to a request for comment. Matrangola passed away in 2015.
In the 2009 court document in which his ex-wife accused Daniels of failing to provide child support, she also alleged he was once “FIRED within 6 months” of taking a job with the police force in Douglass Township, Pennsylvania. The records do not reflect whether Daniels and his attorney responded to that allegation. Daniels did not respond to specific questions about the alleged firing. The chief of the Douglass Township Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Daniels also had issues at another police job, this time with the department in Minersville, Pennsylvania. According to a November, 2010 report in a local paper, Daniels was suspended from that department over unspecified allegations in August of that year. The suspension was extended after a confidential hearing, and again following a subsequent session of the town council. Daniels left the department via a separation agreement that the council approved that November.
“The allegations that led to the suspension were not made public,” the local Pottsville Republican Herald reported, adding: “The details of the agreement are being kept confidential by the council at Daniels’ request.” Daniels did not respond to specific questions about his reported suspension from the police department in Minersville. The town’s current police chief did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Along with his law-enforcement and military credentials, Daniels has built his political career around support for Trump. He first ran for Congress in 2020, but he lost a crowded, contested primary. He started running for Congress again in 2022, but he instead jumped into the lieutenant governor’s race last month. Daniels announced the lieutenant-governor campaign after Mastriano, the gubernatorial candidate running with Daniels’ support, launched his bid for governor.
Mastriano was subpoenaed by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on Tuesday, due to his alleged involvement in a plan to put forward a slate of “alternate electors” to overturn Trump’s loss and public statements indicating he was “present during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.” He and Daniels are part of a wave of GOP candidates who seem to have attended the protests against Trump’s election loss that turned violent on Jan. 6, 2021. As the U.S. Capitol was attacked that day, Daniels seemed to be front and center. He posted a video showing crowds swarming the building that appeared to be shot from the east front steps, well inside the barricades that were set up that day.
“I am here,” he wrote. “God bless our patriots.”
And Daniels has made support for the broader effort to challenge Trump’s loss — and opposition to the investigation of the attack on the Capitol — part of his campaign. In addition to questioning Trump’s defeat and suggesting he would change voting systems to guarantee future Republican victory, Daniels appeared on One America News Network last year, where he said the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 “has to stop immediately.”
Daniels also apparently objects to investigations into his own past. In January, after he became aware of the reporting for this story, he posted a video to Facebook, claiming the article was a set up by either the “liberal left” or the “establishment right” because he had “upset the powers to be at a very, very, very high level.”
“Rolling Stone magazine with their unlimited budget is now preparing, researching, and writing to do a hit piece on me,” he declared in the video, seated beneath an assault rifle and a photo of him with Trump. “Who put them up to it? I can tell you this, there’s only two entities out there that hate the America First agenda, and it’s the establishment right and the liberal left.”
“Every shit rag liberal paper in the country has come after me,” Daniels said. “I survived combat. Nothing that these man bun wearing purple-haired sissies can do to me can hurt me.”
In the video, Daniels urged Rolling Stone to “come get some.”
“All right shitbag, I know your deal. What do you got? Let’s sit down. Let’s meet, and go ahead and write,” Daniels said. “Rolling Stone, you know how to contact me. … I dare you to try that strong-arm shit with me, because we will meet in person, and it won’t be a good meeting. I promise you that.”
Dec. 18, 2021 – To many Americans, the regions surrounding Pittsburgh have become a collection of “ghost towns” to avoid or a lost culture to elegize. Western Pennsylvania is now a socially acceptable target for stereotypes conjuring images of blighted vacant lots, shuttered mills and welfare recipients addicted to painkillers.
Even the familiar term “Rust Belt” lends itself to images of decline. Showtime’s new small-town Pennsylvania drama “American Rust,” which one reviewer called a “badly written chunk of misery porn,” subjects viewers to tropes like teen criminality, desperate and unemployed parents with starving kids, and cold, unloving neighbors. The show dramatizes every cherry-picked anecdote and caricature wielded by Politico in one 2017 report on the Trump voters of Johnstown.
But Johnstown community leaders responded brilliantly to Politico’s depiction of their neighborhoods. Their argument — that focusing only on the negative is disingenuous — holds true in 2021, too. While pessimists insist that 2020 census data herald demographic disaster in Pittsburgh’s outlying counties, including Johnstown’s Cambria County, a balanced look at the numbers tell a different story.
It’s true that three of Pennsylvania’s eight western counties, the most rural ones, saw a significant decline in population from 2010 to 2020. This 6% average decline likely is due to aging, death or outmigration. The region as a whole grew, but only by 0.5% — a rate that lags the state and national averages (2.4% and 7.4%, respectively).
But comparing these numbers with the 2000 and 2010 census shows these statistics are well within the margin of natural fluctuation or at least remain on steady pace with trends that date to the 1950s. If anything, Western Pennsylvania is not experiencing any truly worrying trend of “population drain” — at worst, it is seeing merely plodding growth.
Besides, population explosions are not always a good thing. Outgoing Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto has spent six years furiously trying to reverse the city’s seven-decade trend of population loss, focusing on quantity at the expense of quality. Mayor-elect Ed Gainey, who defeated Democrat Peduto in May’s primary, emphasized the city’s strengths — hospitality, flexibility and culture — as a blueprint for reform. Pittsburghers don’t want to create an unlivable city just to meet an arbitrary population goal.
This outlook is even more prevalent in Western Pennsylvania’s small towns. Ask any resident of Greensburg or Irwin, for example, if their priority is flooding their towns with new residents. If such places were in demographic crisis, that goal might make sense. Instead, these small towns have focused on stability during and after covid, especially for their small business communities.
A localist philosophy was key to these towns’ resilience during the pandemic. According to the Pennsylvania Economic League of Greater Pittsburgh’s Business Conditions Survey, 65% of the region’s small businesses (100 or fewer employees) reported steady or increased demand for their goods and services by December 2020. And this September, 89% of small businesses reported staffing remained steady or increased quarter over quarter in 2021, while 40% of small businesses have raised wages since May.
That’s because small-town consumers made it a point to buy local during and after the pandemic, a trend evidenced early on by April 2020 survey results from the National Retail Federation. The success of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) co-ops also made an impact in Western Pennsylvania, where ubiquitous farmers markets constitute a genuine parallel grocery option.
One example of a business bolstered by loyal customers during the pandemic is Disobedient Spirits, a craft distiller in Indiana County’s Homer City. Manager Rachel Russell described the phenomenon as a “shutdown surge,” telling me that statewide pandemic restrictions lost them plenty of bar and table business, but individual sales shot up. “For a few weeks, orders were off the charts because we were the only place to buy liquor for miles in any direction,” she recalled. “It dropped some after the state-owned stores reopened, but we kept a lot of regulars.”
With this buy-in from the community, small-town leaders were able to invest in local initiatives spotlighting local distinctives. Forest County’s Marienville, for instance, has made the most of its unique snowmobiling trails, becoming a tourism and retirement destination with skyrocketing property values.
Downtown revitalization efforts like the Main Street beautification in my hometown of Latrobe generate unparalleled resilience and small business growth, according to the Brookings Institution.
Structural changes that will persist after the pandemic suggest that the region’s small towns are likely to get even stronger. Highly educated remote workers are exiting expensive cities in historic numbers, and small-town living is the best way to stretch their dollar — especially during the current hyperinflation and tight housing market. Others fleeing social unrest, politicized school districts or exorbitant covid restrictions will follow the same pattern.
Now is Pennsylvania’s moment to strengthen small towns by giving them room to be unique. Regulations, bureaucracy, and heavy taxes – whether imposed from Harrisburg or Washington — will only burden small towns with the same economic sluggishness as major cities. These places are a hedge against centralization and inequality, often representing the last sound option for millennials or minorities to own homes, start businesses and raise children.
Neither Showtime dramas nor census results capture the strength and resilience of western Pennsylvania. We don’t need an elegy — we need to stay the course of community, solidarity and commonsense policy.
Gov. Tom Wolf will appoint mail voting advocate Leigh M. Chapman to be Pa.’s new top elections official
By SEAN COLLINS WALSH Philadelphia Inquirer DECEMBER 28, 2021
Gov. Tom Wolf plans to appoint Leigh M. Chapman, a lawyer who leads a nonprofit that promotes mail voting, to be the state’s next top elections official, tasking her with overseeing a midterm election cycle that will bring national scrutiny to Pennsylvania while the state fends off continued GOP attacks stemming from the 2020 presidential election.
Chapman will become acting secretary of the commonwealth on Jan. 8, Wolf announced Monday. She previously served as policy director in the agency she will soon head, the Department of State, from 2015 to 2017.
“Throughout my career, I have worked to ensure that voting rights are protected, and to improve access to the ballot box,” Chapman said. “I look forward to continuing that work in my new role, and to build on the tremendously successful election reforms in Pennsylvania over the last several years.”
Chapman will replace Veronica Degraffenreid, who received praise from Wolf for overseeing the office in an acting capacity following the February resignation of the last permanent secretary, Kathy Boockvar.
Wolf originally intended to elevate Degraffenreid to a permanent role in the office but withdrew the nomination after she clashed with Senate Republicans over their controversial review of the 2020 presidential election. She will become a special adviser to Wolf after Chapman takes over the department.
Wolf’s announcement Monday was silent on whether he intended Chapman to assume the secretary role on a permanent basis, which would require legislative confirmation.
“She will be acting secretary, where she will be able to perform the full duties and responsibilities of a confirmed secretary,” Wolf spokesperson Elizabeth Rementer said in a separate statement.
The chain of events leading to Chapman’s appointment began with Boockvar, who oversaw the implementation of Pennsylvania’s 2019 mail voting law, which was passed with bipartisan support and administered the presidential election cycle amid the coronavirus pandemic. Decisions she made around mail balloting became the target of GOP attacks on the integrity of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania, fueled by false statements by former President Donald Trump and his Republican supporters.
She resigned unexpectedly months later due to an unrelated issue when it was revealed that her office bungled the administration of a referendum to extend the statute of limitations for civil claims filed by child sex abuse victims against their abusers. The Department of State is required to advertise state constitutional amendments before they are placed on the ballot but failed to do so in time for the 2021 primary.
Chapman, 37, who earned her law degree from Howard University and her undergraduate from the University of Virginia, has previously worked for the law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf and for the nonprofits Let America Vote, the Advancement Project, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Chapman’s appointment may draw objections from Republicans because she will be rejoining state government after serving as executive director of Deliver My Vote, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that helps voters obtain mail ballots and researches the impact of voting by mail.
The group’s website lists Brian Dunn as a founder. He is a partner in a firm called Field Strategies, which on its website says it “has been instrumental in securing victories for Democratic Presidents, Governors, U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives and statewide ballot initiatives” and runs voter registration and “vote-by-mail signup drives, helping to reshape the electorate favorably for Democratic causes.”
Although Republicans and Democrats worked together to pass the state’s mail balloting law before the pandemic, it became a partisan issue largely thanks to Trump baselessly questioning whether voting by mail allowed Democrats to steal the election from him. Trump’s lies about mail balloting have caused many GOP voters to abandon voting by mail despite using it in the past in roughly equal numbers as Democrats.
In 2020, more than 2.6 million Pennsylvanians voted by mail in the presidential election, while fewer than 300,000 voted by mail in 2016, before the law took effect. Most of the growth was in Democratic ballots, analysts say.
“I have full confidence that Leigh M. Chapman will continue the Department’s efforts to lead Pennsylvania through a smooth election process and ensure that Pennsylvania voters continue to experience free and fair elections, among many responsibilities,” Wolf, a Democrat, said in a statement.
That scrutiny is likely to increase next year, as Pennsylvania voters will pick a new governor and U.S. senator and play a key role in deciding control of Congress. Additionally, state leaders are hashing out new district maps for the legislature and U.S. House delegation.
Republican leaders in the General Assembly did not return requests for comment Monday.
Amtrak train at Bryn Mawr, Pa. traveling westbound towards Pittsburgh Wikimedia Commons photo by Tam0031
By Ryan Deto Pittsburgh City Paper
President Joe Biden signed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill on Nov. 15, which would funnel federal funds to a bevy of infrastructure projects across the country. Pennsylvania is due to get money for roads, bridges, public transit, broadband, and more. For Pittsburgh, it could mean funding busway extensions, new highway interchanges, and sewage and stormwater improvements.
But another big winner in the bill is Amtrak. The national train provider is set to receive $66 billion in funding that will go to fleet acquisition, state grants, rail projects, and improvements across the Amtrak system, says Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn in an interview with NBC News.
What that means for Pennsylvania is likely to be worked out over time, as agreements have to be reached with private rail companies and likely additional state funding should be allocated.
However, Amtrak has already provided a plan for expansion in case the infrastructure bill was passed. And Amtrak officials have said the funding allocated should be enough to move forward with these plans.
And Pennsylvania is a clear winner in that Amtrak proposal. The Keystone State could see 15 new train round trips under Amtrak’s 2035 Vision Plan, and that includes three new routes serving cities in Eastern Pennsylvania, as well as additional trips to and from Pittsburgh.
The 15 additional train round trips in Pennsylvania as proposed by Amtrak are:
1 new round trip between Pittsburgh and New York City, which includes an extension to Cleveland 1 new round trip between Cleveland and Buffalo, that would travel through Erie 3 new round trips between Scranton and NYC 3 new round trips between Reading and Philadelphia 2 new round trips between Allentown and NYC 5 new round trips between Harrisburg and NYC on the Keystone Service
For Pittsburgh, this would add intercity service to Cleveland that leaves and arrives at a reasonable hour. Currently, rail travel between the two Rust Belt cities is done between midnight and 5 a.m.
Adding another round trip between Pittsburgh and New York City could also provide options for commuters in Westmoreland or Cambria counties to travel by rail into Pittsburgh. Currently, the Pennsylvanian train arrives in Pittsburgh at 8 p.m. and leaves towards Harrisburg at 7:30 a.m.
But Eastern Pennsylvania is the real winner in the Amtrak proposal. Three new lines have been proposed that would expand train service into Scranton, Allentown, and Reading.
Final alignments are not complete, but the proposal says the Scranton line will connect the Northeastern Pennsylvania city, which is the birthplace of President Biden, to New York City. The route includes stops in Tobyhanna, Mt. Pocono, and East Stroudsburg before entering New Jersey.
The proposed Allentown line would connect the Lehigh Valley city, now the third largest in the state, to New York City, and includes stops in Bethlehem and Easton before entering New Jersey.
A line from Reading is proposed to connect to Philadelphia (with eventual passage to New York City) and proposed stops include Pottstown, Phoenixville, King of Prussia, and Norristown.
Erie will see additional roundtrip traveling from Cleveland to Buffalo. This route doesn’t have any additional stops in Pennsylvania but does add stops in Ashtabula, Ohio, and Westfield, N.Y.
The proposal, which still has many details to work out, has garnered support from Pennsylvania politicians State Reps. Joe Ciresi (DMontgomery) and Manuel Guzman (DBerks). who represent areas that would get additional train service under the proposal. They praised the plan after the infrastructure bill passed the U.S. House on Nov. 10.
Gov. Tom Wolf met and spoke with Amtrak officials on Sept. 10 and he said the proposed expansion will “improve equity, accessibility, and reliability in transportation” for the commonwealth. He also called on the state government to match the federal response.
“We need statelevel transportation solutions to match this federal leadership so we can build and sustain this vision,” said Wolf in a September press release. “I am pleased to support this plan which would expand services to many more Pennsylvanians, strengthen local businesses, the regional economy, and the commonwealth as a whole.”