Democratic Party

Sept 8, 2019
Chesco Dems: Pipeline ‘dust-up’ a threat to unity 

On Sunday, members of the Chester County Democratic Party will hold a “Unity Day” campaign kickoff for the countywide candidates they hope will be successful in turning the courthouse “blue” in November.In an e-mail, the committee said state Democratic legislators and “forward-thinking office holders” would join together in Phoenixville “in support of nine Democratic candidates for countywide office in 2019,” inviting those interested to come hear, “about their plans to make Chester County an even better place to live and work.”

On another digital platform, however, a vitriolic “dust-up” among party players who find themselves on opposite sides of a central issue in the fall election — the construction of the Mariner East Pipeline, was posing a threat to that united front.

A seemingly innocuous posting on social media concerning one state legislator’s recent tour of pipeline sites in the Exton area laid bare lingering divisions in the party as well as its current intraparty squabble – all ahead of this fall’s municipal primary in which the Democrats hope to take control of the county commissioners office, five county row offices, and two Common Pleas Court judgeships.

In the Facebook post comments, former party officials Michelle Vaughn and Lani Frank harangued one another over current and past slights, accused one another of a variety of transgressions, and debated whether state Rep. Kristine Howard, D-167 of Malvern, the legislator who posted the information about a tour of the Mariner East Pipeline project in her district, is properly representing her constituents.

They were joined by a host of other voices, taking one side or another and accusing their opponents of lying, treachery, or worse. As of Saturday morning, the Facebook post by Howard had 200 comments, by far the busiest traffic of her various messages on the site.

“It’s time that your malicious conduct and those close to you have consequences,” Vaughn said in a post directed at Frank. “I am not keeping silent about the outrageous bullying I have had to endure for years and I won’t sit back and allow it be done to others any longer.”

“I have no motive,” Frank responded. “You started our ‘relationship’ with a lie and you continue to this day. No one believes a word you say. Digging up dirt on Kathi (Cozzone, current commissioners vice chairwoman.) Publicly criticizing a sitting commissioner. Storming out of the (party) convention when you lost. You’re a classy gal. Keep it up. Your character is flashing neon lights now.”

In addition to casting aspersions on one another’s character — Vaughn called Frank “unscrupulous on so many levels,” while Frank suggested Vaughn lived in a “paranoid cave” — the two former party officials, along with Downingtown Area School Board member Rebecca Britton, sparred over the Mariner East Pipeline project.

Frank, an ardent pipeline opponent, accused Vaughn of using her influence with Philadelphia-area labor unions to stifle opposition to the pipeline among party candidates, while Vaughn intimated that Frank was being hypocritical for having accepted campaign donations from those sources in the past.

Frank also took aim at Howard, who had posted the original message about her tour of pipeline sites, for being unresponsive to her requests to meet about the controversial Sunoco project.

“She has refused to meet with me,” Frank said in her initial comment on Howard’s Facebook post. “I am a constituent. I believe that meeting with constituents is part of her job. If she doesn’t want to do her job maybe she should get a job she wants to do.”

“What is the matter with them?” asked one party leader when told of the Facebook exchanges. “This makes no sense,” agreed another party member. Both asked to remain anonymous to stay out of harm’s way in the dispute.

Vaughn served as chairwoman for the county Democratic Committee until she was unseated in June 2014, and had served as a supervisor in East Whiteland, one of the first of a wave of Democrats to win office at the municipal level in the 1990s. She is currently running for county Register of Wills.

Frank, of Easttown, came to notice as a party activist in the early 2000s, working on campaigns for former state Rep. Barbara McIlvaine Smith and current state Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156 of West Chester. She served as vice chairwoman of the county committee until 2018, and ran unsuccessfully for the Register of Wills post in 2015.

The battle between the two drew attention of party leaders, some of whom expressed dismay that Vaughn and Frank were bringing their longtime feud into public view on Facebook two months before voters go to the polls. Any energy exhausted fighting inside the party could draw away from chances of success at the polls in November, they suggested.

As an example, one commentator on the post on Howard’s page announced that he would be voting for Vaughn’s Republican opponent, incumbent Register of Wills Terri Clark, while another lamented, “Refresh my memory as to how this is going to help elect Democrats in November?”

Cozzone, who lost her bid for renomination to seek a fourth term as commissioner in May, said she had read only bits and pieces of the exchange, but found it unproductive overall.

“From my perspective, I don’t think social media is helpful to the conversation, so I tend to ignore it,” she said Friday in an interview. “But social media is the tool of our time. I don’t think (exchanges like Vaughn and Frank’s) are wise, but I don’t think they are unusual in this day and age.”

Howard issued a statement through a spokeswoman for her office, downplaying the dispute.

“It’s good to see people active and engaged on important issues like this, and I will continue to watch developments closely,” she wrote. “As I said in the initial Facebook post, protecting the community’s safety is always foremost in my mind.”

Reportedly, Howard told others that she could not erase the Facebook exchange for fear of running afoul of First Amendment issues and recent court rulings that critics cannot be blocked on elected officials’ sites.

The anonymous county official who wondered why the two would spar in such a public manner agreed that nothing of the exchange helped the party overall.

“This is simply unacceptable for members of the party to behave this way,” the source said. “We should be working together for this election, which is critical. We should not be wasting our time bickering in public.”

Frank was contacted Saturday about the dispute and the party’s reaction to it. She said the matter was “unfortunate” but did not apologize for her reaction to Vaughn’s messages about her.

“There is never a good time to have these discussions,” she said. “But Michelle attacked me, and I am not going to be a punching bag. I’m not going to sit back and take abuse. And I am not the party leader. I’m not the one to direct how people who are running for office behave.”

Attempts to reach Vaughn by phone were unsuccessful. On Saturday, the comments that she had left attacking Frank and others had mostly been removed from the page, while Frank’s and Britton’s were still visible.

In a statement to the Daily Local, committee Chairman Dick Bingham initially said Vaughn and Frank were simply having an exchange of opinions.

“Fundamental differences on certain issues have always been a part of the big tent Democratic party but it is this very type of spirited discussion that allows us to learn from and represent all community members, not just a few,” he wrote.

But he later acknowledged that he had communicated his concern with the two women about their exchange, which he characterized as a “dust-up.”

“I would not disagree that it is inappropriate in a public forum” to have the sort of exchange that Vaughn, Frank, and the others engaged in, he said in an interview. “But it is a dust-up, and we will move on. I am sure it will pass. I am confident you will see true unity on Nov. 5.”  Source

April 26, 2019
Pennsylvania Capitol-Star
Help us stop Pa. House Republicans’ ‘Dirty Dozen’ plan to let Big Business run free | Opinion

By Frank Dermody

Imagine a world where you could commit any crime – even killing another person – but as long as you were the one who called the police and reported yourself, you’d walk away scot-free.

That’s the world some corporate special interests are asking extremist Republicans to build for them – a regulatory Wild West where profits come before public safety and state regulators are told to stand down.

We’ve seen too often what happens when corporations police themselves. The Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. The Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal. The willful misrepresentation by drug makers about opioid drug safety. The Boeing 737 Max.

Although most corporations prioritize public safety and long-term success, it only takes one bad actor to cut the wrong corner in the name of quick profits to cause a tragedy.

Despite the danger, some Republican lawmakers in Harrisburg are pushing their very own “Dirty Dozen” – five bills containing 12 proposals to let corporate special interests have almost anything they want even when public safety is put at risk (You can read the bills here, and here, and here, here, and here.)

These bills would do things like:

Let corporations escape penalties when their negligence leads to permanent harm or even death if the corporation is the one reporting the accident to the state.
Put the burden of accidents and pollution cleanup solely on the taxpayers and let the corporation off the hook.
Allow politicians in the legislature to eliminate any regulation at any time regardless of the impact on public safety.

Let a corporation use third-party inspectors to approve a permit application if a state agency cannot approve it by an arbitrary deadline – and the same corporation could try to delay things in order to run out the clock.
Offer corporations a defense for broken rules by simply saying they didn’t understand the rules. Try that the next time you get pulled over for speeding.

Require a repetitive second vote in the Republican-controlled legislature to adopt a new regulation when combined annual compliance costs exceed very low thresholds.

Create a “Repealer General” appointed by the Republican majority to decide what state rules and regulations should be eliminated when corporations ask.

Despite what the Republican sponsors of these bills want you to believe, this isn’t about cutting red tape or taking away obsolete regulations. It’s about preventing state agencies from doing their job to guard the health and safety of all people.

This isn’t just about clean air and water. It’s about everything from safe workspaces to farm and food safety, consumer protection and even ending child labor.

House Democrats are fighting to adequately fund oversight agencies like the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Labor & Industry. But since 2010 Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania have consistently voted to starve our crucial safety agencies of basic resources.

These new proposals – the Dirty Dozen – take this tactic to a chilling new low – handing the fox the keys to the henhouse and inevitably putting Pennsylvania taxpayers on the hook to clean up the mess.

What can you do? Contact your state lawmakers and let them know that putting people at risk to go easy on corporate special interests is never acceptable. There’s still time for people like you to be heard and to stop these dangerous games.

State Rep. Frank Dermody, of Allegheny County, is the Democratic floor leader in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He writes from Harrisburg.  Source


June 4, 2018
Bill Clinton addresses his remarks on Lewinsky scandal, says he supports #MeToo

Washington (CNN)Former President Bill Clinton used the opening of a book tour event in New York on Monday to respond to a defensive interview he gave NBC News in which he defended his handling of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and said that he didn’t have to apologize to her.

Asked by author Walter Mosley about the response, Clinton said, “The truth is, the hubbub was I got hot under the collar because of the way the questions were asked. And I think what was lost were the two points that I made that are important to me.”
“The suggestion was that I never apologized for what caused all the trouble for me 20 years ago,” Clinton said. “First point is, I did. I meant it then, I meant it now. I apologized to my family, to Monica Lewinsky and her family and to the American people before a panel of ministers in the White House, which was widely reported. So I did that. I meant it then and I mean it today. I live with it all the time.”
Clinton added: “The second is that I support the Me Too movement and. Think it is long overdue, and I have always tried to support it in the decisions and policies that I advanced. Beyond that, I think it would be good if we could go on with the discussion.”
The former president had defended himself from recent criticism of his affair with Lewinsky in light of the #MeToo movement, telling NBC News in an interview that aired Monday that he never reached out to the former White House intern following the scandal.
Speaking to “Today,” Clinton defended his decision to remain in office following the scandal.
“A lot of the facts have been conveniently omitted to make the story work, I think partly because they’re frustrated that they got all these serious allegations against the current occupant of the Oval Office and his voters don’t seem to care,” Clinton said, pointing to a series of sexual misconduct allegations against current President Donald Trump, who has denied them. “I think I did the right thing. I defended the Constitution.”
Asked if he owed Lewinsky an apology, President Clinton told NBC’s Craig Melvin, “No, I do not — I have never talked to her. But I did say publicly on more than one occasion that I was sorry. That’s very different. The apology was public.”
In an essay for Vanity Fair published earlier this year, Lewinsky said she was questioning the narrative surrounding the affair, which played a central role in Clinton’s eventual impeachment.
“Now, at 44, I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern,” she wrote. “I’m beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot.”
Following the interview, Lewinsky spoke out on Twitter, sharing her Vanity Fair essay and writing that she was “grateful to the myriad people who have helped me evolve + gain perspective in the past 20 years.”
Clinton publicly acknowledged at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1998 that he had “sinned.”
“I don’t think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned. It is important to me that everybody who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine — first and most important, my family, also my friends, my staff, my Cabinet, Monica Lewinsky and her family, and the American people.”
As for his affair with Lewinksy, Clinton told NBC, “this was litigated 20 years ago. Two-thirds of the American people sided with me.”   Source


May 10, 2018
PA Dems’ Attempt To Outflank Republican Dominated House Committee

House State Government Committee Chairman Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(WSKG) — Frustrated by their proposals consistently failing to pass a key GOP-controlled state House committee, Democrats are appealing to the speaker to help them circumvent it.

Their plea appears to have little chance of success.

Republican Daryl Metcalfe of Butler County has run the State Government Committee since 2011. In that time, he’s made clear his aversion to legislation sponsored by Democrats–once writing in a Facebook post that he “block[s] all substantive Democrat legislation sent to my committee and advance[s] good Republican legislation.”

House Democratic spokesman Bill Patton acknowledged, Metcalfe can technically do what he wants with the proposals, and the Democratic caucus doesn’t have official recourse.

But he insisted, the situation is out of hand.

“We looked up all eight years. In that time, there have been hundreds of democratic-sponsored bills sent to that committee by the speaker. Only one of them ever came out of that committee,” he said.

The one bill in question? A land use measure in 2014.

House Democratic leaders re-introduced more than 80 stalled bills this week, and are asking Speaker Mike Turzai to route them to different committees.

Turzai spokesman Neal Lesher suggested the proposals’ initial failure may not be Metcalfe’s fault.

“I mean anybody could just file a bunch of bills, sit around and do nothing, and then say, ‘oh they didn’t move my bills,” Lesher said.

Lesher also noted, when Democrats held the House majority, they let through about the same overall number of across-the-aisle bills as Republicans are now.

Patton didn’t dispute that, but said this situation is different.

“Never before has there been one committee chairman who has bottled up hundreds of bills over a period of years simply because they’re sponsored by members of the other party,” he said. “That is unprecedented.”   Source


May 7, 2018
Facebook Found 3,000 Russia-Linked Election Ads. Now House Democrats Are Planning to Release Them


May 7, 2018

Ever wondered what those Facebook ads Kremlin-linked groups ran during the 2016 presidential election looked like?

Soon you can find out. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are preparing to release 3,000 of them, giving the biggest illustration to date of how Facebook (FB, +0.76%) was used in an attempt to manipulate citizens during the election.

The ads may be released as early as this week, according to The Wall Street Journal, but first Facebook and Democrats must determine what and how much user data will be retracted ahead of the release.

“We have been in ongoing discussions with Facebook and hope to have the final redacted ads in our possession within a matter of days,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who is leading the effort, told The Hill on Sunday. “As soon as we receive them, it is our intention to share them with the public.”

The ads have been in Congress’ possession since last year, at which time they made fewer than 50 available to the public. Facebook had identified the extent of the ads as of last September. It found 470 accounts linked to the Internet Research Company, “that bought the 3,000 ads during a two-year period intended to amplify social and political tensions during and after the 2016 presidential elections,” according to The WSJ.

Despite the abundance of ads created, Facebook has claimed that only 75% of those reached an audience—25% of the ads were allegedly never shown to users.

Democratic efforts to release the ads follows the end to the bipartisan probe into Russia’s activity during the election that found no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians Source


April 22, 2018
Forum was an example of democracy in action

On April 7, Lancaster County high school students hosted a “Town Hall for Our Lives” public forum around gun violence and invited all elected officials and candidates running for office from Lancaster County.

It was notable that, in addition to me, the only elected officials or candidates who came were state Rep. Mike Sturla, D-96th District, and state House Democratic candidates Michele Wherley, Sue Walker and Dana Hamp Gulick.

This was a missed opportunity for our democracy and our community.

The student forum was truly a bipartisan conversation. National Rifle Association members, Republicans, independents and Democrats were in attendance. The students planned the entire gathering. It was productive and civil. Students masterfully facilitated, including cutting off elected officials 40 years their senior to remind them of the rule of “one microphone at a time.” I was one of the last people to leave the coffee hour that followed the forum, along with a group of conservative constituents who stayed to the very end.

The gathering was a face-to-face forum to discuss a life-and-death matter that our youth are keeping front and center this election season. Earlier that week, students at Franklin & Marshall College invited Congressman Lloyd Smucker and me to a forum on gun violence that he also declined to attend. So I fielded questions from the audience for more than an hour by myself.

I believe that running for office to represent this community means showing up and hearing from people who may disagree with me. To date, we’ve hosted more than 50 public events to talk with voters, and about as many house parties and community events. Is it easy to show up for debate and dialogue in the public sphere? From my experience as a first-time candidate, it is not easy at all. Is it part of the job? Absolutely.

I’d like to extend an invitation to groups, even those that may disagree with my stances, to host public discussions for those of us running to represent this community in the U.S. House of Representatives. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss and debate faith, family and values in houses of worship, economic development and business policy with business groups, education policy with our schools, and 21st-century gun policy with the NRA.

After all, the title of the job is “representative,” which includes showing up and hearing from diverse constituencies. Smucker has been in office for more than 460 days and has yet to hold a public, nonticketed event where political questions and discussion are allowed. If he can’t show up to talk with groups of constituents at home, how can we expect that he’ll reach across the aisle in Washington to advocate for policies that work for all of us?

Our Founding Fathers designed our government as a deliberative democracy — requiring it to include reflection, reason and responsiveness to the public to work effectively. Differences of opinion were meant to be worked out through dialogue, debate and engagement in the public sphere. Smucker owes the public some discourse on the issues discussed at the April 7 forum. Because most Americans support comprehensive background checks prior to obtaining a firearm, he should explain his positions on the matter and why the corporate firearms lobby spent more than $200,000 to help him get elected. But rather than speaking to his constituents directly, he defends his positions in one-sided op-eds in LNP, like his March 4 “We need common sense, not hyperbole, to guide guns debate.” It misled voters about how much the NRA actually spends to keep status quo gun legislation and sell more guns (he said $1 million, when it actually spent more than 50 times that influencing elections).

At the end of the student-led forum, I asked an NRA member who attended what his takeaways were. He shared candidly that he was surprised by the commonsense perspectives of the panelists (all Democrats, as no Republicans accepted the students’ invitation). He came in expecting that we’d each have “radical” positions, but left saying he has a lot of respect for the positions he heard and could even envision supporting them. To me, this is what democracy looks like. We engage in more public, in-person conversations and step away from our partisan echo chambers to hear what others are truly saying, why they’re saying those things, and leave with a deeper sense of what we hold in common.

Jess King is a Democrat running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 11th District. She lives in Lancaster.  Source


March 31, 2018
Washington Post
Democrats seeking head start to House majority look to Philadelphia suburbs

All you need to know about political momentum can be found in Philadelphia’s western suburbs by looking at two campaigns.

Doug Hasbrouck, faced with almost certain defeat, decided last year to jump into his first campaign. Rep. Ryan Costello, a rising political star, stared down a very difficult race and quit elective politics.

Hasbrouck, 56, a lifelong Democrat, had never really gotten involved in politics until after President Trump’s inauguration. When local party leaders asked him to run for a township council seat last fall, he knew Republicans had a major advantage. He still dove in because even in defeat, his campaign might draw out more Democrats to help other races.

“For the ticket, I was at the bottom,” Hasbrouck said last Sunday at a gathering of local Democrats here in Delaware County.

Just 41 years old, Costello had already served on a township board of supervisors and a county board, doing stints as chairman for both. A classic moderate Republican, Costello is now in his second term in Congress. When the state Supreme Court drew new maps, his district went from a pure toss-up to one Trump lost by nearly 10 percentage points.

But he has grown sick of answering questions about the unpredictable president and decided he would retire rather than run an uphill campaign for a job he barely enjoys. “It’s very difficult to move forward in a constructive way today,” Costello told Michael Rellahan, dean of the political press corps in Chester County, just west of Delaware County.

Democrats in this region are poised to meet or exceed their share of what’s needed to win the House majority. Costello is one of three Republicans retiring in southeastern Pennsylvania, and Democrats have the edge in all three districts. In southern New Jersey, Republicans have not found a top-tier candidate to succeed a retiring veteran lawmaker, but Democrats have their top pick in the race.

North of Philadelphia, on both sides of the Delaware River, a pair of incumbent Republicans are facing difficult reelection battles.

By the time all the votes are counted, Democrats might well pick up five or six seats in the Philadelphia area — a huge head start on the way to netting the 23 needed to win the majority in November’s midterm elections.

And all of that is fueled by the anti-Trump energy in these once Republican strongholds in the suburbs, where the ground shifted in presidential races long ago but now is moving toward the Democrats at the most local level.

While most political observers focused on the Virginia elections this past fall, the ground shook here in the Philadelphia suburbs as never before. For the first time in Delaware County history, Democrats swept the countywide offices and won their first seats on the council in nearly 40 years.

In one school board election, Democrats won four out of four contests on a panel that had been entirely Republican except for one brief stretch in 1980.

David Landau, chairman of the Delaware County Democrats, saw last year’s local elections as the prelude to this year’s congressional elections.

“The path to 2018 is 2017,” he recalled telling his party activists last year. “You want to change Washington? Change Delaware County.”

Next door, in Costello’s Chester County, the same thing happened. All four county “row offices,” posts such as auditor and clerk of the courts, went to the Democrats — offices Democrats had never before held.

So Costello knew he would face a tough 2018 election and started working immediately. In 2017, he raised nearly $1.6 million and had a war chest of $1.4 million. He positioned himself independently on issues, opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act while supporting the massive tax-cut plan.

Independent analysts rated his race a toss-up. Then the court ruled that the current maps violated the state constitution’s requirement that counties not be carved apart in creating representative districts. The new map places all of Chester and part of Berks County into one district, a much more Democratic division.

Costello decided against running an uphill race, particularly in an environment in which liberals deride him as a Trump enabler. “It’s a very angry environment,” he told the Daily Local News in Chester County.

That energy could be found at last Sunday night’s meeting of the Mid-County Democratic Committee, covering a collection of five towns in Delaware County.

“Four years, ago this group had about 12 people. We now have 70 or 80,” said Bill Clinton, 72, who has been active in local grass-roots politics for more than 15 years and happily jokes about his presidential name.

On that night, seven candidates for the newly drawn congressional district here turned out for a candidate forum. It was only half the field of 14 candidates, as the county organization builds toward making an endorsement to ensure that they do not nominate a fluky candidate who might give away what should be a sure thing.

He lost by 50 votes. Turnout was twice as high as expected.

Now, he wants to harness that energy for the congressional races this fall. And he has just one litmus test: “I’m wedded to the candidate that can win.”   Source

March 14, 2018
Pennsylvania Special Election Results: 18th Congressional District

Conor Lamb leads by 0.3 percentage points, or 677 votes, over Rick Saccone with 100 percent of precincts fully reporting.

Conor Lamb Democrat 113,720 49.8%
Rick Saccone Republican 113,043 49.5
Drew Miller Libertarian 1,378 0.6

228,141 votes, 100% reporting (593 of 593 precincts)

The Democrat and Republican in a special House election in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Trump country were divided by a few hundred votes in a race that was too close to call early Wednesday — an ominous sign for Republicans in a district that Donald J. Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points. Read more here.

In 2016, Mr. Trump won the district by double digits, but the race between Conor Lamb, a moderate Democrat, and Rick Saccone, a Republican, had become unexpectedly competitive.

Whoever wins will have to decide soon which district to run in this year. The State Supreme Court threw out Pennsylvania’s current congressional map and recently issued a new map with redrawn boundaries. Tim Murphy, a Republican, resigned from the seat last year after reports that he encouraged a woman, with whom he had an affair, to have an abortion.


View Source and interactive map here


March 13, 2018
House Intelligence Democrats Release Response To GOP Russia Conclusions

House intelligence committee ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks to reporters Tuesday on Capitol Hill, joined by other Democrats on the committee as they released a response to GOP conclusions on the House Russia investigation.

Susan Walsh/AP


Updated at 8:55 p.m. ET

A day after the Republican members of the House intelligence committee released their findings from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, which cleared President Trump’s campaign of collusion, Democrats from the committee said today it was “premature” for the majority GOP members to conclude the probe, and that they would keep investigating.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the committee, called the Republican decision to shut down the investigation a “terrible disservice to the country and the American people,” in announcing the release of a 21-page “status report” that laid out the Democrats’ case to continue the probe.

“The decision to shut down the investigation before key witnesses could be interviewed and vital documentary evidence obtained will prevent us from fully discharging our duty to the House and to the American people,” the report from the Democrats says.

It then lays out a long list of witnesses the committee hadn’t yet interviewed or gotten enough documents from as of Monday, when Republicans on the committee deemed the investigation complete.

The GOP members concluded that staffers of the Trump campaign who met with Russians may have displayed bad judgement, but nothing worse. The report affirmed that Russia was actively waging an “active measures” information campaign against the United States leading up to the 2016 election, but notably disputed that the Russian efforts were intended to help Trump win.

Schiff appeared with fellow intelligence committee Democrats on Capitol Hill Tuesday evening and said the Republicans had put forth a “pretense of trying to find the truth.”

“We are going to do our best to continue our work. There are individuals who want to cooperate with our committee and share information, and will continue to do so,” Schiff said. “We will be putting together a report that will set out for the country what evidence we have seen to date.”

The Democrats’ retort is broken up into four sections:

  • Broad concepts the Democrats feel haven’t been adequately investigated, like what is still necessary in terms of election security U.S. in the future, as well as more specific lines of questioning like “Did President Trump seek to obstruct the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn by pressuring FBI Director Comey to drop the investigation, by repeatedly requesting his loyalty, and by firing him?”
  • Witnesses the committee hasn’t yet interviewed, including but not limited to former and current campaign and administration staffers like Reince Priebus, Stephen Miller, KT McFarland, Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, and Sam Nunberg, as well as a number of other people, like Natalia Veselnitskaya, who came to Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016, and Simona Mangiante, who recently married former Trump adviser, and special counsel cooperator, George Papadopoulos.
  • Entities and companies the Democrats want documents from, such as Deutsche Bank, which paid a $425 million dollar fine last year for its involvement in a money-laundering scheme with Russian clients, and a number of social media and tech companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, Snapchat, and Imgur, to continue the committee’s probe into the depth of the Russian disinformation campaign.
  • Instances in which the Democrats feel subpoenas are necessary to get the information they need: this section names more than 15 people, including Trump Jr., Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, outgoing communications director Hope Hicks, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Democrats want to use subpoenas for to either make them appear before the committee or provide more information or documents than they have previously.

The House Intelligence has hosted a number of high profile open and closed hearings since starting its investigation into Russian interference last year, but it became apparent things were turning partisan when the Republican chairman of the committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, of California, was forced to recuse himself from the investigation last April. Since then, Republicans and Democrats on the committee have essentially been working separate investigations; it’s unclear when the Democrats plan to release their own full report.

The full “status update” from the Democratic members of the House intelligence committee is below.

Congress of the United State
Washington, DC 20515

March 13, 2018

Status of the Russia Investigation

One year ago, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) initiated its
investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election and pledged to follow the facts
wherever they would lead. With yesterday’s announcement that the Majority will be prematurely shutting down the Russia investigation and issuing a report at odds with the consensus of the Intelligence Community and the overwhelming evidence produced during our own probe, they have broken that commitment.

The decision to shut down the investigation before key witnesses could be interviewed and vital
documentary evidence obtained will prevent us from fully discharging our duty to the House and to the American people. But the Committee Minority will be issuing an interim report that lays out the facts that we know to date and identifies what significant investigative steps remain, especially with respect to the issues of collusion and obstruction of justice. In this document, we will set out the investigative threads that we have been pursuing—and in some cases, been prevented from pursuing—and will need to be completed at a later date to ensure not only that the public is fully informed, but also to determine whether the Russians have leverage over the President of the United States.  Read full report here

March 12, 2018
US House Committee on Intelligence/Democrats

Press Releases
Schiff Statement on House Republicans’ Premature Shutdown of Russia Investigation

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement:

“Today, the House Majority has announced it is terminating the Russia investigation, leaving to others the important work of determining the full extent of Russian interference in our election, the role of U.S. persons connected to the Trump campaign in that intervention, possible efforts to obstruct the investigation by the President and most important, what needs to be done to protect the country going forward. While the Majority members of our committee have indicated for some time that they have been under great pressure to end the investigation, it is nonetheless another tragic milestone for this Congress, and represents yet another capitulation to the executive branch. By ending its oversight role in the only authorized investigation in the House, the Majority has placed the interests of protecting the President over protecting the country, and history will judge its actions harshly.

“Next week, it will be one year since our investigation began with its first open hearing, and the country learned that the Trump campaign had been the subject of a counterintelligence investigation since July of the election year. Since that time, we have learned a great deal about countless secret meetings, conversations and communications between Trump campaign officials and the Russians, all of which the Trump Administration initially denied, would later misrepresent, and finally be forced to acknowledge. Thirteen Russians have been indicted in a far reaching conspiracy in which the Russians sought to influence our election by helping Donald Trump, hurting the Hillary Clinton campaign and sowing discord in the United States. Most significant, high-ranking Trump campaign and Administration officials have also been indicted, including the President’s national security advisor, his campaign chair and deputy campaign chair, as well as one of his foreign policy advisors, and three of those have already pled guilty.

“During that first open hearing of our investigation, I asked whether we could conduct this investigation in the kind of thorough and nonpartisan manner that the seriousness of the issues merited, or whether the enormous political consequences of our work would make that impossible. At that time, I said that I did not know the answer, but ‘if this committee can do its work properly, if we can pursue the facts wherever they lead, unafraid to compel witnesses to testify, to hear what they have to say, to learn what we will and, after exhaustive work, reach a common conclusion, it would be a tremendous public service and one that is very much in the national interest.’

“Regrettably, that challenge proved too much. The Majority was not willing to pursue the facts wherever they would lead, would prove afraid to compel witnesses like Steve Bannon, Hope Hicks, Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump Jr., Corey Lewandowski and so many others to answer questions relevant to our investigation. It proved unwilling to subpoena documents like phone records, text messages, bank records and other key records so that we might determine the truth about the most significant attack on our democratic institutions in history. Instead, it began a series of counter-investigations, designed to attack the credibility of the FBI, the Departments of Justice and State, and investigate anyone and anything other than what they were charged to do — investigate Russia’s interference in our election and the role the Trump campaign played. Ironically, even while they close down the Russia investigation, they plan to continue trying to put our own government on trial: this is a great service to the President, and a profound disservice to the country.

“Some will say that we should leave the investigation to Special Counsel Mueller anyway, since he has the resources and independence to do the job. But this fundamentally misapprehends the mission of the Special Counsel, which is to determine whether U.S. laws were broken and who should be prosecuted. It is not Mueller’s job to tell the American people what happened, that is our job, and the Majority has walked away from it. Others may be tempted to say a pox on both houses, and suggest that in a dispute between the parties, both must be equally culpable. But after months of urging the Majority to do a credible investigation, the Minority was put in the position of going along with a fundamentally unserious investigative process, or pointing out what should be done, what must be done, to learn the truth. We chose the latter course.

“On a fundamental aspect of our investigation — substantiating the conclusions of the Intelligence Community’s assessment that the Russians interfered in our democracy to advance the Trump campaign, hurt Clinton and sow discord — we should have been able to issue a common report. On those issues, the evidence is clear and overwhelming that the Intelligence Community Assessment was correct. On a whole host of investigative threads, our work is fundamentally incomplete, some issues partially investigated, others, like that involving credible allegations of Russian money laundering, remain barely touched. If the Russians do have leverage over the President of the United States, the Majority has simply decided it would rather not know. On the final aspect of our work — setting out the prescriptions for protecting the country going forward — we will endeavor to continue our work, with or without the active participation of the Majority.

“In the coming weeks and months, new information will continue to be exposed through enterprising journalism, indictments by the Special Counsel, or continued investigative work by Committee Democrats and our counterparts in the Senate. And each time this new information becomes public, Republicans will be held accountable for abandoning a critical investigation of such vital national importance.”   Source


Feb 26, 2018
Times of Chester County
McGinnis won’t seek second term leading county’s Democrats

As a dedicated New England Patriots’ fan, Brian McGinnis probably won’t like being compared to Pats’ nemesis Peyton Manning.

But McGinnis pulled a Manning (the quarterback who famously won the Super Bowl and then retired), this past week, announcing that he would go out on top, and not seek another term as chair of the Chester County Democratic Committee.

Under McGinnis, Democrats swept all four Row Office seats in 2017 — after not winning even one in more than 150 years in Chester County.

He made the surprise announcement to a packed auditorium filled with CCDC leadership last week that he would not seek a second term. New party leadership, to be voted upon in June, will continue the Democratic wave into November.

“I’m leaving the party in great shape financially and with a lot of momentum towards the 2018 elections,” McGinnis reflected after this week’s announcement of not running for a new four-year tenure.

Chesco Democrats are riding high on changing demographics and an increase in voter turnout. Their biggest move last year was the purchase of a permanent headquarters at 37 S. High Street in the heart of West Chester.

With a war chest of new donors and increased activism, McGinnis sees a great slate of quality statehouse candidates ready to break barriers, again, in Chester County. It’s only been a few months since CCDC shocked Republican neighbors with the historic sweep of four County Row offices. On the line this year are the Governor, Lt. Governor, US Senate and US Congress seats in addition to a dozen Harrisburg-bound slots.

“I’m very appreciative of the support of so many wonderful people within the organization,” added McGinnis. “This committee worked extremely hard regarding the history we made in 2017. This year and going forward to 2020 promise to be just as competitive and exciting.”

“I will stay active within the party as a fundraiser and liaison to building trades unions. I’m looking forward to a smooth transition to the new officers elected at our June reorganization meeting. I’m confident they will be able to build on the momentum that was created.”

As anyone who has run for office knows, the on-demand lifestyle is not easy. Working behind-the-scenes, as a party leader, is the same.

“I am very blessed to have my two biggest supporters by my side every step of the way in my Mom and Dad. Being in public life isn’t easy but they have kept me grounded. Their unconditional love and support was a big key in my success.”

McGinnis will continue to steer the county Democrats through the May primaries and oversee the June election of the next four-year administration. Source

Feb 2, 2018
CBS Philly
Democratic Party Chair Resigns Under Pressure From Wolf 

Marcel Groen says he believes Gov. Tom Wolf should have say on who chairs the party, and he says while he takes responsibility for the quotes in the Inquirer column, he says the quotes were taken of out of context and were inaccurate. He goes on to say they were inartful and lack the clarity he would have liked.Groen says he disagrees with the governor’s assessment and he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. But he doesn’t want to be a distraction during the upcoming election.

Groen was chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee for nearly 20 years before he was elected chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Committee in 2015.

Reached by email, Wolf’s campaign spokesman says they are not commenting, even to simply confirm whether or not the request came from Wolf.  Read more

Jan 28, 2018
Washington Examiner
Adviser shielded by Hillary Clinton after sexual harassment complaint continued inappropriate behavior later: Report
Burns Strider, the Clinton campaign faith adviser demoted but not fired for sexual harassment in 2007, displayed similar inappropriate behavior toward women at Clinton super political action committee, Correct the Record, according to a report.Two young female direct subordinates of Strider’s at Correct the Record, tasked with defending Clinton in the press ahead of her 2016 presidential bid, told BuzzFeed this week about experiences they had with Strider during his 18-month tenure at the organization that were comparable to the 2007 complaint lodged against him while a member of Clinton’s 2008 campaign team.

The first woman, who wished to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, said Strider repeatedly commented on her appearance, touched her constantly, sent suggestive emails and text messages, and monitored her whereabouts between 2013 and 2014 when she worked at Correct the Record.

In one example, Strider rubbed her shoulders while working at event in Mississippi in February 2014 in the presence of the employee’s mother.

“I just felt like if you want to work in politics, you have to be tough enough to endure this,” the woman said of the culture of the communications shop. “I felt embarrassed quitting.”

Strider did not deny the complainant’s account, per BuzzFeed.

“I’ve come to realize that those terms in the workplace are not preferred, by and large,” Strider said via the telephone on Saturday. “At the time, there were certainly terms I [used]. It’s just something I have to broadly apologize for.”

A second former subordinate at Correct the Record said Strider made analogous remarks about her looks between 2014 and 2015 before she resigned.

The woman recalled one evening in early 2015 when she and Strider shared an Uber on the way home from a networking dinner.

When the pair arrived at the staffer’s home, Strider allegedly got out of the car and kissed her goodnight on the nose.

Strider said he did not remember kissing her on the nose, adding it was more likely he had kissed her on the forehead.

The employee’s lawyer, Ari Wilkenfeld, said his client supported the #MeToo movement “and the women who have come forward across a vast array of industries.”

“It’s very intimidating to open yourself up to such scrutiny like this, but it is essential,” Wilkenfeld said.

Strider — who sent Clinton scripture readings each morning during the 2008 campaign — was demoted, had to forgo pay, and was made to seek counseling after a staffer alleged he had harassed her in 2007, the New York Times first reported.

Strider had inappropriately massaged her shoulders, kissed her forehead, and sent her inappropriate emails, the 30-year-old woman claimed.

Strider is still an active figure in Democratic politics, including through American Values Network, the 501(c)(4) group he founded in 2010.  Source

January 20, 2018
McCaskill Military Amendment
Watch video here
Jan 16, 2018
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Democrats grab key Wisconsin Senate seat in Tuesday’s special elections

MADISON – Democrats snagged a GOP-leaning state Senate seat in western Wisconsin on Tuesday, buoying progressive hopes that they could ride a wave of victory this fall.

Patty Schachtner, the chief medical examiner for St. Croix County, will take the seat that had been held for 17 years by former Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls). Harsdorf stepped down in November to take a job as GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s agriculture secretary.

In an interview, Schachtner said she thought she beat state Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) because the race had turned nasty in mailings from groups outside the district.

“It wasn’t nice. It was mean,” she said of the campaign literature. “People just said, ‘You know what? We’re nicer than that.’”

In a post on Twitter, Jarchow said he had called Schachtner to congratulate her.

“I look forward to working with her as our new state Senator,” he wrote in his tweet. “Thank you to all who worked so hard for our campaign.”

Also Tuesday, in special elections for the state Assembly, voters in Washington County chose a Republican and voters in Racine County chose a Democrat, according to unofficial results.

But the focus Tuesday was on the 10th Senate District, which consists of parts of Burnett, Polk, St. Croix, Pierce and Dunn counties along Minnesota’s border.

Schachtner’s win gives Democrats momentum, but they remain deep in the minority. Once she is seated, Republican will hold an 18-14 advantage, with one district vacant. That seat belonged to Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere), who joined Walker’s administration last month, and won’t be decided until November, when 17 of the state’s 33 Senate districts are up for election.

Schachtner said once she joins the Senate she hopes to focus on improving access to health care and helping drug addicts get treatment.

She sidestepped a question about whether she thought opposition to President Donald Trump helped her win.

“I’m just worried about western Wisconsin right now,” she said. “Right now, in western Wisconsin, Wisconsin values is what keeps us going.”

The district has not been good to Democrats in the past. Mitt Romney won the district in 2012 even though he lost the presidential race in Wisconsin and nationally to Barack Obama. Trump crushed Hillary Clinton in the district in the 2016 presidential election and John McCain almost won the district in 2008, despite Obama’s easy statewide victory.

Democrats saw Tuesday’s victory as a sign they were taking hold of the energy that benefited their party in special elections last year in Alabama, Virginia and Oklahoma.

A former emergency medical technician who a decade ago appeared on the show “Wife Swap,” Schachtner serves on the board of the Somerset School District and has served on the town board for Star Prairie.   Source

Jan 16, 2018
The Hill
Democrats search for 51st net neutrality vote
Senate Democrats are hunting for one more Republican vote to prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from repealing net neutrality rules.Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Tuesday that all 49 Democrats have endorsed legislation to preserve the rules. With Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) already on board, Democrats need the support of just one more Republican to ensure the legislation is sent to the House.The bill, which will be introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), would use a legislative tool called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back the FCC’s vote last month scrapping the 2015 net neutrality rules. The rules have required internet service providers (ISP) to treat all web traffic equally, and supporters say they’re essential to preventing companies such as Comcast and Verizon from abusing their control over internet access.The Democrats plan to use procedural rules under the CRA to force a vote on their bill in the coming months.Even though the bill is unlikely to pass the House or be signed by President Trump, Democrats see an opportunity to capitalize on the outcry surrounding the FCC repeal and force Republicans to vote on net neutrality ahead of the midterm elections.“With full caucus support, it’s clear that Democrats are committed to fighting to keep the internet from becoming the Wild West where ISPs are free to offer premium service to only the wealthiest customers while average consumers are left with far inferior options,” Schumer said in a statement Tuesday.He added, “When we force a vote on this bill, Republicans in Congress will — for the first time — have the opportunity to right the administration’s wrong and show the American people whose side they’re on: big ISPs and major corporations or consumers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.”On the House side, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) announced Tuesday that he had lined up 82 co-sponsors for his companion CRA bill, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). But the procedural rules for CRA bills are different in the House; Democrats do not have the power to force a vote by securing co-sponsors.That’s left the Senate as the primary venue for the net neutrality fight.Supporters of the rules looking for the 51st vote for the CRA bill could have several targets.Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), for example, who made headlines last year by bucking the administration on a handful of judicial nominees, said last week that he is undecided on Markey’s bill.“There a lot of nuances, and there are very good arguments on both sides,” Kennedy said to reporters, according to the National Journal. “I’m honestly undecided. Right now, to me, it’s a very, very close call.”Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who’s seen as one of the most vulnerable Republicans in this year’s midterm election, is another possible target in the net neutrality push. Spokespeople for Kennedy and Heller did not respond to requests for comment.Still, Republicans have largely opposed the Obama-era rules as heavy-handed regulation that has stifled investment from broadband companies. They say existing antitrust and consumer protection laws are already sufficient to secure an open internet.Democrats and their allies disagree and think Republicans will pay a political price for that stance.Fight for the Future, a group that helped rally internet users to protest the FCC vote, has already launched an online scorecard to track members’ positions on the CRA, directing supporters to reach out to their representatives.“Net neutrality is going to be an election issue in 2018 and every member of Congress knows it,” Evan Greer, the group’s campaign director, said in a statement.“The CRA is steamrolling through the Senate because lawmakers are reading the writing on the wall that it’s the only viable legislation on the table. Cleanly reversing the FCC’s unpopular and illegitimate decision is, on substance, the correct policy move, and the only one that has support from voters,” Greer said.It could be months before the net neutrality bill reaches the Senate floor. The FCC’s final order still needs to receive approval from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget and must be published in the Federal Register before Congress can review it. At that point, lawmakers will have 60 legislative days to take up the CRA bills.Even if the effort in Congress fails, as expected, the FCC’s repeal order will be facing court challenges for years to come. That will allow Democrats to extend the shelf life of a political battle in which they see themselves on the winning side.“Republicans now have a clear choice — be on the right side of history and stand with the American people who support a free and open internet, or hold hands with the special interests who want to control the internet for their own profit,” Markey said in a statement Tuesday. “I urge them to join the majority of Americans, embrace the bipartisanship of net neutrality, and support this resolution.”   Source
Jan 11, 2017
The Hill
GOP angst over midterms growFor some Republicans, it’s starting to feel like 2006 — a wave election year that swept Democrats back into power in the House and Senate.The retirement of two longtime California Republicans this week — just the latest in a string of House Republicans heading for the exits — has caused panic among some in the GOP who say it’s yet another sign that an anti-Trump, Democratic wave is forming.“It’s a tough election cycle for Republicans; we know that going in,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who is not running for reelection after representing a heavily Hispanic Miami district for nearly 30 years.“It’s starting to feel very scary for moderate Republicans,” she said.Rep. Darrell Issa, who won reelection by a slim 1,621-vote margin in 2016, said Wednesday this term would be his last, despite insisting for months that he was running for reelection.The stunning announcement from the former Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman came just two days after another veteran Republican from Southern California, Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, also called it quits.
Asked for his reaction to Issa’s retirement, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) paused, smiled, then exclaimed: “We’re gonna win the House back!”The pair of retirements in California has altered the 2018 midterms landscape, forcing the House GOP’s campaign arm to decide whether it will defend two districts that overwhelmingly voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 or shift resources elsewhere.Winning both districts could be costly. San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, who’s led a campaign to impeach President Trump, this week pledged $30 million to help Democrats take back the House and said he would specifically target Issa.Republicans have other reasons to be worried about the elections, including Trump’s approval rating, which sits in the high 30s.History shows that a president’s party typically loses an average of 32 House seats during a midterm election. But Ros-Lehtinen said Trump might be a bigger liability than past GOP presidents in many parts of the country.“In many districts like Darrell’s and mine, having President Trump an ever-present figure is a drag on the ticket,” she said. “In many districts, he’s a positive, but in districts like mine, it doesn’t help the Republican candidate.“The Trump symbol, the Trump brand and Mr. Trump himself is a drag on moderate districts.”The wave of GOP retirements in competitive districts also has set off alarm bells among some senior Republican strategists.“I’m alarmed, but we should have already been alarmed. It’s a tough environment, and there’s a chance the Republicans can lose control of the House,” said Scott Jennings, a GOP political strategist who has worked on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) reelection campaigns.“It’s starting to feel like 2006 to me,” he added, “which was a bad year for Republicans.”Democrats picked up 31 House seats in 2006, a victory that propelled them forward to win complete control of Washington in 2008.This year, House Democrats need to flip 24 GOP-held seats to win back the majority. And the path to that new majority runs right through Orange County and San Diego, where traditional Republican districts like Royce’s and Issa’s have been getting more diverse and trending bluer. Read more
Jan 9, 2018
Philadelphia Weekly
All the Pennsylvania political dramas you need to know about in 2018
As Pennsylvania gears up for another (likely bruising) political season in 2018, here are some top people and trends to keep an eye on. (Photo: City of Philadelphia/Flickr)

This time last year, Democrats were locked in a hopeless stupor following the upset election of Donald Trump, with no clear path forward – while Republicans looked to add even more power in the Commonwealth.

Several gerrymandering lawsuits were floating through various courtrooms with no clear timeline or immediate relevance. Mike Stack and Daylin Leach, at least to much of the general public, were just a couple of relatively uncontroversial state-level electeds.

To say the least, much has changed – except for the state’s grim financial prospects. As Pennsylvania gears up for another (likely bruising) political season in 2018, here are some top people and trends to keep an eye on.

“The Wave Year”

Not so long ago, Pennsylvania Republicans had dreams of adding the Commonwealth’s other U.S. Senate seat and the governor’s mansion to the growing list of elected offices held by the party. But today, many inside the GOP view the challenges against U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and Gov. Tom Wolf as increasingly uphill battles. Worse, in a midterm election that will serve as a referendum on the popularity of President Donald Trump, both incumbents could wind up facing presidential surrogates.

Former Congressman Lou Barletta, who built a political base in part off of an anti-immigrant platform and his relationship with Trump, is widely expected to secure his party’s nomination for the Senate race. State Sen. Scott Wagner, an arch-conservative polemic who also draws comparisons to Trump, is a top contender in a gubernatorial primary field that includes House Speaker Mike Turzai and businessman Paul Mango.

Some politicos on the right are privately expressing concerns about even staving off first-timers like Conor Lamb, a Democrat running in the socially conservative 18th Congressional District. That special election, which will be held in March, will be a critical bellwether for the staying power of a conservative surge that helped deliver PA for Trump in 2016. Lamb, a moderate Democrat, will face state Rep. Rick Saccone, yet another far-right Republican who has highlighted his similarities to Trump.

The outcome of that early race could impact how willing donors will be to finance other hotly contested Congressional seats. Virtually all of the House seats in Southeastern PA are up for grabs, with Democrats looking for wins against US Reps. Ryan Costello, Charlie Dent, Brian Fitzpatrick and Pat Meehan. Dent and US Rep. Bill Shuster both notably announced their retirement – although the latter was unlikely to face serious Democratic opposition.

Those second-tier races – not to mention numerous others for state House and Senate seats – could complicate costly Republican quests for Casey’s seat and the governor’s mansion. Some on the right were already concerned with the pace of fundraising for Barletta’s campaign, which had also struggled to find a permanent campaign manager.

“If the Barletta campaign is anemic, that’s a problem,” said Democratic consultant Ken Snyder. “What happened to Roy Moore in Alabama takes the wind out of his sails. If he has Republicans grumbling that they made a bad bet on a flawed candidate who was too far right down south, in Pennsylvania, they must be thinking twice.”

Not all Democrats are cheering next year’s contests. U.S. Rep. Bob Brady was rocked by a scandal over a payout to a past electoral challenger that disabled two of his top campaign aides. He will face a primary test in former deputy mayor Nina Ahmad – his first real challenger in years – and indicted traffic court judge Willie Singletary. More are likely to come.

Worse than losing his top two advisors may be a resurgent interest in ward politics by younger voters who helped put outsider candidates Larry Krasner and Rebecca Rhynhart into office. Events priming newcomers to run for committee person slots in 2018 sold out last year – a trend that may not work in the Democratic City Committee chair’s favor.

A Whole New Playing Field

Some still believe that at least one lawsuit over Pennsylvania’s infamously gerrymandered political districts could change the status quo.

There are many variables at play. In a state lawsuit that holds districts drawn in 2011 in violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson recently ruled that the current map does indeed benefit Republicans, but stopped short of ruling the districting unconstitutional. However, the case will now be fast-tracked through the state Supreme Court, which is dominated by Democrats.

Both sides of the suit, initially sponsored by the League of Women Voters, claimed victory. State Senate leadership, which has loudly opposed the suit, praised the decision for finding that the petitioners had failed to demonstrate that politicized gerrymandering was actually unconstitutional. But some Democrats viewed Brobson’s decision – which endorsed key findings presented by petitioners – as setting the stage for the Supreme Court to establish a new precedent.

However, the timing is extraordinarily tight to impact impending midterm elections and Republicans have intimated that they would fight the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. There are also separate cases winding through the nation’s highest court filed in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and elsewhere that could potentially have their own far-reaching ramifications if the justices decide to wade into an issue traditionally left to the states.

Of course, changes will eventually be coming to PA’s congressional map no matter what. Redrawing will commence with or without a new system in place, while the impending 2020 census looks primed to cost the Keystone State another House seat.

The End of the Boys’ Club

With revelations that both Congress and the state House have dedicated – and used – protocols to settle sexual harassment charges leveled at elected officials, some pols are likely more worried about getting taken out by their own past transgressions toward women than by an electoral challenger.

In the last month alone, congressional candidate and state Sen. Daylin Leach, state Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, state fire commissioner Tim Solobay, state Senate security chief Justin Ferrante, and state education chair Larry Wittig have all been confronted by media reports of harassment or other sexual misconduct towards women. That same month, LancasterOnline uncovered some $8 million paid out to settle state trooper harassment charges and, in November, Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams was hit by multiple sexual harassment suits.

Leach, Caltagirone and Williams seem determined to continue with their political careers, but the other state officials named in recent reports have all stepped down. The furor is unlikely to die down soon – the continued scandals have spurred bills to bar anonymous sexual harassment settlements and restrict the use of state funds for such payouts.

Others say that there are still more scandals to come. Many women who have worked in Harrisburg and other political circles have noted that these revelations are hardly surprising given the infamous culture of sexism that pervades the male-dominated statehouse – or the Commonwealth’s all-male congressional delegation’s home away from home on Capitol Hill.

The Lieutenant Governor’s Race (yes, really)

As bettings odds for Wolf’s reelection swing in his favor, an increasing number of candidates seem to think Lt. Gov. Mike Stack is on his way out. The scandal-plagued second banana was hit by allegations he abused his state employees and, perhaps, his office expense account.

Those debacles – which are still unfolding – spotlighted a long-tense relationship between Wolf and Stack, who will face no fewer than five challengers in his bid for reelection: Iraq war vet Aryanna Berringer, Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone, State Rep. Madeleine Dean, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, and Lancaster County Commissioner Craig Lehman.

The race can seem like much ado about nothing. The lieutenant governor has few official duties beyond staying alive in the event that the governor keels over – principally, overseeing the state Senate, where he can cast the deciding vote in case of a tie, and performing the same function with the Board of Parole.

But for many of the declared Democratic candidates, it’s a statewide platform that serves as a stepping stone to higher office. Fetterman has talked openly about his interest in challenging U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey. Even the current officeholder was, prior to the abuse scandal, reportedly eyeing the governor’s mansion himself.

There is also more political intrigue than just the high-profile governor’s race. Many Senate Democrats took the unusual step of publicly backing Stack last month – which one source said was aimed as a show of support for a loyal Democrat and telegraphing that Gov. Tom Wolf ought to avoid meddling in the race. Wolf has said repeatedly that he is staying out of the race, but Senate staff grumbled that he has privately favored Dean.

On the GOP side, candidates will be forced to choose between influential Republican gubernatorial candidates – Wagner and Turzai  – without knowing which will ultimately triumph. The field continues to grow, as Otto Voit recently joined Jeff Bartos and Gordon Denlinger in the primary, while state Sen. Dave Argall is still rumored to be waiting in the wings.

The billion-dollar question

No one likes the state budget process. Despite public rhetoric, most electeds on both sides of the aisle hate cutting services or raising taxes. Everyone, voters included, hates following the endless and internecine horsetrading that has marked the last several years of budgeting in Harrisburg.

Despite Republican calls to force a more expeditious budgeting process, the oft-delayed fiscal deals are the product of long-term issues with no easy solutions. Deficits, like the estimated $3 billion hole faced by officials for the 2018 budget, are likely to become perennial features in a state with a moribund economy, stagnant tax revenues, growing pension obligations and little hope of aid from Washington.

Budgeting has been complicated by hesitancy to make additional cuts to the state budget and general opposition from a GOP majority to tax hikes – which has led to several rounds of boutique tax hikes and borrowing to patch recent budgets. These strategies have led to a radical expansion of gambling and liberalization of liquor sales as more traditional revenue generators become tapped out.

For 2018, Republicans have already made clear they have their sights set on welfare reform. Democrats, reduced to a vocal opposition party after years of electoral losses in Harrisburg, are still calling for a natural gas severance tax. But both efforts have fallen flat in past years and pols will be even more on edge with tough elections on the horizon.  Read more

Jan 5, 2017
Fight for the Virginia House continues with a court hearing

RICHMOND, Va. — The long-running fight for control of the Virginia House of Delegates isn’t over.

A federal judge is set to hear arguments Friday in a federal lawsuit challenging the results of a House race after numerous voters were assigned to the wrong district and thus given the wrong ballots. Democrat Joshua Cole lost the Fredericksburg-area seat to Republican Bob Thomas by 73 votes in a race that went to a recount.

The court hearing comes a day after Republican David Yancey won a different seat when his name was drawn from a bowl. The hearing is the latest chapter in a November election — fueled by voter anger directed at Republican President Donald Trump — that saw Democrats wipe out a 66-34 advantage held by Republicans in the House.

That advantage is now down to 51-49.

Thursday’s drawing of lots took place after an election, recount and legal battle between Yancey, the incumbent, and Democratic challenger Shelley Simonds ended in a tie.

The drawing drew a large, if lopsided, crowd to the Virginia elections board meeting. Many of the people packed into the room were either reporters or Simonds’ supporters. Yancey did not attend but did have a few GOP staffers there to watch.

The name of each candidate was printed on a piece of paper and placed into separate film canisters. The canisters were put into a cobalt-blue-and-white ceramic bowl made by a local artist, stirred around and Yancey’s name was chosen first.

As Yancey’s name was announced by Board Chairman James Alcorn, Simonds sat stoically, holding the hands of her daughter and husband seated beside her. There were no cheers from Yancey’s few supporters. The electric mood went suddenly still.

The names of Democrat Shelly Simonds and Republican incumbent Del. David Yancey are displayed along with film canisters before a random drawing by the Virginia Department of Elections to determine the winner of the 94th House of Delegates District Seat after a recount of the Nov. 7 election left the race a tie in Richmond, Virginia, U.S., January 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts – RC11EE65EEE0The names of Democrat Shelly Simonds and Republican incumbent Del. David Yancey are displayed along with film canisters before a random drawing by the Virginia Department of Elections to determine the winner of the 94th House of Delegates District Seat after a recount of the Nov. 7 election left the race a tie in Richmond, Virginia. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters
After a few minutes, Simonds gave an impromptu news conference.

“This is a sad conclusion for me,” she said, sounding a lot like she was conceding defeat.

But when asked, she explicitly said her options — including a recount request, were still on the table.

For his part, Yancey’s only comments came on social media, where he congratulated Simonds on a “hard fought election.”

If Simonds pursued a recount, if wouldn’t be complete before the session starts and Cox said neither Yancey nor Simonds would be seated until a winner was finalized. That would still allow Republicans to elect a speaker and make committee assignments based on a 50-49 advantage.

“The takeaway from today is, we will be in the majority on the first day,” Cox said, referring to the 2018 legislative session that starts next week. He also said he felt confident that the federal lawsuit would not undo Thomas’ victory.

In that race, officials discovered after the election that at least 147 ballots were found to be assigned to the wrong districts. Some voters, represented by a law firm closely aligned with the Democratic Party, want to void the election results and have another one.

Local elections officials who oppose ordering a special election say the voters who filed suit should have taken action before Election Day to have their House district assignment corrected.
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