#TheStump: Dafan Zhang – Challenger in the 164th State House Race

Note: Given that this is our first try with The Stump, we’re allowing Dafan Zhang’s submission to be posted, even though it was late. He assures me that he did not get a sneak peak at his opponent, Billy Smith’s submission. This privilege will not be afforded to candidates in the future.

My name is Dafan Zhang, and I am running to become your State Representative in the 164th district of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. I have one mission: to bring about positive changes to our community.

Of course almost every candidate says something similar, and at election time it is difficult to tell a real promise from a lie. Many people become apathetic or even cynical about elections and politicians because they hear a lot of positive slogans but do not see a lot of positive changes after elections end.

To move beyond election propaganda, you must look deeper and ponder the motives of the candidates. People get into politics for all sorts of reasons: interest, career move, profit, or something else. A politician’s motivation will always drive his or her decisions, most of the time over the will of his or her constituents. Therefore when you elect someone whose interests mostly aligns with yours, you can have a degree of confidence that he or she will represent your interests. But what about when they do not align, as so frequently happens? How do you even know what their interests are beyond what they say to get elected? Understanding the motivation of a politician, then, is of paramount importance before bestowing great power upon someone you barely know.

By now you may have heard my story. I have been a resident of the 164th district since 2000, and I have faced some mighty struggles. Starting my adult life in America as a homeless high school dropout, I have worked hard to earn a living, get a great education, and start a family. It was a long and winding journey, but I have achieved my American dream. There was nothing magical — I simply wanted to make positive changes, one step at a time.

When I announced that I was running for office, many people could not figure out my motivation. Is it interest or a career move? I did earn a Master’s degree in state and local government management at one of the best universities in the world, but if I was truly hoping to make a career out of politics, why did I not join many of my friends and classmates and start a career in government? Instead I chose to go to law school. Is it profit then? Giving up a job that pays more than twice as much to become a state legislator debunks that theory. So what is it?

Well you see, my motivation is not rooted in personal gain or accomplishment.  I strive to bring the power of positive change to everyone around me. Earlier in my life, I always felt a lack of power. I felt powerless when I only had a train station to call home. I felt powerless when I received hundreds of rejection letters for jobs  that I am capable of doing due to lack of a degree. I felt powerless when I had to close my store because my customers no longer had the money to buy my services. I needed help, and no one came. I had to muster the courage to move on all on my own. I followed the only path available to me: work harder than everyone else and gain more skills through education. That’s why today, as a proud owner of skills and expertise in computer science, government and policy, and law, sky is the limit.

Therefore, I choose to stand up because I believe I am ready to make a difference for everyone else. I believe everyone deserves to feel the way I feel today. I believe that if I can change my own life with scant resources, I surely can bring more positive changes to others with more resources. I have done many things in life that others said are not possible. As a matter of fact, I secretly enjoy the moment when someone tells me “no.” They don’t know my secret – small positive changes can make a big difference. I want to lead by example and share that secret with everyone around me.

As your State Representative, I will learn about everyone’s issues and try to use the office to bring positive change to each and every one of them. And there are a lot of issues in dire need of reform: education, taxes, jobs, wages, crime, affordable housing, inequality, ethics, campaign finance, liberties and rights, immigration, diversity, community, parking . . . Each and every one of those issues deserves positive change. Bringing positive change will be tough and will require rugged determination and creativity, something I have demonstrated time and again. Please help me empower everyone in our community so they too can seize opportunities and improve their lives, one positive step at a time.

Nothing is perfect in life, but everything deserves to be at least a little bit better. That is my true motivation.

Posted in Miscellany

#TheStump: Billy Smith – Challenger in the 164th State House Race

We announced recently that we’d be introducing a new feature here at Keystone Politics, an idea that I suggested. Basically, I think the dynamics between the press and candidates for public office deserves a small tweak, in order to allow more information to be offered to readers, and to provide more transparency of ideas and substance over political spin. We’re hoping to be a part of this change.

We’re going to be offering all the participating candidates in contested primary races an opportunity to say what they would like to say, in 1000 words or less. We’ll always offer the opportunity to all the participating candidates, incumbent or challenger, well-funded or the write-in candidate. When the general election season comes around, I hope that we’ll be able to have Republicans and Democrats participate in the same exact way, but that remains to be seen.

In our inaugural test-drive of “The Stump” (or #TheStump as it will be known on Twitter), we offered this opportunity to all three candidates in the 164th state house district Democratic primary. They were told they’d have 1000 words in which to discuss anything, the submissions would be posted at the same time out of fairness, and that the KP writers reserve the right to write follow up pieces to challenge any points they make that may not be forthright or accurate.

State Representative Davidson’s staff declined to participate, and after an extension of time, though challenger Dafan Zhang implied to us that he’d participate, he has still not sent us his submission, as of 6:11 PM Friday night.

Here is challenger Billy Smith’s submission.

My name is Billy J. Smith. I am the son of a single mother, a graduate of public schools, and the first in my family to become an attorney.  I am the right candidate to represent the 164th District because I best embody the values and aspirations of the people of this District.

My wife and I are raising our two young children in Lansdowne, where we have lived since 2005. As a former Prosecutor in Philadelphia County and a former Councilman for Lansdowne Borough, I know that service to the public is a privilege that comes with a great deal of responsibility. I am asking voters for the opportunity to fight for their voices to be heard by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania so that, together, we may build a better 164th District.       

Currently, the will and aspirations of the 164th District are not well served in Harrisburg. If I am elected to represent the 164th District, I will:

  • Stand strong with women and unequivocally support women’s right to defend and protect their reproductive health and rights;

  • Stand up to the threat from extremist groups aiming to limit our children’s access to free, quality education;

  • Fight to eliminate poverty wages for workers so that they may raise their families with the dignity, pride and security that should be the reward for hard work;

  • Stand with our friends and neighbors seeking marriage equality;

  • Bring family-sustaining jobs to our community and work to help small businesses grow and prosper;

  • Work with Republicans when it’s in the best interests of the 164th District, and always vote like a Democrat.

The redrawn 164th District encompassing Upper Darby, Lansdowne, East Lansdowne, Millbourne and Yeadon presents Democrats a unique opportunity on May 20: to reclaim the power of candidate nominations from party leaders and put it back in the hands of the people.

Contested primaries are rare – that is by design from those in power.  A true Democracy is by, for and of its people. On May 20th, the people of the 164th District have a rare and precious opportunity to review the record of their current elected representative and make a change if that is their will.

On May 20th, the individual members of our party will decide collectively who we are and what we stand for as a community. Are we as Democrats OK with joining Republicans in their efforts to abolish safe, legal abortions in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? Are we as Democrats OK with the siphoning of nearly $2 billion from public schools in support of charter schools that do not welcome all students and operate with little to no transparency? Are we as Democrats OK with a Republican-drawn Congressional map that ensures more Republicans win Congressional seats despite Democratic candidates receiving the most votes statewide?

As I Democrat, I am not OK with any of the above. Nor am I alone: I have already been endorsed by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women, and the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP).

My fellow Democrats in the 164th District: You have a unique and vitally important opportunity to truly hold your elected representatives accountable. Analyze, question and compare the professional experiences of each candidate that seeks the privilege of representing you in Harrisburg.  Tell us your concerns for our community and ask how we plan to address them. On May 20th, use this information to choose the Democrat you feel best represents your interests and the collective interests of our community.

You have a little more than 30 days to ask questions, visit campaign offices and call and write the candidates. I welcome each and every opportunity to tell you why I am the best candidate to represent you in Harrisburg. And even if you are not convinced, I hope you vote on May 20th.  It’s that important.

Posted in Miscellany

#HD164: Margo Davidson Makes a Power Grab

State Representative Davidson is one of three incumbent Democrats who received the endorsement of the Pennsylvania Business Council’s “PEG PAC”. You can read more about that HERE.

In addition, it appears that Davidson is making political moves behind the scenes to ensure her victory in one respect or another, whether it’s her re-election as state representative, or the direct retribution to those who have challenged her right to that position. Here’s a letter I received from a Democratic committee member from Lansdowne, PA, a small borough outside of Philadelphia that is included in the 164th state legislative district.

Hi Colleen,

I’m a Democratic committee-person in Lansdowne’s [redacted] Precinct and thought I’d let you know about Rep. Davidson’s petty attempt to retaliate against the Lansdowne Dems for endorsing Billy Smith.  I sent this in to Keystone Politics’ anonymous tipline but thought you might want to know directly.

Margo is running a slate of committee-people in Lansdowne’s 1st and 3rd precincts.  We have plenty of precincts with either only one or no committee members where we could use help, but Rep. Davidson choose precincts with some long-serving committee members.  In the 5th precinct she is challenging Joe Stevenson.  Joe was the first African American ever elected to public office in Lansdowne (school board) and has served on committee for as long as I can remember (I’m a relative newcomer as I’ve been on committee for only 20 years).  I don’t know if Rep. Davidson knew this, but she does now and she should ask her candidates to withdraw.

In the 1st precinct she is challenging former mayor Jayne Young, perhaps the most well-know and popular person in Lansdowne – so good luck with that.

What Rep. Davidson has managed to do is confirm that we made the right decision in endorsing Billy and to energize the committee to work even harder to elect him next month.


[Name Redacted]

For those who are unfamiliar with the politics of local party committees, the bylaws allow for two representatives from each local precinct. They must be members of that party, of voting age, and legal residents of that precinct at the time they circulate petitions. Committee members have lots of unofficial roles, like engaging with the community, raising money for the local party, getting people out to vote, and educating voters about the candidates that they support. The two most important official duties of a committee member are to endorse candidates for public office in aggregate and to elect a chairperson of their entire committee.

At this year’s Delaware County Democratic Committee endorsement convention, there was a firestorm of controversy over the methods Representative Davidson used to receive the endorsement over her two primary challengers, Dafan Zhang and Billy Smith. Generally speaking within Democratic politics, primary elections with three or more candidates tend to result in an open primary, leaving individual committee people to make their own decisions and lobby their precinct to vote for their particular choice. (Philly is a whole other story for another day, but that is generally the principle.) Many committee people complained about intimidation tactics and forcing ill-credentialed representatives to cast votes in replacement of committee members that “couldn’t make it”. Our previous article on this story includes a video, so you can watch and make your own judgement.

When one consults the Delaware County Primary Candidates List, (pages 384 – 404 are the pages for Lansdowne Borough), one can see that the 1st and 5th precincts have four Democratic Committee candidates running, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th, and 10th precincts have two candidates respectively, the eighth precinct has only one candidate out of two potential positions, and the eleventh precinct has absolutely no representation on the local Democratic Committee.

It would be unlikely that given the current slate of candidates, Representative Davidson would be able to take political control over the entire group. Committee members allege she has only attempted to target two members – enough to send a message to Former Lansdowne Mayor Jayne Young, someone who has been outspoken about Davidson’s reproductive choice and public education record in private and public, and to also threaten the candidacy of Joe Stevenson.

As someone who has personally attended Upper Darby Democratic Committee meetings, I do know that the same techniques are being used, targeting sitting members who do not like Representative Davidson’s voting record, rather than ensuring that there is representation across the entire township within the party committee. In fact, I was told by a cluster of committee members who support Representative Davidson’s re-election that I was no longer welcome at meetings, purely because I’ve reported honestly about the ramifications of her voting record. This was done in a threatening nature in a dark parking lot as I left the building at the conclusion of a meeting. I am not a committee member, so no one can run someone against me, but I still honestly felt intimidated.

The reason I am writing about this is not to just paint one particular elected official in a negative light, although readers’ judgments of her character are theirs to make. I am writing about it because I honestly had deep questions at a number of points over the past few years as to whether it was worth my time, my passion, and sometimes, my emotional and physical safety to remain involved in party committee activities. I want to hear from you.

Have you experienced any sort of intimidation, or has your experience been positive? Please answer in the comments.

In closing, I’d like to point those of you in Philadelphia toward Jon Geeting’s committee-person map for the Democratic Party, specifically for Philadelphia. It helps you to know where there is representation and where there is not, and maybe you will want to get involved.

Posted in Miscellany

Conservative Group Endorses Four PA House Democrats

Democratic incumbents Representative Margo Davidson (HD – 164) of Delaware County, Representative Patty Kim (HD – 103) of Dauphin County, Representative Jake Wheatley (HD – 19) of Allegheny County, and Representative Jim Roebuck (188th) of Philadelphia were all endorsed yesterday by PEG PAC, the political action committee associated with the Pennsylvania Business Council. This “pro-business” PAC has some interesting policy positions, and we thought you should know. Its website outlines the organization’s thoughts on a variety of state and federal issues.

State Level
Public Education –
The PBC states its support of “charter school reform”, but is also very supportive of a parent’s right to “choose” an education for their child, and wants to see more funding for EITC, a program that diverts public school funding toward individual students, rather than fully funding the current schools serving students.

“The 2012 legislation expanded the EITC program by $50 million.  The tax credit scholarship program allows students to escape the academic woes of poorly performing schools and also the violence that often plagues them.  PBC supported the EITC expansion and continues to support initiatives that introduce competition into education and empower families to make educational choices.”

Of teachers, the PBC says:

“next to parents — teachers are the most important element of our education system.  Most teachers do an outstanding job in tough conditions.  An important reform of 2012 being readied in 2013 for implementation is an improved teacher evaluation system.  While the evaluation should identify poor teachers, it should also help all teachers to perform better.  The new evaluation system stems primarily from the four elements of Charlotte Danielson’s “Framework for Effective Teaching” which will make up 50% of the total evaluation: Planning and Preparation; The Classroom Environment; Instruction; Professional Responsibilities.  Student progress and improved performance will also be a consideration.  Evaluations will be conducted by school principals who, themselves, will be evaluated.”

Most out of touch of all is its perspective on school funding.

“But money is not the key issue in public K-12 education.  Pennsylvania spends about $27 billion/year of local, state, and federal funds on K-12 education.  Per student funding is not the sole determinant of education success and proficiency.  Everyone needs to be committed to achieving excellence; and everyone in education needs to be held accountable for performance.  The Pennsylvania Business Council supports the Commonwealth’s adoption of the Pennsylvania Common Core academic standards and uniform statewide assessments of proficiency attained through the Keystone Exams.”

Tax Reform
Instead of focusing on solutions that might actually bring sustainable jobs to Pennsylvania citizens, like closing the Delaware Tax Loophole, this organization cares about benefiting its direct members, who want even more tax breaks for themselves.

“To be competitive, it is essential that Pennsylvania change its high tax perception.  Governor Tom Corbett in February 2013 recommended a comprehensive business tax plan that addresses these concerns. 

To sum Pennsylvania’s current situation briefly:

  • Some states have a corporate tax based on assets; some on income.  Until the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax (CSFT) is finally and completely eliminated, Pennsylvania has both.
  • Pennsylvania has the highest flat rate and second highest marginal rate corporate next income tax in the nation.  And, since the United States has the highest national corporate net income tax in the world, Pennsylvania therefore has the second highest marginal CNI on the face of the earth.
  • Most states and the Internal Revenue Service allow 100 percent deduction of net operating losses in the following profitable year.  Pennsylvania is one of a handful which does not, and presently limits the write-off to 20 percent.
  • And, Pennsylvania’s tax appeal process is so convoluted, long, and arcane that hundreds of millions of dollars are neither available to the firm for investment in job-creating capital, nor paid to the state to fund government operations.”

Federal Level
Healthcare and the Affordable Care Act

“Health Insurance Tax That Will Increase Health Care Cost, Decrease Jobs, and Reduce Health Care Choices

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as Obamacare, was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2012. Combined with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, it is said to be the most significant regulatory overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid. Among other things, PPACA imposes an annual multi-billion dollar Health Insurance Tax that will negatively impact the entire health care system. Employers and Consumers will begin to see the impact of this $87 Billion tax in health care policies issued in 2013. This tax will have far-reaching effects that extend to employers, seniors, States, consumers and the overall economy, and will exacerbate existing cost challenges in the health care marketplace and significantly distort existing market dynamics. Click here to download more information about the health insurance tax.”

Debt Reduction

“It’s Time to Get Serious About National Debt Reduction

Are you concerned about the national deficit? Please take a moment to look at the information below and take action today. Send a letter to your U.S. Lawmakers urging them to reduce the national deficit. Click on the letter entitled “National Debt Reduction” by going to the “Take Action” portion of this webpage.

Our national debt is approaching $15 trillion dollars and federal deficits are projected at or above one trillion dollars a year for the foreseeable future.  Despite the emerging bipartisan consensus among policy makers that we cannot sustain the current path, they are struggling to find common ground on a plan to reduce the federal deficit.  Without some change in these dynamics, their deliberations may not reflect the seriousness and urgency of the need to effectively act.  American business has an opportunity to help convey the need for immediate action and ultimately shape the outcome by:

1. Educating your employees on the seriousness of this issue; and, 
2. Asking them to write Congress and say that the time for action is now.”

Keystone XL Pipeline

“Canada has always been an important supplier of resources to the United States. In fact, Canada provides more oil to the U.S. than all Persian Gulf countries combined. A new pipeline project would provide an opportunity to access even more oil from Canada and improve our energy security.

After months of policy arguments and political maneuvering, the Obama Administration agreed to most elements of the pipeline project. Still to be determined are small portions of the route in order to protect environmentally sensitive area. Meanwhile, much work on the multi-year construction project can be seen creating tens of thousands of jobs immediately.

Approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline would trigger a $7 billion business investment that could deliver more than 800,000 barrels per day of North American oil to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. Moreover, the Keystone XL Pipeline would deliver enough oil to displaceone-third of the oil currently imported from the Middle East. Ultimately the project will create an estimated 85,000 jobs and add $150 billion to the nation’s economy by 2035.

The Keystone XL Pipeline extension is an environmentally responsible infrastructure project. According to a recent Gallup poll, 57 percent of American adults said, “…the U.S. government should approve the building of this pipeline.”

Legislation in Congress – part of the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II – would create an expedited process to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline project. Click here to contact your US Senators and US Representative and support the Keystone XL Pipeline!”

The Environmental Protection Agency

“The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review national air quality standards every five years and issue revised standards, if necessary, without regard to cost or the availability of effective emissions control technology. EPA proactively proposed new, more stringent ozone standards two years earlier than required by law that would, if put into effect, cost industry and local businesses as much as $52-$90 billion per year by 2020. Under EPA’s most stringent proposal, 85 percent of U.S. counties monitored by EPA would likely be designated as “non-attainment” areas, subjecting those counties to more regulation, making it difficult to establish new industrial facilities or expand existing plants. The map below illustrates how the proposed new standards will affect states and counties across America.

-Click here to view an interactive map that breaksdown the regulation by state and county. You will also find an advocacy letter that will be sent to your elected member of congress telling them to maintain current ozone standards to protect jobs and economic growth in your region of the country. “


Posted in Miscellany

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO endorses Erin McClelland over John Hugya in PA-12

It’s beginning to look certain that Erin McClelland will coast to a primary election victory over fellow Democrat John Hugya. With a long list of endorsements under her belt, she has achieved the crown jewel of PA-12 backers—the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

McClelland was endorsed by the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO during their biennial convention last week in Pittsburgh. The statewide labor federation’s endorsement follows several unanimous recommendations by the local affiliated county labor councils.

“The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO is proud to support Erin McCelland to be the next representative of Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional district,” said President Rick Bloomingdale “Ms. McClelland has the vision and the drive to get things done in Congress that will bring jobs back to Pennsylvania and improve the lives of workers and their families.”

Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder added that “It is time to end the uncertainty and the stagnation. Ms. McClelland will strive to improve economic opportunity and confidence, putting our economy back on more solid footing toward recovery and growth for working people.”

In Democratic PA-12 politics, the PA AFL-CIO has a history of being the kingmaker—or in this case, queenmaker.  In 2012, the efforts undertaken by the AFL-CIO and other labor groups have been largely credited with Mark Critz’s upset victory over Jason Altmire after the two had their districts drawn together.

“I could not be more honored to have the support of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO for my campaign to bring real family values back to Congress,” said McClelland after receiving the endorsement. “My great-grandfather organized for CIO in response to poor working conditions at Pittsburgh Plate & Glass, and it’s an unbelievable honor to carry on the family tradition of fighting for working families.”

With just over a month until the Democratic Primary, McClelland has secured the backing of organized labor, elected officials, and every endorsing county Democratic committee. The winner of the Democratic primary will face freshman GOP Congressman Keith Rothfus.

A full list of McClelland’s endorsements is as follows:

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, Allegheny County State Representatives Dom Costa, Joe Marksosek, Frank Demody, and Adam Ravenstahl, and Erin Molchany, Beaver County State Representatives Jaret Gibbons and Rob Matzie, Beaver County Commissioner Joe Spanik, Beaver County Commissioner Tony Amadio, Beaver Falls Mayor George Quay, Lawrence County Commissioner Steve Craig, Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas, Ellwood City Mayor Anthony Court, Beaver County Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans’ Courts Carol Fiorucci, Lawrence County Council members, Ralph Chippetta and John Todorich, Westmoreland County Democratic Chairman Dante Bertani, Westmoreland County Democratic Committee Executive Director Jesse Walker, the Women’s Campaign Fund, IBEW Local 5, IBEW Local 29, USW Local 1196, the Allegheny County Labor Council, the Beaver County Labor Council, and the Allegheny, Beaver, Cambria, and Westmoreland County Democratic Committees.

Posted in Elections, US House Tagged

Guzzardi Will Garner a Significant Chunk of Votes, and Tom Corbett Knows It

After narrowly surviving a ballot challenge in Commonwealth Court, right-wing Republican insurgent Bob Guzzardi is further along on his doomed path to defeat in the May 20th GOP primary against incumbent Governor Tom Corbett.

But even though Guzzardi will almost certainly lose, he is likely to receive 15-20% of the vote and expose Corbett’s weakness as the Republican standard-bearer in the Keystone State.

Guzzardi is running as the self-proclaimed voice of the “forgotten taxpayer,” and his grassroots network of ultra-anti-tax-Tea-Party-types will certainly garner him a few percentage points at the polls. Heck, the guy collected more than 3,000 signatures with no campaign staff at all, and he did so at farmer’s markets and gun shows.

But, as Corbett’s political team knows, Guzzardi’s status as simply “not Tom Corbett” is likely to earn him a non-negligible chunk of protest votes.

In March 2013, Public Policy Polling found that only 37% of GOP voters said they wanted Corbett to be their nominee in 2014, and 49% said they would prefer someone else. In hypothetical GOP matchups, Corbett led Bruce Castor 43% to 23% and only led 2012 Senate candidate Tom Smith by 37% to 33%.

Guzzardi doesn’t have nearly the support or name recognition of either Castor or Smith, but the clear point is that a sizable portion of Republicans would vote for someone who is, well, anybody but Corbett.

So far, Corbett’s re-election team has publicly written off Guzzardi as a crazy person, a non-entity. Yet, at the same time, the Pennsylvania Republican Party orchestrated the challenge to Guzzardi’s nominating petitions.

After losing in Commonwealth Court, they’re gearing up to appeal the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. And given the difficult standard of review, I’d wager the PAGOP loses yet again.

The bottom line is that Corbett’s re-elect team and the PAGOP are failing to paint Guzzardi as the quixotic fringe loony they want him to be. And it is their own actions that are giving Guzzardi fuel for the fire.

Posted in Elections, Governor

#PA13: Liberal Lion is King of the Jungle in Quarter 1

Despite some really powerful backers of the other three Democratic candidates, State Senator Daylin Leach (and his top-notch finance team) have risen to the top this quarter.

Senator Daylin Leach, known by his supporters as the “Liberal Lion”, raised $335,556 this quarter, and racked up a slew of endorsements from progressive organizations and leaders, including Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), Blue America PAC, The Network for Public Education, Progressive Kick, Progressive Majority, both Chairs of the U.S. House CongressionalProgressive Caucus — Rep. Raul Grijalva(D-AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), and progressive champion U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL). Just this week, Leach announced his endorsements by the Pennsylvania State Education Association and the National Education Association, which both have powerful influences over Pennsylvania voters, especially in a time of utter turmoil in terms of education policy and funding.

Dr. Val Arkoosh, the only medical professional (and non-politician) in the race, raised an impressive $219,774, but could not edge any closer to the progressive champion. Her organizational support is predominantly in the medical community with a few women’s groups, including the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, Women’s Campaign Fund, American Medical Political Action Committee (AMPAC), Pennsylvania Medical Political Action Committee (PAMPAC), American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Political Action Committee (ACOG PAC), American College of Cardiology Political Action Committee (ACC PAC), Society of Thoracic Surgeons Political Action Committee (STS-PAC), American Psychology Association Practice Organization Political Action Committee (APAPO-PAC), American Society of Anesthesiologists Political Action Committee (ASAPAC), American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP-PAC), and the American Society of Orthopedic Surgeons Political Action Committee (AAOS-PAC).

Marjorie Margolies, the perceived front-runner in this race, is the strangest part of this story. Despite having nationally recognized supporters like Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and even President Bill Clinton, who came to fundraise for her last week, Margolies only raised $211,178. Many of Margolies’ local endorsements are from politicians who would directly benefit from a Josh Shapiro congressional candidacy in 2016, making it less of a vote of confidence for her abilities and more of an indication of her role as a place-holder for two years.

Representative Boyle, who has counted mainly on union support in this race, has raised the least this quarter, with $114,173. He has endorsements from the APWU Local 7098, Boilermakers Local 13, Bricklayers Local 1, Communication Workers Local 13000, FOP Lodge 5, FOP Lodge 37, IATSE, IBEW Local 98, Insulators Local 14, Iron Workers Local 401, Iron Workers Local 405, Plumbers Local 690, Operating Engineers, PGW Local 686, Sheet Metal Workers, Sprinkler Fitters Local 692, Steamfitters Local 420, Teamsters, Transport Workers Union, UNITE HERE, United Steel Workers, Congressman Bob Brady, Councilman Bobby Henon, Councilman Bill Greenlee, State Senator Mike Stack, State Rep. Ed Neilson, State Rep. James Clay, and State Rep. Mike McGeehan. Though this long list of endorsements is quite impressive, it is likely that his lack of financial resources will hinder his success in this race.

Posted in Elections, National Politics, US House

Republicans Respond to Emergency Responder Shortage by Cutting Emergency Responder Benefits

In the face of what State Fire Commissioner Edward Mannis is calling a serious shortage of emergency responders House Republicans are looking at making some “hard choices”, and considering cutting future responders benefits and curtailing current ones.

The plan would cut benefits for future hires, freeze benefits for current officers, and pay off any pension debt with what future employees pay into a new system. It would also end post-retirement health benefits for members of the new system. Retired police and firefighters wouldn’t be touched by the measure.

Don’t worry though. GOP gonna do the GOP thing and give responders a tax break on their local earned income tax so that the loss of pensions as an incentive will be balanced with a new signup incentive. It will all come out in the wash right?

He mentioned that state legislators are working on coming up with more incentives. One of them is a bill that would allow municipalities to waive their local earned income tax for volunteer fire and emergency medical service responders.

State Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Blair) along Sen. Sean Wiley (D-Erie) want to gut local EIT revenues saying this is the way to handle the issue of responder retention, along with gas cards and tuition reimbursements. 

Professionalized services is just too good for PA with a $6 billion dollar price tag. Instead we should just rely on the good will of our neighborhood business people.

Another is simply to ask local businesses for non-financial support, which can take the form of giving an employee time to assist the fire company with its information technology needs or human resources.

In some states they are even beginning to advertise on the trucks

Emergency services are public good that the state should be taking leadership on, but instead legislators are passing the buck down to municipalities giving them the worst options to deal with the problem. Cut relatively successful pension programs, and take a bite out of your own EIT revenues.

Instead of maintaining the obviously flailing status quo fire, EMS and police pensions need to be rolled into PMRS and services need to be operated on the county level. There is even some evidence to suggest voters would support new revenues for this shift.

Donald Konkle, a former Harrisburg fire chief and now executive director of the Pennsylvania Fire Emergency Service Institute, said a poll conducted by Penn State found 67 percent of respondents said they could support a half of 1 percent increase in their homeowners and/or auto insurance to support fire and EMS services in their communities.

Posted in Miscellany

#PA13: Leach endorsed by PSEA and NEA

State Senator Daylin Leach, a hopeful in the 13th congressional race, received the official support of two organizations that don’t have the greatest respect for his opponent, Representative Brendan Boyle: the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), but also the National Education Association (NEA). Of the PSEA endorsement, its president, Michael Crossey, said:

“We are proud to recommend Daylin Leach for Congress, and we are confident that Daylin will be a true leader in Washington on issues that impact public education and working families. Since joining the Pennsylvania Legislature in 2002, Daylin has stood out as a tireless advocate for public education, and we know that he will continue fighting for our schools, our students, and our profession as a member of Congress.”

Leach released a statement about the endorsement, saying “I am thrilled to have the endorsement of PSEA. For years, we have worked together to stand against Gov. Corbett’s draconian cuts to public education, and to fight people like Koch brothers to make sure that valuable tax dollars stay in our public schools. I look forward to continuing these fights in Congress.” 

During the PA -13′s most recent debate, moderator Dave Davies and candidate Marjorie Margolies both questioned Boyle’s support of policies that are inherently about individual children at the expense of the overwhelming student populace. On education and reproductive issues, two areas of weakness in this liberal district for Boyle, he tends to deflect to the actions of Republicans instead of actually defending some of the positions he has taken as a lawmaker.

During the Abington-Rockledge debate at PSU Abington, Boyle’s answer to education questions was conspicuous – instead of discussing his support of the proliferation of charter schools and votes for a school voucher system, an idea that is quite unpopular in the district, he chose to only discuss early childhood education and higher education. A large plurality of Boyle’s campaign funding as a state legislator has been from groups like Students First, an organization largely funded by three hedge fund managers.

This same group spent millions of dollars targeting key legislators in the fight against school vouchers, most notably State Senator Daylin Leach. Here’s a piece of literature from 2012 that was showered all over Senator Leach’s district, purely for defending the public and young students from corporate education reform policies funded by the super-rich.

Leach Mailer by jmicek

Maybe at the debate being held tomorrow, Representative Boyle will have a more complete answer to education policy questions.

Posted in Education, Elections, Miscellany, National Politics, State House, State Politics, State Senate, US House

#PA13: Arkoosh releases campaign ad entitled “Sarah”

In other areas of the country, the Affordable Care Act has become something Democrats run from and Republicans frame as the symbol of failed Democratic Party policies, but in Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District, one of the bluest districts in the entire country, congressional candidate Dr. Valerie Arkoosh is championing her role in getting “Obamacare” passed.

In the ad, Arkoosh says, ““I worked with people from all over the country to come together and make sure that Congress heard clearly that we needed to get health care reform passed…..I’ve spent a whole career taking care of people like Sarah. That’s why I’m running, because I know that the policies we enact in Washington really do make a difference in people’s lives.”

During a recent debate between Arkoosh and the other three candidates in the May primary, State Representative Brendan Boyle, Former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies, and State Senator Daylin Leach, Arkoosh discussed the challenge of convincing other activists and policy-makers to shift focus from the public option, when it was clear that the idea would not have necessary traction with Republican lawmakers. Despite her status as the only non-lawmaker in the race, Arkoosh has exhibited to voters that she is not without a serious level of policy experience.

A recent influx of funding from American Society of Anesthesiologists, which will spend $176,000 on radio ads, may help to improve Arkoosh’s odds in this race. Her name recognition among eligible 13th district voters is not nearly as formidable as her vast array of accomplishments as a healthcare policy advocate.

One thing is for certain – if Arkoosh somehow pulled out a win in this race, however unlikely, she’d bring to the position a new practical, grassroots perspective on health policy that Congresswoman Schwartz has not been known for, as someone more beholden to health insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists than most.

Posted in Miscellany