#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

New polling data indicates Pennsylvania is a pro-choice state

Planned Parenthood PAC released polling data to Keystone Politics that questions a lot of the stereotypes projected on the Commonwealth – most critical is the inclination that Pennsylvania voters are overwhelmingly against reproductive choices for women.

Graph - Favorability of Organizations by Independents

Sari Stevens, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, had this to say about the poll:

“With just over six months left until the November elections, this poll demonstrates the risks associated with legislative attacks on women’s reproductive healthcare. Any political pundit will tell you that women decide elections, as they just did in the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race, and Pennsylvania is no exception. We are thrilled to have such a strong base of support among these important segments of the voting population.”

Among 600 Pennsylvanians polled across a wide distribution of demographic qualities, 47% self-identify as “pro-choice” while only 42% self-identify as “pro-life”. The approval/disapproval numbers for Planned Parenthood as a healthcare provider further intensify the woes of the pro-life lobby – overall, 52% approve over 25% who view the organization unfavorably.

Republicans are viewed unfavorably overall in this poll – 42% of respondents disapprove of them, while only 31% approve. Democrats faired slightly better, with an even split – 40% approval/40% disapproval rating. So in a state many political analysts frame as overwhelmingly pro-life, the leading reproductive healthcare provider has an approval rating 21% higher than approval ratings for the Republican Party and 12% higher than approval ratings for the Democratic Party.

This, to me, is an indication that Planned Parenthood has educated the populace well, not only in the importance of reproductive access even if you disagree on moral grounds, but also their role as the only access point for many Pennsylvania women (and men and young people) for other important medical services, including birth control, STD screenings, and cancer screenings.*

When polled about NARAL Pro-Choice America, another advocacy organization that does similar work, the numbers were not as good –  24% approve, 18% disapprove, and 47% either cannot rate or did not hear of NARAL. Planned Parenthood has educated voters about the benefits of their work, but NARAL has not done enough within Pennsylvania to improve public perception.

I also see it as a change in demographics of the voting population. Conservative lawmakers and those who wish to limit reproductive choice face a gender gap in support as well as a backlash from young voters. Among women, 46% approve of the Democratic Party over 36% who disapprove. The Republican Party is viewed unfavorably by women: 40% disapprove over 32% who approve across Pennsylvania. Even though there are regions of the state that tend to be more “pro-life” than others, having such a huge gender gap overall will remain one of the biggest challenges Republicans face, making Governor Corbett’s path to re-election even more tenuous.

Among young voters (ages 18 – 44), Planned Parenthood is overwhelmingly viewed favorably – 60% to 21%. This same cohort of voters views the Republican Party unfavorably – 46% disapprove and only 32% approve. Had the Voter ID law prevailed, this might not have been a huge issue for Republicans, given the burden it poses on young voters to be able to actually vote. Since this law was struck down by the court, Republicans should be very concerned about these particular figures.

Especially in terms of the governor’s race, political commentators and campaign spokesmen have implied that Allyson Schwartz’s biggest liability is her self-identification as a reproductive healthcare advocate and the founder of the Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center. With numbers like these, it becomes less of a liability than before. These numbers also indicate the gross political miscalculation by Jack Wagner that running as a pro-life gubernatorial candidate was a winning strategy – not only did he have no chance of coming out favorably with the base, it’s also not necessarily what the electorate overall wants out of their next governor.

The numbers reflect an over-arching attitude that women have a right to reproductive care, even if personally one does not wish to exercise these rights. We live in a post-Roe v. Wade country and despite legislative attempts to eliminate these rights, most are thankful for this key SCOTUS decision and the rights to medical safety it affords to women.

I reported on the varying reproductive rights positions of the Democratic lieutenant governor candidates, some state legislators, and even a congressional candidate, and a few readers wrote in to tell me that my emphasis of this as a policy issue is a huge mistake for the Democratic Party’s chances. I’d first say that it isn’t my job to advocate for the the Democratic Party. It is my job to uncover stories of injustice toward cohorts of underserved people, which I believe I have been doing by writing about Act 122, a law that has resulted in the closing of five clinics, with no clear indication as to its role in keeping women safe.

I point to this poll and conclude that I was correct to report on this issue, because clearly, it does matter to voters in Pennsylvania.

*(Full disclosure: I worked for Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania during the ACA enrollment period, helping patients and their families to get health insurance. I tend to think my former co-workers and supervisors do an incredible job, but I think these numbers actually reflect their hard work. You can let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments section.)

Posted in Civil Rights, Elections, Governor, Health, Miscellany, State House, State Politics, State Senate, US House

#PA13: Debate video from 4/7 is now online



If you have thoughts, tweet me at @ckennedy124, or you can comment below.

Posted in Miscellany

#PAGOV: GOP’s attack on Wolf is pretty weak

I don’t want this piece to be misconstrued as my official public support of Tom Wolf, but as I was reading Politics PA’s piece the other night about the recent attack by the PA GOP on Wolf’s business record, I had to throw my head back and laugh at their pathetic attempt at a political attack. My folks on the red team are seriously going to have to do better than that.

So basically, if you haven’t read the piece yet, the Wolf Organization (Tom Wolf’s company, not to be confused with his campaign) struggled through the recession a few years ago, and employees lost some of their retirement savings. Loans were taken out to keep the business afloat, Tom Wolf came out of retirement, and after some time and stabilization of national economic trends, the Wolf Organization’s outlook became stronger again.

The Pennsylvania GOP alleges that it is immoral that Wolf take out a $10 million loan for his campaign without first restoring the retirement benefits to his company’s employees, thus invalidating the morality of his entire campaign for governor.

PA GOP spokesperson Megan Sweeney said the following:

“Tom Wolf made millions of dollars at the expense of Pennsylvania taxpayers and retirees,” Communications Director Megan Sweeney said. “For months, Tom Wolf has denied that Pennsylvania has a pension crisis, without once acknowledging his role in making it worse. Now Tom Wolf is spending millions of dollars on his campaign for Governor rather than reimbursing the retirees and taxpayers who lost funds. Tom Wolf may be trying to ignore the pension crisis because of a guilty conscience, but Pennsylvanians want to have answers to the lingering questions that remain.  We invite all those who want answers to sign this petition and send Tom Wolf a message that it is time to come clean.”

I decided to put together a list of the various instances Governor Corbett has been irresponsible with taxpayer funds, the financial stakeholders of his position.

(1) Last summer, Corbett used government resources at the PA Department of Health to sue D. Bruce Hanes, the Montgomery County Register of Wills, after he learned that Haines had issued marriage license to same sex couples and Attorney General Kathleen Kane had no plans to challenge Haines’ actions.

Corbett’s press secretary, Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, said at the time, “Individual elected officials cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce. All officials are constitutionally required to administer and enforce the laws that are enacted by the Legislature. Only the courts have the power to declare a law to be unconstitutional and to suspend its effects.”

Pennsylvania, then and now, is the only state in the Northeast with no allowance for same sex civil unions or marriage. Haines later took the case all the way up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, after the Commonwealth Court barred him from stating in his legal argument that denying same sex couples the right to marry was “unconstitutional”. 172 couples were married with the help of Hanes, Senator Leach, and other likeminded individuals before Hanes was ordered to stop providing marriage licenses to same sex couples. Continue reading

Posted in Budget, Civil Rights, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Governor, Health, Labor and Unions, LGBT / Gay Rights, Miscellany, Social Services

#PA13: Daylin Leach Releases First TV Ad, Featuring Pres. Clinton

…not to mention the amazing Scalia Leach! Wait, I think I got that wrong.

Brennan Leach, Daylin’s daughter!

Comment with your thoughts on this ad. Will it have its intended effect of knocking Margolies down a few pegs, or was the Leach Campaign’s use of Clinton in their ad too much?

Posted in Miscellany

#BoscolaProblems: “When you hit somebody there is a physical act of `stay away from me’”

Have some word salad:

“When you hit somebody there is a physical act of `stay away from me,’” [Boscola] said of the woman. “Unless she was in my face. I do not know what her motivation is. I need to figure that out. Because in this business, it could be misinterpreted. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt as well. No one wants to hurt anyone in this business. Especially a woman. You know what I’m saying.”

For those just tuning in to the Lisa Boscola Shitshow, here’s a good place to start.

Boscola was openly flirting with the idea of a party switch a few years ago, after helping sabotage Democrat Jennifer Mann’s run against Republican Pat Browne – one of the top state Senate Republican targets this cycle:

Although Boscola has run afoul of her leadership before, relations between her and Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Mellow appear to have reached their chilliest point yet over her involvement in an April 8 special Senate election between Democrat Jennifer Mann and Republican Pat Browne, both state representatives from Allentown.

Mellow, a suburban Scranton Democrat, said he holds Boscola largely responsible for Mann’s loss to Browne. “Her criticism of Jennifer was a major reason that Jennifer Mann lost,” he said.

Boscola, a recovering alcoholic, was threatened with the loss of staff and the prospect of a primary opponent after she criticized Mann for attacking Browne’s two drunken driving arrests in campaign advertisements.

According to Mellow, when Boscola labeled Mann’s tactics offensive and disgusting, Democrats were forced into damage control, diverting resources from other areas of the campaign.

Boscola had also been arrested for drunk driving and bristled at the idea that Pat Browne would pay a political price for his drunk driving arrest. Jennifer Mann lost the race, and Pat Browne got reelected and went on to become the Republican Majority Whip – the dude in charge of pushing all your favorite Tom Corbett policies through the state Senate.

Thanks Lisa!

Posted in State Senate

End Lieutenant Governor Elections

The Post-Gazette nails it. We shouldn’t have elections for positions where nobody knows what the office does.

Governors and state representatives are perfect for elections because there are clear positions and people have a good idea of how people’s values will translate into legislation. Voters are pretty well-equipped to hold them accountable.

That is not the case for offices like Treasurer or Controller or Sheriff or Prothonotary. Voters have no idea what these people do, and we should stop holding elections for them.

Posted in Miscellany

#PA13: A Debate We’ll Never Forget (Part 3)

Valerie Arkoosh’s Surprise Question – Preparedness as only Non-Politician
Arkoosh’s surprise question was one she was completely prepared to answer. As the only non-politician in the race, some in the audience and in the district held concerns that she didn’t have what it takes to fight these legislative battles. Although she is not an elected official, this is not Arkoosh’s first time to the policy rodeo. She was an integral part of discussions about the Affordable Care Act. Arkoosh made the fair point that Washington is full of politicians and she would bring a new perspective to Congress. She told the audience about her degree in Public Health, ensuring that she is not a novice on policy discussions, and as a woman, she would be the only female physician elected to Congress if she won.

Staying Connected to Constituents
Boyle cited his constituent services as a state representative, according to him, ranked second only to his brother, State Representative Kevin Boyle. Leach questioned the merits of part of Davies question, in which Davies implied that fundraising would be critical to being re-elected. Leach brought up the role of gerrymandering in ensuring that whoever won this race would have the seat as long as they wanted it, something he is very much against and has spoken out on in the past. That being said, Leach discussed his high quality constituent services, the fact that he engages people on issues rather than sending a letter that basically says “let’s agree to disagree”, and his connection to both the Montgomery County part of the district and the North Philadelphia section as a child.

Margolies’ answer was a little more strange; she cited her ongoing relationships with older members of Congress whom she served with in the early 90s, rather than being connected to the district and constituents, which was the question asked. She brought up that WCI received funding from USAID, the US Department of Defense, and the State Department.

Arkoosh took a swipe at Margolies, the (weirdly) perceived frontrunner, saying that first off, she has been to all of the debates. She discussed how it was important to her that all of her campaign staff had health insurance, that they have multiple campaign offices throughout the legislative district, and that she has received a total of 33 Democratic Committee endorsements.

Leach stated he was for comprehensive immigration reform, and told audience members that it was a moral, economic, and a security issue. He discussed legislation he wrote to prevent immigration checks like those seen in Arizona by police, after a very controversial law was passed.

Margolies basically told the audience she agreed with what Leach said, emphasizing that it was an economic issue.

Arkoosh discussed the need for the passage of the DREAM Act. She said as a congresswoman she’d fight to reexamine deportation policies and spend the money used to deport individuals to expand work and student visa programs.

Boyle talked about his status as a first generation American, with Irish American immigrant parents. He also brought up that our policies for undocumented immigrants need to be redesigned in tandem with our legal immigration system, so basically some of the things that Arkoosh and Leach had said.

Margolies said that she supported the automatic weapons ban that was around in her congressional days, as well as the Brady law. She wrapped up her comments on the subject very quickly with very little else to say, especially as the first person to answer the question and said, “We must do something. We must not be afraid of the NRA.”

Arkoosh invoked her occupation as a physician and public health expert as well as her role as a mother to talk about gun violence. She said that background checks are needed, an assault weapons ban is needed, and that there is no need for weapons with high capacity magazines.

Boyle cited his endorsement from the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, then recited the statistic that 50% of all crime-related guns in urban areas are purchased through straw purchases, and that he’d start from there as congressman.

When it was Leach’s turn, he discussed his role in pushing for a one gun per month law in Pennsylvania, the antidote to the straw purchase problem that Boyle discussed. He also cited his desire for all gun reforms on the table, an unsurprising answer for someone proud of his F rating from the National Rifle Association.

McCutcheon v FEC SCOTUS decision
On the recent SCOTUS decision to remove limits on overall campaign donations, the discussion got pretty interesting. While Arkoosh, Boyle, and Leach all made typical statements on the need for public financing of elections and a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United SCOTUS case, Margolies made another off the wall statement, saying that all the candidates should say no to independent expenditures. Dave Davies chuckled along with some of the sharper audience members, then explained that in principle, independent expenditures are independent for the sake that candidates have no control over them. Her idea indicates one of a few things, (1) Margolies thinks it is okay to interact with organizations making independent expenditures, (2) Margolies purely doesn’t understand campaign finance legal issues, or (3) both.

Closing Statements
Leach wrapped up by saying that he is a progressive with a record of fighting battles including the ones that are morally right but not popular. Arkoosh painted herself as an ally, not a politician. Boyle talked about his blue collar roots, and this is the section where things got really strange with Margolies. She chose this moment to attack each of her three opponents by name. She attacked Boyle for his mixed reproductive rights record and his role in education privatization (somewhat fairly), then moved on to Arkoosh, whom she attacked for supporting the idea of a public option for healthcare reform, a fairly popular policy idea in this particular audience. When she got to Leach, it was the weirdest part of all. She attacked him for being a supporter of medical marijuana, and as her voice gave out for the hundredth time, she told the audience of a young mother who was killed in a vehicular collision over the weekend, by a driver under the influence of marijuana. Leach’s medicinal marijuana proposal focuses mainly on the treatment of children with a specific type of seizure disorder, so not only was her attack off base, the audience loudly and audibly laughed at her.

Well there you have it. I’ve now recapped the most important points of the whole debate. In the next few days I’ll write a piece about my personal opinions on the race, but I want to give people time to digest all of this information.

Posted in Miscellany

#PAGov: Dem Female Candidates Raise Over Double Than Male Candidates in Q1 2014

The fundraising numbers for the First Quarter of 2014 are in for Pennsylvania’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates — and Allyson Schwartz is on top with $1.5 million raised. Representative Schwartz is followed by the $1.1 million raised by Katie McGinty, then the $600k raised by Tom Wolf, and lastly the $567k raised by Rob McCord.

It’s hard not to notice that Schwartz and McGinty combined raised $2.6 million this quarter — while an aggregated Wolf and McCord raised only a little more than $1.1 million, the amount raised by McGinty herself. Following the money is one way to measure support — and some people will look at these numbers to understandably argue Pennsylvania’s readiness for its first female governor.

In today’s money-driven political system, fundraising is extremely important — especially when gauging which candidate will seemingly have the general election money necessary to compete against a Republican incumbent.

However, the total cash-on-hand numbers skew the results back to Businessman Tom Wolf  – the current front-runner — and his massive war-chest:


The most recent non-internal polling matches the overall fundraising numbers fairly well with Wolf in first (33%), Schwartz in second (7%), McCord in third (6%), and McGinty in fourth (4%).

Posted in Elections, Governor Tagged , , , ,

#HD164: More Dishonesty from Margo Davidson

In Davidson’s latest campaign email, she claims to be the first woman ever elected to the Delaware County legislative delegation. I’ve heard she also is the first person ever to be named Margo, and she also discovered the cure to polio, decades before she was born. She’s just that good.

Faith Wittlesey was first elected as a state representative in Delaware County, Pennsylvania in 1973, in the 166th Pennsylvania State House district. She later served as the 13th United States Ambassador to Switzerland under President Ronald Reagan.

Mary Ann Arty served as the 165th District Representative from 1969 until 1974, a seat that William Adolph has held ever since.

Current Commonwealth Court Judge Kathrynann W Durham was elected as state representative for the 160th state legislative district in 1978 and served eight two-year terms before becoming a court official.

Mae Kernaghan was elected to the Delaware County delegation even earlier. Born in 1901, Kerneghan served from 1957 to 1968 in a time when the entire county was one legislative district. When districts were redrawn, Kernaghan served as the representative for the 163rd District, Davidson’s neighboring district in Upper Darby, currently held by Representative Nicholas Micozzie.

Margo Davidson also claims to support all of the following, in the wake of recent endorsements of her primary opponent, Billy Smith, by Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women:

“Achieve Pay Equity

Stop Sexual Harassment in All Workplaces

Strengthen Human Trafficking Laws

End Family Status Discrimination

Stop Housing Discrimination for Victims of Domestic Violence

Stop Pregnancy Discrimination Once and For All

Protect Victims of Domestic Violence by Strengthening Order-of-Protection Law

Protect a Woman’s Freedom of Choice”

On a “woman’s freedom of choice”, Davidson voted to ban private insurance coverage of abortions for any policies included within the Pennsylvania ACA exchange, and she also voted for HB 732 (now Act 122), which forced the closure of five women’s clinics in Central Pennsylvania. On another note, while she now supports ending “family status” discrimination, it took months of pressure for Davidson to cosponsor HB 300, a bill to end discrimination of LGBT people in their work, their housing, and their government benefits. Maybe now that Billy Smith has been endorsed by the Liberty City Democratic Committee, an LGBT advocacy organization, she’ll put out an email claiming all her LGBT advocacy accolades.

Posted in Miscellany