Moving Forward in PA-7

I’m obviously disappointed by the results of the Pennsylvania Primary in the 7th Congressional District. Aside from just managing John Morganelli, I count him as a friend. We have our political differences, but I was hoping for the best for him. It didn’t work out.

Susan Wild is now the Democratic nominee now. I have my fears about her chances this Fall and my worries about her candidacy. This is obvious by the fact that I didn’t support her in the primary. Nevertheless, she has an impressive career and managed to win the primary. For three main reasons, I am telling my readers in the district to back her.

  1. Donald Trump is dangerous, and we need a Congress that will stand up to him. Look, I could sit here and tell you why she doesn’t excite me and why I don’t want to unify now, but that’s my privilege talking- I’m not Donald’s target as a white, straight, Christian, suburban male. Sue Wild ran in this primary as a progressive. She will vote for Nancy Pelosi or whoever else the Democrats put forward for Speaker. That vote will allow the House to pull the Trump agenda to a screeching halt, at least. Whatever issues I have with Sue Wild, I need to tell you that a vote for her is a vote against Donald Trump’s agenda.
  2. Voting for her is in line with the values I’ve been preaching for years, and it’s in line with the people I’ve supported in the past. I’ve spent most of my adult life working to elect women and minorities to higher offices, because I believe in diversity, and I believed in the people. It’s why I worked for Hillary Clinton twice in her quest for the Presidency. It’s why I went to work to elect the first African-American Congresswoman in New Jersey’s history, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. It’s why I went to Iowa to work for the only Bosnian-American woman to ever be elected to a state legislature. It’s why, closer to home here, I worked for State Reps. Jeanne McNeill and Maureen Madden, Judges Ellen Ceisler and Maria McLaughlin, Congressman Dwight Evans, and Senators Menendez and Booker. Putting aside the personal and the petty, the arc of my work suggests my politics are close with Sue’s. Electing her does fit with my commitment to diversity, and with my values.
  3. It’s party over candidate, in the end. Charlie Dent was a good and decent man. He still voted with the Republican leadership of the U.S. House about 85% of the time in his career. Unless I’m rooting for another round of tax cuts for millionaires, I have to want the Democrats to win.

Elections come to an end and you move on. I obviously wanted a different result. The primary voters have spoken though, and I’m prepared to move on and hope for the best. While I have personal concerns and doubts about Sue, supporting her opponent on personal grounds would be a violation of what I have spent my whole career doing. In a partisan battle for control of Congress, it is important that Democrats elect a Democrat.

Why I Chose John Morganelli in PA-7, and Why You Should Too

Tomorrow is the Pennsylvania Primary Election, and through most of it I have remained relatively silent about the open seat race for Congress in my native Lehigh Valley. I have done so out of professional courtesy, first and foremost- I am generally fairly outspoken, but as the campaign manager of a candidate, I do not want my words to be misconstrued as their’s, and vice-versa. I have never agreed with any candidate, from Hillary Clinton to local County Executive candidates, on every issue. You can’t possibly do so, unless you get in the game and run yourself. If I find no daylight between my beliefs and a candidate’s, I have found a phony who I should not trust. So, as a professional, I try not to highlight any divisions.

Throughout the primary in PA-7, there has been a second phenomenon though, one of rising passions and resentment. This race has become nasty, but I’m less referring to the television ads and campaign mailers, and more so the comments sections on local blogs, the Facebook comments, and even anonymous Tumblr and Facebook pages. Overall, I’ve tried to avoid the confrontations over it. Some of the most negative people were/are friends of mine. Some endorsers of other candidates have been elected officials I’ve done political work for. While I have very strong opinions on the PA-7 race, I’ve kept telling myself to remember May 16th will eventually arrive, and I should not make reconciliation worse than it has to be.

I chose months ago to go and work for John Morganelli’s campaign for Congress. I didn’t do so for any other reason than believing in the man. No, I won’t agree with all of his policies, he is most certainly a little bit more conservative than me. I didn’t do it for money, or out of lack of other opportunities, with so many Democrats running for office this year I could have easily extracted a couple grand more a month to do a race elsewhere, with over a decade of political management experience under my belt. I could have sought a job in Northampton County after serving on the Executive’s transition, or in Lehigh County after managing their new Executive. Politically, I could have sought to manage a less contentious race here locally, as Democrats are running a full slate of state legislative candidates. I had plenty of options, but I chose this. Me, the veteran of Hillary Clinton (twice), Barack Obama (twice), Chris Dodd, Bob Menendez, Cory Booker, Bonnie Watson Coleman, the former PA House Majority Leader, and a whole bunch of other liberal Democrats, chose to work for the guy that is taking fire from virtually the entire left.

If it wasn’t expediency, there has to be another reason why, right? There are many reasons I chose the tough assignment of managing John Morganelli in this political climate. He’s been a very good District Attorney, as is evidenced by the safe streets in Northampton County. I identify with his past, as he grew up blue collar in Bethlehem, and like me graduated from Moravian College with a degree in political science. I know he is a tough prosecutor, but not a heartless one, instituting reforms to bring more women and minorities into his office, create a mental health court, and supporting the decriminalization of marijuana. He has always supported the men and women in our local unions, prosecuting violations of labor law on work sites across Northampton County. John was advocating for legislation a decade ago in Harrisburg to force gun owners to report lost and stolen hand guns and for gun owners to securely store all fire arms in their home, especially if children or the mentally ill were present. He supports public education, and fully funding it. John is a solid Democrat on 85% of the issues. As a person, I know him to be a good and fair man- and that’s the thing, I’ve known him for years. Many of the activists now crying and screaming about him not being “blue” enough just arrived to the party on November 9th, 2016, or later. They don’t know what they’re talking about.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address the few differences I have with him, and why I can live with them. I knew about his tweets to Trump before this race, I had read them, and I had processed them as someone who spent years advocating for and fighting for Hillary Clinton to be our President. I also knew that he endorsed Hillary for President in 2016. I also knew the tweets were all after the election. Do I like them? Not really. I also get that not every Democrat in the country reacted to Trump’s victory by crying and protesting in the streets- some like Barack Obama wished him well and hoped for the best for him. I wouldn’t have sent the tweets, but I can live with them. I could say the same for his abortion and immigration positions. I knew he was “pro-life” in a manner similar to Bob Casey, in that he’d respect settled law and vote for funding for Planned Parenthood. I find it somewhat amusing we’re not applying a litmus test to Senator Casey, but are here. I also knew all about his history on immigration- including his support of the DACA bill. That he wants to deport undocumented immigrants who violate the laws while in the United States is fine by me, and most voters. We are a nation of laws, not a free-for-all.

Most of us in politics here in the Lehigh Valley knew all of this stuff before he entered. Many of us have chosen to support him anyway. The most popular Democrat in the Valley, State Senator Lisa Boscola is joined by the Northampton County Executive, Bethlehem Mayor, former Lehigh County Judge Tom Wallitsch, multiple Northampton County Council members, and several city council members have endorsed John. The Lehigh Valley Building Trades Unions have been joined by the Fire Fighters Union locals in Allentown, Bethlehem, and Philadelphia in supporting him. Many of our local Democrats realize John would be a fine representative in Congress.

People not from here are spending a lot of money to drown out those local voices. Emily’s List has spent close to $400,000 alone, as of the beginning of last week. Billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen organization pledged “at least” $100k to the race. There are plenty of other groups spending here too. While John’s closest competitor had to lay off their manager, communications director, and field director because they couldn’t pay them, and they never aired a television ad of their own, outside money is doing their best to prop up a candidacy that is incapable of sustaining itself. The message here is that Washington, and not Bethlehem, knows best. That message has been sent before, and it’s part of why we currently have Donald Trump in office. Listening to out of touch voices, most of whom have never been here, is a sure way to lose.

It’s also part of why I support John- the job is REPRESENTATIVE of the people of the 7th Congressional District, not of the National Democratic Party. John Morganelli’s life experiences and political positions best represent the Lehigh Valley. Sure, some activists don’t approve, but they are not representative of the broader masses here. Donald Trump won Northampton County, barely lost Monroe County, and only lost Lehigh County because of the large presence of Allentown to pull it across for Hillary. Both Democratic County Executives won in 2017 in large part by running on their records of never raising taxes and preserving services for senior citizens, not some anti-Trump “BlueWave” message. This is a moderate area. They will elect the most moderate Congressman. Nominating an inauthentic version in the primary will end the way Congressional campaigns have here for the last 20 years. The Lehigh Valley is not Philadelphia. It is not similar to Philadelphia. Stop fooling yourself into thinking Philadelphia politics will work here. If the Democratic Party is going to start winning again, we will have to start representing the districts, not trying to force them to represent us.

In short, I believe in John Morganelli, flaws and all. I know he’ll fight to expand health care access, limit gun violence, rebuild our infrastructure, and protect the rights of unions to organize. I believe John will win in November, in fact he is the only candidate I can say that about. I know John will provide a vote for a Democratic Speaker in January, one we desperately need.

I have mostly refrained from engaging during this race, in part to try to keep the temperature down. In these final hours, I see no need to. I’m supporting the best, strongest candidate in PA-7 that the Democrats can nominate to win in November. I hope you will join me.

35.

I was sitting in the Hotel Bethlehem having dinner with a friend on the final night I would be 34 as I looked out the window and saw the bus roll up to the door, with “MORAVIAN” scrolled across it. Out rolled repeated 22 year olds, dressed in their suits and dresses, smiles beaming across their faces. This was their night, May 10th, 2018, the gala celebration for members of the Class of 2018. These young Hounds had their lives in front of them. Twelve years ago, that was me.

Time is both our most precious resource and the most unforgiving critic. Time, inevitably will pass us by. For all of us, time is finite, and we don’t know how much of it we will have, only that we have now, the time between this moment and that morning when we are summoned home.

I turned 35 years old Friday, a semi-milestone in my life, one made easier by the fact that some bartenders and waitresses still ask me to see my ID. I feel my age some days, but others I still feel 25. I’m pretty proud of my life to this point. Professionally, I’ve worked for Presidents, Governors, Senators, Congress members, state legislators, judges, and local leaders, all over America, for diverse people, managing staffs and campaigns that were big and small. I’ve got a good relationship to my family, and I have stayed close with my friends from childhood to now. I serve on my college alumni board, my township board of auditors, and the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee. I’ve got a very sizable social media following. I go to lots of baseball games. I spent my birthday weekend at a wedding for one of my best friends. I came home and my dogs were happy to see me.

There are things that I’m either unhappy with or anxious about though. I’d like to be wealthier, maybe have a family life of my own, get more degrees, eat better, buy a home, get back into my athletic shape, and travel more. The good news though is that I’m not consumed by any of those things. They would all be added benefits. If they don’t happen, I’ll deal with it.

I’m pretty happy at 35, and pretty content with who I am. I’m a product of my community, family, friends, work experiences, and education, and I’m quite happy with that. Thank you for knowing me, and reading me.

A San Francisco Billionaire Knows What’s Best for Easton?

I don’t know Tom Steyer. Tom Steyer doesn’t know me. I don’t plan on spending money on deciding who is Tom Steyer’s Congressman, I’ve never been to San Francisco. Tom is spending on who my Congressman in Easton is though. I’m not sure he could find the 7th Congressional District on a map, much less any of the specific towns (unless his large staff helps him). I’m certain he knows and cares very little about what the people here would think though- he’s never stepped foot here in his life.

Tom Steyer is spending here in the 7th District because he wants a more liberal nominee than the front-runner. The front-runner has the largest lead against the Republican candidates, he’s the only candidate with a double digit lead, in a district that Hillary Clinton won by 1% or so. Basically Tom Steyer would like to make a lay-up election into a competitive one. He thinks this because he thinks he knows best- better than the people who live in the district over 3,000 miles away, people he is showing he knows nothing about. Forget the local elected officials and unions who disagree with his views, based on their experience, Tom Steyer knows best. After all, he’s never been here.

Tom is a rich guy with personal ambitions. He runs his NextGen organization nationally, basically targeting climate change and youth voter engagement- both very noble causes. He has decided to launch “Need to Impeach” commercials this year though, to push the Democratic Party to pledge to impeach Donald Trump- something not politically beneficial to Democratic Congressional candidates in swing districts or red states, but very beneficial to a potential Presidential candidate. As he collects online sign-ups and data from passionate supporters around the country who he can target later in a campaign, Democrats in tough races are confronted with a question most of them would rather ignore, if possible, until at least the point where Robert Mueller issues a report implicating Donald Trump of wrong-doing, or Trump obstructs him by firing him. Steyer can’t let this play out to it’s rightful ending though, because that costs him his opening to garner attention and valuable data. That’s more important than a majority to him.

Tom Steyer doesn’t give a rat’s behind about the Democratic Party, winning a majority, or the people you’d see down on Northampton Street in Easton on any sunny afternoon. Tom Steyer cares about his out-of-touch national agenda and himself. He’ll spend his money to advance himself, and nothing more. Steyer was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, attending the same private Buckley School in New York City that hosted Roosevelts, Rockefellers, and a young Donald Trump. He wouldn’t be capable of conversing with the good people of Easton. His rich guy, hedge fund values wouldn’t mesh well with the working class people here.

I’ll tell you what though- any time he wants to actually come here instead of spending his money here, I’ll show him the folks.

Your Congress Sucks Because You Believe the BS From Outside Money

A week from today is the Pennsylvania Primary, and here in the Lehigh Valley that’s clear to anyone who has ever voted. Glossy mailers, television ads, robo calls- you’re getting it all. The crazy thing is, most of it isn’t from the candidates.

There has been well north of half-a-million dollars spent here in the past two weeks by outside groups. The leading three Democrats have probably only raised a total of around $750,000 to this date. They may be outspent by outside money.

Just about every Democrat and liberal in the country says they oppose money in politics, especially “dark” money. When push comes to shove though, we all seem to be okay with it, when the money supports them. Why? The money usually has an impact. Principles take a back seat to winning, for most.

Just take a minute to consider what you are doing though- selling your representation in Congress. You’re selling your seat to people who have never stepped foot in your district, and don’t care about your people. Perhaps the most troubling thing, if you’re accepting this in order to win is that you probably won’t- these outside liberal and conservative interest groups are largely out of touch with general election voters in swing districts. This isn’t helpful on any level.

The Process Hits It’s Latest Wall

Back before the season, I predicted the Sixers would go 47-35, finish as the six seed in the Eastern Conference, and maybe win a playoff series. After a 52-30 season, the Sixers were third in the conference. They took down Miami in the first round. They’ve exceeded all of my expectations.

Back before game one of the Eastern Conference semi-final series in Boston, I said the Sixers would win the series convincingly in six games. I said Boston lacked a star on par with Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons. I thought Boston was simply too banged up by the injury bug to compete with a far more athletic club. I looked at Rozier and Smart as the worst back court of the eight teams left and expected to exploit them. Clearly this series has met none of the expectations.

Depending on how you want to view those two paragraphs, that pretty much dictates your view of this team now.

You have to give Boston a lot of credit, they have exceeded expectations. Al Horford is showing himself as possibly the most valuable player on that roster, healthy or hurt. While I still see Jayson Tatum as the 2017-2018 answer to the NFL’s 2016 Dak Prescott, it’s very clear that he is an excellent player, and arguably the most matured player to come out of last year’s draft. Smart and Rozier are proving they are more than rotational players. Jaylen Brown is playing effectively through injury. Brad Stephens game plan to effectively deal with Ben Simmons has worked perfectly. It’s not just Philly playing badly, Boston plays great team basketball, and it’s shown up in getting them through the last two games. Up 3-0 now, they’re probably going to be hosting LeBron for game one next week.

This series has been really disappointing though for a Philadelphia fan. The team’s ability to light up the scoreboard against Miami is gone. Simmons lack of a jumper is finally hurting. Joel Embiid has actually been really good, but he can’t seem to buy a foul call (God, the NBA loves Boston.). Markelle Fultz is back in the abyss, not even appearing in these games. Dario Saric finally looks tired. Belinelli, Ilyasova, and the rest of the bench cast that was so good for the last two months just hasn’t decimated Boston as hoped. Brett Brown seems overwhelmed finally. He’s been questionable in using his bench. He’s been questionable in not using his bench, like the gritty Justin Anderson, at times. He’s let the team jack up threes even when ice cold (looking at you, Robert Covington), despite the fact that they aren’t built to live that way. And of course, he’s refused to use his timeouts to stop Boston runs, even with a very young team. Things have gone bad.

Despite all that, I will tend to judge the 2017-2018 Philadelphia 76’ers by the first paragraph I wrote here. This team exceeded every reasonable expectation I had for them. They won 52 games and a playoff series. Two years ago they won 10 games, last year it was 28. Ben Simmons played a full season and would get my Rookie-of-the-Year vote. Joel Embiid went from playing about one college season’s worth of games in his first three years to having an All-Star season that he got through with only modest injury issues. Dario Saric showed you his rookie year was real. Brett Brown showed you he can manage and motivate his young squad. In short, they accomplished most of the missions.

Unfortunately, or fortunately if you want, the Sixers future faces a far higher bar now, due to their success. The Sixers were third in their division, and must drastically improve to pass Boston or Toronto. They face major issues ahead. Ben Simmons has to learn how to shoot. Can they re-sign J.J. Redick, and to a contract that doesn’t restrict their ability to spend. After a very troubling rookie season, what is Markelle Fultz? As great as Joel Embiid is, can he take the next step, and dominate the paint like a Hakeem Olajuwon for years to come? Can Robert Covington gain consistency? What are the future roles of bench pieces like T.J. McConnell, Justin Anderson, and Richaun Holmes? Can Brett Brown get the team to cut the turnovers and take better shots? Can Brown manage his timeouts better?

The Sixers need to be honest about where they are now. The fans will expect this team to quickly become real contenders. They probably need to obtain a real star piece this Summer- whether it’s LeBron or someone else. They need to answer the questions about the team they have. They have to realize that while this season was a lot of fun, the Sixers aren’t really all that close to where they need to be yet, and Boston isn’t going away. We traded them another high pick in swapping the Fultz and Tatum picks, they get their best two players back next year, they have a solid roster now, and they have a great coach. The Boston mountain in front of the Sixers is quite tall, and not going away soon. It’d be nice if they started scaling it a little by winning a game or two now to extend this series, if only to show everyone they aren’t so far away now.

The Hypocrisy of Political Activists on Negative Campaigning

We’re inside of two weeks from an election here in Pennsylvania, and there are primary fights breaking out for Congress all over the place. I know you’ll find this shocking- but there is negative campaigning going on. This is as predictable as the sun rising.

Everybody says they hate negative campaigning- at least when it’s done against their candidate. Everybody hates when their candidate gets hit. When it’s their opponent? That’s fair game. That’s their record. We’re all good with that. When you’re calling the opponent a crook, a racist, a Republican, that’s just fine and dandy truth. Just don’t hit my candidate, right?

If you’re cool with shadow money when it’s convenient, anonymous Facebooks and Tumblers against the opponent, and attack mail when it’s helpful, please spare me the speech about negative campaigning. We all do it, because it works. Spare me your hypocrisy, I’m not sympathetic.

Stop Comparing Other Candidates to Hillary

Yale Law grad. First Lady of Arkansas. First Lady of the United States. U.S. Senator from New York, who helped heal her state after 9/11. Secretary of State. Democratic nominee for President. Winner of the popular vote for President by 2.9 million votes.

And that’s the short version of her bio.

I worked for Hillary Clinton in 2008. I worked for Hillary Clinton again in 2016. I would venture that she had the best on-paper resume to be President since at least George H.W. Bush, if not Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon. She had the foreign policy chops, and the domestic policy credentials on paper that one would want. She had big achievements, like pushing through CHIP in the 1990’s. She was tough. She was compassionate. She was ready for the job.

Hillary also encountered epic pushback in her career. She was investigated repeatedly, and cast as corrupt, even though she never faced charges on any of them. Her appearance was ridiculed. Her voice was called shrill. She was cast as corporate, corrupt, and evil for taking donations. Her hawkish record was cast as opportunistic, as others were not, with the same record. Hillary constantly faced a double-standard. She constantly faced explicit and implicit sexism. I’m not saying she handled it all perfect, or that she never made it worse for herself. I’m saying she faced uncharted waters her whole career. Hillary Clinton is a unique political figure in our history.

Almost no one has a resume like Hillary Clinton. Almost no one has faced the scrutiny Hillary Clinton has. Almost no one has had such a long public career as Hillary Clinton. Almost no one has faced the sexism Hillary Clinton has.

There are a lot of candidates this year trying to tie the scrutiny they are facing to the scrutiny Hillary faced. Some are doing so based on their long career and resumes. Some are doing so because of their gender. Some are doing so because they are viewed as politically moderate. Some are doing so because they are Democrats.

None of them are Hillary Clinton.

There are record numbers of Democratic candidates, of female candidates, of virtually any kind of candidates in 2018. Donald Trump has awakened something in our politics, and people are stepping forward to answer it. Not all of those candidates are qualified, ethical, electable, or really who they say they are. Some of them need to be scrutinized. Some deserve to be scrutinized. To be fair, most of the people stepping forward are honest citizens looking to make a difference. We really shouldn’t treat anyone like we treated Hillary Clinton. Let’s not pretend that many other candidates are being treated like Hillary though.

Decency and Humor in the Age of Trump

This weekend, Michelle Wolf skewered the Trump Administration at the White House Correspondent’s dinner, especially Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She also roasted the media for practicing “access journalism.” Media types like Mika Brzezinski and Andrea Mitchell have criticized them. Sean Spicer and Donald Trump howled their disapproval too. They are wrong. Michelle Wolf, I cautiously say, was right.

I’m not for trashing the President or White House just for the fun of it. I have evolved a bit from the angry days of early 2017 on this- I don’t think calling Donald Trump names, for instance, is a good representation of one’s anger. I hate his policies, I think he’s generally a bad man, but I think we still have to treat the Presidency as something prestigious and decent, when possible, if for no other reason than to protect it for his successors.

I’m still fine with what Michelle Wolf said though- it was all true. The media did give this monster hundreds of millions of dollars of free media in the 2016 Election, allowing this to happen. MSNBC showed his rallies in full sometimes, then talked about them for hours afterwards. Mika and the Morning Joe team had Trump on the show almost every week during the election. Andrea Mitchell and others continuously treated Hillary’s e-mail “scandal” as real, despite her being cleared several times. They created this monster. They have to own it.

They haven’t really been better with him in the White House either. They continue to cover Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Sean Spicer before her, even though they outright lie about things as petty as crowd sizes. Kellyanne Conway talks about using “alternative facts.” The President denies meetings he was in, and denies deep relationships with people in his orbit when convenient. The President changes stories on his many scandals from week to week. He even tried to claim he fired James Comey over his treatment of Hillary Clinton, as he continues to call for Hillary to be jailed. Nothing this Administration says should be treated as fact, none of his aides should enjoy credibility with the press. This includes his Chief-of-Staff, who has accused Democratic Congresswomen of lying when the facts say otherwise.

What I’m saying is Michelle wasn’t too harsh on Sarah Huckabee Sanders for skewering her ethics- she was too nice. She wasn’t too harsh on the President- she was too fair. She wasn’t too harsh on the media either- she nailed her critique perfectly.

My advice for the media is to quit the “respectability politics.” This was a comedy show, and a good one at that. The people on the other side- Trump, his staff, and his supporters- don’t respect the free press, they hate the reporters, and they don’t care about an informed populace. They don’t want it to continue to exist. They lie to you- you the reporters- every day. The best way to know if Sarah Huckabee Sanders is lying is to check if she’s talking. Yes media, they are not your friends- and they never will be.

Trump’s desired America is an America where a compliant press prints what he tells them to. He has largely received that (see above on his coverage). Since he’s not getting it all his way, he lashes out at the media. They seem to think they can appease him. They should take a note from Michelle Wolf, and realize they cannot. Stop trying, just for the sake of access to more lies- we already went through this in the Iraq War. They’re going to call the media, “the media elites”- embrace it and roast these frauds with the truth.