Where There Aren’t Good Guys

I made the newspaper this weekend- the Saturday front page. Before any of you congratulate me, don’t. A candidate I was doing social media for politically got hit with a rocket, and her campaign is a mess. Basically, she probably supported Donald Trump. That’s not a good idea when you want the Democratic Nomination for District Attorney.

Without boring you with the details too much, the candidate is currently the Chief Public Defender of Northampton County, appointed by the Democratic County Executive. She’s been a significant donor to Democrats such as our Congresswoman, State Senator, current District Attorney, County Executive, and Mayor of the County’s largest city. I had served with on the transition team that built the current county government. She switched parties in November to make this run, which really wasn’t the best thing politically, but I took her at her word that she wasn’t a Trump supporter in 2016. There were rumors during the race of her support and having aTrump sign in her yard, but those were denied too. Then the picture above surfaced, suggesting strong reason to doubt those denials. I resigned last week, quietly. I felt it was the appropriate thing to do.

That’s all context, not really the point of why I’m writing this. In so far as I can tell it, that race is over- Trump is a non-negotiable in a Democratic Primary. I don’t have much more to say about the race. Since I’m involved though, I have a few thoughts:

  1. When neighbors are in conflict over a political race, our politics are dangerously toxic. This whole story happened because the candidate’s neighbor took pictures of the sign on her door. She did that because they had altercations during and about the 2016 Election. I’ll be charitable here- it’s weird to take pictures of your neighbor’s political signs to use against them later. Like, that’s the kind of thing that makes me want lots of space and no neighbors. Yes, this person supported Hillary (like I did, as an employee of her), but I still find this concerning. You know what concerns me more though? Neighbors being in conflict over an election. This isn’t healthy. Most of you will never spend two minutes in conversation with a Presidential candidate. You shouldn’t be so emotionally invested in them that you’re ready to drop the gloves with your neighbors over them, or in this case, fight over yard signs. Trust me, I have spent time with candidates.
  2. Candidates, please don’t omit things when talking to your team, just because you don’t want them to get out. Yes, you did something bad before. Maybe you slept around, or you were a big partied when you were young, or you fell behind financially (I know nothing about these sins). If you have no past, particularly no negative past, voters should seriously doubt you and examine you. Obviously if you’re a convict, it might disqualify you (I’m not sure anymore). Here’s the reality though- whatever it is, it’s coming out in your campaign. Assume it. Own it. Put your spin, your story on it first. We all make mistakes. You voted for Trump? That was your choice. Tell us that, and why you changed, before someone else tells us about it. They don’t have the context you have. They won’t be nearly as kind to you as you will be.
  3. If you want to have a political “change of heart,” actually have it and present it to the public. The problem with switching political sides is that it’s usually one of two reasons- either your party has changed to the point you can no longer support it, or you’re an opportunist. Sometimes, it can even be both. The problem is, to claim it’s something actually changing and not naked opportunism, you need to get out ahead and explain it. You need to explain the catalysts for your move. You also need to stay consistent then. You also need to not get caught in any lies. Basically, be honest and transparent.
  4. It’s amazing what decides elections. A three year old yard sign trumps (pun intended) the policy positions, debates, qualifications, and speeches. Our politics are so tribal, so toxic, that anything that casts doubt on you personally matters more than what you’re running for. I’m not saying personal failings shouldn’t be a consideration, but I’m also saying we all have a lot of them. Whether they’re personal, financial, or past associations, we all have things we shouldn’t be proud of, or we haven’t lived. In this case, it’s a yard sign. Should it have mattered? Actually, probably, yes. But we should be generally more measured in reacting to these things.
  5. Operatives should never consider it a good day when they’re in the press doing anything but representing their candidate. I saw my name in the paper and cringed, and that was in spite of the fact the writer was really nice to me. She quoted me properly and presented me evenly. The point is that I’m not the candidate. Not the star. Not the story. And I don’t really want to be. I want to go to work, do my job, and be done. There’s no score worth settling, publicly, nor should anyone want to read me trashing a former client. And I didn’t. But I still didn’t want to be a story.

God speed, America. God speed.

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Real America, Re-Visited

Yesterday, the New York Times put out an interactive map of the 2016 Election, broken out down to the precinct level. While some critics have noted how the map doesn’t depict population density or the “swing” of the districts, I find the map to be very fascinating and useful, particularly for understanding the basic structural contours of America and it’s politics.

The most basic thing the map accurately depicts is the biggest problem Democrats have- while they may make up a plurality of the electorate, they all live together, which doesn’t work in a federal republic. It’s great that we can win California by a couple of million votes, but it doesn’t really do us much good winning Presidential elections. We win blue districts by 60%+, and still only get that one seat. They win an exurban seat by 20% or less and it’s a wash. You can only really draw so many seats in San Francisco.

What also stands out to me is in how much of the country we are simply uncompetitive. Sure, Republicans are nearly non-existent in urban areas now, but they’ll take that trade when they dominate nearly the entire Midwest and Appalachian Trail states. This split of the country probably insures a long-term Senate dominance, and it tends to reinforce itself at the House level. A Democratic caucus so entrenched in urban America is a Democratic Party that in turn tends to move left on issues, making itself uncompetitive with voters who aren’t from their base.

Democratic operatives are largely unprepared to run elections in the nation that is. They understand statistics and data, but really don’t understand margins. They’ve figured out that a huge portion of a Democratic candidates votes will come out of cities, and that it’s easier and cheaper to get votes in base areas, but they’ve failed to understand that even a huge city like Philadelphia can’t carry Pennsylvania when they lose by dramatic margins everywhere else. It’s very clear when you look at Philadelphia and Detroit that the politics make a stark change the minute you cross the city line.

American elections are, and will continue to be won in suburbia, at all levels. If there aren’t enough city-based blue seats for Democrats to form a majority, and the rural areas are too far gone politically, then the only pathway forward for Democrats to win legislative majorities and win statewide victories are the suburban voters. One of the most alarming things about Trump’s Pennsylvania victory in 2016 was just how well he did in Northeast Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley, and even in some of the Philadelphia exurbs. While the “Main Line” area became more blue, Eastern Lancaster County, Berks County, Northampton and Monroe Counties all moved in the wrong direction. This will have to reverse itself for the Democrats to win the House in 2018.

The question Democrats have to ask themselves moving forward is who are the voters they are going to pick up, and what kind of message is going to get it done? The good news for the national party- I see hope in the South. There may not be a more geographically sustained “blue” strain on the entire map than the one running from the Mississippi River towns across the Deep South all the way to Georgia and the Carolinas. There are systemic reasons this region hasn’t produced majorities for Democrats- voter suppression, gerrymandering, voter apathy, and resources to run campaigns- but the future could be bright here. If Democrats continue to fight for voting rights and move forward embracing their base, perhaps the Deep South may be the one region where current electoral trends break well for Democrats.

Ultimately though, electoral trends should scare Democrats. Even if the Deep South moves towards Democrats, that will not offset the negative trends in other regions. The Rust Belt is already a swing area where Trump did very well. New England isn’t safe either. Republicans hold the Governor’s mansions in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine, and the Governor’s mansion and legislature in New Hampshire. Donald Trump won an electoral vote in Maine, and narrowly missed carrying Maine and New Hampshire, on the whole. Minnesota narrowly avoided joining Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania as states that flipped. If all of these states continue to trend Republican, the Senate could disappear for a long time, and the electoral college will crush the emerging majorities in the “big blue” states. With the House having a natural bias against cities in the first place, this will kill the party.

On a final note, the most alarming thing about this map was looking at my own “neighborhood” here on the “enlightened” East Coast. Here in the first county over the stateline from “blue” New Jersey, Donald Trump more than just carried the county- he won some places that Republicans usually don’t win. He won places that don’t look and seem like “Trump Country.” While he didn’t really infiltrate Allentown, Bethlehem, or Easton, he made large sections of Northampton and Lehigh Counties solid red. He won seemingly tolerant suburban neighborhoods. The results of 2017 county elections in the region suggested some movement away from him, but it remains to be seen about the long term electoral trends.

Making the Northampton County Democratic Party Work Into the Future

Northampton County, Pennsylvania is a uniquely important county in American Politics. Generally, for about as far back as you would care to look, the Presidential candidate who wins Northampton County, wins Pennsylvania, and very often, the election. We are a swing county, one that went from Obama to Trump. We are in a very swing Congressional District (D+1). We are in one of the most swing of swing states. We are our own little world. We’re also important to the rest of the world.

The state of our county Democratic Party isn’t great, and that has big implications in the political universe. We have missed quorum in two of the last three attempted county meetings. The Executive Board meets very rarely, probably averaging less than once a year. Our Treasurer of official record resigned over a year ago, and the books haven’t undergone an independent audit. The area committees that are supposed to drive the committee on the whole never got that promised re-drawing from four years ago. Only four of the nine area committees even meet at this point. Despite the unprecedented anti-Trump energy and activism of the past 20 months, virtually the same number of people filed to run for the committee in this primary. Our elected officials are unhappy and view the committee unfavorably. We sent a mailer out in 2017, via first class mail, on the behalf of our county council slate- and it arrived the day after the election. Organized labor is unhappy with the committee as well, which could be fatal (they are some of our biggest donors). Things aren’t good.

I learned a long time ago that you don’t promise the moon, it’s hard to deliver. You promise what you can deliver. I would like to see the leadership for the next term make a few concrete promises that they can deliver on. In my opinion, they should be:

  1. Repair relations with the local elected officials that we helped elect. We nominated, advocated, and voted for our County Executive and Council. Then they feel we stepped on their messages, in an effort to run their campaigns. Candidates set their message. We support them. We need to get back to that.
  2. Repair relations with organized labor by supporting pro-labor candidates and recruiting candidates committed to the cause of organized labor. Labor feels like they’ve been treated as an ATM by the party. They feel we’ve opposed some of their candidates. That has to stop. We have to be committed to their cause on issues from prevailing wage to the minimum wage. We have to nominate people who support them, period.
  3. Have the state Democratic Party conduct an independent audit of the books and get a Treasurer on the job. It is unacceptable that this position has sat open so long. Right now, nobody would want it, due to the lack of certainty about the state of our books. This needs to be rectified, immediately.
  4. Four meetings of the general body a year, every year. One per quarter. One before petitions. One before the primary. One around Labor Day. One in October.
  5. Bring forward a new map of area committees within the next year. This seems simple. Four to six areas is all we can carry. Get a map to vote on, now.
  6. Lower quorum from the 40% set by the current leadership to 30 people a meeting. The 40% number is ridiculous, but that’s what they chose. Lower it to 30, a number we better be able to get out to meetings.
  7. Six executive board “meetings” a year. One every other month, with minutes, if only to check in. It can be done via conference call, Skype, or whatever other technology is needed to get everyone together.
  8. Creation of a “Northampton County Democratic Club” to allow people not elected as committeeman or committeewoman to take part in our organizations. Rather than fighting the DNC gender balance rules, create a structure under the party to allow non-committee people an outlet to be involved. This is common place in New Jersey, where strong municipal committees have more activists than slots.
  9. Enforcement of the rules, uniformly, from day one. If someone isn’t attending any meetings, is endorsing Republicans, or otherwise violating our rules, remove them in accordance with the bylaws. Don’t start in year four though, do it from day one.
  10. Work on increasing Democratic registration and turnout. Make voter registration and outreach to infrequent voters a permanent mission of the party, rather than fighting with campaigns who need to spend their time appealing to the super-voters that usually decide elections. Do our job, let them do their’s.

That’s my take. What’s your’s?

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.

What I Learned About the GOP War on Government

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I recently finished a stint serving as executive director of a government transition of power in Northampton County, PA. I have lots of campaign experience, but wanted to engage in actually helping build a $400 million government in my community. What I found out was going on in the outgoing Republican Government was absolutely appalling and shocking for me at first, but gradually fell right into line with what I had expected from watching the Republican Party operate in Washington, Harrisburg, and other capitols around the country.

The former Executive in Northampton County had literally balanced his budget for four years on the backs of the needy, the vulnerable, and the employees of the county. He didn’t fill essential positions like Warden at the prison, for months and even years. He was squeezing the county work force for more of what he referred to as “efficiencies,” which just meant more work for less pay. He had corrections officers working overtime regularly. He had problems in both the county’s senior care and the children and youth departments, mostly because they were understaffed. He literally ran the county like a corporation, which is to say he let services suffer in the name of “profits,” which in this case were only the money he was using to balance his budget, and even run a surplus that he wanted to run for re-election on (fortunately, we beat him). What’s worse is that he and his Republican Council went so far as to create “lockbox” accounts to put money in that couldn’t be spent out of without supermajority votes, to further deny services to the public which uses them.

I would like to say here that this is uniquely bad, but it is not. Today I watched Steven Mnuchin say that “blue” states like California and New York should stop trying to find ways around the new tax law’s elimination of the state and local tax deduction, and should instead just cut their budgets and taxes, like other states (i.e.- New York, a successful state, should become Oklahoma now). In this statement, Mnuchin essentially gave away the real game in eliminating the state and local tax deduction federally- to force states that have functioning government services to stop having functioning government services. New Jersey should stop taking care of their poor, their sick, their elderly, and their children, and should instead cut the taxes of millionaires living in Colts Neck.

Speaking of Colts Neck and New Jersey, next week a much larger transition will come to an end, and the Chris Christie nightmare will finally end when Governor-elect Phil Murphy takes the oath of office at the statehouse in Trenton. While this seems like a happy moment, Murphy is taking over a very precarious situation. He was elected promising big improvements for New Jersey. He wants to rebuild the state’s infrastructure, particularly NJ Transit and the proposed new transit tunnel into Manhattan. He wants to fund public schools at higher levels, especially for the poorest districts in the state. He wants to create a state owned bank. He wants to make the state’s payments into the pension fund. He wants to invest in the people of his state, and the combination of Chris Christie and Washington Republicans have made that increasingly hard to do. Christie “reformed” the state’s pension system on the back of the workers, and then simply didn’t make the payments into the fund- then left Murphy with quarterly payments to make, mandated by law. Washington Republicans made it much harder to pass his “millionaire’s tax” to help finance his initiatives by taking away the state and local tax deduction that was critical to New Jerseyans at all income levels. Now Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to go after states that legalize marijuana and tax it, just as New Jersey is considering this as a financing option. The clear signal of national Republicans is that they don’t want Governors doing things in the public interest anymore than they wanted President Obama to do so, and they will throw every barrier they can up in the way, even when the voters want an active government. Of course they and their compatriots in Trenton will now cry foul of Murphy and say New Jersey cannot afford to do the things the public wanted him to do. They made sure of it.

Back here in Northampton County, we found the same crunch coming from Washington Republicans. Our new County Executive’s agenda was rather restrained and modest- fix the problems left for him in senior care and children and youth, increase economic development in the county’s northern rural core, protect the county nursing home, preserve our open green space, return our work force to proper staffing levels, and do so without raising taxes. With existing money and revenue projections moving forward, this was quite possible, before the Washington Republicans pulled off their tax-scam legislation. Due to their cuts to Medicaid, made in the name of “deficit reduction” after they cut the government’s revenue by $1.5 trillion for the next decade, the math got a lot tighter. Medicaid is a huge provider of health insurance for senior citizens (largely because they are on fixed incomes and qualify for it as the supplemental insurance for their Medicare), and Medicaid therefore is a huge piece of the puzzle for the county maintaining their nursing home, a safety net the voters voted to keep by a 75-25% margin in 2011. The cuts to Medicaid are being made to finance tax cuts for the highest tax brackets and corporations, and those cuts jeopardize an essential service of the county, which in turn jeopardizes the ability to do virtually anything else in the agenda the voters voiced support for with 54% of the vote, just this past November 7th.

The United States is a very wealthy nation, a nation that can do far more for it’s people than it is doing now. We don’t have endless reserves of cash to give everyone free everything, but we can certainly provide more and better services that the public says it wants, provided that we prioritize better. The current Republican Party, whether down at your county court house, or bumbling throughout the White House aimlessly right now, is fighting a war to make sure that the government can’t do anything well, or even adequately. These men and women in the GOP are running for office to leave the government impotent and incapable. This is not a disagreement over the scope of government programs and whether or not we should waste money at this point, this is a war against government. We need to engage that war.

A Wonderful Day to Celebrate

Last year was one of the most successful years I’ve had working in politics. The fun part about winning elections is that you don’t get to really start seeing the fruits of your labor until January and the New Year come. For me, that day was today, as I attended the swearing-in of brand new Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong and Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure, and the new Northampton County Council.

I’ve written why Phil and why Lamont will both be very good at these jobs. I have the highest confidence in both. The new council people we elected in Northampton County are wonderful, smart, and very different people in their backgrounds, which I think will be a huge benefit to the county, over time. In Harrisburg, another person I did work for, Jeanne McNeill took office as a new State Representative, replacing her late husband after a special election, and I have complete faith that she will carry forward his work, and build on his great legacy. I’m not just happy because I got people elected last year- I’m happy because the people I helped to office are quality people. These are quality people representing my local community in the Lehigh Valley, people who I literally believe are best suited to represent my friends, family, and neighbors.

No one gets into politics just for something to do. This year marks sixteen (16!) years I’ve been doing campaigns. As time passes, your reasons for being involved may expand, but ultimately you get in because you want to see certain outcomes. These new local elected officials will face great challenges in the year(s) ahead. Both counties could face grave issues related to Medicaid cuts, dollars that are often used to pay for their seniors to receive nursing home care. Our state leaders will grapple with the challenge of funding our public schools. We need major infrastructure improvements. We need to protect our open space, and be more eco-friendly in our use of natural resources. The challenges are steep, but I support these people because I trust them to address the great issues facing us. It’s why I do what I do. I thank them for their service.

A New Dawn, a New Mandate in Northampton County

It would be fair to say that John Brown’s 2013 win over John Callahan for Northampton County Executive was both shocking, and a pre-cursor for Donald Trump’s win in the county in 2016. Callahan lead in just about every metric- money raised, money spent, polling, name recognition, and governing experience- but still lost, much like Hillary. Sure, he was running in a tough climate, sure he made some mistakes as a candidate, but it was still rather stunning for Democrats.

It would be fair to say that against the backdrop of those two crushing losses for Democrats, Lamont McClure’s 2017 victory for County Executive should be both viewed as impressive and a God-send for Democrats here. Had he come up short in 2017, one might have had to grapple with the reality that a county that went Democratic in every Presidential race from 1992 through 2012 was moving away from us as Democrats. He not only didn’t come up short, he won big, with coattails. The evidence is convincing- his message took what might have been a close win in the climate we had, and made it a blowout.

John Brown got more votes in 2017 than he did in 2013. Lamont McClure got the most votes in raw votes and percentages that any candidate for County Executive has received this century, a victory unlike any we had seen since the 1980’s, a time when the county was a “blue” bastion of liberal, union dominance. He won big in Nazareth and Upper Nazareth, where the debate over a Gracedale Prison was fiercely fought. He won precincts in Lower Mount Bethel and Bangor, the back yard of John Brown, and where he talked of potential future economic development and open space protection. He won in Palmer Township and Bethlehem Township, where his highlighting of the Brown-Republican Council tax increase of 2015 was crucial. He ran traditional big Democratic margins in Easton and Bethlehem, areas that had been problems in recent past elections. He even pulled in Lower Saucon, a higher income community that seemed to be rebelling against Trump, and Northampton, a more blue-collar community that would have been described in 2016 as Trump Country. There was much debate about the message and direction of his campaign during the election- the results, the only evidence that matters, should put that debate to rest. I spoke to him almost daily during the campaign, I saw the polling, and I had confidence that his campaign plan was right. It turns out that solid polling and commitment to a message actually works. Not only did it work in this case, it pulled the Democrats from a 7-2 minority on the county council to a 6-3 majority. The four new Democrats were elected to work with the new Executive, and to get things done. If they do that, they can win again. If they don’t, they’ll all lose next time.

Yesterday he laid out his agenda for Northampton County over the next four years in a Morning Call Op-Ed. It’s ambitious, but needs to get done. He calls for keeping Gracedale County owned, improving services at the nursing home for seniors, and reviewing the management of the home from top to bottom. He calls for a modern view of the county’s Corrections Department, one that not only keeps the community safe, but also helps remedy the problems that some in our society face. He calls for filling the long-left vacant essential county positions that John Brown didn’t fill to help balance his budget. He calls for restoring morale and treating the work force of the county with dignity. He has spoken of preserving more open space, and being environmentally friendly with our land. He wants to do all of this, and more, while attempting to not raise taxes during the next four years. That will not be easy. It must be the goal of the Democrats who now control the Executive’s office, the Council, the Controller’s Office, and the DA’s office. The goal must be to come together at yes, whenever possible.

I have had the privilege of serving on this transition team, and seeing first hand the important work the county does. The county spends over $1 million a day, and the majority of it is on human services, literally protecting the elderly, the sick, children and families in broken homes, and literally anyone who needs a government. The county protects our open space locally, they administer our justice system at the ground level for those who’s lives hang on the edge of it. If you’re a liberal, this level of government should matter to you, so how we do here is a good barometer of what we are capable of as a party, and as a society. It’s imperative that we succeed here.

I would urge my fellow Democrats in Northampton County to support the new Executive. He is now our representative, and the administrators, department heads, and board and commission members he appoints will carry out the work we supposedly care about as a party. In this Trump-era world, the voters of this county gave us back the opportunity to lead and show we can govern again. How we do with that will go a long way towards determining how we are judged in 2018, 2020, and beyond.