Since Bernie’s Visiting My Home, Let Me Welcome Him…

Bernie Sanders will be about fifteen minutes from my home tonight, in Bethlehem, PA, where I went to college, doing a town hall on Fox News. Given the “help” that the “Bernie Bros” gave me in helping build up a Twitter following of 10,000 people, help received in the form of being put on a hit list and targeted for harassment, I feel like the least of things I could do for ole’ Bernard is to welcome him to the swing area of one of the key swing states, the Lehigh Valley.

Let’s dispense with some of the basic buzzwords we know are coming from Senator Bernard. Yes, the Lehigh Valley was the epicenter of a generation ago’s working class America. Bethlehem Steel, Mack Trucks, and Ingersoll-Rand did employ tens of thousands of people, many of whom were off the boat Catholic Europeans (white working class for those of you new to this.). Thanks to the Steelworkers, UAW, and many of the other major industrial unions that make up the Building Trades unions, thousands of middle class households had a good living. All of those companies are gone though, and while strengthening unions is still a key part of our politics here, other things matter too. What other things? Well, for one, immigration reform is important to our growing Latino population, and to the growing tech industry here (we have over a half dozen colleges). Bernie May want to avoid that subject though, since he voted against immigration reform when he had a chance. The main point though is that there’s bigger issues to us than bringing back yesterday’s economy for the Lehigh Valley, we’ve moved on. Even most of our union members are working on 21st century projects that fit a community that is progressing with the world- so talk to us about that.

We know we’re also going to get a large helping of “Medicare for All,” free college, and “Green New Deal” talk. All are noble ideas, but trouble voters in a swing district suburban area like this. These middle class voters wonder if the tax hikes associated with his Medicare for All plan will be larger than their current costs of premiums, deductibles, and co-pays, not whether or not the total cost is bigger or smaller for our macro-economy. The thousands of people employed by Lehigh Valley Hospital and St. Luke’s hospitals, two of our region’s largest employers, wonder if their jobs will survive under his revamped system, as do all of the folks working in the health insurance industry around here. As I said above, we have over a half dozen colleges and universities in this area, and the employees there wonder what will happen to them if Senator Bernard’s plan for tuition-free college passes. Many, many people in the Lehigh Valley commute to work in North Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia, almost all by car, and wonder what will change under Sanders’ climate policies, or how he would fund a massive investment in mass transit from this region to those hubs, to get people off the roads. Will Bernie address these concerns tonight? Of course not. He’ll broadly talk about making the economy “fair,” which to these people sounds like they’ll get the shaft when the details get sorted out. He’ll stay at thirty-thousand feet with the details on funding, talking about “taxing billionaires” and cuts to Defense spending and corporate welfare, all great places to start, but folks around here know that’s not enough to get the job done. In short, Bernie will appeal to his base with red meat, and not to most of the people of this swing area of a swing state.

With all of that said, it should serve as no surprise that Bernie’s track record here isn’t so great, politically speaking. In the 2016 Presidential primary, Bernie lost Northampton County (50-47) and Lehigh County (52-47), as well as neighboring Monroe (53-46), despite the fact that Clinton struggled in the region and never even visited during the primary or general election. Not one significant public official on the Democratic side- the Congresswoman, our long-time State Senator, either county’s Democratic County Executive, any of the four major mayors, the District Attorney and Controller in Northampton County, or any of the state representatives in the region have endorsed Bernie in 2016 or 2020. Most of the unions that he will speak about a lot tonight, also backed Hillary in 2016. Bernie has not had much appeal here. Early national and Pennsylvania polling show Joe Biden handily beating Bernie here, and show Bernie’s support as being almost cut in half since 2016. People are waking up to the sham he is.

It’s time to be honest about who Bernie is- he fashions himself as a European style leftist, but really is just a critic of the Democratic Party that lacks substantive answers. It’s all “30,000 feet,” it’s all just about pointing out the compromises Democrats make to get things done, and it’s all preaching to the choir about what he’d do, with no realistic plans to get there. I’m glad he’s campaigning to my home area, but there’s all of a zero chance I’ll support him.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Bernard.

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People asking me if I’m gonna give my chain back, that’ll be the same day I give the game back, and ya know the next question, yo, yo where Dame at? Let’s start the Indian dance to bring our reign back. What’s up with you and Jay man, are y’all okay man?

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Today’s GOTV playlist:

  1. Diamonds from Sierra-Leone- Kanye West
  2. Crazy- Aerosmith
  3. It’s Good to be King- Tom Petty
  4. PSA- Jay Z
  5. Victory- Puff Daddy

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Tonight’s candidate of the night is Donna Shalala. The former HHS Secretary in the Clinton Administration served over a decade as President of the University of Miami. Now she is running for Congress in FL-27.

If Donna doesn’t win, our majority is in doubt. So is winning the White House in 2020. Donate to Donna here. Volunteer here.

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I’ve seen a lot of disgusting negative attacks in my day, and I’m not against negative campaigning, but State Rep. Joe Emrick went to a new low back home. He basically accused Amy Cozze of being a domestic terrorist for putting glitter in a parking ticket envelope. No, seriously. This is so far and away over the top that he should be ashamed.

Donate to Amy here.

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Tonight’s GOTV past story? The 2014 Bonnie Watson Coleman/Cory Booker Central Jersey operation. I’m one of the worst cycles for Democrats in recent memory, we elected the first African-American Congresswoman in New Jersey history, with 61% of the vote. We did so in the whitest district of any member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The memories about this race are numerous and kind of awesome. I remember staying in a hotel room as a team on route 1. I remember figuring out that local committee people liked to hang out in the office at night after we left (we found the beer cans- good choice guys). I loved going between the four counties in the district and feeling like I was in a different world.

I really enjoyed the winning though.

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I love the Sixers young talent, but nothing in the first few games suggests they’ve made the leap from very good to title contender. Tonight’s loss to Toronto is the latest evidence. I’m not saying I’d trade four firsts for Jimmy Butler, but I’m not saying I wouldn’t either.

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We apparently have an O’Keefe style right-wing infiltrator in Mecklenburg County trying to get Democratic operatives, candidates, and activists to say crazy things.

One week. 🙃

23

Happy Sunday, October 14th, 2018. There are 23 days until the midterm elections. As the time ticks off towards zero, I am reminded that I felt great yet at this point in 2016, so let’s not worry too much about how I *feel.* As for what I see…

Let’s dive into today’s stuff…

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What if I told you a bloodbath might not be coming in the 2018 midterms? I think Democrats are going to win the House, like most people, but we may not get much beyond that. Would you believe me? How big do you think the “Blue Wave” is?

Right now, the Cook Political report says that 16 Republican seats are either likely Democratic or lean Republican. Democrats need just 23 seats to take the House and elect a Speaker. There are 29 Republican seats considered total toss-ups, and 24 that lean Republican, meaning at least 69 Republican seats are in peril right now. If the political winds tip just a bit towards the Democrats, they could have a great, great night and win 250 seats. That’s not necessarily likely though.

What is more likely is a Democratic victory much like 2006- in the 30 seat neighborhood. That would give Democrats a majority, but only with about 225 seats. That’s not a massive majority in the House (like 225-210), and that’s just one chamber. What will happen beyond the House?

The Real Clear Politics projection for the U.S. Senate is R+2 seats. RCP bases it’s projection on an average of the polls. In other words, they have Democrats losing Senate seats. They have Democrats picking up 7 or 8 Governorships, which is valuable, but it’s telling which ones they don’t have Democrats picking up- blue states like Massachusetts and Maryland, or “popular” ones among the Democratic base like Georgia, or worse yet, ones that really should have been ripe for the picking like Nevada. It’s worth noting that the places Democrats lead for pick-ups, like Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, and even Michigan, are states where establishment, mainstream candidates won the primaries.

I expect Democrats to pick up several state legislatures and Governor’s mansions on election night, and to win the House. I’m less confident that Democrats will be celebrating massive majorities, and wins by candidates like Beto O’Rourke. When this is done, we will need to take stock of how much money and energy we wasted to appease our “Resistance.”

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I’ve been telling anyone who will listen for a few weeks that the Astros are going to repeat, whether any of us like that or not. Last night they handled the Red Sox, 7-2 at Fenway. Houston is just a next level team, and expecting anyone to stop their repeat seems futile to me.

The other thing that seems futile to me is expecting the National League/JV League champ to compete either. If Oakland or Cleveland, two teams sent home early in the AL, were in the NL, they would have won. The fact is that Houston, Boston, and even the Yankees, would crush the NL Champion. All three won 100 games this season, and sport elite offenses that no NL team can keep up with. The real World Series is Houston and Boston.

That’s even more true when you have Craig Counsell pulling guys throwing a shutout through 5.2 innings and Clayton Kershaw being October Kershaw. I get that the game is changing, but going straight to the bullpen in the third when Gio Gonzalez is pitching just fine will never sit right with me. Perhaps baseball is over-relying on the algorithms.

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How’s ‘Ye doin’? No, really, how is Kanye doing? The man who wrote lyrics like, “Little is known of Sierra-Leone, and how it connects to the diamonds we own,” and accused George W. Bush of not caring about black people is now spending time at the White House, hanging out with Donald Trump. It’s as though the man isn’t ok…

Kanye is one of my favorite rappers ever, present tense. The man is an artistic genius. Songs he made, songs he produced, are parts of my soul at this point, because they weren’t just very good, but they carried personal meaning in their moments in time. That’s why watching this man disintegrate into a steaming pile of trash isn’t as funny to me as it is to many others. Three years ago, Kanye and Kim were taking selfies with Hillary and Kanye was being attacked as a “reverse racist” by conservatives. Now he’s a MAGAt? Huh?!?

Part of this is clearly just about selling records, I guess. Part of it could be Kanye being changed by the fame. It’s also entirely possible, and not at all funny, that maybe this man is mentally ill, a drug addict, or both. I don’t know how to explain it though.

It’s important that we don’t treat Kanye’s outrageous behavior as legitimate though. This isn’t the same as his old buddy Taylor Swift telling people to vote, and to vote for a specific candidate. This was the screeching of a changed man, a not well man, who is completely ostracizing himself from his own fan base, while talking about how time is a construct. He’s not well.

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I’m going to throw today’s candidate to watch in here, instead of last today. Today I want you to help my home candidate for the Pennsylvania State House, Amy Cozze, who is running for the 137th district in the PA House.

Amy is a mother, cancer survivor, small business owner, and activist. She believes Harrisburg doesn’t work right now, like most Pennsylvanians. Funding our schools, fixing our infrastructure, creating good paying jobs, and insuring access to affordable health care are some of her priorities. Her opponent, Rep. Joe Emrick has actively cut education funding, pushed against access to affordable health care, and opposed giving workers a living wage. We need a change.

Donate to Amy here. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Volunteer if you can, here.

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College football is a lot like the NBA, in that you get caught up in the storyline as a fan, even though you know Alabama/Golden State is going to win in the end. Teams fall in and out of contention throughout the season, which makes it fun to watch.

I grew up a Notre Dame fan, adopted Penn State too when I started knowing players and going up there to party, and also now like Temple, since my sister went there. My, what different paths these teams are taking.

My Fighting Irish remained unbeaten and in the top five after surviving Pitt yesterday. The biggest problem Notre Dame has is that they don’t play all ranked teams in prime time. Their worst performances this year have come against teams like Vanderbilt and Pitt- unranked power five teams that are just talented enough to be threatening, but not enough to be impressive. Even so, the Irish are still in position to get to the playoff and *maybe* break the curse of Touchdown Jesus.

Penn State’s season is finished. Losing a two score lead to Ohio State with eight minutes left at home was bad, but letting Michigan State come back and win at the end yesterday is a death blow. There will be no Big Ten title, no playoffs, nothing. They have to get it together now and win some games to get to a New Year’s Day Bowl.

Temple- yes, Temple. They were 0-2 to start, and lost to one-double-a (yes, I call it that) Villanova to open the year. Now they’re 4-3, and back in the AAC picture. Their remaining schedule is brutal- games against ranked teams like UCF and Cincinnati, to name some- but they look alright. They basically need a tough win somewhere to probably be bowl eligible.

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I’m going to close by complaining about one of my new, favorite apps from this campaign, Slack. I probably over lean on Slack to communicate with my team, but I’m not apologizing. I love Slack, except for one thing- you can’t send memes. In 2018, it should be illegal to have an app with no memes.

Someone fix this- pronto.

Summer’s End

I leaned against a tree for about 15 minutes, watching the sky light up over Bethlehem, as I’ve done virtually every Summer since I was in Middle School. It was the final night of Musikfest, the ten day, outdoor music festival in the city where I went to college, the night that ArtsQuest puts on a free fireworks show for the locals. Unlike years past, I chose to not watch these fireworks among the crowds, opting instead to watch them a mile or so down the river, where I could get out of town in a hurry when they were done. Today is, after all, a work day.

I’ve always called the end of Musikfest the end of the Summer in the Lehigh Valley, which usually is quite exciting for me. I am not a huge Summer person, other than the beach and baseball games part. I’m a Fall person. The Fall is for pennant race baseball, which my Phillies will play in this season. The Fall is election season, which usually is exciting for me, and really should be this year with Democrats poised for great victories. Fall is the return of football, which could mean the NFL, college, or my beloved Easton Red Rovers high school ball for me. Fall is Oktoberfest season. Fall is hoodies’ season. Fall is pumpkin everything season, especially my coffee. Fall is for bonfires. Fall is a great time for new music, buying new clothes, and at least for me, meeting new people. The Fall is edgy. The Fall is cooler, both in temperatures and in feelings. I’m a Fall person.

I’m not as excited as usual though, and I’m not sure why. My Phillies are good, but haven’t captured my imagination like the 2008 team of ten Summers ago did, yet. The Eagles won the Super Bowl, and I’m far too content with them. I plan on seeing Notre Dame and Penn State play live this Fall, but I’m not fully dialed in on college football, yet. Pumpkin spice? It’ll get here. Oktoberfest? Still a little bit away. The wardrobe changeover to Fall will wait until the heat goes away. It’s cool and rainy today, but it doesn’t feel like the Fall is here, yet.

Perhaps my discontent with politics, my profession, is over-shadowing the rest of the cool things about Fall. The 2018 election feels like a necessary evil to me, a must-win to stop the country from becoming a mirror image of Donald Trump, who disgusts me. The problem though, is that I’m as unexcited by the Democratic Party as I have been since I registered to join it in 2001. I want the Democrats to win Congress, in fact I see a need for them to, but I find myself mostly voting for them because the alternative are the white nationalists marching outside of the White House yesterday. It’s easy to oppose this Administration, but it’s not as easy getting out of bed and being excited to work for it when you increasingly find yourself rolling your eyes at your own side. Maybe that’s a downer for me.

Or perhaps it’s just raining, and I’m on my first coffee of the day at 1:55pm. You tell me.

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.

What Happened in the Lehigh Valley?

I’ve finally had enough time and distance to decipher what happened in the 7th Congressional District Primary a couple weeks back, and I think it’s mostly self-evident. I could simply write here that outside groups spent somewhere north of $600,000 tearing John Morganelli down for his positions on immigration and a woman’s right to choose, but more so for tweeting nice things at Donald Trump, and I’d be pretty much right. Sure, we should acknowledge the influence of “the year of the woman,” but two-thirds of the electorate voted for a male. We could talk about the “leftward movement” of the Democratic Party, but the Bernie-endorsed candidate came in third, with about a fourth of the vote. We could even make it a choice issue, but close to 35% of the voters picked a pro-life candidate, which is high in a Democratic Primary. Basically the race was about the front-runner, and he got torn apart by a wave of outside money for straying from the Democratic Party orthodoxy. Over-reading into this race further than that is basically going into some questionable conclusions.

There is something a bit more happening though, something beyond the candidates. Who the voters are, and where they are, changed. A cursory look at the map can give you a strong signal:

John Morganelli ran up impressive margins in the northern tier of Northampton County, in former Democratic strongholds like the Nazareth and Northampton areas, and in a generation ago’s Democratic strongholds in the Slate Belt. Susan Wild ran impressive margins in the southern and western areas of Lehigh County, former Republican strongholds full of white-collar workers. One area is a more blue-collar, traditional Democratic stronghold that is in decline as a share of the electorate. The other area is a more white-collar, traditional Republican area that is swinging against Donald Trump and his Republican Party. To be shorter and to the point, white-collar women in more affluent suburbs were more dominant over this primary than blue-collar men, in a former stronghold of unionized Democratic politics. The Lehigh Valley Democratic primary voters are changing, identity wise.

Is this trend going to help the Democrats or hurt them? This question has no obvious answer. For one thing, Democrats win both County Executive races last year with candidates who ran on their records of not raising taxes and providing core services to help those who need them, suggesting a more moderate message is what works in Lehigh Valley general elections. Secondly, we have to remember that there was a third candidate with a substantial share of the vote, largely tapping into younger voters, further left voters, and non-white voters, and it is not clearly obvious that all of these voters would have been engaged otherwise. Finally, while it’s clear that who voted in the primary election has dramatically changed, it’s not clear at all that general elections in the Lehigh Valley have changed in the same way.

My sense is that Susan Wild has a modest advantage going into the general election. Democrats did win both County Executive races in 2017, by increased (Lehigh) to record breaking (Northampton) margins. Hillary Clinton carried the district a little over 1% in 2016, and Democrats are seeing improved margins over her 2016 performance in most places. Still though, there are questions. If you look at where Wild lost, namely Northampton County and the Whitehall-Coplay area, those areas are also where Hillary lost in 2016. If Nothstein can hold Trump performance there, and mildly improve on his performance in Western Lehigh County (where he did finish first in his last County Commissioner race), he could easily overcome a 1% margin. Nothstein is probably a bit better fundraiser, at least so far, and Republicans are likely to heavily fund his quest to hold the seat. I think the race will be quite close, and quite nasty, but I think Democrats can win with Wild.

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.

Lehigh County, You’re in Good Hands

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Yesterday I had a lot to say about the direction in Northampton County, but I don’t want to neglect our friends to the west. On Tuesday, my friend Phil Armstrong will be sworn in as the new County Executive in Lehigh County. For full disclosure, yes I managed Phil’s campaign, and it is one of the most satisfying wins I’ve been a part of- the candidate was one worth being proud of, and the campaign was pretty much textbook. We got the 24,000 plus votes we felt we needed, stuck to a very straight forward message to get there, and sold a record of competency to the people. It worked.

Phil Armstrong is steady. That is the best word I can use for a local public official, period. He was the President of the Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners, and built a reputation for being reasonable, competent, and sane. His campaign message matched that. He talked about his record of not raising taxes in Whitehall. He talked about protecting and improving Cedarbrook, the county’s nursing home. He talked about protecting open space. He talked about economic development that brings good paying jobs, improving the county’s infrastructure, and taking a regional view of the Lehigh Valley’s future. He talked about things that were straight forward, and the public both understood and could agree with. It wasn’t pie-in-the-sky, and frankly that’s what the voters of Lehigh County like. This was the fourth consecutive Democratic victory for County Executive, and like Don Cunningham and Tom Muller before him, Armstrong sold himself as the quiet, competent, honest, and fair candidate in the race, not the crazy partisan that wants to govern ideologically. Lehigh County’s off-year electorate is considerably more Republican than it’s federal-year one, but they appreciate someone who wants to govern competently. Phil hit that mark well.

The next several months could be politically wild in Lehigh County. The legal situation surrounding Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski will come to a head with his trial. There will be a Congressional Primary on both sides for the departing Charlie Dent’s seat, if not a special election. There are likely to be several state legislative races, and probably some party leadership battles in the Spring. All of this could be quite disconcerting for Lehigh County voters to watch. While this is going on, they will have a steady, calm, competent, new County Executive leading a government that will spend roughly $400 million this coming year (over a million dollars a day) on essential services that protect everyone from the most vulnerable in our society to the most powerful within the business community. Amidst the chaos, that should make them feel good.

Democrats in Lehigh County would be wise to put aside any of their differences and rally around their new leader. Armstrong won a campaign that was surprisingly strong to a lot of insiders. He received more votes than Tom Muller did in 2013, against an arguably more difficult, and certainly more qualified opponent than the Democrats defeated four years ago. He obviously carried the liberal bastions in Allentown and Bethlehem, but also ran very strong numbers in his home of Whitehall, in his opponent’s home in South Whitehall, in traditional swing areas within the East Penn School District, and even in municipalities that Democrats traditionally lose. He ran on a generally positive message about what he would do as Executive, and the voters really seemed to like it. He starts out working with the Republican Commissioners without some of the history that had made negotiation very difficult.

The truth is that the Lehigh County Government has run pretty steady and well, ever since the days of 70% tax increases ended back in 2005. Phillips Armstrong does not represent a crazy change from Tom Muller, and that is probably good. Democrats have found the winning formula in Lehigh County, and now just have to be smart enough to ride that wave forward. While we’ve seen parties mess that up in the past, the truth is that this is a good time to not disrupt a good thing.

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.