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Friday, January 19, 2018

Posted By on Fri, Jan 19, 2018 at 5:00 PM

click to enlarge Daniel Smith Jr. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
Photo courtesy of the candidate
Daniel Smith Jr.
Daniel Smith Jr. is a Butler County native and longtime resident, who grew up in Zelienople and now lives in Adams Township with his husband, Don. He has been paying close attention to his state representative, Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry), for years. Smith has grown frustrated as Metcalfe has continually focused on bombastic and divisive issues, such as opposing same-sex marriage and attacking immigrants’ rights. Over the years, Smith felt that with every controversial Metcalfe issue that made headlines, Pennsylvania’s 12th House District suffered from being cast in a negative light.

Then a video was released in December 2017 of Metcalfe freaking out when his colleague, state Rep.Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery), touched him on the elbow during a committee meeting on land use. Metcalfe exclaimed, “I am heterosexual. I love my wife, I don’t like men, as you might. Stop touching me all the time.” The video went viral and was mocked on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Late Night with Stephen Colbert.

“The moment he had at the committee meeting, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says Smith. “Yes, what [Metcalfe] said pissed me off. But I saw the rest of the representatives in the meeting shake their heads. And I was thinking, ‘How does a district keep voting for this person?’ Then I thought, I needed to do something.”

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Posted By on Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 12:51 PM

click to enlarge A screen shot of the Ending Spending Inc. TV ad supporting Rick Saccone - IMAGE COURTESY OF YOUTUBE
Image courtesy of YouTube
A screen shot of the Ending Spending Inc. TV ad supporting Rick Saccone
During his 15 years as a U.S. congressman, former Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) held strict socially conservative views, but supported enough liberal economic views that some considered him a moderate. Murphy resigned amidst scandal last year, and a special election for his seat will be held March 13.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth) was nominated by Republicans to compete in the election against former U.S. Assistant Attorney Conor Lamb (D-Mount Lebanon). And recent support from conservative and libertarian political-advocacy organizations suggest Saccone is more economically conservative than Murphy.

Saccone has been endorsed by economically conservative political-advocacy groups FreedomWorks for America and the Club for Growth, groups that have opposed Murphy in the past. And even though Saccone will speak at an event in North Fayette with President Donald Trump on Jan. 18, Saccone's support also suggests that he has different economic policy priorities than Trump, who won the district handily in 2016 thanks, in part, to populist, protectionist economic policies like criticizing free trade.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Posted By on Tue, Jan 16, 2018 at 5:15 PM

Summer Lee at Portogallo Peppers ‘n’ At in Braddock on Jan. 15 - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Summer Lee at Portogallo Peppers ‘n’ At in Braddock on Jan. 15
On Jan. 15, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when state house candidate Summer Lee got up to speak in front of the crowd of more than 150 packed into Portogallo Peppers N'at in Braddock, she spoke of a rarely cited detail about King.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but Martin Luther King was a radical,” said Lee. “He called for an end to capitalism. He wanted to unite poor people. He knew that if we can’t end that system, we would fail in our goals.”

King, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, in 1964, and the Voting Rights Act, in 1965, began to campaign against the effects that capitalism had on poor people of all races and backgrounds. In a 1967 speech, King said, “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

Lee is running as a Democrat in the primary election against incumbent Paul Costa (D-Braddock), whose Pennsylvania state House District 34 encompasses towns like North Braddock, Swissvale, Forest Hills and other nearby boroughs.

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Posted By on Fri, Dec 8, 2017 at 2:07 PM

click to enlarge Emily Skopov - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
Photo courtesy of the candidate
Emily Skopov
On Dec. 5, a video of Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry) exclaiming he is a “heterosexual” when a Democratic colleague touched his arm went viral. It spread so far and wide, that on Dec. 7 it was featured on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel Live.

And while Metcalfe’s blatant homophobia is undoubtedly humorous to most Americans, some people involved in Pennsylvania state politics are taking it seriously. On Dec. 6, Gov. Tom Wolf (D-York) requested that House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Marshall) re-examine Metcalfe’s chairmanship of the House’s state government committee.

And the woman who is running to challenge Turzai’s state House District 28 seat, Democrat Emily Skopov of Marshall, was even more unambiguous in her request; she believes Turzai needs to remove Metcalfe from the committee chair.

“Mike Turzai needs to do the right thing and remove Daryl Metcalfe as chair,” said Skopov in a press release. “Metcalfe’s actions are repugnant and dishonor our state government. By allowing Metcalfe to continue as chair, Mike Turzai further demonstrates his lack of a moral compass, endorsing homophobia and bigotry. It is time for Speaker Turzai to grow a spine and do the right thing.”

Metcalfe is arguably the general assembly’s most anti-LGBTQ member. He has tried to deny spousal benefits to same-sex couples and tried to make it illegal for LGBTQ people to marry. Metcalfe also chairs the state House’s state government committee, and thus controls the fate of civil-rights legislation that can affect the lives of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians. He has used this position to refuse to let the Fairness Act see a vote (the bill would grant LGBTQ Pennsylvanians the same non-discrimination rights that minorities and Christians receive under federal law).

According to a 2015 study from the Public Religion Research Institute, 70 percent of Pennsylvanians support a statewide LGBTQ non-discrimination law, while only 25 percent oppose such a law.

Turzai, as the state House’s highest ranking member, has the ability to move Metcalfe out of the state government committee into another committee chairmanship, but he alone cannot strip Metcalfe from his current chairmanship, because of Metcalfe's seniority. It should also be noted that Turzai placed anti-marijuana state Rep. Matt Baker (R-Tioga) at the chair of the health committee, which was a main reason why the state took so long to pass a medical-marijuana bill, despite widespread public support.

In a Dec. 7 article in Lancaster's LNP , Turzai brushed off calls to move Metcalfe out of the state government chair seat. A request for comment to Turzai's office was not returned.

Regardless, Skopov feels that Metcalfe should be removed from the state government committee because of his anti-LGBTQ views, as well as other controversial behavior in the past. For example, even though the 1964 federal civil-rights act granted non-discrimination rights to immigrants, in 2015 Metcalfe attempted to pass English-only legislation and brought a white nationalist to Harrisburg to lobby for his cause.

“Time and time again, Representative Metcalfe has displayed bigotry, and Mike Turzai has remained silent,” said Skopov in a press release. “Mike Turzai either supports homophobia and bigotry or he doesn’t. If he refuses to strip Metcalfe of his chairmanship, everyone will know exactly where he stands.”


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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Posted By on Tue, Nov 28, 2017 at 12:17 PM

click to enlarge Aryanna Berringer - PHOTO COURTESY OF CAMPAIGN
Photo courtesy of campaign
Aryanna Berringer
When Murrysville resident Aryanna Berringer was a kid, her father was arrested and jailed for marijuana possession. She is the youngest of 10 children, and her mother had to work three waitress jobs to make ends meet, since her father, a truck driver, could no longer support the family.

Berringer, a longtime Democratic Party activist and Iraq War veteran, entered the race to challenge incumbent Lt. Gov. Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) back in May. She says her life experience is what motivated her to run for lieutenant governor; she hopes to counter any other candidates who may lack authenticity.

“Politicians that have been bred for these roles,” says Berringer. “We don’t often elect people who have lived through the life of the people they want to serve.”

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Posted By on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 3:13 PM

A map of Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District - IMAGE COURTESDY WIKIPEDIA
Image courtesdy Wikipedia
A map of Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District
When Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth) won the Republican endorsement the state's 18th Congressional District, on Nov. 11, most people following the race were shocked. That day, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, “many observers assumed [state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Jefferson Hills)] was the frontrunner,” but Saccone overtook Reschenthaler in the second round of voting to win 123-91.

Saccone canceled his bid to take on U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-Scranton) after former U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) resigned amidst scandal in October, and instead campaigned for the open congressional seat. Saccone is arguably one of the most conservative legislators in the state house, noted for consistently attempting to bring Christianity into government and public schools, as well as for his fervent pro-gun stances.

As for Saccone's opponent, Democratic committee members in the 18th District will decide who represents the party come the March 2018 special election. With the Democrats picking their nominee this Sunday, Pittsburgh City Paper wanted to provide a brief rundown of all seven candidates for the vacated seat. (The 18th district encompasses southern Allegheny County, Washington County, Greene County, and the southern half of Westmoreland County.)

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 10:55 AM

click to enlarge John Fetterman during his 2016 U.S. Senate campaign. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
John Fetterman during his 2016 U.S. Senate campaign.
On Nov. 14, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman announced his campaign to run for the state’s second highest office, lieutenant governor. The seat is currently held by Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia). Stack has been criticized for allegedly abusing his staff, as well as for trying to expense thousands of dollars in hotel stays in Philadelphia, where he owns a home. Fetterman, also a Democrat, is hoping to unseat Stack, and join Gov. Tom Wolf (D-York) on the 2018 general election ticket.

In a Nov.14 phone call with Pittsburgh City Paper, Fetterman acknowledged the infighting between the Democratic Party and arguments over how the left should move forward to secure votes in the era of President Donald Trump. The neoliberal side of the Democratic Party, which is more aligned with the policies of Hillary Clinton, believes a more moderate, while still generally progressive, approach will succeed. The Democratic Socialist side, which is more aligned with the policies of Bernie Sanders, feels that drastic changes must take place in order to win elections.

But Fetterman believes his record shows that the two sides can come together. In 2016, he was one of the first U.S. Senate candidates to endorse Sanders, but after Sanders lost the primary, Fetterman started to campaign for Clinton. (He even started campaigning for his senate-election opponent Katie McGinty when he lost in the primary election.)

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Posted By on Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 4:16 PM

click to enlarge Protesters gather outside of Republican U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus' office in Ross Township in July. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Protesters gather outside of Republican U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus' office in Ross Township in July.
The 2017 general elections saw some remarkable wins for local Democrats and progressives. In Allegheny County, the Pittsburgh chapter of Democratic Socialists of America saw both of its endorsed candidates, Anita Prizio for county council and Mik Pappas for magisterial judge, pull off victories. In Philadelphia, a Black Lives Matter ally, Larry Krasner, won the race for the city’s district attorney. And Tyler Titus was elected to the Erie school board, making him Pennsylvania’s first openly trans person to be elected to public office.

In statewide races, Republicans won some victories, too. For one, surprisingly, given upstart progressive wins elsewhere, Republican Sallie Mundy won a full term as state Supreme Court justice, and did so by winning in some unexpected places. For example, both Erie and Lackawanna counties sided with Mundy, despite historically leaning Democratic. And in Commonwealth Court, Republicans split the four open seats with Democrats.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Posted By on Tue, Nov 7, 2017 at 1:04 PM

Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District has been a Republican stronghold for more than 15 years. Former U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair), who recently resigned after a scandal broke, held the seat since 2002 and never received less than 58 percent of the vote. For the last two elections, Democrats didn’t even bother to offer a challenger to Murphy.

However, emergency physician Bob Solomon believes there is a path to flip the 18th District, but only with a candidate pushing a very progressive-left agenda. The 18th District stretches from Washington and Greene counties to Westmoreland County, and includes the southern section of Allegheny County. Solomon acknowledges the district's voters tend to be “fairly conservative.” But, he believes that campaigning on policies like single-payer health care, publicly provided higher education, campaign-finance reform and wage equity, will increase voter turnout among left-leaning voters and entice enough conservative Democrats to put him in the U.S. Congress.

Solomon says these progressive policies are beneficial to working-class individuals.

“The Democratic Party is for the people who work for a living, but the Democratic Party has gotten away from that message,” says Solomon. “But I think we can work to get back to that.”

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Posted By on Thu, Nov 2, 2017 at 2:51 PM

click to enlarge Flier depicting Matt Shorraw as a puppet - IMAGE OBTAINED BY CITY PAPER
Image obtained by City Paper
Flier depicting Matt Shorraw as a puppet
When President Donald Trump visited an aluminum factory in the Mon Valley town of Monessen in June 2016, it was a game-changing moment. A shift occurred that put a Republican presidential candidate in a place one had never really been before: championing unionized heavy-industry workers in Pennsylvania. And this was all orchestrated by Monessen Mayor Lou Mavrakis, a Democrat, who invited Trump to campaign in the small town.

But while this visit might have helped Trump, who is now president in part due to an improbable Pennsylvania victory, Mavrakis took heat from Monessen Democrats, and they cast him out in the 2017 Democratic primary election. (The actual impact of Trump's visit is questionable. Monessen voters supported Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by a more than 12 point margin). Mavrakis lost the primary to Matt Shorraw, a grad student at California University of Pennsylvania with a progressive platform. And even though Shorraw is the presumptive mayor since his name is the only one on the general-election ballot, Mavrakis is still attempting to hold on to his seat with a write-in campaign.

Part of Mavrakis' campaign appears to be targeting voters and encouraging them to fill out absentee ballots, even if they will be in Monessen on Election Day. A PDF obtained by Pittsburgh City Paper shows a letter that was mailed out by Mavrakis’ wife Glenda Mavrakis, to a Monessen constituent, and signed by Lou Mavrakis. The letter gives step-by-step instructions on how to write-in and vote for Mavrakis, and even suggests that voters call Mavrakis, so he can pick up, stamp and mail their ballot.

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