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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Western Pennsylvania Congressional candidates McClelland and Rothfus hit the airwaves

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2016 at 12:57 PM

Odds are you are sick of all the political ads by now. Pennsylvania has broadcast the most U.S. Senate race ads of any state so far, and there will be about $12 million spent in radio and TV ads from Oct. 21 through Election Day in Pennsylvania, according to media analyst Kantar Media.

But get ready for some more, and this time it’s for a race you probably haven’t heard of. Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District race is pitting incumbent Republican Keith Rothfus against Democratic challenger Erin McClelland. The 12th District encompasses parts of six Western Pennsylvania counties and slices through most of northern Allegheny County.

Rothfus’ new ad, which is his second of the 2016 campaign, is overwhelmingly positive. “Some say our best days are behind us, don’t believe it. Western Pennsylvania built this country and we can rebuild it,” said Rothfus in his ad. This theme runs in stark contrast to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s message of a country choked by violent crime and hindered by rigged systems. Ironically, Rothfus supports Trump and even stumped for him at a rally in Ambridge this month.

Rothfus' ad is also pretty vague, but he says he will “cut red red tape, fix our broken tax code and reform our health-care system.” This is basically U.S. House Majority Leader Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” plan, which proposes privatizing part of Medicare, which the nonprofit advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice says it will cut taxes for the top 1 percent of American earners. 

McClelland’s ad proposes changes. She says she is “running for Congress, because Wall Street and the big banks have been calling the shots in Washington for far too long.” Her changes seem to be straight out of the progressive handbook: stop unfair trade deals, lower health-care costs, reduce student debt, and protect Social Security and Medicare.

While McClelland says “enough is enough” for big-money involvement, the ad refrains from any attacks on Rothfus. However, she did not pull any punches in a campaign email announcing the ad. “Unlike Keith Rothfus, I plan to stand for the middle class, not Wall Street,” wrote McClelland, “offer real solutions for working-class families, not blame and finger-point, and give Western PA a Representative that is truly there for them, not Washington cronies and lobbyists."

Prior to the 2012 election, the 12th District was redrawn, and Rothfus has held the seat ever since. He defeated McClelland in 2014 by more than 18 percentage points. But in 2014, McClelland wasn’t able to raise enough money for any TV ads, while Rothfus raised $1.7 million. This year, both candidates are hitting the airwaves, but Rothfus still has a significant fundraising edge of more than $1 million.

For more election coverage, make sure to pick up City Paper for our biannual Election Issue, out Wed., Oct. 26. 

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Chelsea Clinton takes on women's, LGBT issues at campaign event in Pittsburgh

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 5:20 PM

  • CP photo by Stephen Caruso
  • Chelsea Clinton
With 25 days left before the presidential election, Chelsea Clinton — the daughter of Democratic candidate for president Hillary Clinton — made a campaign stop in Pittsburgh today.

Clinton gave a short speech to a room of about 50 people at an event organized by Pennsylvania's chapter of Women for Hillary at the Rivers Club, the first of two stops today. The second stop was on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus.

At the Rivers Club, the 36-year-old former First Daughter focused on her mother’s stances on family leave, criminal justice and the economy — which Clinton defined as not just women’s issues but family issues.

“Every part of the job the president does reflects on our families,” Clinton said. "[The job of the president] impacts families [and] our families’ opportunities and future.”

The focus on women’s issues, and how a woman's role in a family can prepare her for public office, was present from Clinton’s introduction by Erin McClelland, the Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District. Speaking with a rousing voice, McClelland proclaimed to the assembled crowd that at 50.8 percent of the population, women “are in the majority, [and need to] start acting like it.”

She also attacked her opponent, Keith Rothfus, and the Republican Party as a whole, who she said should be held accountable for their role in the government shutdown of 2013.

“This country needs a mom to come out and say [to Republicans], ‘Don’t make me come up there,’” McClelland said.

Katie Harrison, a 34-year-old Lawrenceville resident and lawyer, while not a mother herself, thought the comparison apt, saying the U.S. needs more “feminine leadership.”

“Moms multitask and get a lot done at once,” Harrison said, which she also saw as useful traits for a president.

Responding to questions from the crowd on education, Clinton restated some of the campaign's talking points. After a question on how a Clinton presidency would affect current and future students, the former First Daughter brought up the proposal of free community college for any student, as well as further efforts to end “limits on dreams, ambition and hard work.”

“Anyone coming from a family earning $125,000 or less should be able to go to state university or college tuition-free,” Clinton said. “[And] no one should ever have to pay more than 10 percent of their income back to loan repayments.”

Daisy Miksch, a Pittsburgh resident, is most concerned with the issue of student debt. But while she appreciates the policies, Miksch said she mostly votes on who she trusts most to make decisions.

“I don’t need her to be charismatic and loud,” Miksch said. “I’m inspired by [Hillary Clinton’s] decades of public service.”

When asked how a Clinton presidency would affect LGBT rights, the youngest Clinton affirmed the campaign's support of marriage equality, and attacked anti-LGBT laws like North Carolina’s bathroom policy which mandates people use the bathroom of their “biological sex.” She then mentioned a new policy to cheers from the crowd.

“We have to make conversion therapy illegal,” Clinton said, referring to the controversial practice of sending LGBT children to therapy to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. After referencing the many professional public-health and social-work organizations that oppose conversion therapy, such as the American Academy of Pediatricians, Clinton then continued that “as a mom, it seems like it’s child abuse.”

Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, was sparingly referenced, and mostly when Clinton criticized the candidate’s use of disrespectful and hostile language.

“I certainly never thought I’d see in my lifetime the type of rhetoric that we hear from Donald Trump,” Clinton said, referencing “the daily diet” of racism, sexism, Islamophobia and jingoism coming from the candidate.

“[This rhetoric] has to always be offensive and exceptional,” Clinton said.

While Clinton did not comment on any of the recent Wikileaks documents, some of which mentioned her by name, that have reinvigorated dogged allegations of corruption against the Clinton Foundation and against Hillary Clinton during her time as secretary of state, supporters were not concerned by the releases.

“[The criticism] have been said for so long,” Miksch said, adding that allegations of the Clintons' wrongdoings were only perpetuated because “people start to feel foolish if they don’t buy into it.”

Real Clear Politics' most recent polling average has Hillary Clinton up 6.7 points on Trump. But it’s not just the numbers that make Harrison think Clinton will win the White House on Nov. 8.

“I have more faith in this country than to believe that Donald Trump will be president,” Harrison said.

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Pittsburgh makeup artist recreates presidential nominees Clinton and Trump

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 2:29 PM

  • Photo by Mock Makeup
In a presidential election year that's been marked by negativity, Pittsburgh makeup artist Danielle Mock took time this week to inject some humor into our Facebook news feeds. Alongside your friends' posts about Republican nominee Donald Trump's latest sexist or racists remarks and memes about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's emails, check out two makeup tutorials on how to steal the nominees' looks.

"They're very interesting characters, Hillary and Trump," says Mock. "And they have pretty unique characteristics, and I was amplifying them to make people laugh, to lighten the newsfeed mood I was seeing."

Just in time for Halloween, Mock made herself over to look like each of the candidates, complete with Trump's trademark orange-hue and Clinton's quiet smirk. 

"The main reason I did it was to lighten the political mood," says Mock. "I'm a person who tends to make light of serious topics because life is short. I was seeing a lot of very harsh opinions online." 

Mock says she timed the release of the videos on Oct. 10  to coincide with the voter-registration deadline the following day. But she also hopes the videos will inspire people to vote come November. 

"I feel like the coverage of the election is very interesting, more negative attention than I've seen in the past," says Mock. "I feel passionate about the topics both parties are representing. As a mother, the nature of things we're showing our children is concerning. And as a woman, it's a very important election. This could potentially be the first woman president. I think people are getting so enthralled with bashing either candidate [that] they're missing the importance of this election. A lot of people aren't sure who to vote for at this point." 

As for her preferred candidate, that's something she's not sharing.

Visit her Facebook page for more makeup tutorials. 

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Sen. Pat Toomey mocked on Jimmy Kimmel for non-position on Trump

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 11:15 AM

On Oct. 12, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) was repeatedly asked by reporters at a campaign press conference about whether he will denounce Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for Trump's recorded comments about women as heard on the 2005 Access Hollywood videotape released last Friday. On the tape, Trump brags about touching women without their consent

Toomey has condemned the comments, but has not definitively stated if he supports or denounces Trump, a position he has held since Trump secured the Republican nomination. (Toomey supported Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the primaries.)

"I don't know, but I am not defending Donald Trump," said Toomey at the press conference. "I have said, I find his candidacy very problematic. I had hoped by now I would have been convinced to been an enthusiastic supporter, but I remain unpersuaded."

Toomey is the only U.S. senator running for re-election who has not decided whether or not he supports Trump. This months-long waffling has even caught the attention of  late-night comedians, including Jimmy Kimmel who satirized it on Oct. 13 (see above).

A narrator in the video, pretending to be Toomey, even gets in an argument with himself. "I am proud to support him for office. No, I'm not. Yes, I am. Am not. Am so!"

Democrat Katie McGinty, who is running against Toomey, has consistently called for Toomey to take a position on Trump. She told City Paper on Oct. 13 that Toomey needs to denounce Trump soon, because the issue is important to Pennsylvania voters, and dodging the Trump issue is a political move. 

"It seems to me that Sen. Toomey is putting his political interest ahead of his constituents," said McGinty. 

The first debate between the senate candidates takes place on Oct. 17, in Pittsburgh, on KDKA at 7 p.m. 

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey renews attacks on sanctuary cities

Posted By on Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 6:15 PM

Pat Toomey at a campaign stop in Pittsburgh - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP Photo by Ryan Deto
  • Pat Toomey at a campaign stop in Pittsburgh
This summer, Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) introduced a bill that would cut federal funding to cities that institute sanctuary-city policies. These policies prevent local law enforcement from communicating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or holding undocumented immigrants for extended periods without a federal warrant.

In July, Toomey’s bill failed to obtain the majority vote necessary to clear the Senate. But at an Oct. 12 campaign stop in Pittsburgh, he reiterated his support for defunding and ending sanctuary cities.

“We did not succeed that day, but I am not giving up,” said Toomey. “I am going to continue in this effort because we have to end sanctuary cities.”

Toomey held his campaign stop at Lodge 1 of the Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police, where he held a roundtable discussion with local law-enforcement leaders and Republican officials. Toomey discussed legislation he has introduced that he says is law-enforcement-friendly, including allowing local police access to military-style gear, exempting police and firefighters from pension offsets related to Social Security, and creating a rule that would weigh in favor of the death penalty for people who kill an officer serving in the line of duty.

The Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police has endorsed Toomey in his re-election bid, but FOP Lodge 1 PAC chairman Anthony Beatty said the group has not done any work with the senator on his sanctuary-city bill. The FOP did not issue a comment on whether it supports the bill.

Toomey called sanctuary policies “madness.”

“The fact that a person is here illegally in these sanctuary cities, confers a special legal protection that makes it impossible for the police to cooperate,” said Toomey. “This endangers all of us; the city of Philadelphia is arguably the most radical sanctuary city in America, and it’s gotta end.”

However, a 2015 study by the American Immigration Council shows that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born populations, and data from Syracuse University shows that the majority of undocumented immigrants detained have no local criminal record. When asked if he has any plans to address the millions of law-abiding undocumented immigrants, Toomey said that that is a “controversial” but “separate issue.”

“That is like saying what do we do about the flaws in our tax code," said Toomey. "It's another issue, it's important, but it's unrelated to the dangerous security issue that arise from sanctuary cities.”

Immigrant-rights advocates disagree with that notion. Sundrop Carter, of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, told City Paper last month that politicians attacking sanctuary policies are merely attacking cities that have implemented welcoming strategies for immigrants. Carter adds that deportations are occurring in every county in Pennsylvania, even those with sanctuary policies.

Additionally, as CP reported in July, advocates say sanctuary policies can protect undocumented immigrants who are charged with minor crimes from falling into the hands of immigration officers. Helen Gym, a city councilor from Philadelphia, attended the People’s Convention in July and said that sanctuary policies can actually increase trust between undocumented immigrants and local law enforcement

“We don’t want people to be afraid to call the police to report crimes like burglary, etc.,” said Gym. “It is not the responsibility of local police departments to enforce immigration laws, since they are federal laws.”

Toomey also said at the press conference that he does not support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and that creating one would be “problematic.”

Toomey is in a neck-and-neck race with Democrat Katie McGinty in his bid for re-election. Real Clear Politics, which averages out poll data, has Toomey with razor-thin .04 percent lead over McGinty. 

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Donald Trump's last two buildings used Chinese steel; Pennsylvania AFL-CIO cry foul

Posted By on Mon, Oct 3, 2016 at 6:07 PM

Donald Trump speaking at a aluminium processing plant in Monessen, Pa. - CP PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
  • CP photo by Ashley Murray
  • Donald Trump speaking at a aluminium processing plant in Monessen, Pa.
In April, when Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump first campaigned in Pittsburgh, he promised thousands of attendees at a Downtown rally that he would bring back the steel industry. This was his first "Make America Steel Again" mention, and Trump continued to make this claim at events across the country in the following months.

Now, a new article shows that while Trump claims to be a supporter of the U.S. steel industry, he actually avoided using American-made steel for two of his last three construction projects. Instead, he opted to use Chinese-manufactured steel, according to Newsweek. Trump International Hotel Las Vegas was completed in 2008 and used Chinese steel, as did Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, which opened in 2009.  (Trump has been very critical of China and trade policies in speeches.)

And Rick Bloomingdale, president of Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), said this is further prof that Trump is a "fraud." 

“Donald Trump claims to care about improving the economy for American workers, but his track record proves he’s a hypocrite," said Bloomingdale in a press release. "His use of Chinese steel falls in line with his history of producing Trump products overseas, showing little concern for working families who depend on good manufacturing jobs."

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO secretary Frank Snyder said Trump cannot be trusted to help steelworkers. 

"Trump has a proven history of choosing to fill his own pockets rather than those of American workers," said Snyder in a press release. "Working people can’t risk a Trump presidency, which would be driven by corporate greed."

We can't say we are that surprised about this latest Trump revelation, since he has a knack for making empty promises on Pennsylvania industry. Last month, City Paper pointed out Trump's claims to unleash the fracking industry were mostly bogus, since the industry has been mostly free of strict regulations for years.

Just 35 more days till the election

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