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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How did progressive Josh Shapiro win the Pennsylvania attorney general race in a GOP-dominated election?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 4:03 PM

Pennsylvania Attorney General-elect Josh Shapiro - IMAGE COURTESY OF CAMPAIGN
  • Image courtesy of campaign
  • Pennsylvania Attorney General-elect Josh Shapiro
This Election Day, Pennsylvania turned red for the first time since 1988. President-elect Donald Trump won the state by 49,000 votes and Senator Pat Toomey won re-election by 92,000 votes. Toomey and Trump differed on trade, but both candidates pushed an anti-immigrant, pro-police campaign. It seemed a clear statement that Pennsylvanians, particularly in rural counties, want the Republican party in charge of their future.

So how in the world did Democrat Josh Shapiro, arguably running on the most progressive principles of any Pennsylvania candidate, win the state’s attorney-general election?

John Hanley, a political-science professor at Duquesne University, believes that most Pennsylvanians weren’t very aware of the candidates for non-national seats like state attorney general, and thus stuck more to their partisan allegiances.

“When you look at this set of election results, take the top of the ballot and separate from the rest,” says Hanley. “Most people don't know who these people are, so most people rely on the standard partisan bias.”

So having almost one million more Democrats registered in Pennsylvania than Republicans helped Shapiro and fellow Democrats Eugene DePasquale (state auditor general) and Joseph Torsella (state treasurer) secure victories by surprisingly similar margins, says Hanley.

But G. Terry Madonna, a pollster and professor of public affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pa., thinks it was a concentrated effort by the Philadelphia suburbs that secured Shapiro his victory.

“The [Democrats] won all three statewide row-office elections, largely because of more ticket-splitting in the Philly 'burbs,” wrote Madonna in an email to Pittsburgh City Paper. “Shapiro ran many TV commercials there which certainly helped him. [And those commercials] did not focus on a liberal agenda.”

Shapiro on his campaign website championed progressive policies like LGBT rights, prosecuting frackers who pollute, and standing up to Wall Street, but his commercials mostly concentrated on the state’s opioid epidemic and support from the police. And when it came down to it, Madonna says, Shapiro might just have been a better campaigner than his opponent, Republican John Rafferty.

“The Republicans did very little by comparison,” wrote Madonna. “Shapiro was more aggressive campaigning, going all over the state.”

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Hundreds in Pittsburgh march from Oakland to the Birmingham Bridge

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 1:50 PM

Protesters march through Oakland - CP PHOTO BY LUKE THOR TRAVIS
  • CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
  • Protesters march through Oakland

"Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here."

"No borders, no nations, stop deportations."

"My body, my choice. Her body, her choice."

"Black lives matter."

"Love wins."

From the protest chants alone, you get a sense that last night's peaceful protest from Oakland to the Birmingham Bridge was organized to bring attention to the wide range of equality issues facing Americans.

"Equality for all people brought me here tonight," said Jamie Scafuri, a Pittsburgh resident. "I hope this promotes peaceful activism in our country."

While the protest mirrored similar events occurring around the country and in Pittsburgh in the wake of the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, the two-mile walk wasn't branded as an anti-Trump rally. Instead, organizers said it was designed to bring attention to rights they feel should be respected moving into the next presidency. Among the priorities identified in speeches throughout the march were diversity, the environment, religious tolerance, police brutality and  LGBT and immigrant rights.

"It's not an anti-Trump protest," said Brandi Williams, an African American University of Pittsburgh student. "We just want progress. I want people to know my life matters. I hope people can understand the points we're making."

Overwhelmingly, the more than 200 protesters stayed on message, but there were several in the group who called for more drastic measures like rioting or marching beyond the permitted route blocked off by police. But even for those championing for peace, the pall of Trump, and his attacks on marginalized groups over the past year weighed heavily.

"I'm very passionate about my rights," said Lark Blackson, co-president of a feminist organization. "I honestly don't think Trump is a good president for anyone but white people, especially white men. People need to know what they say matters."

Check out our slideshow from photographer Luke Thor Travis for more scenes from the march.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Consolation prize: Allegheny County turns bluer among historic GOP victory in Pennsylvania

Posted By on Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 3:47 PM

  • Image courtesy of www.alleghenycounty.us
  • Allegheny County Seal
Allegheny County did its part for the Democrats. In last week's presidential election, Southwestern Pennsylvania's largest county increased its Democratic turnout from 2012 by 11,000 voters and shrunk its Republican turnout by 5,000.

But, Philadelphia helped to screw them over. The state’s largest county decreased its 2012 Democratic turnout by 26,000 and increased its Republican turnout by 9,000. Our 16,000 Democratic voter net gain was easily wiped out by Philly’s 35,000 net loss.

Philadelphia even contrasted its own suburbs. Its suburban counties (Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware and Chester), had a net gain of 54,000 Democratic voters compared to the 2012 election.

But Philly can’t take all the blame for Pennsylvania turning red for the first time since 1988, since even if the City of Brotherly Love matched its 2012 Democratic voting levels, the state still would have come up 30,000 votes short of a Hillary Clinton victory.

And while Allegheny County increased their Dem voters, (an impressive feat considering the county population has stayed the same since 2012), the progressives in the Steel City had little impact in convincing its surrounding counties that Democratic causes are in their best interest.

Beaver, Washington, and Westmoreland became radically more Republican in the 2016 election, helping President-elect Donald Trump gain the edge he needed to secure Pennsylvania. Those three counties gave a 38,000 net voting edge to Republicans compared to 2012. The Pittsburgh progressives are growing, but they might just be making their bubble more impenetrable, not expanding it to circumvent the Southwestern Pennsylvania region.

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Check out these upcoming Pittsburgh events to help recover from the recent election

Posted By on Fri, Nov 11, 2016 at 5:24 PM

Protesters rally outside of a Donald Trump campaign event in Pittsburgh in September - CP PHOTO BY STEPHEN CARUSO
  • CP photo by Stephen Caruso
  • Protesters rally outside of a Donald Trump campaign event in Pittsburgh in September

In the few days since Donald Trump was elected president, protests have erupted in cities around the country, including Pittsburgh. On the night of the election, college students rallied against the Republican president-elect in Oakland, and the following evening more Pittsburghers rallied in East Liberty.

Whether you're interested in marching or putting this divisive election behind you, here's a list of a few events coming up over the next few days.

United States of Trump? The fight back begins!
Saturday, Nov. 19, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Wilkins School Community Center, 7604 Charleston Ave.

At this gathering, activists plan to organize to mobilize people for the mass protest planned in Washington, D.C., on  inauguration day.

According to the event page: "Join us as we aim towards building a stronger and more unified approach to confronting the bigotry and oppression Donald Trump has threatened against our communities.

From terrorizing immigrant communities, destroying women's health-care services, increasing the war against the Muslim community and so much more we need to start building now to BEAT BACK the attacks of the next president."

Trump Is Not My President - Peaceful Protest of Trump's Presidency
Sunday, Nov. 13, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., Point State Park Fountain

This is a peaceful protest for people against the election of Donald Trump. It is also open to activists again the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the North Dakota Access Pipeline. According to the event page, anyone who doesn't like Trump is welcome.

Deutschtown City Steps Mosaic Mural

Tuesday, Nov. 15, 11:00 a.m., at the intersection of Intin and Concord streets

National civic crowdfunding platform In Our Backyards (ioby) is opening a new office and full-time staff in the North Side. The nonprofit helps local leaders improve their communities with volunteer-led, crowd-funded projects like green spaces and community festivals.

According to a release: "Local social justice advocates and community leaders will mark this milestone with a community gathering at a previous project site, the Deutschtown City Steps, where community leaders erected a colorful mosaic mural in 2015 — as they recommit to public service."

Peaceful March on Downtown Pittsburgh
Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 9 pm. to 12 a.m., Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Fifth Ave.

This march from Oakland to Downtown is a peaceful protest against division on the basis of gender, skin color, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity.

According to the event page: "We are NOT an anti-Trump march. It is more productive to bring attention to rights that we feel should be respected moving into the next presidency. We are PRO diversity, PRO environment, PRO LGBT+, PRO religious tolerance ... the list goes on. Spreading hate will never solve problems and will only polarize us further, but coming together to advocate for things we care about will always be respected."

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Pittsburghers unite to fight President-elect Donald Trump

Posted By on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 at 1:30 PM

  • CP photo by Rebecca Addison
  • Katelyn Walker
It's been more than 24 hours since the presidential election, and many across the country have been grieving. But the mourning ended last night for an emergency meeting at the Ace Hotel in East Liberty. The theme: "Let's Unite to Stop President Trump."

The crowd was made up of several hundred supporters of both Trump's Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton and other third-party candidates. While they might have disagreed on who to vote for prior to the election, last night they were united in their desire to reform America's political system, which they say is to blame for Trump's rise to power.

"I've been doing this shit for 50 years," said activist Mel Packer. "But I must have been doing it wrong because we haven't had a revolution yet."

Despite the anger felt by many, Packer and others urged the group to start looking at what connects American citizens, instead of what divides us.

Throughout his campaign Trump was known for his divisiveness — often pitting white Americans against Muslims and Latino immigrants. As a result, our country as a whole became divided, with people on both sides of the political spectrum writing each other off. But when asked who had a family member who voted for Trump, more than half of the crowd raised their hand.

Speakers said this shows we can no longer afford to ignore people whose opinions differ from our own. They said this division only benefits those already in power — the two-party political machine and the wealthiest one-percent.

"If we discover we have common interests, we just might overthrow the goddamn thing," said Packer. "We do horrible things to each other sometimes, but we weren't born to do that. We were trained."

Along these lines, speakers said moving forward, liberals and progressives have to do a better job of talking with Trump supporters.

"We are feeling and posting things that are not persuasive. We have to be mini-marketing campaigns for this movement," said Jonathan Fobear. "You have to think, are you persuading people from the opposite side, because that's where we have to do the most work."

Despite the sense of unity at last night's rally, many speakers were in tears as they addressed the crowd expressing their fears for the future.

"I had an abortion, and I'm really scared that moving forward I'm not going to have that right," said Ariel Cohen. "I need you all to get really serious. We have to protect women's rights, we have to protect trans rights. We have to keep fighting. We will never give up. He's not my president, but this is our country."

Another speaker, Katelyn Walker, said she received a text message the night of the election from a Muslim friend  who was afraid to leave her hotel room.

"There's no way you're going to stand in front of me and say that my best friend is less important," Walker said. "I don't want to live in a country like that. I don't want to tell my grandchildren that happened."

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Pittsburgh City Paper Election Live Blog final update: Meeting set for tonight to unite to 'Stop President Trump'

Posted By on Wed, Nov 9, 2016 at 3:30 PM


Nov. 9, 3 p.m.:
From Editor Charlie Deitch

After our live podcast last night and our general malaise this morning over election results, we thought it was only appropriate to make a final entry in our election blog. Definitely check out the podcast if you haven't already, you can watch me slowly dying as I monitor the election map.
  • Photo by Luke Thor Travis
The above photo from last night's Allegheny County Democrats' watch party at the IBEW Hall on the
  • Photo by Luke Thor Travis
 South Side sums up a lot of feelings today. Every poll in the free world got it wrong and it left a lot of people shocked and awed over what had happened. I must admit, I attempted this morning to write something to try and put some perspective on this, but I'm at a loss. Of course I am just a journalist whose place in Trump's America has been clearly pointed out.

Not that I want to write something negative, per se, but I'm sorry to admit it, there aren't many positives rolling around in my head. I even wanted to just focus on the silver lining of this whole election, but after writing my lead: "Fuck it, let's be positive," nothing at all trickled out. That's because you can't turn on a switch that says, let's pull together when we've spent the last year or more hearing a candidate explain to us how his plan is to blow us all apart. It's not our job to reach out here. It's the job of the incoming administration to assure us that he's not going to do all this crazy stuff from building walls to giving banks carte blanche to do anything they want in name of an allegedly stronger America. Add those things to his desire to defund Planned Parenthood, appoint extremely conservative Supreme Court Justices to try and roll back the clock on Roe V. Wade and same-sex marriage as well as continue to alienate immigrants, African Americans and anyone else that doesn't see things his way and, quite frankly, there's not a whole lot to be hopeful about. He'll get a small window to unite the nation, but who really has faith that there will be much of an effort to reach out?

In preparation for what the next four years will bring, there's an "Emergency Meeting: Let's Unite To Stop President Trump" event at 6 p.m. tonight at the Ace Hotel. So far, more than 500 people have signed up to attend. According to the event page:

"Donald Trump is president. The Democratic Party establishment has failed to stop him. The only way to stop him is to unite and fight. We need to move forward as a united movement. We will come into this meeting to discuss — collectively — how we might form a coherent, viable, and powerful strategy of self-defense and liberation under President Trump. There is no group of powerful people who can solve this for us. We will have to solve it ourselves, together. It's the only way."

We will have coverage of the event online tomorrow.

Nov. 9, 2:30 p.m.
From Staff Writer Ryan Deto

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, like most local democratic politicians, spent most of election night at the IBEW local 5 watch party that is held every presidential cycle. The night started out hopeful, but quickly became nerve-wracking for Democrats as now president-elect Donald Trump won North Carolina and Florida.

Before the election was called, a frustrated Peduto left and went to his favorite watering hole, Cappy’s Cafe in Shadyside to watch the final results. By night's end, Trump had won the White House, Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey won re-election, the U.S. House stayed in GOP control, and the Pennsylvania State Senate earned a Republican super majority, giving it the ability to override Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s vetoes.

In other words, it was a shitty night to be a Democrat. But the next morning, Peduto regrouped and looked to a future battle, saying that Democrats have to start preparing for 2018 now.

“This has to be a clarion call, this has to be motivation to so many people to do more,” Peduto said during a previously scheduled interview with CP this morning. “If people getting motivated behind this election and the Democratic party becomes united, I think this pendulum swings back rather quickly.”

Voting shows that Hillary Clinton won large metropolitan areas across the U.S., by a wide margin, while Trump won most rural and suburban areas. Given that outcome, Peduto said he will advocate Trump’s administration to not leave progressively minded cities like Pittsburgh out of the equation.

“The Trump administration may not have a domestic policy agenda right now, but they are going to have to create one, and if it is to harm cities, it would be short victory [for Trump].”

7:30 p.m.
From Stephen Caruso
As polls prepared to close throughout Oakland, voter turnout across the voting stations was at usual levels, if not higher than average.

No lines were extending out into the dark, drizzly night. In the William Pitt Union, Alethea Sims, 61 of East Liberty, served as election judge. She said around 1,800 people voted, which was high but still 400 off of the peak she saw during Obama’s first election.

At Posvar Hall, which saw many first time voters, and around 940 total, poll worker Bonnie Krous said she got through her nearly 15 hour day with “coffee, chocolate and good friends.”

At the dual locations on Semple Streets, a total of 1474 voters showed up, mostly students according to workers there.

Diane Henderson-Webster, a poll worker for 20 years, agreed with Sims that only more voters had come out for Obama’s 2008 election.

At Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, Blithe Runsdorf, who’s worked polls for two decades, said turnout was at about 50 percent for the district, with 1635 voting, turnout only rivaled by the Bush-Gore election in 2000.

However, she said had to file about 50 provisional ballots, a special ballot used when a voter’s registration is questioned, which she blamed on the high amount of youth registration by activists groups.

“I usually [only] see one or two [provisional ballots,” Runsdorf said.

7 p.m.
From News Editor Rebecca Addison

The day we've been waiting what has felt like decades for is winding down in Pittsburgh as last minute voters head to the polls to cast their ballots.

At East Liberty Lutheran Church 57-year- old Robbin Washington just voted in her first election.

"We have to vote because of what could happen," Washington said. "I don't really like either one of them but it was important for me to vote because I feel really uncomfortable about [Trump]. If there is a god, Hillary will win."

During a lull when the room was void of any voters, conversation among the poll workers quickly turned to attacking Trump.

A poll watcher at the location said the day had gone smoothly. Initially he said there were rumors circulating that people planned to stand outside of polling locations with firearms, but no one has reported such voter intimidation tactics in Pittsburgh.

According to several poll watchers throughout the day, the only problems have been voters turning up to the wrong polling place or finding they weren't registered. In these situations election protectors have driven them to the correct location or helped them fill out a provisional ballot, respectively.

And soon voters will have nothing left to do but wait.

"I just hope and pray Hillary wins," said Kim Hamby. "We need her in there, not Trump. I'm scared."

5:55 p.m.
From Intern Stephen Caruso
Both Pitt College Republican and WPTS, Pitt’s college radio station, claim they were kicked off Allegheny County Soldiers and Sailors grounds today.
Students in front of Soldiers and Sailors Hall in Oakland - PHOTO BY STEPHEN CARUSO
  • Photo by Stephen Caruso
  • Students in front of Soldiers and Sailors Hall in Oakland

Peter Brath was handing out flyers for Lenny McAllister when someone who “looked official” but lacked any identifying marks for Allegheny County or a Democratic “vote protector” asked them to move down to the sidewalk from outside the hall’s entrance.

Kayla Greygor, WPTS’ Director of Promotion, said they were asked by Pitt College Democrats to play music for lines of supporters waiting to vote. However, they were denied access to an electrical outlet, and left the premises.

According to Allegheny County property records, the land is owned by Allegheny County. Pennsylvania state laws says that all canvassing activities must occur at least 10 feet away from a polling entrance.

Soldiers and Sailors could not be reached for comment.

At the foot of the monument, food trucks, sponsored by NextGen Climate, an environmentally focused Super Pac funded by billionaire Tom Steyer, handed out free food — from espresso and apple cake to tacos and hot dogs — to anyone willing to brave block-long lines.

Easily identified by their orange shirts, NextGen has 200 paid staff — along with nearly 2,000 volunteers — canvassing across the Keystone state.

While described as non-partisan, the group officially endorsed Clinton for president and Katie McGInty for Senate in Pennsylvania.

NextGen Pennsylvania Communications Director Aleigha Cavalier described the festivities as “celebrating election day.”

“Students are really excited to get out their vote,” Cavalier said.

5:40 p.m.:
From Staff Writer Ryan Deto

Most media outlets have spent the last few days analyzing how large the anti-Donald Trump vote could be. Trump has made comments many consider offensive toward Mexicans, Muslims and women throughout his campaign, potentially fueling voters in those demographics to come out in force to block him from reaching the White House.
  • Photo by Ryan Deto
  • Matt Russak

But another anti-vote is also brewing: the LGBT vote against Trump, and more specifically, his running mate Mike Pence. Pence has supported “religious freedom” laws that LGBT groups say would increase discrimination and has opposed laws that prohibit LGBT discrimination in the workplace. City Paper reported last week how LGBT-rights leaders in Pennsylvania were wary of what impact a Trump-Pence presidency would have on the LGBT community.

And at least one Pittsburgh voter confirmed he was voting to block Pence’s anti-LGBT policies from infiltrating the country’s second highest office.

“I am not going to vote for a candidate, and especially a vice presidential candidate who say hurtful things about my community,” said Matt Russak, who identifies as gay.

The Lawrenceville resident voted this afternoon at Butler and 52nd streets for Hillary Clinton and was proud to support the Democratic candidate. “It’s beyond time for a woman president,” said Russak.

4:30 p.m.

From News Editor Rebecca Addison

Rev. Maureen Cross Bolden has been answering phones at the Black Political Empowerment Project's Election Protection headquarters for several hours. While she says there have been few people calling to complain about having problems voting, the office did receive a call an hour ago about an altercation at a polling location in Penn Hills.

"Trump had some people there who were heckling voters," says Bolden.

According to Bolden a group of Donald Trump supporters were harassing voters at a polling place on Graham Boulevard and one was arrested. Allegheny County spokesperson Amie Downs said they have not received any information about the incident. Neither the Penn Hills Police Department or the Allegheny County Sheriff's office could be reached for a comment.

Other than this incident, Bolden says the day has gone smoothly. This year, B-PEP's Roll to the Polls initiative that provides people with transportation to vote has had more volunteer drivers than in years passed.

"Overall, other than Trump's people trying to cause chaos, I would say people are really trying to make the vote happen," Bolden says.

3:35 p.m.
From News Editor Rebecca Addison
On the outside of two North Side polling places in the Mexican War Streets area are signs urging voters to vote "no" on today's judicial referendum.

"It's a judicial pay raise and a judicial pension grab," the signs says.

While not as flashy as the presidential election, the referendum has far reaching implications. It would extend the mandatory judicial retirement age from 70 to 75.

"They should be able to serve as long as they want," said Irene Bower who voted in support. "These people have spent a long time being educated and if they've spent a long time serving why should they be penalized for their age."

"They're old and they're stuck in their ways," said Tyrone Currington who voted against it. "It's time to have new judges."

"I'm a lawyer and I've practiced in court for over 30 years and I've dealt with a lot of excellent judges," said Clare, who voted no and did not want to give her last name. "But I just think there comes a time when people need to move aside to make room for some younger people."

While most people interviewed by CP over a two hour period said they voted against extending the retirement age, everyone CP talked to was atleast a little confused about the wording of the referendum. They said they wished they had been given more information in advance.

"I'm not too happy with the disingenuous way it was worded," said Carson Lane, who voted no.

"I wish I'd done more research on it," said Stephanie Johnson who also voted against the referendum.
The ballot question's wording has been challenged in court and is awaiting a ruling that could invalidate the results of today's election.

"The way it's phrased should be criminal," said Susan who voted against the referendum and did not want to provide her last name. "I'm afraid it's going to pass because it's deceptively written."

3:26 p.m.
Art Airector Lisa Cunningham put together a compilation of the best election cartoons by our syndicated cartoonist Jen Sorensen. Here's a freebie, but you'll have to go here for the rest.

Polling location across street from Penn Plaza in East Liberty - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP Photo by Ryan Deto
  • Polling location across street from Penn Plaza in East Liberty
3:21 p.m.
From Staff Writer Ryan Deto
Unofficial reports from some Allegheny County districts are predicting high voter turnout before the polls close at 8 p.m.

Many polling locations in the area had long lines before the polls even opened this morning, and now some poll volunteers are indicating on social media that voter turnout is booming.

Helen Gerhardt is volunteering outside a polling location right across from the Penn Plaza complex in East Liberty. She reports that the district exceeded 200 voters already, “more voters here so far than ALL voters in 2012,” she wrote in a tweet to City Paper.

Gerhardt has been monitoring the polling spot all day and says on Twitter the “Vast majority of voters here today have been black, with big proportion of elderly and persons with disabilities.” This East Liberty district voted for President Barack Obama by an astounding 98 percent of the vote.

Outside of the city in Ross Township, Stuart Strickland, another volunteer, is also indicating a big voter turnout. He says more than 360 votes have been cast so far and the total registered voters is only around 790.

“That's heading for darn close to 95% voter turnout by day's end,” wrote Strickland on Twitter. He didn’t post any demographic information, but that area is a Republican stronghold. Mitt Romney carried this northeast Ross Township district with 58 percent of the vote in 2012.

With more than five hours still left in the voting day, who knows how high turnout will climb.

1:48 p.m.
From News Editor Rebecca Addison
The dislike for Donald Trump was strong at the Pressley Ridge polling place in the North Side today.

"There's no way I could let Trump get into office," said Michael Piotrowski. "He scares me. And it scares me that he made it this far. And what really scares me is that half of this country is behind him. We need to do something to get this country back on track, but he's not going to do that."

Piotrowski was there to vote with his daughter Carly, a 21-year-old first-time voter who was inspired by her dislike for the Republican presidential nominee.

"My generation is going to be impacted by the next president for years to come," said Carly. "Trump has no political background. He ran a reality-TV show. We have no idea what he would do to taxes, who he would tax. We have no idea how he would impact us trying to buy a house, and he wouldn't raise the minimum wage."

There wasn't much of a line at the Pressley Ridge location, but there was a steady stream of overwhelmingly Democratic voters going in and out of the building.

"I don't want the enemy in the White House, someone who's going to destroy this world," said Donzella Addison.

In addition to hating Trump, Addison said the country needs a woman in the White House.
"Hillary is a good person and it might be good to have a woman," Addison said. "I always say if women had been given the chance years ago, we'd be in better shape. Women — we keep our houses in order."

1:14 p.m.
From Stephen Caruso

On Semple Street, deep within Oakland, two polling places are back-to-back in a joint community-center and fire-station building. It’s quiet around midday, as students slip in quickly between classes to cast their ballots along with a handful of locals.
College Republican Arnaud Armstrong hands out flyers for Congressional candidate Lenny McAllister - PHOTO BY STEPHEN CARUSO
  • Photo by Stephen Caruso
  • College Republican Arnaud Armstrong hands out flyers for Congressional candidate Lenny McAllister
While the midday voting crowd is weak, Rebekkah Ranallo, who works for the polling place's owner, Oakland Planning and Development Corps, says voters were wrapped “around the building” this morning. A Democratic party official at the sister station just 200 feet away said the line was out the door at the fire station.

Outside, Arnaud Armstrong, a college Republican at Pitt, is flyering for Lenny McAllister, the challenger to Democratic 3rd District incumbent Mike Doyle. Armstrong is approaching every passerby to convince them of McAllister’s status as a “reform Republican,” a title Armstrong, “coined ... today”, who hasn’t yet backed Trump.

“It’s tough for urban Republicans,” he said.

Heading inside, Marie Minor, an Oakland resident, took the flyer, but isn’t too concerned with the down-ballot race.

“I’m basically here for the presidential election,” Minor said.

1:05 p.m.:
From News Editor Rebecca Addison
Despite two Pence signs and one Make America Great Again hat, when CP visited the St. Catherine's School voting location in Beechview, supporters of Hillary Clinton were well represented.

"We don't like Donald Trump for many reasons," said Janette Warren. "My dad just became an American citizen five years ago, and he always told us voting is a privilege."

19th Ward Democratic Comitteewoman Phyllis DiDiano said the turnout had been steady. Although she said presidential elections always have a larger turnout, today's turnout had been higher than usual.

"We've had a lot of mothers taking pictures with their daughters in front of the Hillary sign," DiDiano said. "I've seen women crying on their way out. This is really important."

In addition to handing out slate cards, DiDiano also helped Beechview resident Lisa Davis whose daughter was having trouble voting. The daughter had recently moved to Dormont, and while she changed her voter registration address, the system was saying she should be voting in Forest Hills. DiDiano advised Davis to fill out a provisional ballot.

Davis said she's always made a point of showing the importance of voting to her children.

"I'm coming from two minorities because I'm African American and a woman," Davis said. "People sacrificed for me to vote. People were spit on. People died."

While she said she voted for Clinton, she adds that the candidate does have her faults. "She's the least bad of the two of them," said Davis. "They both have baggage. But she's more intelligent."

12:15 p.m.

The following is a midday voting report from Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs:

"Polls this morning were extremely busy, and remain steady in many locations at this point. We still do not have any issues that are raising red flags, but are continuing to receive notifications on concerns and issues.

There were reports of several precincts asking voters for ID. Federal and state law require that a voter show ID the first time they vote and the first time that they vote in a precinct. They can also be asked to show ID if identification is being questioned. Judges at those locations have been reminded of the law.

A report was made that a polling place in Homewood was without power. We have not been able to confirm that report. Electricity has been flickering at a site, but voting has still been able to continue.

A report was made that machines at a West Deer polling location were switching votes. Again, the voter has the ability to review their ballot before casting it and to correct any incorrect votes. The machines will be re-tested to verify that votes are being cast accurately and will be done with elections officials as witnesses.

As noted previously, the Judge of Elections in Springdale Borough did not report this morning and duplicate materials had to be delivered so that the polling place could open. The location opened around 9:30 AM and voters before that time were directed to a nearby polling place to vote by emergency ballot. The Judge of Elections, Margaret Vernon, was located by the Sheriff's Office. According to the Sheriff's Office, she will be charged by summons, delivered at a later date, with failure to perform duties, a misdemeanor. She advised the deputies that she was ill this morning."

11:30 a.m.
From Rebecca Addison
  • Photo by Rebecca Addison
From 10 to 11 a.m., the line to vote at North Way Christian Community Church stretched outside the door. During the hour, the location had a consistent line of 50 people.

"It's a right that I have and I cherish that right," said Cheryl Phillips. "Our soldiers are fighting for our right to vote and hopefully it will change this country."

Residents from both Districts 3 and 4 were assigned to vote at the church, which caused confusion for some voters and led to the long line. According to poll workers, the county voting website was crashing, and it took them five to 10 minutes to look up each person to see which district they were in.

But the wait didn't turn people away.

"It's your civic duty to vote," said Ian Hay. "And even though people say it's throwing your vote away, the more people who vote for a third party, the less we'll get the insanity that is the Clinton/Trump machine."

While yard signs were posted telling people not to post political signs in the grass, a single poster for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was taped to a lamppost.

11:20 a.m.

From Ryan Deto:

There has been no sign of GOP poll-watchers in Pittsburgh's black communities so far.

One SUV parked on North Lang Avenue in Homewood, a predominantly black community in Pittsburgh's East End, was sporting a Donald Trump bumper sticker. Other than this small Trump sign, many polling places in four majority African-American neighborhoods have seen no sign of a Trump or GOP presence on Election Day morning.
Trump, at multiple rallies in Pennsylvania last month, emboldened his supporters to monitor polling places in "inner city" areas that typically overwhelming vote Democratic. However, City Paper stopped by seven different polling places in Garfield, East Liberty, Larimer and Homewood, and saw no Trump-supporting poll-watchers.

Many of the sites were fairly quiet, with a slow trickle of voters walking in and out. People passing out pamphlets outside the polls estimated that turnout was fairly good, with some noting the last time this many voters showed up early in the day was to vote for President Barack Obama.

Kevin Wells, vice chair for 12th Ward Democratic Committee in Larimer, said that more than 20 people were lined up before doors opened any 7 a.m. and another 50 people lined up about an hour later.

"Obama's election was the only time I saw people waiting before the doors opened," said Wells.

Wells laughed at the idea that Trump poll-watchers would come to Larimer. "Ain't no Trump poll-watchers coming to the hood," said Wells. "But we would welcome them."

At a poll location across from the Penn Plaza site in East Liberty, there was also no sign of any GOP poll-watchers.

Local activist and assigned Democratic poll-watcher Helen Gerhardt said the East Liberty poll was fairly quiet, but noted the site had more than 100 voters in the first two hours of opening.

Twitter user @PittCabe is a Democratic poll-watcher in the Hill District and he tweeted "no GOP presence" at his polling location as well.

In Homewood on North Lang Street, pamphlet passers told CP that turnout has been relatively small, about 30 voters, but they expect there to be a lunchtime rush and even larger turnout when people get off work in the evening.

11 a.m.:

10:36 a.m.

From City Paper intern Stephen Caruso reporting from the University of Pittsburgh:

In Oakland at Pitt’s Posvar Hall, mostly young student voters were already lined up by 7:30 a.m..

With backpacks in tow and sipping coffee cups, some students waited nearly an 
Pitt students waiting to vote this morning at Posvar Hall - PHOTO BY STEPHEN CARUSO
  • Photo by Stephen Caruso
  • Pitt students waiting to vote this morning at Posvar Hall
hour to vote due to a disorganized process — first voters needed poll workers to check their registration, then sign the voter rolls, then vote. Instructions were not often forthcoming.

Waiting on line, Maddie Adams had to leave the line to make her mandatory work rotation as a Pitt pharmacy student in her last year. As she waited, she still was undecided.

“I have inclinations but this is the worst election ever,” Adams said, though she declined to reveal her inclinations.

Around 9 a.m., Democratic Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald arrived to look over the polling place. He voted earlier in the day, waiting in line45 minutes.

“The lines are the longest I’ve ever seen,” Fitzgerald said. Fitzgerald, who’s stumped for Clinton multiple times throughout the campaign, was also confident in her victory tonight.

Outside, James Kirwan, wearing a Clinton campaign sticker, was happy to have finally cast his ballot after watching the election for a “year-and-a-half.” Like Fitzgerald, he’s confident of a Clinton victory, but is prepared for a Trump win.

“I would have to respect the democracy itself,” Kirwan said.

10:30 a.m.

10:20 a.m.:

See anything unusual happening at the polls today? If so, we want to know about it. Email info@pghcitypaper.com or call 412-316-3342, X166

10:13 a.m.

From Charlie Deitch:
City Paper staffers are reporting long lines in a lot of polling places across the region. Also remember that unless it's your first time voting, you do not have to show any form of identification. If you're asked for it, be sure to point that out to your poll workers if they ask and also don't be afraid to speak up if it's happening to someone else in line.

7:30 a.m.

Hillary Clinton at her Nov. 4 appearance in Pittsburgh - CP PHOTO BY LUKE THOR TRAVIS
  • CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
  • Hillary Clinton at her Nov. 4 appearance in Pittsburgh
7:01 a.m.
The polls are open in Pittsburgh for Election Day 2016. After a campaign season that felt unusually long thanks to the constant flow of vitriol from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and continued unrest from opponents of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (including fellow Dems who support her primary opponent Bernie Sanders), it seemed like this day would never come.

But the presidential election isn't the only reason to head to the polls today. For Pennsylvanians, the choice for the U.S. Senate seat is equally important. This race pits incumbent Republican Pat Toomey against Democratic candidate Katie McGinty. More than $160 million was spent on the campaign, setting a record for the most money spent on any U.S. Senate race ever.

Another important race is for Pennsylvania attorney general. After the mess left behind by former AG Kathleen Kane, Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro and Republican candidate John Rafferty will be tasked with cleaning up the office.

Also on the ballot is Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District seat. Here democratic candidate Erin McClelland faces off with incumbent Republican Keith Rothfus faces off for the second time.

Follow along for reports from polling places during the day and election watch parties later tonight.

Looking for the best polling place locator, stick with Google.

  • Image courtesy of Google
According to the ProPublica’s Electionland live map of Google searches, there was a flurry of election related searches across the Pittsburgh region on the afternoon of Nov. 7. (For example, Gibsonia saw an 1000 percent increase of “provisional ballot” searches around 1 p.m.)

Voter interest is a pulsing and those wishing to visit the booths on Election Day may search online to find where they cast their ballots. City Paper has reviewed Allegheny County residents’ options to look up their poll location online, and Google, per usual, is the clear winner.

By simply Googling “polling location” or “Where do I vote” or clicking on the Google homepage image, a nifty box shows up at the top of your screen, with a bar to enter in your address. Once entered, your polling place will be shown with name, address and a map of the voting site. (CP confirmed multiple known addresses across the region, and it works like a charm.)

The device also offers tabs of a sample ballot, and requirements to vote. Remember folks, you never need a photo ID to vote in Pennsylvania. (If it is your first time voting at your booth location, just show some proof that you live at your current address, a utility bill works.) Information for Google’s poll locator was sourced from the Voting Information Project, Center for Technology and Civic Life and Democracy Works.

In contrast to Google’s easy polling locator are the state and county websites. While Allegheny County’s poll locator is fast and accurate, users must know the ward and the district of their municipality. The state’s website, which was riddled with errors during the primary, is also accurate, but can be slow and requires users to input their mailing address and not their town address. (For example, if you live in Bellevue, you can’t type Bellevue, because the mailing address is technically Pittsburgh.)

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey attacked by left and right in final week before election

Posted By on Thu, Nov 3, 2016 at 4:36 PM

  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Sen. Pat Toomey
It’s been a bad week for U.S. Senator Pat Toomey. Pennsylvania’s Republican Senator from Lehigh County went on a Philadelphia television news show and defended some of his stances, like how he believes Roe V. Wade, the Supreme Court decision making abortion legal, was the wrong choice, but was mostly confronted with repeated requests from the show’s hosts, asking him if he was going to vote for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“I will give you credit for serious persistence,” said Toomey on Fox 29 Philadelphia.

Toomey dodged hosts' questions 10 times on whether he will vote for Trump. He was so Trump-averse that he even dodge a question about whether Trump should release his tax returns. (Just like Toomey has yet to say whether he endorses the real estate mogul, Trump has yet to release his tax returns.)

Toomey said on the show that voters care more about his stance on security and economic issues than whether he endorses Trump. “I don’t think they care nearly as much as you guys do,” said Toomey to the hosts.

And on top of the all the Trump questions, Toomey has been getting for the past two months, and the consistent TV attack ads about his Wall Street background, Toomey has a new attacker.

On Nov. 3, the National Association for Gun Rights harshly criticized Toomey for his past effort to pass background check legislation in 2013 (the bill came up short and failed to clear the Senate). While Toomey has been avoiding any semblance of an allegiance toward Trump, the NAGR is actually more worried about the possibilities a Toomey-Clinton alliance would have towards gun rights.

“The prospects of a new Clinton-Toomey gun control deal next year are too big for gun rights supporters to ignore,” said NAGR President Dudley Brown in a press release. “That’s why we’re encouraging our members to urge Toomey to abandon his anti-gun positions right now. It simply cannot wait.”

All of this and six polls released this week show Toomey trailing his Democratic opponent Katie McGinty, including a Franklin and Marshall College poll that has McGinty up by 12 points. At a Nov. 3 press conference in the Allegheny County Courthouse, Braddock mayor and McGinty surrogate John Fetterman said Toomey is withering away this week.

“The polls show there is a wave of good judgement among Pennsylvanians right now,” said Fetterman at the press conference. “Pennsylvania voters are coming home and deciding whose side the they are on.”

Representatives from Sen. Toomey's campaign did not respond to request for comment by press time.

Stay tuned, Toomey said on Fox 29 Philadelphia that he will “probably” decide on whether he will vote for Trump before election day. Until then, check out Toomey’s interview on Fox 29 Philadelphia below.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania LGBT-rights leaders wary of Trump presidency's potential impact on state

Posted By on Tue, Nov 1, 2016 at 2:14 PM

  • Image courtesy of Human Rights Campaign
Last week, an employee at one of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s golf courses filed a lawsuit alleging he was fired because he is gay. Eleazar Andres says in the lawsuit that shortly after he revealed he was gay to his co-workers at Trump’s Pine Hill golf course in New Jersey, several of his co-workers threw rocks and golf balls and yelled gay slurs at him. Andres filed a police report, and said in the lawsuit that he was fired shortly after.

Pittsburgh City Council President Bruce Kraus (D-South Side), the city’s first openly gay politician, spoke out last week against the alleged misdeed, calling for more protection for LGBT people.

"In too many places in our country, you can get married on a Sunday and fired on a Monday. No one should suffer harassment because of who they are or who they love — not from Donald Trump or anyone else,” said Kraus in a press release. “This is just another example of the discrimination that LGBT Americans still face far too often.”

Levana Layendecker, of statewide LGBT-advocacy group Equality Pennsylvania, says stories like the lawsuit point to the Republican candidate’s inconsistent record on LGBT equality. In April, Trump said transgender people could use whatever bathroom they felt most comfortable in, but a month later said the decision should be left up to state legislators.

But Layendecker says Trump’s choice as a running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, set in stone that the Republican ticket is anti-LGBT.

“Mike Pence is absolutely the most anti-LGBT governor in country,” says Layendecker. “If that is any indication of what we are looking forward to in Trump’s America, then we are worried.”

Pence has supported “religious freedom” laws that LGBT groups say would increase discrimination and has opposed laws that prohibit LGBT discrimination in the workplace. Layendecker also worries that Trump’s calls to Pennsylvanians to monitor the polls, will only increase voter intimidation, that many in the LGBT community already feel.

“Voter intimidation is very real in the LGBT community,” says Layendecker. “People in the LGBT community are targets for bullying in a real way. And the idea that someone would stand in front of the polling place and intimidate people, that is very worrisome.”

But Layendecker says this has only re-ignited Equality Pennsylvania’s push for equal rights for LGBT individuals. The group has knocked on 100,000 doors (and plans to knock on 100,000 more) to inform people of the potential trouble of the Trump-Pence ticket, and also to talk about its ongoing fight to pass the PA Fairness Act. The bill would provide statewide housing and workplace protections for LGBT people. (Thirty-six municipalities offer protection, including Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, but outside of those, it’s still legal to fire someone for identifying as LGBT.)

Last week, Pennsylvania’s state assembly failed again to pass the act through the legislature. For 12 years, Equality Pennsylvania has been trying to get the Fairness Act through, and this year there was some progress. The act was voted out of committee in the state Senate, but was held up after two Republican Senators called for public hearings on the bill. Now the bill will have to start the process over again come the new year.

Gov. Wolf has pledged to sign the bill if it comes to his desk, and polling completed by Equality Pennsylvania shows that 75 percent of Pennsylvanians support the bill. Layendecker says it’s just a matter of educating everyone, so the whole state can advocate for LGBT rights.

“So much progress has been made on LGBT rights, we have to go back and remind people that those protections don’t exist here,” says Layendecker. “People can’t believe that it hasn't already happened.”

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