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Friday, November 17, 2017

Check out all the Democrats running for endorsement for the open 18th Congressional District seat

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

John Fetterman wants to unite the left to defeat the right in his run for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor

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

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

Some of Pittsburgh’s Republican suburbs are turning blue

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

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.

In a conversation with City Paper on Twitter, Brandon McGinley, a Pittsburgh-based political writer published in many conservative publications, wrote, “It does seem notable, though, that reliably Dem Erie would vote GOP in a type of race that is usually more about party ID than actual issues."

However, Mundy lost in many wealthy suburbs where Republicans typically win, especially in off-year races that are more about party affiliation and turnout. For example, Mundy lost Delaware and Chester counties, longtime Republican strongholds.

Mark Davin Harris, of Pittsburgh-based conservative political consultancy Cold Spark Media, tweeted that Mundy lost Bradford Woods, a bastion of Republicanism in northern Allegheny County and home to Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai.

And the Democratic shift in Allegheny County’s wealthy Republican suburbs didn't stop there.

In McCandless Township, Democrat Carolyn Schweiger flipped a Republican-held council seat. Two Democrats won commissioner seats in South Fayette, a township that backed U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh) with 56 percent of the vote in 2016. Democrats won two open supervisors seats in Moon, including defeating the incumbent president of the board of supervisors, a Republican.

Additionally, a CP analysis of voting numbers shows some pretty drastic shifts toward Democrats in towns that typically back Republicans. CP compared margins of victory in Allegheny County towns in the statewide races for Commonwealth Court to the 2016 U.S. Senate race, since all candidates in those races have minimal connections to the Pittsburgh area and didn't include party outsiders like President Donald Trump.

Ross Township, in the North Hills, voted for Toomey by a three-point margin in 2016, but backed Democrats in 2017 Commonwealth Court races by a five-point margin. In South Fayette, voters backed Toomey by almost a 13-point margin in 2016, but this year flipped to support Democrats in Commonwealth Court by about a two-point margin. That’s a 15-point swing to Democrats in a traditionally Republican town in the South Hills.

Moon Township, in Western Allegheny County, saw a nine-point Democratic swing by these metrics, while Upper St. Clair and Collier Township saw an 11-point change, though these towns still backed Republican statewide candidates overall in both 2016 and 2017.

In a Nov. 8 Facebook post, Upper St. Clair’s newly elected Democratic Commissioner C. Elise Logan wrote that the Democratic gains happened only because of grassroots work. “Dozens of you have spent the last several months volunteering for this campaign,” wrote Logan. “Door-knocking, phone banking, fundraising; you did it all. I am so happy to say that all of our hard work and persistence paid off. We won a decisive victory tonight and flipped a seat in a Republican stronghold from red to blue!”

And that Democratic energy may not have long to wait to strike again. On March 13, voters in Collier, Moon, Upper St. Clair and other parts of Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District, will choose a new U.S. Representative to replace Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair), who recently resigned amidst scandal.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

U.S. Congressional candidate Bob Solomon believes moving left is necessary to flip the 18th District

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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Friday, November 3, 2017

Decoding state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe’s far-right messaging targeting Pittsburgh City Paper

Posted By on Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 4:56 PM

Screenshot of Daryl Metcalfe's post about CP's Sh*t List - IMAGE COURTESY OF FACEBOOK
  • Image courtesy of Facebook
  • Screenshot of Daryl Metcalfe's post about CP's Sh*t List
On Oct. 12, state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry) discovered City Paper’s 2017 Shit List issue, which was first published on Aug. 2. Metcalfe wrote on his personal Facebook page, “I am sharing this pic with you to expose just how profane, vulgar and disrespectful the left is!” and included a picture of a cut-out paper version of his entry on the 2017 Shit List next to the poop-emoji used to illustrate the list.

Metcalfe claimed CP’s article was in the “same area” as an ad for a foster-care service provider in CP’s print issue. He then went on to claim CP and “the left” hate mankind, support abortion, reject morality, support homosexuality, and “hate God and reject His sovereign authority based on all of the above.”

Of course, most of Metcalfe’s claims are nonsense. One, the foster-care ad is actually several pages from the Shit List article. Second, there is no quantifiable way to judge if CP hates or loves mankind, but considering that we have written stories shining a light on issues facing Latino immigrants, African-Americans, LGBTQ Pennsylvanians, rural white people, Asian and African refugees, low-and-middle income Pittsburghers, the wrongfully imprisoned, people suffering from health issues, high-school students in Metcalfe’s district, etc., it’s easy to believe that CP falls on the love-mankind side of the spectrum.

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Monessen Mayor Lou Mavrakis slings mud and potentially encourages voter fraud in last week of race

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

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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Friday, October 27, 2017

U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus is the reason it will be harder to take on big banks

Posted By on Fri, Oct 27, 2017 at 11:32 AM

Keith Rothfus
  • Keith Rothfus
On Oct. 24, President Donald Trump, in a White House statement, applauded the passage of House Joint Resolution 111, which will eliminate a proposed rule that would have stopped financial institutions from forcing legal complaints to be settled out of court. Every indication points to Trump signing the bill into law when it reaches his desk. If and when that happens, customers will be barred from joining class-action lawsuits against big banks and the ilk, and instead will be forced to negotiate with financial institutions, and their powerful legal teams, one on one in arbitration.

And while this appears to be just another Trump action negating a rule created during President Barack Obama’s tenure, this roll-back was actually proposed and sponsored by Pittsburgh-area U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley). In an Oct. 24 statement, Rothfus said of the Obama-era proposed rule, “Plain and simple, this rule will harm consumers and line the pockets of trial lawyers—something that contradicts the very mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It is yet another example of an out-of-touch Washington mandate handed down from this unconstitutional and widely unaccountable agency.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created in 2010 to shield consumers from unscrupulous practices of financial institutions and has been championed by tough-on-Wall-Street politicians like U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). And while Rothfus, who represents Pennsylvania's 12th U.S. Congressional District, claims that rolling back the rule will help consumers, the change comes at an odd time, considering the headlines made by Wells Fargo bank, and its fake-account scandal, and the security breach at credit-monitoring firm Equifax.

The Atlantic Monthly points out on Oct. 25 that consumers could suffer and companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax could actually benefit from the Rothfus’ rule change. It writes: “The nullification of the CFPB’s rule means that people who suffered financial harm or identity theft as a result of either of these large companies’ lapses may not have the right to take them to court.”

The U.S. Department of the Treasury issued a 17-page report before the vote, criticizing the CFPB rule. The Treasury report said the rule costs businesses “extraordinary” fees without providing many benefit to consumers. (It should be noted that the Treasury Secretary is Steven Mnuchin, the former executive vice president of financial giant Goldman Sachs, a company criticized for contributing to the 2008 financial crisis due to shoddy mortgage-lending practices.)

Also of interest is while Rothfus claims that the CFPB rule was an “out-of-touch” mandate, most Americans actually support the work of the CFPB. According to five years of surveys conducted by the Americans for Financial Reform and the Center for Responsible Lending, 74 percent of voters support the CFPB, with 85 percent of Democrats backing the organization and 66 percent of Republicans supporting it.

Even a 2016 Morning Consult poll of Trump voters found that a plurality of 41 percent of respondents believe the Trump administration shouldn’t alter the CFPB.

Rothfus received a lot of negative reactions on Facebook from constituents after he announced his bill cleared the U.S. Senate. The bill easily cleared the U.S. House mostly along party lines, but received a 50-50 tie in the U.S. Senate. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote.

Earl Lynch, who is listed as a constituent on Facebook, commented on Rothfus’ page: “You could have given the consumer the freedom to choose between litigation and mediation when a conflict arose. But you decided to protect the big boys and screw me. You’re not a Republican. You’re a Corporationist.”

Another constituent, Amanda Surratt, wrote, “Thanks for making it impossible for regular folks to stand up to ultra rich & powerful corporations.”

Some constituents even insinuated that Rothfus’ push to change the CFPB is tied to campaign donations he receives from financial institutions and banks. It’s impossible to determine if donations influence Rothfus’ actions, but the congressman has received significant backing from big banks and other financial organizations.

Dollar Bank, the Pittsburgh region’s largest community bank, has given Rothfus $13,700 since 2013, according to campaign-finance-tracking website followthemoney.org and 2017 campaign-finance disclosures. Since 2013, Goldman Sachs has given $10,500 to Rothfus' campaigns, and Equifax even gave $2,000 to Rothfus' campaign this year.

Since 2009, Rothfus’ campaigns have received more than $140,000 from commercial banks. Overall, the finance, insurance and real-estate industries have been among the biggest contributors to Rothfus’ campaigns, funneling about $865,000 to him over the years.

A request for comment from Rothfus' office went unanswered as of press time.

Rothfus currently has four Democratic opponents challenging him for his seat: Aaron Anthony, of Shaler; Tom Prigg, of McCandless; John Stolz, of Shaler; and Beth Tarasi, of Sewickley. Rothfus will face re-election in 2018.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Yes, that’s local U.S. Rep. candidate Tom Prigg in Netflix’s new 'Mindhunter' series

Posted By on Wed, Oct 18, 2017 at 2:51 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Tom Prigg
  • Tom Prigg
Did you see that SWAT member in the background of a scene where a young woman is being held hostage in Netflix’s recently premiered show "Mindhunter"?  Well, he’s from Southwestern Pennsylvania and he’s running for U.S. Congress.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tuesdays with Toomey takes on gun control

Posted By on Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 5:31 PM

Shuana Gibson closes out today's event - CP PHOTO BY REBECCA ADDISON
  • CP photo by Rebecca Addison
  • Shuana Gibson closes out today's event
If it's a Tuesday afternoon, you can usually find a group of at least a dozen protesters outside of the Downtown Pittsburgh office of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). The group has been meeting at the senator's office over the past year to champion causes like healthcare and environmental regulations.

At today's installment of Tuesdays with Toomey, the issue was gun control. The event was one of thousands that have occurred around the country in response to the recent massacre in Las Vegas, where 58 people were killed and more than 500 were injured.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

U.S. Rep Tim Murphy, who allegedly urged mistress to have an abortion, just voted to restrict abortions

Posted By on Wed, Oct 4, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Tim Murphy
  • Tim Murphy
On the afternoon of Oct. 3, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette broke a story of how Shannon Edwards, a Pittsburgh forensic psychologist and the admitted mistress of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair), alleged in a Facebook post that the congressmen urged her to get an abortion when the two had a pregnancy scare. Edwards appeared upset that Murphy's Facebook page was filled with pro-life messaging.

Murphy responded to Edwards' post in a text message, obtained by the PG, saying "I get what you say about my March for life messages. I've never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don't write any more. I will."

And just two hours after this story broke, Murphy voted yes for a bill that would make it illegal for women to get abortions after they are pregnant for 20 weeks. The bill, HR 36, passed the U.S. House by a 237-189 margin. If it passes the Senate and is signed by President Donald Trump, the bill says that "a violator is subject to criminal penalties—a fine, up to five years in prison, or both." The Trump administration supports the bill and as said it "will help to facilitate a culture of life," according to the Huffington Post.

Exceptions to the 20-week rule include if the woman was a victim of rape or incest and if the abortion is necessary to save the mother's life.

Murphy's voting record aligns with his most recent vote to restrict women's abortion access. In 2015, he was given a 0 percent rating by the pro-choice organization National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). And for his 2014 congressional run, he was endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee, Inc., a pro-life group for his "100% pro-life voting record."

In fact, earlier this year Murphy supported HR 7, which would prohibit insurance companies from offering coverage for abortions. Murphy said in a statement in January after the bill passed the U.S. House: “I am so proud the House passed this important bill to clearly stand for the dignity and value of all human life, both the born and the unborn. Passage of H.R. 7 in the wake of the President’s executive action yesterday gives me great hope that moving forward, we will once again be a nation committed to honoring life from the moment of conception onward and ensuring American taxpayer dollars are never spent to end a life before it even begins.”

Sasha Bruce, Senior VP for Campaigns and Strategy of NARAL, said Murphy's vote on HR 36, and many of his other votes, is the "height of hypocrisy."

“I wish it were shocking to learn that yet another Republican congressman tried to cover up an affair by invoking the same abortion rights he tries to deny to others," wrote in an email to City Paper. "You shouldn’t have to be a member of Congress just to access your right to abortion. With his personal and public actions, Congressman Murphy has shown that he seeks to control women in every facet of his life, be it to cover up an affair or to deny all Americans the right to legal abortion."

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