While Bernie Sanders’ supporters still disagree about Hillary Clinton, they’re uniting behind down-ballot candidates | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

While Bernie Sanders’ supporters still disagree about Hillary Clinton, they’re uniting behind down-ballot candidates

“This movement is working toward a progressive goal in the bottom-up revolution.”

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When asked about progressives’ criticisms of her, McGinty told City Paper, “Look, nobody is going to insist on a stronger environmental cop on the beat than I am.”

She also said that she will be working on another issue near and dear to the progressive heart: getting money out of politics.

“One of my priorities as United States senator will be to overturn Citizens United, and certainly there couldn’t be a bigger difference between myself and Sen. Toomey on all of these issues,” she says. McGinty highlighted her endorsement from the group End Citizens United, which favors a constitutional amendment to reverse the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that effectively ended restrictions on political spending. 

She added that after Sanders endorsed her, she had “the honor” of receiving a personal phone call from him. “And here’s where I want to give him such a high five,” she says. “He wanted to make sure that I had as much energy as he has, and I assured him that I did. God bless him.”

Austin, of Bridges Not Walls, is certainly on board with McGinty when it comes to the goal of ending Citizens United, which he says is “basically what has corrupted democracy.”

Western Pennsylvania progressives will have more chances to vet McGinty when she campaigns here later this week.

Less controversial are Shapiro and McClelland, whom local progressives have described using terms like “amazing,” “impressive” and “strong progressive voice.” 

“Clearly Erin McClelland is the type of person who’s going to represent our people,” Ussery says, citing her positions on labor and education. “Shapiro, he’s really shown he has an interest in reforming the criminal-justice system in Pennsylvania. We want to know specifically how he plans to do that. I heard him speak at the [Democratic National Convention]; he was wonderful, very engaging.”

Fetterman and his wife, Gisele — who also traveled to the DNC as a pledged Sanders delegate — have come out strong for both Shapiro and McClelland. Gisele Fetterman will be joining McClelland for an event later this month; John Fetterman says that Shapiro is going to “re-imagine what this [AG] office can accomplish.”

Shapiro says that while “people who are violent and pose a threat to society should be locked up … we need to make sure our prisons are no longer clogged with people who have mental illness, are suffering from drug addiction and are nonviolent.” 

He says once in office, he would work to implement the recommendations from the bipartisan Justice Reform Initiative (JRI) working group that he chairs. The group formed to address Pennsylvania’s incarceration rate — the highest among Northeastern states — and the $2 billion spent annually on Pennsylvania’s corrections system.

“Special interests have enough lawyers in Harrisburg. It’s time for the people to have a tough attorney general on their side,” he says.

Despite their compromise, enthusiasm and work on down-ballot candidates, Fetterman still has words for the Bridges group who are avoiding talking about Clinton.

“They’re entitled to their positions, and I have nothing but good things to say about them, but I would respectfully disagree [about] the top of the ticket,” Fetterman says. “This really is a crossroads of this country.”

While Ussery is not excited, she’ll cast her vote for Clinton. Meanwhile, Austin sat on a panel to discuss national security and veterans’ issues with Clinton’s foreign-policy adviser.

Some Bridges members say they’ll vote for the Green Party’s Jill Stein. But Austin and Ussery say that working for the current ticket top-down is worth it, to use the candidates they have to lay the groundwork for ensuring their issues will be front-and-center in upcoming Democratic contests.

“We’re already looking ahead to how many people are going to be up for election,” says Austin. “Who’s going to be running against bad politicians?” 

Ussery adds: “The reason we’re building this movement is because I want this to be the last time that I have to vote against somebody instead of for somebody.”


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