As Pa. votes, abortion rights group EMILYs List launches $1M push to flip the Legislature

October 21, 2020

Pennsylvania Capital-Star: As Pa. votes, abortion rights group EMILYs List launches $1M push to flip the Legislature
By: John L. Micek

Yet another well-funded and influential issues group is launching an effort to build the ranks of Democrats in the state House and Senate, and perhaps even flip both chambers in what party faithful will hope will be a reprise of 2018’s Blue Wave election.

The abortion rights group Emily’s List says it will spend more than $1 million to flip the General Assembly and install Philadelphian Nina Ahmad in the state Auditor General’s Office, the only open row office post this campaign cycle.

The push by EMILYs List comes in addition to a $1.4 million campaign by Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun violence reduction group founded by former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. In September, the group launched a digital and direct-mail campaign targeting a dozen state House seats, mostly in suburban Philadelphia, and a quartet of Senate seats.

In a statement exclusively obtained by the Capital-Star, EMILYs List said the Pennsylvania effort was part of a broader, nationwide effort to elect pro-abortion rights women Democrats to legislatures across the nation. With the U.S. Supreme Court all but guaranteed to swing more conservative with the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, advocates are bracing for abortion rights fights in state capitols across the country.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, a Planned Parenthood volunteer, has vetoed a host of Republican-authored bills aimed at severely restricting access to abortions or banning some procedures entirely. But Wolf is term-limited out of office in 2022, which means the Democrats need to expand their ranks, or seize control of both chambers entirely, to keep future anti-abortion bills at bay.

“Pro-choice Democratic women are key to flipping the Pennsylvania state House and Senate blue, and we’re proud to stand with our 35 endorsed candidates who will get the job done and with Nina Ahmad in her historic bid for auditor general,” EMILY”s List President Stephanie Schriock said. “While the Pennsylvania GOP continues to play politics during the ongoing pandemic, our candidates are focused on bringing relief to women and working families who continue to bear the brunt of this unprecedented economic and public health crisis. With early voting in full swing and so much at stake for reproductive freedom, health care, and redistricting in 2021, we are confident that our historic investment will make the difference in the final push toward Election Day and help get our women over the finish line.”

Democrats need to win four seats to tie the 50-member state Senate, and five seats to flip it. In the House, Democrats need to capture nine seats to take control of the 203-member chamber. All of the House and half the Senate face the voters this year.

With the exception of a brief idyll between 2006-2010, the House has been squarely in Republican hands since the 1990s. Democrats similarly have not been in the majority in the Senate since the 1990s. Democrats have been trying to whittle away at GOP advantages in both chambers, making major inroads in the 2018 midterm elections.

All told, EMILYs List has endorsed 35 Democratic, pro-abortion rights women, incumbent and challengers alike, this cycle.

In the Senate, they are: Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, and Sen. Pam Iovino, D-Allegheny. And hopefuls Carolyn Comitta, currently a state House lawmaker from Chester County, Janet Diaz, who’s running in the Lancaster County-based 13th District; Amanda Cappelletti, who’s running in the Montgomery County-based 17th District, and Julie Slomski, who’s contending for the 49th Senate District seat in Erie County.

House incumbents getting the nod include Reps. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny; Summer Lee, D-Allegheny; Liz Hanbidge, D-Montgomery; Patty Kim, D-Dauphin; Wendy Ullman, D-Bucks;  Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester; Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester; Christina Sappey, D-Chester; Leanne Krueger, D-Delaware; Jennifer O’Mara, D-Delaware; Kristine Howard, D-Delaware; Mary Isaacson, D-Philadelphia, and Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Philadelphia.

Democratic candidates who are challenging Republican incumbents or who are running in open seats include: Emily Kinkead (HD-20); Emily Skopov (HD-28); Marlene Katz (HD-29); Lissa Geiger Shulman (HD-30); Jessica Benham (HD-36); Michele Knoll (HD-44); Brittney Rodas (HD-105); Lindsay Drew (HD-106); Joanna Bryn Smith (HD-120); Jill Dennin (HD-147); Nancy Guenst (HD-152); Dianne Herrin (HD-156); Deb Ciamacca (HD-168); Claudette Williams (HD-176); Ann Marie Mitchell (HD-178), and Regina Young (HD-185).

Our Stuff.

Stephen Caruso leads our coverage this morning with his in-depth look at the suddenly competitive 10th Legislative District in western Pennsylvania. The seat is currently held by GOP state Rep. Aaron Bernstine, who lost the endorsement of his own party, and who is facing calls for resignation from House GOP leadership in Harrisburg over some highly inflammatory videos posted to social media. Bernstine, who has refused to resign, is throwing himself on the mercy of hometown voters, even as a Democrat and independent look to defeat him.

The state House has again fallen short of the votes it needed to override one of Gov. Tom Wolf’s vetoes. This time, the bill was one that would have overridden the administration’s restaurant and bar occupancy limits. Caruso has the details there, too.

The state Senate paused to pay tribute to retiring Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, who’s calling it a career this year after two decades in Harrisburg. Elizabeth Hardison has the details on the encomiums.

President Donald Trump campaigned in Erie on Tuesday, repeating the false claim that the country is turning the corner on the pandemic, even as cases and deaths continue to rise, Erie Correspondent Shayma Musa reports.

Speaking of which, national Democrats have launched a new commercial tied to Trump’s Erie appearance, blasting Trump for holding yet another super-spreader event in a key battleground state as infections there spike. The new spot, not at all subtly, is called ‘Infecting Us.‘

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Bruce Ledewitz says it’s time for the U.S. Senate to ditch the filibuster. And opinion regular Lloyd E. Sheaffer, who’s one proud grandpa, is putting his faith in young Americans to lead us out of our current morass.

Citing expense records, the Pittsburgh Current reports that state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, has been renting an office ‘that does not appear to exist.’
Black Lives Matter protesters in Philadelphia are transitioning into a ‘new season’ of activism, the Inquirer reports.
PennLive illustrates the state of the pandemic in Pennsylvania in a series of charts (paywall).
An erroneous email has told some Lehigh County residents who have already voted that their ballot is on the way, the Morning Call reports.
The Citizens-Voice has the rundown on Tuesday’s 9th Congressional District debate.
GoErie has a photo gallery of Tuesday’s presidential visit.
New reporting shows that President Donald Trump, who likes to brag about being tough on China, has a secret Chinese back account, NYMag’s Intelligencer reports.

What Goes On.
The House and Senate come in at 11 a.m.
11 a.m., Capitol Steps: Parents rally for education stimulus bill
11:30 a.m., Capitol Steps: Reps. Margo Davidson and Austin Davis introduce ‘Lloyd’s Law” to end discrimination against people who carry naloxone.
1 p.m., Capitol Steps: ‘The State of Our Democracy’ event focusing on gift bans, redistricting, and other good government causes.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
8 a.m.: Breakfast for the House GOP’s East-Central Caucus
8 a.m.: Virtual breakfast for Rep. Jared Solomon
5 p.m.: Reception for Pa. Senate candidate Cris Dush
6 p.m.: Reception for Washington County Commissioner Nick Sherman
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and virtual or not, you’re out a very real $9,200 today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to LancasterOnline reporter Travis Kellar, and to longtime Friend O’The Blog, Andy Enders, of Harrisburg, both of whom celebrate today. Congrats, gents. Enjoy the day.

And now you’re up to date.