The left-wing uprising that led to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in N.Y.? It happened first in Pa. | Clout
"Everyone's at risk," said one political insider. "Everything's up for grabs."
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn't the only socialist who annihilated a Democratic Party boss this year.
If you live inside the Beltway, the 28-year-old's June victory over 10-term Rep. Joe Crowley in a Queens-Bronx district might have come out of nowhere. But anyone paying attention to politics in Pennsylvania shouldn't have been shocked.
After all, before there was a left-wing uprising in New York, it happened in the Keystone State.
Four candidates endorsed by local chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America — Elizabeth Fiedler, Kristin Seale, Summer Lee, and Sara Innamorato — won their primaries for state representative this spring. Last month, young Berniecrats also took control of two Democratic wards in South Philadelphia.
The similarities between their and Ocasio-Cortez's victories are striking: Lee and Innamorato crushed Paul and Dom Costa, members of a powerful Democratic dynasty in Western Pennsylvania. Fiedler beat a candidate supported by Philly's Electricians union, which for years has been one of the biggest kingmakers in the city, on its home turf. The insurgents in the First and Second Wards, meanwhile, won power in areas long controlled by the Democratic machine.
In New York as in Pennsylvania, the left-wingers relied on the back-to-basics strategy of knocking on voters' doors. They're also all young. Plus, gentrifying neighborhoods appear to have fueled Ocasio-Cortez's win; Fiedler's district is rapidly changing, too. Ditto for the First and Second Wards.
It makes Clout wonder: Will socialist victories mostly be confined to gentrifying areas? Which, if any, local officials are vulnerable in this politically tumultuous era? And would Bob Brady, longtime boss of Philadelphia's Democratic Party, have been ousted if he'd run for an 11th term in Congress?
We surveyed a handful of political insiders in the city about the progressive uprising. To get their unvarnished opinions, we offered them anonymity.
Again and again, people told us that incumbents should watch their backs. "Everyone's at risk," said Political Insider #1. "Everything's up for grabs."
That person continued: "The Democratic machine doesn't do what it was created to do anymore. It was supposed to be set up to have neighborhood cadres very familiar with the voters who could persuade voters on Election Day. Now it's a Potemkin village. It's a cardboard cutout."
Politicos said one elected official, in particular, could be swept under a left-wing wave: City Councilman Mark Squilla, whose district includes parts of South Philly won by Fiedler. He is up for reelection in 2019.
"It's a transient, younger, progressive district," said Political Insider #2. "He's an old-school politician."
Political Insider #3 said Squilla might benefit, though, if four or five lefty candidates run against him and split the progressive vote.
For his part, Squilla said he hopes the left-wing movement lasts: "The more people get involved, the better."
Squilla took office in 2012. "Every elected official is at risk for being challenged. Once you become elected, you're no longer an outsider," he said. "When I ran, I ran as a community activist. Then you become 'part of the machine.' "
Squilla predicts that every district Council member will face a challenger next year. If that happens, it'd be a game-changer: Such lawmakers are rarely opposed. Squilla also expects more than 30 candidates to run for City Council's seven at-large positions.
Not everyone is convinced the socialists have staying power, though.
"Folks look at this as a movement that will die," said Political Insider #4, summarizing what other insiders are saying about the leftists' successes. "Part of that is wishful thinking."
Bob Brady’s next job: Casino consultant?
Is Bob Brady going to learn the casino business?
The congressman confirmed for Clout this week rumors that he may be taking a job next year as a consultant for SugarHouse, the casino on the banks of the Delaware River in Fishtown.
"It's something that is in very, very early, ethically preliminary stages," Brady told us. "Nothing concrete at all."
What? You thought the 73-year-old was going to spend his retirement wandering the beach in North Wildwood? Not a chance, even though he is hosting his annual "Brady Bunch Beach Party" fund-raiser at Flip Flopz there Saturday.
Brady's attorney, legal powerhouse Richard Sprague, is a minority owner in the casino. Brady said Sprague is a "dear friend" who had long said there was a place for the congressman at the casino.
"I've got offers everywhere," said Brady. "It's not that people want me to work for them. It's that they don't want me to work for their opponents."
This isn't the first time Brady has tried to get into the casino business. Back in 2012, he pushed then-Mayor Michael Nutter to support a plan for the city to set up a nonprofit to partner with a casino company for Philadelphia's second state gaming license. Nutter was lukewarm, and the casino company later dropped its application for the license.
Brady is also no stranger to SugarHouse. He threw a packed party there to kick off the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Imagine House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi yelling over Jerry Blavat crooning from the stage while Mummers roamed the floor. It was wild.
Leach on Wolf: Not ‘a profile in courage’
It's been six months since State Sen. Daylin Leach expressed remorse "for ever saying or doing anything that has made anyone uneasy, uncomfortable, or distressed." That came in response to an Inquirer and Daily News story about eight women and three men who had accused him of subjecting female staffers to bawdy comments or unwanted touching.
Nowadays, Leach sounds like a man more focused on his indignation at being accused. That's what we heard this week on the "Brews & Views" podcast when conservative host Matt Brouillette interviewed the liberal Leach.
Leach seemed particularly perturbed that Gov. Wolf called on him to resign from office after the report.
"He didn't even call me. I mean, nothing," Leach said. "I mean, it wasn't a profile in courage."
It's not every day you hear a Democratic state senator talk like that about a Democratic governor.
Unlike Leach, the governor's tone hasn't shifted six months later. Asked this week if Wolf still thinks Leach should resign, his spokesperson J.J. Abbott said, "The governor's position has not changed."