The 10 Democrats running in the Fifth Congressional District by and large share the same ideas: they want to raise the minimum wage, protect undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers, expand pre-K, and stand up to President Trump.
But at a forum last night in South Philly, things grew a bit heated when the discussion turned to money in politics.
Here are a few highlights.
The plot thickens
Earlier this week, we told you that the super PAC Progress in PA-05 was supporting former federal prosecutor Ashley Lunkenheimer in the Democratic primary. The committee hasn't disclosed its donations and hasn't responded to requests for comment.
Lunkenheimer's rivals seized on the issue Thursday night, and a voter pressed her to disclose the group's donors.
What ensued was a series of awkward deflections.
She said three supporters had told her that "they believe so much in the importance of this race and my candidacy that they would like to provide additional support to my candidacy."
Lunkenheimer declined to reveal the supporters names but said they had also donated directly to her campaign, and that she expected the group to publicly disclose its donors with the Federal Election Commission.
"If my supporters would like to support me in a different way — this is the system that we have," she said at another point. "I don't control them doing that."
She added that, like the other candidates, she wants to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United, which helped open the door to unlimited spending by outside groups.
Democrat Larry Arata said he had heard that Lunkenheimer's mother, Molly Shepard, had launched the PAC. A spokeswoman for Shepard didn't return requests for comment Friday.
Johnny Doc, Russian oligarch?
It's no secret that Philadelphia's powerful electricians union is going in big for Democrat Rich Lazer, a former top aide to Mayor Kenney who has done consulting work for the union.
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 98 recently launched a super PAC that placed a $200,000 ad buy to promote Lazer's candidacy on cable. And on Friday, Local 98 dropped $82,740 on hoodies, signs, and canvassing operations to support Lazer, according to Federal Election Commission records.
"One person, one labor leader, should not be the dictator…one person should not have that much power," Arata said Thursday night, in an apparent reference to Local 98 business manager John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty. "That's not democracy. That's an oligarchy. That sounds like Russian politics, not a democracy."
Of course, so-called independent-expenditure groups have proliferated in recent years, and Dougherty is hardly the only person using them.
Lazer said he was proud of the support he's received from organized labor and said he had read about the super PAC, Middle Class PAC, in the newspaper. He said he, too, supports campaign-finance reform.
Early in the debate, a moderator asked the candidates if they supported legalizing marijuana. Lindy Li said yes — and then name-dropped Philly's most famous rapper.
"I actually had the great fortune of running into Meek Mill today," she said, "and we talked about criminal justice reform."
Mill was released from prison this week on unsecured bail after serving a controversial five months behind bars for violating probation stemming from 2009 firearms and drug convictions.
The primary is May 15.