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Bill McSwain lands a clean jab against Josh Shapiro

Shapiro’s camp told Clout last week he doesn’t make endorsements in races for district attorney. But McSwain’s camp found video of Shapiro doing just that.

Pennsylvania State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, left, and former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, a Republican, right.
Pennsylvania State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, left, and former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, a Republican, right.Read moreInquirer File Photos

Clout called a draw last week when Bill McSwain and Josh Shapiro engaged in a little early gubernatorial race pugilism, using Philadelphia’s Democratic primary for district attorney as the ring.

But McSwain came back for another round. And this time he connected with a jab.

McSwain, the former U.S. attorney in Philadelphia and a likely 2022 Republican candidate for governor, threw the first punch, challenging Shapiro, the state attorney general widely seen as the early Democratic front-runner, to take a stand in the contest between DA Larry Krasner and challenger Carlos Vega.

It was a political squeeze: If Shapiro sided with Krasner, he’d align with the uber-progressive prosecutor whose reform policies might not play well in some of Pennsylvania. If Shapiro endorsed Vega, he’d face the wrath of progressives.

Shapiro appeared to duck the punch. A spokesperson said he never endorses in DA races because, as the state’s top law enforcement official, he has to work with the winner either way.

McSwain called that “a cop-out.”

But then he ducked when asked if he accepts that Pennsylvania’s 2020 results were valid. Acknowledging that reality could anger supporters of former President Donald Trump, who continues to push the Big Lie that the election was stolen. Saying no could raise questions about McSwain’s grasp of reality.

Hence, the draw.

» READ MORE: Last week's Clout: The Philly DA’s race becomes the first 2022 debate for Josh Shapiro and Bill McSwain

But then McSwain’s camp found a 26-second Facebook video from 2019. In it, Shapiro says, “I’m asking you to vote for my friend Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser” for district attorney in Somerset County.

Down goes Shapiro.

Will Simons, a Shapiro spokesperson, apologized for not being more clear in his initial statement, saying this week that Shapiro doesn’t endorse in primary races, and drawing a distinction between endorsing in a general election and choosing between fellow Democrats.

“He’s never endorsed in a primary for DA and that’s not going to change now,” Simons said this week.

Shapiro has taken sides in other Dem vs. Dem races, including for Scranton mayor. DA races are different because Shapiro has to work with the winner no matter what, Simons said. But that still doesn’t explain why Shapiro raised his voice in the Somerset County race, since he ultimately had to work with the Republican who won.

McSwain on Wednesday tried to pin Krasner’s win on Shapiro, tweeting ”Congratulations, @JoshShapiroPA, for getting Larry Krasner reelected as Philly DA. You showed a lot of courage. Shapiro/Krasner 2022!”

Here, Clout rules that McSwain over-swung.

Krasner won in a rout. And it’s hard to believe Shapiro’s voice would have had much effect either way. But that’s not the point. McSwain is looking for a liberal foil to pin to Shapiro. If that tweet is anything to go by, this isn’t the last we’ll hear about the Philly DA in the governor’s race.

Lights, cameras, Reclaim!

OK, this is a little meta. Krasner allowed a PBS documentary crew to follow him during his 2017 campaign and his early days as the city’s top prosecutor. The series, Philly D.A., is now airing nationwide but is on hold in Philadelphia until after November’s general election.

Enter Adam Conover, who used to host the show Adam Ruins Everything, using comedy to debunk misinformation and misconceptions. He was in town Sunday with a film crew for his new Netflix show, The G Word, which will examine how people interact with the government.

The show is profiling Reclaim Philadelphia, the progressive group that emerged from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. Reclaim has put up a series of impressive wins, starting with Krasner in 2017.

Conover’s crew filmed a Reclaim get-out-the-vote rally Sunday at a South Philly rec center, where Krasner and several judicial candidates spoke. Conover told Clout he expects the episode to air in 2022.

Amanda McIllmurray, a Reclaim cofounder and fan of Conover’s former show, said she didn’t believe it when producers first called to discuss the project.

“I thought we were getting punked,” she said.

Judge: Ozzie can’t ban ‘Ozzie’

A federal judge ruled last week that former Congressman Ozzie Myers can’t keep jurors from hearing the terms Ozzie or former congressman in his upcoming trial on bribery charges in an election fraud case.

Myers had argued he might not get a fair trial if the jury connects him to the 1970s Abscam scandal that ended his career. He notoriously declared then, “Money talks in this business and bulls— walks,” while soliciting $50,000 from an FBI agent posing as an Arab sheik.

That got Clout wondering where Ozzie, whose first name is Michael, got his nickname. We found his childhood buddies thought he looked like “Little Oscar,” the very short driver of the first Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, which made stops at their South Philly playground near the company’s factory at Front and Packer.

Myers’ pals started calling him Oscar Myers. The nickname eventually got South Philly-ized into Ozzie.

Myers, accused of bribing an elections worker in 2014 and 2016 judicial races, has denied wrongdoing.

Clout provides often irreverent news and analysis about people, power, and politics.