Is the Hill School, a posh boarding school on 200 bucolic acres in Pottstown, the ideal environment to learn about Rust Belt blue-collar politics?

Donald Trump Jr. has insisted just that since at least 2016, when his father was running for president.

The 1996 alumnus did so again last week at a reelection rally for Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican seeking a second term. There, Trump Jr. claimed special insight into postindustrial burgs where voters loyally supported Democrats for generations.

Trump described decamping from Manhattan at age 12 — where he lived in a tower topped with the family name — to learn the ways of the working class in the borough in Montgomery County’s northwest corner. Trump is now 41.

“So I lived in the Rust Belt through my formative years,” Trump told the small Kentucky crowd. “And I saw a lot of that old Democratic, blue-collar tradition.”

Clout hears a Bruce Springsteen song in all this. Working title: “My Home[Potts]town.”

Some context: Tuition and room and board at Hill is $61,410. That is $15,776 more than Pottstown’s median household income of $45,634.

The school counts among its alumni Gov. Tom Wolf, a secretary of state, a secretary of defense, an ambassador, and members of the U.S. Senate and House. It reached out to start trying to improve the surrounding community two years ago, in part to address an isolated “town and gown” reputation.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat once friendly with President Donald Trump, spied some good news for his party in Junior’s claims.

“He grew up in the most expensive part of the most expensive city in America, living in a building with his name on it,” Rendell said. “If he’s the best the Republicans can get to represent the middle class, they’re in bigger trouble than we thought.”

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat and former chairman of the Montgomery County commissioners, was stunned by the comments.

“Is he serious? Did he really say that?” Shapiro said. “I think it’s more blather from the Trump organization and yet another example that, for all their talk, they really don’t understand the challenges that folks in rural Pennsylvania are facing today."

Trump Jr. has leaned on the borough before. Addressing the Pennsylvania delegation at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Trump cited his “formative years” in Pottstown. And speaking to the Pennsylvania Republican Party in Hershey last year, Trump said Pottstown taught him what “Rust Belt America was like.”

Hillary Clinton won 58% of the 2016 vote in Pottstown, while Trump took 37% there and won Pennsylvania by less than 1%.

John Dougherty, left, and City Council candidate Bobby Henon, right, talk at Famous 4th Street Deli on Election Day in 2011.
David Maialetti / File Photograph
John Dougherty, left, and City Council candidate Bobby Henon, right, talk at Famous 4th Street Deli on Election Day in 2011.

Philly GOP calls for halt to Councilman Bobby Henon’s polling calls

The callers from a polling firm were pitching loaded questions last week in City Council’s 6th District, which runs north along the Delaware River from Port Richmond to East Torresdale.

They suggested that Republican Pete Smith owed back taxes, supports Trump’s “racist policies,” and fought against the Tacony Civic Association when it opposed a “sex club” in the area. Smith said those claims were “so horribly negative” and false that many who heard them didn’t believe any of it.

Still, Republican City Committee associate general counsel Ross Wolf fired off a cease and desist letter to the polling firm, Dynata, which said it was hired by Thirty Ninth Street Strategies, a campaign consultant for City Councilman Bobby Henon, a Democrat seeking a third term while under federal indictment.

Dynata told Clout it relied on Henon’s consultant for the language in the polling calls, which are no longer being made.

Henon previously paid Thirty Ninth Street Strategies $16,000 for preprimary polling, even though he faced no opponent in a district where 65% of the voters are registered Democrats. The firm also has done work for the councilman’s other employer, Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Henon was indicted on Jan. 30 along with Local 98 leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty and six other union officials, all accused of embezzling more than $600,000. They have all pleaded not guilty.

Frank Keel, a spokesperson for Local 98 and Henon’s campaign, pivoted to further attack Smith, casting him as “a whiny, desperate candidate” while claiming the cease and desist letter was an “unethical stunt.”

Philadelphia Democratic City Committee Chairman Bob Brady says his party will select a replacement next week for Common Pleas Court Judge Sandy L.V. Byrd, who withdrew this week from the Nov. 5 general election.
Jessica Griffin / File Photograph
Philadelphia Democratic City Committee Chairman Bob Brady says his party will select a replacement next week for Common Pleas Court Judge Sandy L.V. Byrd, who withdrew this week from the Nov. 5 general election.

A ‘magic seat’ will do the trick for Democrats in judicial politics

Philadelphia’s Democratic City Committee suddenly has what some call a “magic seat” — the ability to fill a slot on the Nov. 5 general election ballot for Common Pleas Court judge without requiring the candidate to campaign or spend the kind of money usually necessary to win.

That will alleviate some racial consternation that arose in the party after the primary election, where the six candidates to advance for seats on the court were white.

Judge Sandy L.V. Byrd, on the court since 2000, was up for a retention vote for another 10-year term. He withdrew from the ballot Tuesday. Byrd, who turns 70 next month, would have faced mandatory retirement at 75 if retained by voters.

Democratic Party Chairman Bob Brady said the retirement will help alleviate the primary concerns when ward leaders gather next week to select a replacement candidate.

“We’re going to definitely lean toward a person of color,” Brady said. “And I will let the people of color pick that person of color.”