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George Soros’ team is jumping back into Pa. politics with the billionaire’s cash | Clout

A team connected to Soros has created a political action committee to spend money in statewide and local races.

A team connected to billionaire George Soros has created a new political action committee in Pennsylvania to make independent expenditures in statewide and local races. The PAC's new chairperson said it will not be involved in the 2020 Democratic primary for state attorney general.
A team connected to billionaire George Soros has created a new political action committee in Pennsylvania to make independent expenditures in statewide and local races. The PAC's new chairperson said it will not be involved in the 2020 Democratic primary for state attorney general.Read moreManuel Balce Ceneta / AP File

What happens when an intriguing development sails headlong toward a provocative rumor in Pennsylvania politics? Sometimes, they fly right by each other without colliding.

First, the development: Political players connected to billionaire George Soros filed on May 2 to create an independent expenditure political action committee to support statewide and local candidates in Pennsylvania.

That PAC is run by the same folks who set up another Soros-funded PAC to support Larry Krasner in the 2017 Democratic primary for Philadelphia district attorney.

Then, the rumor: The hot chatter in Harrisburg and Southeastern Pennsylvania is that Krasner’s wife, Common Pleas Court Judge Lisa Rau, who is stepping down from the bench on Oct. 4, may intend to challenge Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in next April’s Democratic primary.

Shapiro was publicly assailed two weeks ago by Krasner. A Nazi analogy was invoked. It was a thing. Shapiro allies quickly piled on Krasner. Lots of bad blood.

Any connection between the development and the rumor? Turns out, no.

Whitney Tymas, chairperson of the new PAC — Pennsylvania Justice and Public Safety — on Thursday said it “will not be involved” in the Democratic primary for attorney general. She didn’t lay out what it will be involved in, however. The Soros camp tends to keep quiet about plans.

Tymas served as treasurer of the PAC that spent nearly $1.7 million to help Krasner win in 2017 and has operated other Soros-funded PACs dedicated to electing prosecutors around the country.

Krasner and Rau did not respond to requests for comment. Shapiro, who received $5,000 from Soros during his 2016 campaign, stayed mum, too.

Clout’s rumor forensic team’s best guess: Rau’s announcement two weeks ago that she is leaving the bench two years before the end of her second 10-year term inadvertently sparked speculation that she is targeting Shapiro. Krasner’s praise then for his wife, when he called her “the finest insurgent political candidate I ever saw when she ran for judge,” may have helped fuel that.

Rau, who has said she is ready “to move on to my next adventure,” is limited in what she can say about politics or other ambitions until she leaves the bench.

We hear that Shapiro, widely expected to run for governor in 2022 if he secures a second term next year, has been keeping close track of the Rau rumor. That probably tickles Krasner.

Independent season — winners, losers, and appellants

It can be tough duty running as an independent or for a smaller political party for a City Council seat in Philadelphia. The law requires more signatures on nomination petitions to get on the general election ballot than Democrats and Republicans are required to submit to get on the primary ballot. The odds are long. And you have to survive the legal challenges.

Sherrie Cohen was booted from the ballot by Common Pleas Court Judge Abbe Fletman after a hearing last week. Cohen filed to run for Council at large as a Democrat in the primary, stumbled amid controversy, withdrew from that race, and then tried to run as an independent under the banner “A Better Council.”

That ran afoul of a section of the state Election Code that says a candidate who files to run as a member of a political party in the primary can’t try again as an independent in the general.

Cohen, now appealing to Commonwealth Court, says her voluntary withdrawal from the primary — she needed a judge’s order for that, since she missed the state deadline to quit — makes her eligible to run in the general election.

Velda Wilson, a supporter of 4th District Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., won one and lost one in trying to knock challengers to the three-term Democrat off the ballot. Matt Baltsar, a Libertarian, is appealing Fletman’s ruling to remove him from the ballot, claiming the initial challenge to the validity of his petition signatures didn’t have enough detail. Karla Cruel, an independent in the 4th District, survived her challenge by arguing that she was not properly served with the paperwork. Wilson has appealed Fletman’s decision.

A fourth would-be candidate, Charlie Hills, failed to sue her way onto the Nov. 5 ballot for Council at large under the “Millennials in Government” banner. Hills claimed she was given the runaround in City Hall on the day she tried to file. Fletman ruled she missed the deadline. Hills’ attorney said he did not intend to appeal.

Seven candidates faced no challenges. For at-large, that includes: Libertarian Maj Toure, independents Joe Cox and Clarc King, Term Limits Philadelphia candidate Steve Cherniavsky, and Working Families Party Candidates Kendra Brooks and Nicolas O’Rourke. In the 8th District, that was Greg Paulmier.

Clout’s TV guide

Clout hears that the interview U.S. Attorney William McSwain taped last week for Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show is likely to air next week, perhaps on Wednesday. McSwain also has been feuding with Krasner.

Carlson returned to the air this week from a sudden vacation, after claiming during his show that white supremacy is “not a real problem in America.” We’ll see if Carlson’s advertisers also return from their — ahem — vacations or continue to stay away from his show.