Unlikely duo: Pennsylvania Democrats aim for a united front

FILE - Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman visits with people attending a Democratic Party event for candidates to meet and collect signatures for ballot petitions for Pennsylvania's upcoming primary election, at the Steamfitters Technology Center in Harmony, Pennsylvania, March 4, 2022. The fate of the Democratic Party is intertwined with two elections in Pennsylvania that will be closely watched this year.  John Fetterman could help the party keep control of the Senate.  (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

FILE – Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman visits with people attending a Democratic Party event for candidates to meet and collect signatures for ballot petitions for Pennsylvania’s upcoming primary election, at the Steamfitters Technology Center in Harmony, Pennsylvania, March 4, 2022. The fate of the Democratic Party is intertwined with two elections in Pennsylvania that will be closely watched this year. John Fetterman could help the party keep control of the Senate. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

PA

A candidate is unabashedly direct, willing to adopt progressive positions, doing little to build relationships with party leaders and dominating the halls with a 6ft 8in frame. The other fashions a more moderate image, a deliberate public speaker who became a congressional aide out of college and has carefully cultivated relationships within the party ever since.

Both in style and substance, John Fetterman and Josh Shapiro present radically different profiles.

Yet their fate — and that of the Democratic Party — is tied to a pair of elections in Pennsylvania that will be among the most watched in the United States.

Fetterman offers Democrats the clearest path to a U.S. Senate seat, which could go a long way to helping the party retain control of the chamber.

Shapiro, meanwhile, is asking even bigger existential questions as he faces a Republican rival for governor who embraced conspiracies about the last presidential election and is said to have significant influence over the handling of the next in the first state of the battlefield.

“The stakes have never been higher, the contrast has never been clearer,” Shapiro told members of the state Democratic Party committee at their Saturday meeting in Gettysburg. “This Commonwealth has the power to decide if we have the 51st senator. This Commonwealth has the power to decide whether the great experiment that began in the city of Philadelphia 245 years ago continues.

With the stakes so high, Fetterman and Shapiro are working toward a united front ahead of the fall election.

They are participating in a coordinated campaign funded and led by national and state organizations, including the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Governors Association and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Together, these groups could send more money to Pennsylvania than anywhere else to register and persuade voters in what the state party calls “the largest and longest running coordinated midterm campaign in the US.” ‘History of Pennsylvania’.

Such help from national organizations can be indispensable in a large swing state.

After backing Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign, Pennsylvania moved up to Joe Biden in 2020 — but only by about 1 percentage point. And Democrats preparing for the 2022 campaign already face enormous challenges.

Fetterman suffered a stroke just days before winning his party’s nomination for the Senate race last month and has yet to resume campaigning, or give much indication of when he will. And both candidates will run in a difficult environment for Democrats, weighed down by Biden’s unpopularity and rising prices for daily consumer goods, food and gasoline.

Aides to both campaigns say coordination has already begun.

Fetterman and Shapiro’s campaigns say they’ve been in touch often, and Shapiro said he’s been texting Fetterman since Fetterman’s stroke.

Campaign aides say they expect the men to show up together at larger events, such as rallies, regional campaign office openings or party events to raise money, help increase participation or highlight low cost candidates.

Earlier this month, Fetterman’s wife, Giselle, stood in for him at an event with Shapiro where they spoke at the opening of a coordinated campaign office in Pittsburgh.

“I can’t wait to get John here, and I know he can’t wait to get out too,” Shapiro said Friday. Fetterman’s campaign said in a statement that “we look forward” to campaigning with Shapiro and helping other Democrats in the fall ballot.

For now, Fetterman’s health is hanging over the campaign amid questions about whether he’s been honest about the severity of his condition.

Fetterman’s neurologists and cardiologist did not respond to reporters’ questions, and the campaign took three weeks after the stroke to reveal that he also had a serious heart condition.

Republican campaign coordination is handled by the Republican National Committee, but the party’s top contenders – famed heart surgeon-turned-Senate candidate Mehmet Oz and gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano – so far make no firm commitments. to campaign together.

In a statement, Oz’s campaign said he “supports the Republican ticket in Pennsylvania because he thinks we need to send a message to Joe Biden about inflation, gas prices and the problem of crime out of control” and “looking forward to seeing (Mastriano) on the track this summer.

The campaigns didn’t say if Oz and Mastriano even met, other than exchanging text messages after their respective primary wins. Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to questions.

Mastriano is viewed with suspicion by party leaders and campaign strategists. He spread Trump’s lies about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election and was a leading supporter in Pennsylvania of Trump’s drive to overturn the result. He was also in the crowd outside the US Capitol during the January 6, 2021 attack by Trump supporters after attending the nearby ‘Stop the Steal’ rally.

If they campaign together, it can be uncomfortable: Mastriano, a state senator, supported an Oz rival in the primary and criticized Oz during the campaign trail, at one point suggesting that Oz is truly a liberal and a porter – a nod to Oz leaves his longtime home in New Jersey to race in Pennsylvania.

Additionally, before Mastriano was elected to the state senate in 2019, he repeatedly posted Islamophobic material on Facebook. Oz is Muslim.

In a statement, the RNC said it had been “on the ground” in Pennsylvania since 2016, training and mobilizing activists, registering voters, opening offices and working with the state party and its candidates.

For now, Republicans are trying to portray Fetterman and Shapiro as extreme, but are also focusing on Fetterman’s hit in a digital ad, suggesting he wasn’t honest about the effects of it.

“Did John Fetterman tell the truth about his health? says a narrator in the Republican National Senate Committee’s digital announcement.

Democrats insist they are not worried about Fetterman recovering from the stroke, and Colleen Guiney, the party chairwoman in Delaware County, said it would only be a matter of distracting attention from important issues, such as Republican attempts to destroy county democracy and render the Senate dysfunctional through filibuster.

Fetterman has avoided media interviews as party leaders — including Biden — try to assure grassroots Democrats that Fetterman is fine and can resume campaigning soon.

“I know he can’t wait to get back on the track,” Biden said during his remarks at last week’s AFL-CIO convention in Philadelphia. “He looks good.”

Fetterman and his wife gave a 90-second video speech broadcast Saturday at the State Party Committee meeting in Gettysburg. In it, Fetterman pointed to the Shapiro-Fetterman ticket to confront “the extreme, bizarre and dangerous Oz-Mastriano ticket”.

“I’m so proud to be part of the ticket here,” Fetterman said. “And this year we have Josh Shapiro to be our next governor. And let me let you know that we’ll be back very soon, to be back 100% to be back in each of our 67 counties, because Josh and I have always committed to a full campaign of all 67 counties.”

Shapiro and Fetterman have a political relationship dating back to at least 2016, when Fetterman hosted a fundraiser for Shapiro at his home in Braddock.

Still, Shapiro and Fetterman have at times had a strained relationship over conflicting positions on the state pardons board — and a report days before the primary election by The Philadelphia Inquirer underscored that.

Citing unnamed people as a source, the Inquirer reported that Fetterman had threatened a few years ago to run for governor against Shapiro — unless Shapiro voted for certain candidates before the pardons board.

Shapiro did so, but denied that politics drove his votes or that such a conversation with Fetterman ever took place, and a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office called the claim “nothing less than outrageous”. Fetterman remained silent about it.

Democrats say it’s not a talking point among activists and are instead focusing on what’s at stake in the Nov. 8 election.

This election is about choosing between candidates “who work for an effective government that will serve all of our communities,” Guiney said, and candidates aligned with “people who are willing to sacrifice the fundamental fabric of our democracy for personal gain.” .

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Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at twitter.com/timelywriter

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Follow AP for full midterm election coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ap_politics

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