One of the things I wanted to do when I started this site was to cover and analyze an open Congressional race in an area carried by Donald Trump in 2016. Little did I know at the time my own Congressional district would fit that description perfectly with incumbent Tim Murphy’s announcement that he will not seek re-election in 2018 due to a well-publicized scandal involving extramarital affairs, abortion, and God only know what else. So the PA 18th it is, I suppose.
I think I am in a unique position to cover and comment on this race. I’ve lived in the district my entire life and I’ve been involved in nearly every election cycle since 2006 as a volunteer, candidate, or elected official. I know many of the players, and I have some very definite ideas on what a candidate needs to do in order to win one of the most Gerrymandered Congressional districts in the nation. I know what the process looks like behind the scenes and will be able to explain and analyze things you may not see anywhere else.
So when I talk about covering the race, what do I mean? If you ask anyone who has ever run for public office, they will tell you the media generally does a really, really bad job covering political campaigns, especially legislative campaigns. Scraping together a cookie-cutter preview article and a half-assed endorsement just isn’t enough to help voters make an educated decision.
Here is my plan for covering the race (both the Primary and General Elections):
- Providing actual information about the candidates and their position on various issues of importance, plus campaign websites and social media information.
- Explaining the process of what a campaign timeline looks like and analyze what kind of campaign each candidate is running; are they focusing on raising money, organizing a ground game, sitting around eating Cheetos, etc.
- Breaking down the inevitable barrage of negative ads and tell you who is lying the most.
- Following the money of any Super PACs that end up involved in the race.
- Giving the candidates and their campaigns/supporters a platform to reach the people of the 18th District. If someone cares enough to submit something from a campaign, I’ll run it as long as someone is willing to put their name on it and it can be factually verified.
- Having said that, I’m toying with the idea of doing some blind items about behind-the-scenes information, but that’s far from set in stone. Need to figure out the right balance and some ground rules first.
- Examining the media coverage of the race, which is really important. I’ve seen some things with local newspapers being politically influenced by advertisers that would make you sick, and to be honest, I wouldn’t totally trust any of them. If a newspaper runs a garbage editorial or some idiot on talk radio is clearly on someone’s payroll, we’ll call them out on it.
- Following campaign finance information to let you know how much money everyone is raising and more importantly, who their donors are. It’s highly revealing in many cases.
- Keep track of endorsements and let you know what that endorsement actually means in terms of money and organizational support.
- Taking all of this information, analyzing it, and offering an honest endorsement list on the race.
Here is what we’re NOT going to do:
- Bash Tim Murphy over and over again. Yeah, he f*cked up, he knows it, and he’s paying the price for it. We’ll talk about Murphy where it is relevant to the 2018 election, but we’re not going to dance on the man’s political grave. If that’s what you’re looking for, look elsewhere. This is about the future, not the past.
- Get brazenly partisan. Anyone who frequents this site knows where our political leanings lie, but we’re going to play this straight and be as objective as possible to present an accurate picture. For example, in the primaries (assuming they are contested on each side), we will be sure to look through the eyes of the voters and say, “If you want the most conservative candidate, vote for X. If you want someone who is more fiscally conservative but moderate socially, then you should vote for Y.” Yeah, I’m sure there will be some pretty entertaining editorializing along the way just for fun, but anyone who thinks we’re backing a particular candidate is nuts. I do know some of the announced candidates but have not spoken to them since they have announced.
- Be afraid to call people out. There is a ton of behind the scenes garbage that goes on during a campaign, and if a candidate, staffer, interest group, or anyone else with a vested interest in the race steps over the line, we’ll talk about it. Having said that, there are no axes to grind here and no agenda.
It should be a lot of fun, especially if we get two hotly contested primaries. I’ll be seeking out guest contributions to ensure you’re hearing more voices than just mine to make sure you’re getting multiple viewpoints. I also intend to share our traffic numbers as a way of letting the campaigns know people are paying attention to the race, plus I know campaigns go nuts over stuff they can’t control.
The storylines are fascinating. How will Republicans react to the fallout of the Murphy scandal? Will they coalesce around a candidate or fight it out? Will the far-right try to float an ultra-conservative candidate to get another member of the Tea Party into Congress? These divides in the Republican Party are really ugly at times.
How will the candidates deal with Donald Trump? He carried the area in 2016 and has plenty of support locally, so can a Democrat win by bashing Trump relentlessly? Similarly, will a Republican be cautious to not alienate moderates and independents by aligning themselves with Trump? If not, we could see those voters repudiating the Republican candidate as a proxy vote against Trump. Pretty fascinating stuff for political junkies.
And the single biggest storyline will be how the Democrats go after a seat they really need if they want to take back the House in 2018. How much influence will the DCCC carry in this race, especially in the primary, will be interesting. Local politicos are notoriously distasteful about consultants and the overall national strategy for congressional races, which I will describe in depth using real-life examples from the past ten years. I guess what I’m trying to say is: How will the Democrats find a way to f*ck this up? It’s a real concern among Democrats, and that kind of fatalistic thinking could kill a viable campaign before it even starts.
Expect to see pieces on the race relatively soon and recurring at regular intervals as the campaign process heats up. In the meantime, feel free to offer suggestions or ideas. This project is about helping the people make an informed decision, so your input is critical.
Let the games begin.