Pennsylvania’s Health Secretary gets nominated by the Biden administration, statewide row offices are sworn-in, plus the mayoral race in Pittsburgh has begun. All of that and more are in this week’s Ups and Downs.
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Rachel Levine. A historic appointment. Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, has been nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Health at the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Levin would become the first openly transgender federal official confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
DeFoor, Garrity, and Shapiro. A new era has begun in Harrisburg. The three statewide row officers were sworn-in for a new term. Republican Tim DeFoor was sworn-in as Auditor General. He is the first person of color inaugurated to a statewide row office in Pennsylvania. Republican Stacy Garrity, who defeated incumbent Democratic Treasurer Joe Torsella, was sworn-in as Treasurer. Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro was the lone incumbent to secure a second term of the three statewide row offices.
Pittsburgh Mayoral Race. A primary in Pittsburgh. After months of rumors swirling about interest in the office, state Rep. Ed Gainey officially announced his entrance into the Democratic primary for Pittsburgh Mayor, challenging incumbent Bill Peduto.
PA Inaugural Celebration. All-in-all, President Joe Biden being sworn-in was a reason to celebrate for Pennsylvania Democrats. However, the celebration itself, hosted by law firm Ballard Spahr, showed a fault line within the president’s coalition. The firm has been a major player and donor in Democratic politics in PA for years. It also provides legal services in opposition to unionization efforts, as the Pennsylvania Capital-Star reports. Progressives criticized the host and the debate portends how various party factions are likely to wrangle over the next few years.
Jeff Pyle. While Sec. Rachel Levine was appointed to serve in President Joe Biden’s administration, a GOP state lawmaker made a transphobic comment on social media about the newly nominated Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services. A few Democratic state reps on social media have pointed it out and the General Assembly’s LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus has called on the House Republican Caucus and Speaker to reprimand Pyle. No word yet on if he will be reprimanded for the transphobic attack.
Rich Fitzgerald. As far as celebrity look-alikes go, you can do a whole lot worse than Jeff Daniels. After President Joe Biden reentered the Paris Climate Agreement, Sen. Ted Cruz recycled a line from former President Trump: Pittsburgh > Paris. Whatever the nuanced intra-party debates in Allegheny County, yinzers didn’t take kindly to a Texas Senator speaking on their behalf – especially a Senator who recently led the effort to disenfranchise the entire city. Enter County Exec Rich Fitzgerald, who blasted Cruz in an interview that went viral and prompted internet buzz that Fitz looks like Daniels. It made the rounds, including at the Guardian, which picked up the Pittsburgh City Paper report abaht it.
PA Gambling Revenue. Gambling revenue decreased by more than 20% in the commonwealth in 2020. The AP reports that although online gambling and sports betting skyrocketed, Pennsylvania’s 13 operating casinos, fantasy sports operators and truck stops took in $2.65 billion in gross revenue in 2020, which is a decrease from the $3.4 billion taken by the 12 casinos during 2019.
Darlene Harris. The former Pittsburgh City Councilwoman was dealt a defeat in court this week when a judge upheld a $4,150 fine for Harris not filing a report with the city’s Ethics Hearing Board by the first business day in each of the three months prior to the election in 2019, the Tribune Review reports.
Danny Ceisler and Joe Kerwin. The Democratic Bucks DA hopeful put his campaign on hold after being called to serve on the U.S. Army Domestic Unrest Crisis Management Team at the Pentagon late last week. Freshman GOP state Rep. Joe Kerwin was also called to serve down in the nation’s capital with the Pennsylvania National Guard.
Dave Arnold’s Legacy. The 49 year-old state Senator from Lebanon County died after battling brain cancer. His staff and those in the state legislature shared their condolences to his family and thanked him for his service to the commonwealth.
Frank Burns. The Cambria County Democrat declared victory over the state’s liquor control board when the commonwealth court sided with Burns 2019 request to know how many deactivated restaurant liquor licenses are available for auction in each county, the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat reports.
Jessica Benham. The Allegheny County Democrat was detailed in a story by the Today Show about becoming one of the only politicians with autism across the U.S. and as a bisexual woman, one of a few LGBTQ women in politics. Benham, who was recently sworn-in to represent the 36th House District, said she’s looking forward to serving her community, while also drawing attention to the problems of marginalized and excluded people.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Sen. Pat Toomey with the tweet of the week.
Thankfully I’ve convinced Mitch and Chuck to include rehearsal time in the forthcoming power sharing agreement. Our Blinding Lights cover needs a lot of work. https://t.co/U9oAy7OSfI
— Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) January 20, 2021