June 12th Ups & Downs
The lone contested statewide primary has come to a close, management and staff at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette continue to feud, plus Erie County gets a community college. All of that and more are in this week’s Ups and Downs.
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Nina Ahmad. We have a winner in the lone statewide contested primary. Former Deputy Mayor of Philadelphia Nina Ahmad declared victory in the six candidate primary on Thursday afternoon after she extended her lead to close to 70,000 votes over Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb. Ahmad and Lamb were neck and neck the first few days after the election, but she opened up her lead after more mail-in votes were tallied in the southeast, where she performed strongest. Ahmad will face Republican Dauphin County Controller Tim DeFoor in the fall for the statewide office.
Keith Burris and Karen Kane. Reporters at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and those at the top haven’t seen eye to eye for some time, but the disconnect may be at a point of no-return, now. This most recent feud stems last week from when the Post-Gazette’s Alexis Johnson, a black reporter was removed from covering protests in honor of George Floyd due to her sending out a tweet comparing the recent property damages to those left in the aftermath of Kenny Chesney concerts. Johnson’s tweet went viral and fellow journalists voiced their support for her with the hashtag, #IStandWithAlexis. Things continued to develop this week when journalists spoke out about the Post-Gazette removed two protests and police brutality stories from its website, staffers asking advertisers to pressure the Post-Gazette as a result of the ongoing rift between management and staff, plus the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh calling on Executive Director Keith Burris and Managing Editor Karen Kane to resign. Oh and even Giant Eagle is stopping sales of the Post-Gazette at its stores as well.
PA House Legislative Black Caucus. On Monday, black members of the Pennsylvania House took control of the chamber in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and pleaded with the need to consider passing a number of police reform bills in response to the killing of George Floyd. House Speaker Mike Turzai said that House leadership would review and discuss the reform legislation and call for a special session in response to it to Gov. Tom Wolf.
Erie Education Advocates. The three-year effort was successful. The Pennsylvania Capital-Star reports that the state Board of Education approved Erie County’s application to establish a new community college in a 9-6 vote, although one of the state Legislature’s most powerful Republican lawmakers opposed it. Empower Erie, a non-profit group, led the charge in supporting efforts within the county to have the community college. Erie County officials and those at the non-profit will have “60 days to establish a board of trustees,” then “The board will then make decisions about the school’s physical location, finalize course offerings and generally prepare the community college to offer classes.”
Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. Ana Meyers, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, stepped down this week after posting on Facebook that those protesting the death of George Floyd “disgust me” and added that “all lives matter,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. WHYY first reported the May 31 Facebook post, which now appears to have been deleted, ““This is not okay, friends. None of this is okay. Not the murder of an innocent person no matter the color of his skin. Not the looting. Not the attacks on the police.” She went on to write, “I guarantee that if your house is robbed you will be calling the police to protect you. Think about THAT. These protesters disgust me. All lives matter!”
Richard Kluskiewicz. The Middletown councilman posted a political cartoon on his Facebook page labeled, “Defund the Democrats,” which PennLive reports is from an “extreme right-wing conservative site,” that “featured a character as a black man pinned to the ground labeled “Black Communities Matter,” and another character labeled “decades of Democratic policies,” in a police uniform with his knee on the other character’s neck.” PennLive continues to report that the councilman has also posted a “series of references against transgender people, including an altered photo posted of Gov. Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine in Nazi uniforms with a vulgar sexual reference to Levine.” Kluskiewicz removed some posts and issued an apology that only addressed the Floyd cartoon.
Philadelphia. While Allegheny County seemingly was proven to be the gold standard in Pennsylvania for the primary election of tabulating results for mail-in ballots, our friends in the state’s largest county hasn’t had the same success. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Lai reported that as of Wednesday night, which was 8 days after the primary election, that 72,470 ballots had been counted in Philadelphia, while 88,186 had still not been counted. Some delayed results will be expected for the general election from some counties, but Politico’s Holly Otterbein reported how this could spark election night madness if Trump uses the delays to “discredit the results,” or even “declare victory after rural areas where he is strongest have finished tallying mail ballots, but before Philly is done.”
Bryan Cutler. Although Speaker Mike Turzai will officially resign on June 15, it appears this Lancaster County Republican is slated to take on the powerful role. PennLive reports that House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler is likely to be the next Pennsylvania House Speaker and even included quotes from state Rep. Greg Rothman who said that, “If Bryan Cutler wants to be Speaker, he’s going to be Speaker.”
Steve Santarsiero. Lower Makefield is no longer a “dry town.” The Bucks Local News reports that the township voted yes to a referendum on whether to allow the sale of liquor licenses in the township. Not only did this pass, unofficial results showed that the ballot question won “handily” in every precinct across the board in the township. Santarsiero described it as “great news” and “a long time in coming.”
Paul Abel. The Scott Township Commissioner made anti-LGBTQ comments directed at Health Secretary Rachel Levine, during a public meeting with other commissioners. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, while talking about the state’s reopening process, Able said that he was “tired of listening to a guy dressed up like a woman,” referring to Dr. Levine, a transgender woman.
Janet Diaz. Her race against state Sen. Scott Martin will be an uphill battle, but this Lancaster County Councilwoman deserves some recognition for her successful underdog campaign for the nomination for the state Senate’s 13th District. LNP | LancasterOnline reports that Diaz defeated Lancaster Commissioner Craig Lehman, who was supported by the local party in the primary.
Maria Musti Cook. Cook, a Common Pleas Judge in York County, will take over as York County’s president judge on Jan 2, according to the York Dispatch. Cook, who was first elected as a judge in the county in 2005, was unanimously selected to be their next president, for a term that will last for five years. Current President Judge Joseph C. Adams said that Cook will be the first woman to hold the position in the county.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
please do not get any ideas. online bullying is not a joke. https://t.co/8PH1yfuqS8
— Pennsylvania Treasury (@PATreasury) June 8, 2020