March 6th Ups & Downs
Thousands of Pennsylvanians request mail-in ballots, former Vice President Joe Biden receives more endorsements in the keystone state, and one Republican candidate is now left standing in the 17th Congressional District. All of that and more are in this week’s Ups and Downs.
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The Caucus and Spotlight PA. Journalists covering state government are once again making a positive impact for Pennsylvanians. A week after the Caucus and Spotlight PA published a story that revealed House lawyers had “blacked out spending details,” the state House announced on Thursday that they are reversing course and will disclose how lawmakers spent hundreds of millions in taxpayer money.
Election Reform. Thousands of Pennsylvanians want to vote via mail-in ballot for the upcoming primary election. Due to the recently passed voter reform in the state, this upcoming primary will be the first election in the state that mail-in ballots will be accepted for reasons outside of absentee voting. According to a release from Gov. Tom Wolf, more than 20,000 voters have already requested the main-in ballots in the two weeks it’s been available.
Rochelle Bilal. The recently elected Philadelphia sheriff said that she’d end “two decades of scandal after scandal after scandal” upon entering the office, but a recent Philadelphia Inquirer story shows that she may not be following up on that campaign promise. Brett Mandel, a top aide to Bilal who served as the chief financial officer, was “fired and escorted out” of the office after he raised concerns about “controversial spending practices.” The Inquirer reports that Mandel said Bilal spent out of a multimillion-dollar fund of money from fees collected by the office for sheriff’s sales, serving writs, and other duties, which he described as a “slush fund.” While Bilal declined to be interviewed by the Inquirer, her office did not deny any of Mandel’s allegations.
Wayne Evans. The former Mayor of Scranton was appointed on Thursday by Gov. Tom Wolf to serve on the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania, according to the Scranton Times-Tribune.
Debbie Birx. The Carlisle Sentinel reports that Ambassador Birx, a Carlisle High School graduate, was appointed as the White House coronavirus coordinator. The White House statement said Birx will report to Pence and will be supported by National Security Council staff and will also join the task force led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
Brian Sims. The Pennsylvania Ethics Commission wrapped up a three year investigation into Sims travel fees and speaking engagements that resulted in just a $750 fine. The commission cleared the Democratic state Rep from Philadelphia of 2 of 5 allegations facing him. Billy Penn describes the result of the outcome of the investigation as “vindication, largely” since the three violations were “technical.” Sims said in a statement to Billy Penn that despite the process being “harmful” to himself and his family, he “never had any doubt that the ethics commission would agree completely that my actions were ethical and appropriate.”
Bloomberg PA Staff. The bad news for Pennsylvania staff of the former New York City Mayor making a bid for the Democratic Party presidential nomination? Bloomberg officially ended his bid for the White House on Wednesday. The good news? The staff will remain busy in the keystone state as Bloomberg announced that he is funding an “anti-Trump operation” in six battleground states, which includes PA.
Joe Biden. The former Vice President and Democratic presidential hopeful keeps racking up support in Pennsylvania. This week, a dozen county commissioners in southwest Pennsylvania officially endorsed Biden prior to his largely successful Super Tuesday outing, while Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) announced her support for Biden’s White House bid on Thursday afternoon, making her the sixth Democrat in the state’s Congressional delegation to endorse Biden.
Sean Parnell. The Trump backed candidate in the 17th Congressional District can officially look past the primary now. A few months ago, the GOP race for the western PA district appeared to be a crowded field, but Parnell is now officially the lone Republican standing after Jesse Vodvarka ended his campaign this week after the Beaver County Times reported that a legal challenge was made to Vodvarka’s nominating petitions. Although Vodvarka and Parnell were the lone candidate that officially filed for the race, Scott Timko, a former Air Force pilot and small business owner, who was the first to formally announce his entrance into the race against Lamb in August 2019, decided to instead launch a primary challenge to state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) for the 12th state House District. Brian Thomsen, a former Green Beret, MBA and business consultant, who announced he was seeking the GOP nod in October 2019 did not file nominating petitions for the seat. The contest between Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Allegheny) and Parnell has now begun.
Phil Dague. Downingtown has a new mayor. On Thursday morning, Phil Dague, a lifelong Downingtown resident, was sworn in as their newest mayor after winning the appointment Wednesday during the community’s monthly Borough Council meeting night over three other candidates, according to the Daily Local News. He fills the vacancy left by Josh Maxwell, who resigned from the position after being elected to serve on the Chester County Board of Commissioners in November.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
— US Rep Brendan Boyle (@RepBrendanBoyle) March 5, 2020