Blue America, a progressive PAC, will formally endorse challenger Aryanna Strader tomorrow against incumbent Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Chester) in PA’s 16th district. The group channels donors and grassroots supporters nationwide to help the candidates it supports.
Blue America founder Howie Klein called Strader one of the most positive and energetic congressional candidates he’s seen running this year anywhere in the country.
“The Pennsylvania legislature made the 16th district more open to an independent-minded populist like Aryanna than it has been in the past,” he said. “If she can get her message out, she’ll have a very good chance of beating Joe Pitts the same way Matt Cartwright beat Tim Holden in the 17th. And like Matt, Aryanna is part of the next generation of dynamic, progressive leadership the country is looking for.”
Strader, 30, is U.S. Army veteran, small businesswoman and mother of two.
Blue America PAC says of itself that it, “doesn’t work in safe districts where our help isn’t needed. We look for tough races where a little encouragement, some financial help and some advice could go a long way, especially with candidates unlikely to get much help for the DCCC or the DSCC.”
And indeed, Strader will have to work hard to prove that she’s a competitive candidate – including any financial help the PAC could bring. Open Secrets, a nonprofit research group that records the use and effect of money in U.S. politics, observes that Joe Pitts has raised $793,081 so far this 2011-2012 cycle, 78 percent of it ($616,085) from PACs. Strader struggles behind with only $50,286 so far. 2 percent of her funding, a mere $1,000, has been from PACs.
She has the difficulty of being a candidate running in a district historically unfriendly to her party: the newly drawn 16th district has voted Republican 56 percent of the time on average.
However, there is hope for the Democrats; in 2008 Obama won the district 50.2 percent to 49 percent. Further fueling Democrats’ hope, as Blue America posted on Facebook Monday, Strader’s district is “newly redistricted and distinctly less red.”
In order to get the cash she needs to realize the Democrat’s hope, Strader first has to get others to see it. Strader and Blue America’s goal is to make potential donors view her campaign as viable. No matter how much they’d like to see her succeed, donors won’t risk their money unless they think there’s a good chance of returns.
Strader may find support in the many progressive activists across the country who oppose Pitts for his strong – and vocal – pro-life legislation. MOMocrats call Pitts “virulent, anti-choice”, and Blue America describes him as a “obsessed anti-Choice fanatic”.
Meanwhile, Pitts spokesman Gabe Neville sees the PAC’s endorsement as a detraction to Strader’s campaign and criticized Blue America.
“This will raise Strader a few dollars, but it will also cost her votes. ‘Blue America’ is so left-wing it brags about attacking even thoughtful Democrats like our neighbor Congressman Tim Holden,” he said.
“In their statements, Aryanna Strader and ‘Blue America’ repeatedly express their desire to fight about abortion, but not once do either of them use the words ‘jobs’ or ‘unemployment.’ That speaks volumes about how out of touch they are. Joe Pitts, on the other hand, is actively focused on creating jobs and reviving our economy through smarter government, new markets, cheaper energy, sustainable budgets, and stable tax rates.”
He also knocked her residency, noting that she moved to Chester County in July 2011 and doesn’t actually reside within the newly drawn 16th.
And though the district is less Republican after the redraw, it has only gone from a Cook PVI of R+8 down to R+6. For example, Lois Herr ran in the previously drawn district in 2010, 2006 and 2004. She lost by margins outside a slight change in PVI (30.8 percent, 17 percent and 29.9 percent, respectively).
Tuesday at 2pm Strader will live-blog with Blue America members at CrooksandLiars.com for an hour. Blue America is also asking for contributions to Strader’s campaign through a public Act Blue page, and notes that the PAC’s average contribution falls around $45.