PoliticsPA: ‘Race card’ comment stirs controversy in Trivedi-Gerlach contest
By Alex Roarty
Congressional candidate Manan Trivedi and other Democrats are criticizing Republican Jim Gerlach after his campaign spokesman said Trivedi “played the race card” by raising money from Indian-American groups, with at least one Democratic congresswoman questioning whether Campbell should be fired.
But the spokesman, longtime Gerlach aide Mark Campbell, remained defiant in the face of the criticism, saying he has nothing to apologize for while reiterating that Trivedi is the only candidate using his race in the campaign.
The controversy began with a story published Friday morning by The Hill newspaper, in which the Indian-American Trivedi said Gerlach is implicitly using his race against him in the 6th District battle.
“There are some signs that he might be pushing the ‘he’s not one of us’ arguments,” Trivedi told the newspaper.
In the article, Campbell rejected Trivedi’s criticism, saying the Republican’s campaign is simply saying the Democrat doesn’t share the “common-sense values” of 6th District residents.
“The only one who has played the race card here is him, by going to Indian-American groups to raise money,” he told the Capitol Hill paper.
That statement brought an avalanche of criticism from Democrats on Friday, some of whom, though not Trivedi, suggested Campbell should be fired.
Trivedi, a Berks County resident former battlefield surgeon in the Navy who served in Iraq, said in a statement that no American citizen should be shut out of the Democratic process.
“These are hardworking Americans who pay their taxes and contribute to society,” he said. “Congressman Gerlach’s campaign is saying that somehow they aren’t good enough to participate in our democracy. Like many Americans I am so proud of my heritage and grateful for all of the support I’ve received and believe absolutely no one, for any reason, should ever feel shut out of the democratic process.”
Other Democrats, from neighboring Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), took their criticism a step farther. They questioned if Campbell should be fired.
“Like many others, I was appalled at the racially insensitive comment made by the Gerlach campaign,” Schwartz said in a statement. “What is worse though, is that Congressman Gerlach has remained silent, neither refuting the statement or taking appropriate action regarding his staff.
“Jim Gerlach has clearly lost touch with our area if he thinks that these racially insensitive comments are going to help him win him this election,” she continued. “People rightfully should expect their Representatives to encourage greater participation of all Americans in the democratic process, as voters, volunteers, and supporters. Jim Gerlach should immediately refute his campaign’s racially insensitive comments towards Indian Americans and take appropriate action regarding his staff.”
Wasserman Schultz asked if it was considered “playing the race card” when she raises money in the Jewish community.
“If this person were on my staff I would fire him and/or Congressman Gerlach should fire this person and/or Congressman Gerlach should apologize,” she said.
But in an interview with PoliticsPA on Friday afternoon, Campbell denied he had anything to apologize for and reiterated that the only candidate to discuss race was Trivedi himself. The spokesman questioned whether the quote was completely accurate but said whether it was or not didn’t matter.
“I still have nothing to apologize for,” he said.
He called any insinuation that Gerlach was making Trivedi’s race an issue “ridiculous.” The Republican’s campaign is focused on highlighting its opponent’s liberal policy agenda, which he said includes support for single-payer health care and raising taxes.
The spokesman doubled down on his earlier comment that Trivedi is the only candidate to mention race.
“The only one to talk about Trivedi’s race is Trivedi, and he does that every time he tries to raise money,” said Campbell, who added that he thinks the Democrat is a “laughable amateur.”
Trivedi is considered one of two Democrats in the state with a chance to unseat a Republican incumbent this year, although the task has become far more difficult as the political climate has worsened for Democrats. Gerlach has represented the left-leaning 6th District since 2002, surviving tough challenges in 2004 and 2006 to hold the seat in years for less favorable to Republicans that this one.