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The outsiders, constitution edits, and political food fights

Plus, what the NRA spent on Pa.'s federal lawmakers.

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
June 8, 2022
Political machines, constitutional changes, gun lobby, Browne concedes, bonus beef, bugging out, and potato roll pushback. It's Wednesday.

Pennsylvania's Latino population grew 43% between 2010 and 2020, and the five-member state panel charged with drawing new legislative maps sought to reflect that increase by creating opportunity districts: areas with minority populations large enough to sway an election. 

But Spotlight PA found few candidates of color actually succeeded in these districts in May's primary — the first election since their creation — indicating other hurdles to political representation remain.

Among them: financial resources and party support, the candidates say. 

"Those barriers are placed there too often to prevent BIPOC individuals to get into office," said Yamelisa Taveras, who ran in the Democratic primary for Lehigh Valley's new 14th District state Senate seat.

Taveras added: "When we go into different races, we are going with passion and purpose — not with money and resources."

THE CONTEXT: Following the May 2022 primary, Spotlight PA analyzed races in five opportunity districts to examine the initial effect of such seats on the representation of marginalized communities.

At least one candidate of color ran in either the Democratic or Republican primary in each of those districts. Only two of the six candidates won their primary contest, one of whom ran unopposed.

Many of the candidates described an uphill battle, as they had few resources and a lack of "traditional" political experience, making it difficult to navigate the party system and gather endorsements or donations. 

Take Norberto Dominguez, who launched a run in May's Democratic primary for the new 22nd District state House seat in the Lehigh Valley — a district with a voter makeup that's 53% Hispanic and 67% minority. 

Dominguez gathered enough petitions to qualify for the ballot but dropped out, saying he was worried the petitions might not hold up if challenged and that he didn't have enough funds to counter such a challenge in court.

Before his withdrawal, Dominguez's campaign had raised just over $1,000. The candidate who won the Democratic primary — Josh Siegel, a well-connected Allentown public official — raised over $42,000, with large donations from unions and local businesses. 

"People of color do not have access to that machine," Dominguez said.


"Any legislation designed to deny opportunities is both disturbing and dangerous and the governor would veto this legislation."

Beth Rementer, spokesperson for Gov. Tom Wolf, on Tuesday's state Senate passage of a GOP-led bill barring trans women from women's sports
Not much to say about this @yatsko shot of Harrisburg except wowza. Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
FOCAL POINTS: GOP lawmakers pushing a raft of amendments to Pennsylvania's Constitution — a means of avoiding the governor's veto pen on contentious issues — will soon decide which of the proposals will actually get floor votes on their way to potentially becoming ballot questions, the AP reports. The final list is expected before the legislature's summer recess. Spotlight PA tracks the full slate here.

NRA SPENDING: The National Rifle Association has spent nearly $3 million supporting and opposing members of Pennsylvania's congressional delegation during their careers, including $1.45 million in favor of U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), who has a "C" rating from the pro-gun advocacy group. The totals were reported by the Bucks County Courier Times with data from watchdog group OpenSecrets.

PRIMARY UPDATES: Veteran state Sen. Pat Browne (R., Lehigh) has conceded in his primary race against a farther-to-the-right challenger named Jarrett Coleman in what The Morning Call dubs a "political earthquake." In Lancaster County primary news: LNP reports that the narrowed recount sought by a 2020 election denial group in House Speaker Bryan Cutler's Republican primary race yielded no change.

BONUS PLAN: Gov. Tom Wolf wants to use his discretionary share of federal pandemic relief funds to offer up to $50 million in combined bonuses to roughly 45,000 unionized state employees who remained on the job, with pay, during the coronavirus pandemic, PennLive reports in a subscribers-only article. While their unions laud the move, state Rep. Seth Grove (R., York) says it's reckless and unnecessary spending.

FLY FIGHT: Was all the spotted lanternfly bashing for nothing? That's the question posed by The Atlantic in a piece on the impact of kill-on-sight orders meant to curb the invasive species' spread in Pennsylvania. The orders whipped up quite a frenzy and even inspired an app for tracking lanternfly kills. But the magazine says some of the most shocking damage came not from the bug, but from the humans trying to stop it.
BALLOT PIVOT: Pennsylvania Republicans loudly protested the counting of undated mail ballots in 2020 but didn't when candidate David McCormick fought for their inclusion in tallies from last month's narrow U.S. Senate primary, the AP reports. McCormick conceded the race on Friday but an automatic recount continued. Final results are due today.

SCAM CASE: Former Philadelphia congressman Michael "Ozzie" Myers admits he paid one city election official to fraudulently add votes for candidates who hired him for their races from 2014 to 2016, and convinced another to do it for free. The Inquirer reports Myers is facing up to 20 years in prison on related counts. Voter fraud remains exceedingly rare.

COURSE CHANGE: Penn State University is reportedly no longer interested in firing assistant professor Oliver Baker over a scuffle with a counterprotester at a pro–vaccine mandate rally on campus, per the Daily Collegian. Related criminal charges against Baker were all cleared months ago.

ROLL OUTS: Restaurants as far away as San Francisco are boycotting Martin's potato rolls from Chambersburg over the owner's support of far-right gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano. Billy Penn reports nationwide burger chain Shake Shack is under pressure to do the same.

GREAT RUN: Philly Uber driver Ryan Long's 16-game win streak on Jeopardy! ended Monday with $299,400 in winnings cleared, via 6ABC. Long tweeted his thanks and is set to return for the champions tourney. Think you could beat him in a brain battle? The Inquirer has a pop quiz.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

This week's theme: English words with Greek origins
Yesterday's answer: Chronology

Congrats to our daily winners: Mike B., Karen W., Starr B., Irene R., Vicki U., Ted W., Susan D., Beth T., Heidi B., Michelle T., Cynthia R., Judith D., John W., Kimberly S., Becky C., Kimberly B., Susan N.-Z., Don H., Barbara F., Bruce B., Craig W., Tish M., Dan W., Daniel M., George S., Mark O., George S., Michael S., Nancy S., John P., Dianne K., Elizabeth W., Doris T., Ronnee G., Karen F., Bill S., Suzanne S., David S., Dorothy C., Sharon P., John A., Kim C., Jim A., Myles M., Glenn B., and Caitlin F.
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