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Dems bet on abortion rights to flip Pa. House

Plus, Wolf signs $2B tax package, dozens of other bills into law.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
November 4, 2022
Post-Roe election, into law, license plate update, officers requested, 'utter chaos,' affirmative action, and 'Amish soul food.' It's Friday.

We're a small news organization that punches above our weight and produces among the very best local journalism in the country. But we need your help to sustain and grow our vital work in 2023.

We've been challenged to raise $125,000 from our readers by December 31st, and if we do it, the Lenfest Insitute for Journalism will DOUBLE it. That means your gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar.

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This end-of-year fundraising campaign is our most important of the year. I know you're reading PA Post each morning, so can we count on your generosity this season to help us reach our goal?

— Colin Deppen, PA Post editor

Six-term Republican state representative Todd Stephens has beat well-funded Democratic challenges in his Montgomery County district before — buoyed by a centrist record that includes support for abortion rights.

But in the post-Roe v. Wade era, having an "R" next to his name has become more of a liability than ever. Democrats are counting on it. 

While abortion is front and center in contests for governor and U.S. Senate, Democrats also hope it influences voters down the ballot as the party looks to seize its best chance to take control of the state House in years. 

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Democrats bet on abortion rights as winning issue as they seek control of Pa. House.

THE CONTEXT: The Democrats' goal of a state House majority is more realistic under Pennsylvania's redrawn legislative maps.

And Stephens' seat is a must-win if that's going to happen.

While the incumbent has name recognition and a significant record to run on, his Democratic challenger, Melissa Cerrato, has one key endorsement that he lacks this time: that of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania.

The decision was not without some internal hand-wringing.

In a July memo to Planned Parenthood's state board and executives, a lobbyist said the group should back Stephens, warning: “If we walk away from incumbents who have voted with us, and do not endorse them, regardless of their party... our political credibility is damaged..."

But in a post-Roe world, the calculus has changed.


"Joshua Hall made terrifying threats to the staff of a United States Congressman whom he disliked rather than attempting to effect change through any of the freedoms of expression that all Americans enjoy."

—U.S. Attorney Damian Williams on Joshua Hall of Mechanicsburg pleading guilty to death threats made against U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.)
This is Spotlight PA's most important fundraising campaign of the year to sustain our nonpartisan, independent investigative journalism in 2023.

If we raise $125,000 by Dec. 31, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism will DOUBLE it. That means your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, making your end-of-year generosity and impact go twice as far, and for a vital cause.

Make a tax-deductible gift now »

Thanks to the 43 people who gave yesterday, including Sandra S., who said, "Spotlight is terrific and it is a necessity in Pennsylvania!!" Join Sandra and give now »
Read our complete coverage, plus key dates, campaign finance data, sample ballots & more at our Election Center 2022 website.

Spotlight on the Issues: Where Mastriano and Shapiro stand on:

»  College Funding & Student Debt
»  Energy & Environment
»  Crime & Justice
»  LGBTQ Rights
»  Abortion, Medicaid, & Opioids
»  Rural Health Care & Broadband
»  Taxes & Business Regulations
»  Election Security & Voting Rights

A complete listing of Spotlight PA voter guides:  

»  Your complete guide to voting in the Nov. 8 election
»  Everything you need to know about mail ballots
»  Your complete guide to the candidates for governor
»  How to vet the candidates on your midterm ballot
»  No constitutional amendments on the ballot, but big ones loom
»  How to serve as a poll worker on Nov. 8
»  These Pa. voters haven't missed a Nov. election in 50+ years
»  How Spotlight PA will cover Pennsylvania's 2022 election

En Español:

»  Una guía básica para investigar a los candidatos
»  Cómo trabajar como trabajador electoral el 8 de noviembre
»  Todo lo que necesita saber para votar por correo
»  Su guía completa de los candidatos a gobernador
»  Una guía completa para las elecciones del 8 de noviembre

Support Spotlight PA's vital election coverage by making a gift now.
» CAPITAL-STAR: PA-17 congressional race goes 'down to the wire'
» CNN: Oprah endorses Fetterman over Oz in Pa.'s US Senate race
» STATELINE: Election deniers are already disrupting the midterms
» THE HERALD: Mercer Co. official blames USPS for ballot delays
» TRIBLIVE: Trump returns to Pa. for pre-Election Day rally on Saturday
» WAPO: Mastriano in Holocaust film with an agenda, critics say (paywall)
» WESA: Mastriano's running mate dismisses 'emotional' Roe voters
» WFMZ: Double mail ballots went out in Luzerne, but both won't count
A festive Garden Railway at Longwood Gardens, via Don N. Now a request: We want to see (and share) your mail ballot selfies and other voting pics. Email your Decision 2022 photos to us here, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania
SIGNING SPREE: Gov. Tom Wolf has signed a $2 billion tax credit package for the hydrogen production, milk processing, and biomedical research industries into law, per Spotlight PA. The package, controversial for its expanded fossil fuel subsidies, was among more than 60 pieces of legislation signed into law by Wolf on Thursday. Spotlight PA's Stephen Caruso has the highlights.

VEHICLE CODE: A last-minute legislative fix to Pennsylvania's motor vehicle law means drivers won't have to worry about being pulled over simply because they have a frame around their license plate. Wolf on Thursday signed a bill clarifying the law's wording to now state that only obstructions to pertinent info on a plate — such as the unique sequence of numbers and letters displayed — qualify as a violation.

'UNACCEPTABLE': One week after six people were wounded in a shooting outside the funeral of a homicide victim in Pittsburgh, the city's police force is acknowledging that its presence was requested at the Brighton Heights church and officers failed to show. KDKA-TV reports the bureau says the development is "totally unacceptable" and that disciplinary action will be handled privately.

NEW WAVE: This week's 3-3 deadlock by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on the legality of undated mail ballots has set the stage for another round of litigation that could delay final midterm election results for weeks or even months, two retired federal judges told reporters this week, via the Capital-Star. Retired Judge John E. Jones said the judicial impasse is a setup for "utter chaos" after polls close.

UNDER REVIEW: The U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to deem race-conscious college admissions unlawful. What would that mean for Pennsylvania institutions? Campuses tell TribLIVE that they will still look for ways to make their enrollments diverse. “Poor admissions teams are going to have to try to figure it out," Ann Schiavone, an associate law professor at Duquesne University, told the outlet.

SPORTS MEH: Philadelphia is on a citywide sports high with the Phillies in the World Series, the Eagles 8-0, and the Union in the MLS Cup. But not everyone is feeling it. The Inquirer (paywall) found the sports agnostics, at least one demanding anonymity: "I have to make my living in this town."

SOUL FOOD: WITF reports that Black and Amish people's lives in Chester County have been intertwined through food for more than a century. Here's the station's report on how 'Amish soul food' differs from the rest.

OFFICER DOWN: Officer McGillicuddy, the miniature horse sworn in as a member of the Quarryville Police Department earlier this year, has died "as a result of injuries sustained in an accidental fall," Fox43 reports.

SECOND LIFE: Gardening tools are being made from decommissioned guns in Philadelphia. Al Día reports it's the work of Raw Tools Philly — a project described as part memorial and part protest.

CRASH CLIP: Trains.com reports no one was hurt when a locomotive hit a backhoe (or "trackhoe") on the Strasburg Rail Road Wednesday. Video of the collision quickly found its way onto the internet. Repairs are underway.

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. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Settlement

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Michelle T., Irene R., Chuck M., Kimberly D., Hugh M., Debra P., Patricia M., Al M., Susan D., Starr B., Susan N.-Z., Becky C., Don H., Jodi R., Kim C., Nola D., Mark O., Barbara F., Patty R., Anne Z., Bette G., Mike B., Ted W., Wendy A., Jane R., George S., Tish M., Karen W., Jon W., Art Z., Sherri A., Steve D., John B., Elaine C., David S., Gina L., Connie K., Marty M., James B., Mark B., Stanley J., Ronnee G., Bruce B., Tom O., Jody A., Becca S., Dianne K., Bill S., Judy M., John H., John P., Martha D., Nancy S., and John H.
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