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How Democrat Josh Shapiro won the governor's race

Plus, four things to know about State College's new police complaint process.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
November 23, 2022
Political lessons, civilian complaints, crime guns, siege conviction, minority leader, inflation pay, and banned bush. It's Wednesday. Welcome.

Democrat Josh Shapiro received a record three million votes on his way to winning this year's race for Pennsylvania governor. 

And it wasn't just that he got a lot of votes. The attorney general also won by a margin not often seen in an open race — trouncing GOP candidate Doug Mastriano by nearly 15 points, according to unofficial results, and driving down margins in counties some Democrats had written off years ago. 

Now the political world is looking for lessons in his successful bid.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Inside Democrat Josh Shapiro’s successful campaign to become Pennsylvania’s next governor.

THE CONTEXT: Analysts, activists, campaign operatives, supporters, and detractors all tend to agree that a few key things sealed the deal for Shapiro: among them a politically extreme, cash-poor opponent.

But there was also strong outreach to rural areas Democrats sometimes neglect, and a pragmatic — and at times, flexible — policy message that appealed to urban, suburban, and rural voters too. 

Still, some observers are finding lessons in areas where Shapiro’s results were weaker, including the relatively low turnout seen in heavily Black and Hispanic precincts in Philadelphia and smaller cities where lots of Black and Latino people live, such as Allentown, Hazleton, and Reading. 

While Shapiro achieved better margins than Democratic U.S. Sen.-elect John Fetterman across most of the state, Fetterman closed the gap in poor, heavily Black and Latino urban neighborhoods, leading some to wonder if his platform — criminal justice reform, legalization of marijuana, clemency — could help Democrats get out vital votes in the future.

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Japanese maple cultivars at the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia, via PA Poster Don N. Send us your photos and artwork by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania
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Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.POLICE REPORTS: State College is rolling out a new police complaint process for civilians. The borough's Community Oversight Board — formed after the 2019 police killing of Osaze Osagie — approved the new process this month and it is expected to roll out in January. Spotlight PA explains how it will work, what information will be collected about complainants, and what information will be public.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.GUN SAFETY: A report by the nonprofit gun-safety group Brady — mentioned here on Tuesday — says 5% of firearm dealers are responsible for about 90% of recovered crime guns. TribLIVE reports Pennsylvania dealers named in the report dispute the conclusions: “Have we sold guns that were used in crimes? I’m sure we have. But those numbers are so minimal it’s absolutely crazy,” one said.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.J6 VERDICT: A Dauphin County woman was convicted this week of several federal charges in connection with the storming of Democratic U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office during the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack. The jury deadlocked on two charges against Riley June Williams, who's linked to the far-right “Groyper” movement, including one involving the theft of Pelosi's laptop.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.MINORITY REPORT: Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster) was chosen as House minority leader in Tuesday's closed-door meeting of the GOP caucus, per Spotlight PA's Stephen Caruso. LNP (paywall) reported on Monday that Cutler had thrown his hat in the ring for the role and that current Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R., Centre) had taken himself out of the running.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.PAY RATE: Inflation is delivering a big cost-of-living pay hike for Pennsylvania lawmakers, judges, and top executive branch officials. The raises, set to kick in over the coming weeks, will push all lawmaker salaries into six-figure territory and are about 50% higher than the average private sector wage growth seen in Pennsylvania in the last year. The added pay can be refused but almost never is.
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OPEN QUESTION: State Rep. Carrie Lewis DelRosso (R., Allegheny) lost her race for lieutenant governor. Asked if she’ll seek her party’s nod for the special election to fill late state Rep. Tony DeLuca's open seat, one considered safely Democratic, DelRosso told TribLIVE she’s weighing her options.

NOT RUNNING: Mik Pappas, a Pittsburgh magisterial district judge who rode a progressive wave and criminal justice reform platform into office, and who has been criticized by local law enforcement in the years since, says he won't be seeking reelection in May, via WESA's Chris Potter.

CEMETERY TRAIL: The Pittsburgh Union Progress made the treacherous hike up an overgrown hillside miles north of downtown Pittsburgh where "the forgotten stones and stories of African American veterans" live.

SHRUB POLICE: The shrub known as burning bush may be beautiful in autumn, but as of January it's banned across Pennsylvania, the latest addition to the state's growing list of invasive and prohibited plants.

'FIRST LIGHT': Pittsburgh author Virginia Montanez fulfilled a dream last week at the Artemis rocket launch in Florida. Here's how it changed her.

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: Combustion

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Becky C., Beth T., Irene R., Don H., Marty M., Ted W., Susan D., John P., Barbara F., Kimberly D., John F., Judy M., Vicki U., Elaine C., Jane R., Antoinette F., George S., Daniel M., Tish M., Stanley J., Samantha S., Susan N.-Z., Judith D., Dianne K., Starr B., Kimberly S., Bill S., Chuck M., Kimberly B., James B., Joel B., Moon M., Wendy A., Kim C., David W., and Johnny C.
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