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Pa. moves one step closer to open primaries

Plus, a new possible 2024 primary date.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2023
In today's edition: Open elections, Jim Jordan votes, primary window, hydrogen jobs, and a Cavalcante warning. Thanks for checking in.

Two bills that would open Pennsylvania primaries up to unaffiliated voters passed a state House committee on Tuesday in a "historic" moment for open primary proponents after years of setbacks, the AP reports.

The bills passed the state House's State Government Committee with only Democratic support and are headed for a full House vote. More than 1 million Pennsylvanians are not affiliated with either major party, making them the state's fastest-growing electoral demographic, the AP adds. 

Read the full report: Proposals would end Pennsylvania’s closed primary system by opening it up to unaffiliated voters.

THE CONTEXT: Both bills would let independents pick a party primary to vote in, while one would also let third-party voters in if their party didn't get enough votes to be considered an official party, per the AP's Brooke Schultz.

Supporters of open primaries say a growing, unaffiliated contingent has a right to weigh in on primary races that sometimes decide an entire contest. Opponents say open primaries will muddy political waters.

The change recently received support from a bipartisan group of former governors, but a roadblock could remain in the state Senate's version of the State Government Committee, the GOP chair of which is opposed.


“I succumbed to those feelings, and it led to disaster."

—Rachel Powell of Mercer County before being sentenced Tuesday to nearly five years in prison on Jan. 6 charges; the New Yorker profiled her "path to insurrection" in a February 2021 piece by Ronan Farrow
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The Allegheny River between Franklin and Kennerdell, as seen by Cathy Z. in September. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A view of a river between trees, with rolling hills in the background.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.SPEAKER VOTE: U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly was the only Republican congressperson from Pennsylvania to vote against U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) for Speaker of the U.S. House on Tuesday. Jordan is the MAGA-preferred candidate who, like Kelly, sought to overturn Pennsylvania's 2020 election. Moderate Brian Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) voted yes, while lamenting the GOP revolt that set up the opening.
  • RELATED: Second speaker vote expected today, via NPR
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.PRIMARY DATE: The window hasn't completely closed on an earlier 2024 presidential primary in Pennsylvania amid a scheduling conflict with Passover. A state House committee on Tuesday passed an amended bill that would move the date up one week to April 16, keeping the matter alive for a future vote after a bicameral back-and-forth. Counties and Pennsylvania's top election official are worried about logistics.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.HUB IMPACTS: A new hydrogen hub announced by President Joe Biden last week could create 20,000 union jobs in the Philadelphia area in coming years, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro said Tuesday. From The Inquirer (paywall): Hydrogen produced in the hub is expected to power 1,400 SEPTA buses and 300 Philadelphia garbage trucks in coming years. It could also make its way into the local energy supply chain.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.MARQUEE RACES: There are major statewide races on Pennsylvania ballots Nov. 7, and major local races too. The Inquirer has a paywall-free guide to the race to become Philadelphia's 100th mayor, and PublicSource covers the race for Allegheny County executive, one of the most powerful elected offices in the state with over a million constituents, calling it test of centrist traditions and political inclinations.
  • RELATED: Error found on mail ballots for McKean County's biggest local race of the general election, via Bradford Era
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.CAPITOL BRIEFS: Former Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar has a new consulting firm focused on election security and civil discourse; U.S. Rep. Scott Perry's reelection bid may have a money problem; former state Sen. John Yudichak (I., Luzerne) could be the next head of Luzerne County Community College; and Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R., Westmoreland) has a new mug.
STRIKE YEAR: Today marks one year since journalists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette walked off the job and into the "first newspaper strike of the digital age." It's also the longest such strike in decades, with no end in sight.ADVANCE NOTICE: Chester County Prison officials were warned by a staffer that Danelo Cavalcante planned to escape weeks before he actually did. Cavalcante is due in court on an escape charge next month.

COLLEGE CUTS: After Gettysburg College ended its esteemed literary journal, tenured faculty at the Adams County liberal arts school worry adjunct and visiting assistant professor positions could be next.

PIZZA DRAT: The Great Wawa Pizza Experiment has failed again, Philly Mag reports. The beloved chain's pizza remains less beloved: “I just ate a Wawa pizza,” one Facebook reviewer wrote. “Don’t do that.”

MIDWEST REVIEW: Academic Journal Middle West Review is set to release the results of "the largest-ever study on who considers themself to be a Midwesterner," following a 22-state survey. Pittsburgh is watching.
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