Are Local Democrats in Trouble?


Map_of_Northampton_County,_Pennsylvania

Bernie O’Hare says local Democrats could be in trouble in November. He’s right. Northampton County Democrats could have some serious problems. Bernie nails the basic structural problem:

There are no contested city races in Northampton County this year. Sal Panto had no opponent, Democrat or Republican, in Easton’s Mayoral primary. Bethlehem’s City Council race was decided in the primary, where only Democrats ran. To many who live in these urban cores, and they are heavily Democratic, the election is over. Though county government is vital and has a big impact on their lives, most people have less interest than they do in a city government, where parking meters or garbage can become hot-button items.

When Ron Angle was in the race, that generated interest among Democrats. He’s the Republican they love to hate, more than anyone. But now that he’s out, and it’s likely that Hayden Phillips is in, some Democrats will go back to sleep.

This is exactly the basic problem Democrats face. Bob Werner and Ken Kraft have no races in Easton and Bethlehem. Sal Panto and council Democrats have no races in Easton. Bethlehem Council is over too. The contested races are “north of 22,” and that is generally not good in odd number years. Scott Parsons and Lori Vargo Heffner have to run great races in tough terrain to win. Controller Steve Barron and Judicial candidate Sam Murray have to win races countywide where there is more motivation for the “north of 22” voters to come out than the more Democratic voters in Easton and Bethlehem. That’s tough.

I’m concerned about Democratic enthusiasm. There’s been a lot of coverage of Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski being raided by the Feds lately in our local press (which is even worse for Lehigh County Dems, obviously). Attorney General Kathleen Kane, former Treasurer Rob McCord, and Congressman Chaka Fattah are also getting negative press. The Governor is having trouble passing his agenda, which should be hurting the Republicans in Harrisburg more, but I have no evidence of that. There’s a real uphill current in local Democrats’ faces here in the Lehigh Valley.

Not that anyone needs a pep talk, but local Democrats have a lot at stake. Victories for the Court of Common Pleas and Controller two years ahead of John Brown’s re-election would be very bad for Democratic chances of beating him. A 7-2 council with this Executive could gut out human services, sell Gracedale, and do lots of Tea Party-esque things that would make Democrats cringe. There are also three Supreme Court seats on the line this Fall that might determine who controls re-districting in 2021 for Congress.

In other words, things aren’t looking so hot right now, and Democrats need things to look a little hotter. A wipeout in 2015 isn’t as harmless as it looks.

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