Gene Stilp won an upset victory in the Democratic primary.
The conventional wisdom holds that Gene doesn’t have a prayer against Republican incumbent, Lou Barletta, but conventional wisdom may not apply to Gene Stilp.
Gene will be running in the 11th Congressional district, newly configured to ensure Barletta’s reelection. The Republican power brokers who drew that map certainly anticipated that Barletta would be running against a conventional Democrat, but Gene is anything but a conventional Democrat.
Gene appeals to voters across party lines. He has established a solid reputation as a reformer bent on improving government, holding officeholder accountable for their actions and fearlessly exposing corruption.
His activism in the wake of the 2005 pay raise scandal in Harrisburg directly led to the ousting of then GOP Senate Majority Leader, David Brightbill, by the voters. Brightbill, who helped engineer the pay raise, routinely took the generous per diems which are a sore point for many voters even though he lives only 26 miles from the Capitol. To make the point that Brightbill did not need a per diem to compensate him for travel to and from the Capitol, Gene one day walked from Brightbill’s house to the Capitol.
Everybody in the Dauphin/Cumberland/Perry end of the newly sprawling 11th is familiar with Gene’s big inflatable pink pig which shows up frequently on the Capitol steps and occasionally at other locations that serve to remind people of officeholder greed.
His advocacy for reform has been consistent over many years, and his creativity and keen sense of the messages that will resonate with ordinary people have built him an extensive following that crosses party lines. People feel that he understands and defends their interests.
Gene is also well-known in the Luzerne County part of the district. He grew up and went to college in Wilkes-Barre and still has many contacts as well as family ties in the area.
Barletta is practically unknown in the Dauphin/Cumberland/Perry part of the 11th, and many people question his understanding of the politics, the culture or the needs of their communities.
Gene will be running an unconventional grassroots campaign with a big pink pig (inflatable, as well as a pig shaped school bus).
Effective use of Social Media to keep people engaged and informed as he travels the district proved extremely successful in the primary.
Given the recent Gallup Poll, showing "Corruption in Politics" as the number 2 issue behind the economy with voters, Gene's message and good branding may very well overcome the financial disadvantage he has.
Further, Lou Barletta has been getting hammered in the press for his portfolio being directly tied to his votes (STOCK Act).
Barletta is a GOP/Tea Party freshman, who is pretty much a one trick pony with his anti immigration agenda. Not only has his position been under attack by the hispanic community, but it doesn't resonate with voters below Hazleton where the so called problem is not existent.
His voting record with the GOP, Cantor Budget, NDAA, etc. have made him a lot of enemies anxious to vote him out. Not to mention the environmental groups opposed to his "drill baby drill" approach to Fracking in Northeast PA.
As you can see, there are a number of vulnerabilities with Barletta. Combined with the "Rock Star" appeal and tremendous name recognition Gene Stilp has, this race is a LOT closer than conventional thinking realizes.
Incidentally, the registered voters in the new 11th are 44% GOP, 43% DEM and 12% IND.
Gene has HUGE appeal with the IND voters, and GOP voters below Luzerne County.
My suggestion is not to take my word for it. Do your own research. Even a quick Google search on both Gene Stilp and Lou Barletta might open some eyes.
*excepts taken from Jan Jarrett's Ad Hoc Blog
Thank you Jan
Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 6:36 PM PT: Keystone Politics published this article today:
The pundits are starting to catch on...
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