This diary has been sitting in a Text-edit file that I started on 5/20/14. I've come to terms with the loss, which was pre-ordained by the awful gerrymandering done by the Pennsylvania Republicans. I've decided to finally post it after reading the great diaries about Tom Wolf, the winner of the Democratic primary for Governor of PA. There seems to be a strong community of politically astute Pennsylvanians here on Daily Kos who might enjoy a report from a foot soldier for the Democratic Party.
So I'm sitting here at the Baldwin Borough Building doing GOTV poll watching work for the (insert hyperlink here)Erin Molchany campaign. The temperature has finally broken the 60 degree mark at around 10:30 AM and it's warm enough to break out the MacBook and do some typing... As the day progresses I hope to have a better idea of how the vote is progressing. I'm posted at a polling place deep in the heart of her opponent, Harry Readshaw, but so far most people have been pleasant and some have even voiced support for Erin. We have set our lawn chairs up at least the mandatory ten feet from the entrance of the building. The Readshaw workers are at a table just inside the building doors not even ten feet from the entrance to the room where the voting machines are. We were invited to sit inside as well but opted to just leave some literature at their table and sit where we were instructed to in our training. I'm here with my wife, who says at least no one can complain we're breaking any arcane election rules. And believe me, we have plenty of arcane election laws and regulations in PA!
This is the last thing I can do to help elect a progressive democratic candidate this year. We have had a good string of successes getting progressive, or at least semi-progressive, candidates elected in the Pittsburgh region recently. Among them I include Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, and City Council members Dan Gilman, Deb Gross and Natalia Rudiack. And lest forget, my wife and three former teachers got elected to the Pittsburgh Board of Education. This will be a major upset victory if Erin is able to beat her fellow State Rep. Harry Readshaw, since the Republican controlled State Legislature redistricted their districts together and made it 70% Readshaw’s old district, 20% Molchany’s old district and 10% new for both candidates. We knew this was going to be a tough fight from the start and I had promised my support to Erin at her announcement party. I warned her that my support would consist of my time, since I have no money to spare at all. To that end I have gone out twice to gather signatures for the nominating petition, I have phone banked twice from her campaign office and I have gone out canvasing for support twice. I also managed to rehang the sign over her campaign office when it was blown down in a stormy Pittsburgh night, and I’m pleased to say that it is still up. I only asked they not refer to me as ‘the fixer’ :) I’m guessing I’ve put in around 42 hours of my time including today. That’s a good amount of time, but I’m sure there are people who put in that much time and also cut a check to the campaign. I also managed to do some opposition research, by capturing internet video from a Allegheny Intermediate Unit meeting where both candidates spoke to the gathering. (This required a painful bending of my rule not to use Microsoft software, I had to install Microsoft Silverlight plug-ins to view the video...)
So what have I learned over the past couple of years? A well run campaign needs to focus energy and money where it provides the most benefit. (I guess this is Politics 101 material…) The first thing you need to pull this off is a list of the ‘super-voters’ in the district in which the candidate is running. This information is usually available from the political parties, and gives you the names, address and phone numbers of the active voters. This gives you a list of the people who will go and vote in primary elections and off year elections, regardless of the weather. These are the people that you need to reach out to when canvasing neighborhoods or running a phone bank. These lists are often sorted using programs like Vote Builder to make these tasks easier to manage.
All of the above text was typed out while doing the actual poll watching duties. This is being typed early the morning after the election, after the concession speech at a bar in Mt. Washington. I had hopes that Erin would poll better in the more densely populated wards in the city than she did in our more suburban precincts. And she did poll better, but not enough to overcome the tremendous advantage given to Readshaw by the Republican redistricting plan. I’ll need some time to look at the results in the 36th District -
Representative in the General Assembly 36TH DISTRICT
Vote for 1
(WITH 72 OF 72 PRECINCTS COUNTED)
Harry Readshaw. . . . . . . . . 3,904 59.98
Erin C. Molchany . . . . . . . . 2,593 39.84
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 12 .18
Total . . . . . . . . . 6,509
That didn’t take long… I think in most political races getting almost 60% of the vote would be considered a landslide victory. When your race is the result of having your opponents district taken out from under her, and you being given a 70-20-10 advantage, getting almost 40% is something of a moral victory. I know that Erin earned the endorsements of Mayor Peduto, Allegheny Co. Executive Rich Fitzgerald, City Council members Natalia Rudiak and Bruce Krauss, as well as the endorsement of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Harry Readshaw got the endorsement of the Allegheny Co. Labor Council, so most of the unions backed him, with the exceptions of the Amalgamated Transit Union, SEIU HCPA and SEIU 32BJ. Still, we left nothing on the table, gave it our best shot. The only winners in this race were the PA Republicans, who managed to decrease the number of Democrats by one, getting rid of a progressive Democrat at that, and keeping a Blue Dog Democrat they have gotten to know over the past twenty years.