Pennsylvania Democrats target a united front

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A candidate who is unabashedly outspoken, willing to embrace progressive positions, has little rapport with party leaders and dominates the 6-foot-8-framed room . The other created a more moderate image, a deliberate public speaker who became a congressional aide after college and has carefully cultivated relationships within the party ever since.

In style and substance, John Fettman and Josh Shapiro have very different images.

However, their fortunes — and that of the Democratic Party — are intertwined in two Pennsylvania elections that will be one of the most closely watched in the country

Feltman offers Democrats the clearest path to a seat in the U.S. Senate, which could go a long way in helping Democrats maintain control of the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, Shapiro raises bigger existential questions as he faces a Republican gubernatorial rival who has embraced conspiracy over the last presidential election and will have a major impact on the next election in the premier battleground state influences.

“The stakes have never been higher, the contrasts have never been clearer,” Shapiro told members of the state Democratic committee at a meeting in Gettysburg on Saturday. “This Commonwealth has the power to decide whether we have a 51st Senator. This Commonwealth has the power to decide whether the great experiment that began in Philadelphia 245 years ago continues.”

With the stakes so high, Feltman and Shapiro are working to build a united front ahead of the fall election.

They are participating in coordinated campaigns funded and run by national and state party organizations, including the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Governors Association and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

Together, the groups could send more money to Pennsylvania than anywhere else to register and persuade voters as part of what the state calls “the largest and earliest midterm coordination campaign in Pennsylvania’s history.”

In a swing state, this kind of help from a state organization may be desperately needed.

After supporting Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign, Pennsylvania turned to Joe Biden in 2020 — but only by about 1 percentage point. Democrats preparing for the 2022 campaign already face enormous challenges.

Feltman, who suffered a stroke just days before winning his party’s Senate nomination last month, has yet to return to the campaign trail or give much indication of when he will. Both candidates will run in a tough environment for Democrats, Biden unpopular, daily necessities, food and gasoline prices rise.

Aides to both campaigns said coordination had already begun.

Feltman and Shapiro’s campaigns said they were in constant contact, and Shapiro said he and Feltman had texted him since he suffered a stroke.

Campaign aides said they expected the men to appear together at larger events, such as rallies, regional campaign office openings or party events, to raise money, help boost turnout or highlight low-vote candidates.

Earlier this month, Fettman’s wife Gisele represented him at an event with Shapiro, who spoke at the opening of a coordinating campaign office in Pittsburgh.

“I’m looking forward to getting John out of here, and I know he’d love to, too,” Shapiro said Friday. “We look forward” to running with Shapiro and helping other Democrats on the fall ballot, Feltman’s campaign said in a statement.

Right now, Feltman’s health is looming over the campaign, with questions about whether he’s being honest about the seriousness of his condition.

Feltman’s neurologist and cardiologist didn’t take questions from reporters, and the campaign didn’t reveal he, too, had a serious heart attack until three weeks after the stroke.

GOP campaign coordination is carried out through the Republican National Committee, but the party’s top candidates — celebrity heart surgeon-turned-Senate candidate Mohamed Oz and gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano — have so far been So far there has been no firm commitment to campaigning together.

In a statement, Oz’s campaign said he “supports the Republican vote in Pennsylvania because he believes we have to send a message to Joe Biden about inflation, gas prices and out-of-control crime” and ” Looking forward to seeing (Mastriano) get on track this summer.”

Aside from exchanging text messages after their respective major victories, the campaign has not said whether Oz and Mastriano have met. Mastriano’s campaign did not answer questions.

Party leaders and campaign strategists are wary of Mastriano. He spread Trump’s lies about widespread electoral fraud in the 2020 presidential election and was a major supporter of Trump’s overturned election result in Pennsylvania. He was also in a crowd outside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, when he was attacked by Trump supporters after attending a nearby “Stop the Stealing” rally.

If they do run together, it could be uncomfortable: State Senator Mastriano backed Oz’s rival in the primary and criticized Oz during the campaign, suggesting at one point that Oz Z is really a libertarian and a rug bag-nod Oz moved from his home in New Jersey to Pennsylvania to run.

Plus, before Mastriano was elected to the state Senate in 2019, He repeatedly posted Islamophobic material on Facebook. Oz is a Muslim.

The RNC said in a statement that since 2016 it has been operating “on the ground” in Pennsylvania, training and mobilizing activists, registering voters, opening offices and working with the state and its nominees.

For now, Republicans are trying to portray Feltman and Shapiro as extreme, but are also focusing on Feltman’s stroke in digital advertising, suggesting he’s not being honest about its influence.

“Has John Feltman been talking about his health?” said a narrator in a digital ad for the National Republican Senate Committee.

Democrats insist they’re not concerned about Feltman’s recovery from his stroke, which Delaware County Party Chair Colleen Guiney said will only be talked about as a distraction from important issues such as Republicans are trying to undermine the county’s democracy and render the Senate dysfunctional through a filibuster.

Feltman avoided interviews with the media as party leaders, including Biden, tried to reassure rank-and-file Democrats that Feltman was fine and could resume campaigning soon.

“I know he can’t wait to get back on track,” Biden said during a speech at the AFL-CIO convention in Philadelphia last week. “He looks good.”

Feltman and his wife gave a 90-second video address Saturday at a state board meeting in Gettysburg. In it, Feltman emphasizes that Shapiro-Fettman’s ticket is up against “the extreme, bizarre and dangerous ticket of Ozzy Mastriano.”

“I’m proud to be a part of this,” Feltman said. “This year we made Josh Shapiro our next governor. Let me tell you, we’ll be back soon, back to 100% in every one of our 67 counties, because Josh and I Has been working on a full-scale campaign in 67 counties.”

Shapiro and Feltman’s political ties date back to at least 2016, when Feltman hosted a fundraiser for Shapiro at his Braddock home.

Still, Shapiro and Feltman have sometimes been strained by conflicting positions on the state pardon board — and Philadelphia Inquirer reports days before primary emphasized this point.

Citing unnamed people as sources, the Enquirer reported that Feltman threatened to run for governor against Shapiro several years ago — unless Shapiro voted for certain applicants before the pardon committee.

Shapiro did, but denies that politics drove his vote or that there had been any such conversation with Feltman, a claim a spokesman for the attorney general’s office called “simply outrageous.” Feltman has remained silent about this.

Democrats say that’s not the focus of discussions among activists, who are more focused on the Nov. 8 election.

That election was a choice between candidates who “work for effective government and serve all of our communities” and those who are “willing to sacrifice the very fabric of our democracy for personal gain,” Gini said.

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Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at twitter.com/timelywriter

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