Also re-published at Dailykos.com
There's a special election taking place soon in Bensalem PA that reflects, in my opinion, in a microcosm, how the the Democratic Leadership acts at many levels within the Democratic party.
I attended a meeting of the local Democratic party for Bensalem, PA, in Bucks County, the ninth largest city in Pennsylvania, last night, and real fireworks went off. As is the custom, candidates running for different offices talked briefly to the elected officials, committee people and active Democrats who showed up, which last night was a major, standing room only turnout.
There's a special election coming up in March to fill a vacancy for a state House seat made vacant by Gene DiGirolamo, who was installed as Bucks County commissioner on January 6th.
This is significant because the seat represents Bensalem Township, where there is a significant, about 5,000 person Democratic Majority. Even with that Majority, the Republicans have usually won there, with a far better turnout than Democrats.
The race, after a relatively successful Fall 2019 election, is significant, because it could bring PA Democrats closer to taking back control of the PA state House of Representatives. That means there is statewide interest in the outcome, even national interest.
Last night a plumber union leader introduced one candidate-- Howie-- I can't remember . his last name. He had been a committeeman in Philly and had worked on a local politician's campaign over ten years ago. He's lived in Bensalem for four years but none of the members of the Bensalem Democrats knew him. He gave a brief talk, telling about his life as a plumber and committeeman.
Then Rachel Fingles, an elected member of the school board spoke and regular participant in the Bensalem Democrats spoke as a candidate. Stating that she was speaking, in the spirit of transparency, she revealed some serious liabilities as a candidate. She's divorced with kids, lives at home with her parents, which she said helped her with child care while she worked, and her parents, with paying bills. She reported that she'd gone bankrupt after her divorce, and that in a few months she would be over her bankruptcy period.
Rachel had spoken, over the past six months, with many of the committee people in the District, and had made it known that she wanted to run for the slot at least eight months ago.
This is where it gets interesting, and what set off the Fireworks
Then another elected member of the Bensalem Democrats spoke, saying that she had to address some issues which had been left unspoken.
She reported that it was very likely that the county leadership committee might not accept Rachel as the elected candidate, if the committee people elected her. They might reject her and install Howie the plumber as the candidate. Why? Because the plumbers union was offering $50,000 to support Howie's candidacy, and purportedly, the "money people" in Bucks County wouldn't support Rachel.
Being a firm believer in bottom-up politics and democracy I got up and said this was bullshit. Some people said that the leaders knew better and that it was going to cost $600,000 or more for this election. I asked both candidates why they were running. Rachel gave detailed answers, citing issues that are important to her and the members of the Bensalem Democrats. Howie said he wanted to support workers and unions-- and clearly had not thought about it. It was clear, through the discussion, that the County leaders had found Howie in the last week, as their choice to run against Rachel.
I was not alone in standing up against the idea of the county leadership vetoing a vote by the elected representatives of the people in the district. Some people agreed with me. Some felt that Rachel's liabilities would be attacked with TV ads and used against her. I replied that the Republicans would use attack ads against Howie too. Some said that Rachel couldn't run if she didn't have money people behind her. I pointed out that if she wins, the whole state and even people around the country will get behind her, that the no money threat was an idle one.
The Democratic committee people of Bensalem meet next week to vote on a candidate who will replace Gene DiGirolamo until next year. And there will also be a primary election later this year, at the same time as the regular primary elections are held. But next week is the deciding week for the interim replacement election. Committee people will have decide between Rachel and Howie. Rachel is well known and liked in the District. She's already campaigned and won as a member of the school board and she a very smart, savvy attorney... but she does have her baggage.