Pennsylvania, it appears, proved to be a firewall against a midterm national red wave.
Democrat Attorney General Josh Shapiro defeated his Republican gubernatorial opponent Doug Mastriano by nearly 13% and, despite a widely panned debate performance in the waning days of the senatorial campaign, Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman beat TV personality and Pennsylvania transplant Mehmet Oz.
Closer to home, Democrat Summer Lee was declared the victor shortly after the polls closed in her race against Republican Mike Doyle in the commonwealth’s 12th District, becoming the first Black woman to win a congressional seat in Pennsylvania. Democrat Chris Deluzio defeated Jeremy Shaffer to keep Rep. Connor Lamb’s 17th District congressional seat blue.
Libertarian Andrew Neft, who lives in Upper St. Clair, voted for Shapiro, he said, because he felt Shapiro was a stronger candidate, not because of the antisemitic claims voiced against Mastriano.
Neft split his ticket, though, voting for both Oz and Doyle.
“The one that’s really disappointing is the congressional race,” he said about the 12th District race. “[Lee] is Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar together.”
Election results aside, Neft is most concerned about politicians seeking to enrich themselves while in office.
“They put themselves first, party second and country third,” he said. “Something needs to change. It’s a cancer within our political system.”
Dana Platt Blitstein went to bed early on Nov. 8, with some trepidation about what she’d awaken to find on the news. She was pleasantly surprised to learn that both Shapiro and Fetterman had won their races.
“My gosh, what a sigh of relief,” she said. “I thought Josh Shapiro had it in the bag, but I was concerned for Fetterman.”
The Squirrel Hill resident’s fears were intensified after the Fetterman/Oz debate, but she believes a lot of people felt sympathy for the Democrat.
“He portrays himself as a candidate that’s been knocked down and gets back up,” she said. “I think that’s what happened, I really do.”
As for Lee, Blitstein admitted that she didn’t vote for the candidate during the primary but did in the general election, saying Israel was one part of her calculus.
“I think we definitely have some work to do with her as a Jewish community,” Blitstein said of Lee. “I voted for her because I think that there are other issues besides Israel that I have to think about. I definitely still have concerns about her, and I think the Jewish community is really going to have to put in a lot of effort to open the lines of communication and sit down with her. I do know that she has tried to have conversations with the Jewish community, but she said some things that are concerning.”
Lou Weiss of Squirrel Hill isn’t as optimistic when it comes to Lee.
“She claims to be a future member of the Squad,” he said. “That’s about the most antisemitic group in Congress — not just voting against Israel, but actual antisemites — so I definitely am concerned. I hope she is as pro-Israeli as her advocates say she is.”
Weiss said that he was thrilled both with Shapiro’s victory and the apparent pushback against Trump-backed candidates — although he supports many of the former president’s policies, which he said were good for the United States and for Israel.
“But he’s a total jagoff,” Weiss said.
Overall, Weiss said, the election proved a good night for pro-Israel candidates.
“Even Fetterman’s policies on Israel seem to be positive,” he said.
Yael Silk felt that the elections proved a boon to progressive voters in the area, including those who supported Lee.
“I am incredibly grateful that the vast majority of my neighbors voted for representatives who will fight for health care access, clean air and water, public education, and investments in our diverse communities. We did this together, through small donations, canvassing, and so much more to turn out the vote,” she said.
Mt. Lebanon resident Jeff Young said the election results pointed to a great day for both Pennsylvania and the United States.
“Because we had a man running for governor, a known antisemite, that was repudiated,” he said. “How ironic that it was at the hands of a Jewish candidate.”
Young said he was also glad that Fetterman defeated Oz. Any sort of election denialism or anti-abortion rhetoric, he said, should disqualify anyone from holding a Senate office.
And while Young was pleased with the election results in Pennsylvania, he said there was still cause for concern.
“We still don’t know if the House and Senate are going to be controlled by the Republicans or Democrats,” he said. “It’s still conceivable that the Republicans will hold two arms of government. That doesn’t make that a great day or week, even though the red wave hasn’t taken place.”
Republican Jon Tucker said it seems as if the outcome of Pennsylvania’s elections was determined by the eastern part of the state, which concerns him. Just as importantly, though, he said, the Republican primaries locked candidates into issues that made it hard to track to center for a general election.
“To a great extent,” he said, “I think that Trump was the spoiler.”
For many, Tucker said, the election may have been less about voting for a particular candidate than it was about voting against one.
“For conservative Democrats, their vote for the Democrat wasn’t so much because they liked a particular candidate but because they couldn’t handle the Republicans’ national platform,” he said.
Attorney Jeff Letwin spent a lot of time during the general election campaigning for Shapiro and against Mastriano, in part because of the Republican candidate’s ties to the social media site Gab.
“Josh is one of the most qualified candidates that we could ever put in this position,” Letwin said. “He has a tremendous history and experience. He was the perfect candidate and would have been hard to beat by anybody, let alone an extremist.”
The Pennsylvania election results could be seen as a repudiation of Donald Trump and his form of politics, Letwin said.
As for Lee’s victory in District 12?
“I’m glad a Democrat won and hope she will be able to build a good relationship with the Jewish community and that we will be able to successfully solicit her support for Israel,” he said. PJC
David Rullo can be reached at email@example.com.