Why Did DCCC Endorsement Slip Away From Kevin Strouse?

Former Army Ranger Kevin Strouse was named last May as the The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) “jumpstart candidate” to take on Republican incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick in PA-8.

However, this month his name was absent from the DCCC biennial Red to Blue program highlighting the congressional districts they hope to pick up and naming the candidates they have recruited.


PA-8 Candidates: Democratic challengers Shaughnessy Naughton and Kevin Strouse and Republican incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick.

Strouse’s campaign was dismissive of the importance of being dropped from the DCCC list. They told Philadelphia Jewish Voice that while the DCCC is not openly raising money for their campaign, they still “got a lot of support” in other ways. They suggested that staying on the list was an intricate process, and the campaign had concentrated instead on obtaining the signatures required to get on the ballot.

We have heard that the campaign needed to scramble to get sufficient signatures on time, since for most of the nomination period the Strouse campaign had circulated invalid petitions listing the address of Strouse’s future home in the district, which he is purchasing but in which he does not yet reside.

More after the jump.
Shaughnessy Naughton’s campaign manager, Josh Morrow, lamented Strouse’s unwillingness to engage with voters in the district on the issues.  

Naughton has offered to debate Strouse, but until recently he has been only willing to meet her at two forums under rules that not only forbid video and audio recordings, but also were closed to the press and to the general voting public. The only people who were permitted to attend were the Democratic Committee members.

Naughton’s campaign staff said that she and Strouse have agreed on a debate next month.

One of the criteria by which the DCCC judges the viability of a candidate is their ability of fundraising, through their connections and local appeal. The DCCC can help in fundraising, but it does not want to be “carrying all the water” for a candidate. On April 15, all congressional candidates will report their first quarter figures. Perhaps those figures will shed light on why the DCCC has retreated from its support of Strouse.

The Strouse campaign expressed their hope that the DCCC would endorse them when the list is updated in May. Meanwhile, Josh Morrow summarized the state of the race in his interview with Politics PA:

The only way to beat [Fitzpatrick] and put us back on the path to prosperity for the middle class is with a candidate who knows this district as well as he does, who understands the issues that Bucks and Montgomery County residents face, and who presents a real contrast on the issues… Only one candidate in this race has said we should never allow fracking in the Delaware River Basin and only one candidate in this race has articulated a plan to save social security. That candidate is Shaughnessy Naughton.


Michael Parrish

PA-6: Parrish “Takes One for the Team”

Malvern businessman Michael Parrish was tapped as the DCCC choice in PA-6 last January, after 6-term Republican congressmen Jim Gerlach unexpectedly decided to not seek reelection. But like Strouse, he was left out of the Red to Blue list.

Last week, Parrish announced that he pulled out of the race against Manan Trivedi:

An expensive and contentious Democratic primary fight would seriously risk our party’s ability to win this seat in November. I am therefore suspending my campaign in order to join with Manan Trivedi to help ensure that a Democrat is elected.

The Philadelphia Inquirer cited praise for Parrish’s decision:


Manan Trivedi

Trivedi said in a statement that he was “honored” to have Parrish’s support…

Former Rep. Patrick Murphy, of Bucks County, who knows Parrish through mutual military ties, said the former candidate made a “selfless” decision. “If we have a divisive primary, it’s going to hurt us in the fall,” said Murphy, a Democrat. “He thought he would take a step back and throw his support behind Manan.”

All of the other previous endorsed candidates remained on the DCCC list and they were joined by new endorsements. DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (Congressman NY-3) emphasized that for the first time in committee history, women make up more than 60% of the list. Locally, however, with Allyson Schwartz leaving Congress to run for Governor, Pennsylvania may have an all-male congressional delegation for the first time since 2001.  

Lose Weight the Kosher Way


Oct. 28, 2012 – 220 lb. Maximum weight.
Apr. 15, 2013 – 208 lb. Start Medifast.
Jul. 15, 2013 – 168 lb. Begin transition.
Aug.  5, 2013 – 164 lb. End transition.
Mar. 14, 2014 – 158 lb. Current weight.

The Medifast diet has been my key to weight-loss success. I lost over 50 pounds and I have kept it off.

As long as I can remember I have had a problem with my weight. I tried a number of diets — including Atkins and Weight Watchers — with some success, but they all required a level of self-deprivation which I could not sustain, and inevitably I would regain any weight I might have lost.

Last Spring, my daughter was pestering me to try the Medifast diet, telling me how well she was doing on it. Needless to say, I was extremely skeptical given my experiences in the past. However, Gabby is quite persistent, so I let her place an order for me figuring I would try it for a few days  and when it failed, I would give any leftover food to her since it was working for her. (She went on to lose 60 pounds or about one-third of her weight!)

Despite my half-hearted commitment to the program, I immediately saw weight loss day after day, and I was surprised by how easy it was.

More after the jump.
On the Medifast diet, you eat low-carb portion-controlled meals every three hours plus a small “lean and green” meal (fresh vegetables and proteins) along with some optional snacks. I soon realized that the only times I was actually hungry was when by force of habit I neglected to eat for three hours.

There are about 70 different pre-portioned meals to choose from. Most of these are certified Kosher by the Orthodox Union. (Note that the “Vegetable Chili” is not listed since it contains beef stock and should be avoided by vegetarians and observant Jews.)

Some food is ready-to-eat (candy bars, pretzels and the like) and some requires preparation in a blender, microwave or stove-top. Each meal has similar nutritional values, so you can pick whichever one piques your interest, or even combine them to increase the variety of possible dishes using recipes that can be found online at fan websites. For example, you can combine pancake mix and brownie mix to make chocolate cake, or banana smoothie mix with pancake mix to make banana bread.

When I would see someone having a high-calorie treat like ice cream, pizza, muffins, pretzels or candy bars, I wouldn’t be jealous. Instead I would say “That is a good idea. I can do that too. I think I’ll grab a Medifast Caramel Crunch Bar” or mix up some soft-serve ice cream with Medifast powder in a blender or fry up a Medifast pancake with chocolate chips. Instead other people would be jealous of me seeing me eat what looks like a candy bar in the middle of the morning or afternoon. People might think I am glutton for eating all the time, but what do I care when I know that I am moving from “obese” to “overweight” to “normal”.

The Kaiserman JCC held their “Biggest Winner” contest during this time and I was proud to take 1st place having lost 14.83% of my weight during the contest.

As I reentered the “normal” zone, I used the Medifast transition plan for about a month, and have now successfully maintained my healthy weight for the last few months.

Gabby has now become a Medifast coach and is helping other people achieve their weight loss goals on her website. The coaching is free. You only have to pay for the food.

Weight loss has changed our lives and we would love to share our success. If you or anyone you know is struggling with his or her weight, please contact me or Gabby. We would be delighted to help.


Links

Voters Don’t Decide Who Wins; Map Drawers Do

Republicans control 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 Congressional Districts:Alternative map, drawn by State Senator Daylin Leach, gives Democrats control of 13 districts:

As a democracy, we are proud of our electoral system: We assume that citizens, through their vote, wield the ultimate power over our government and determine who shall represent them.

However, this is not the case in reality. Rather, legislatures, through their redistricting authority, draw electoral maps specifically engineered to re-elect themselves and their colleagues.

In 2012, the majority of Pennsylvanians (50.24%) voted for Democratic candidates for Congress while 48.74% who voted for Republicans, and 1.02% who voted for other candidates.

However, Democratic candidates prevailed in only five of the 18 congressional districts: Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah in Philadelphia, Mike Doyle in Pittsburgh, Allyson Schwartz in the Philadelphia suburbs, and Matt Cartwright in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Was this simply a matter of luck?

Packing and Cracking

The district map was designed to pack as many democrats as possible into these five districts. Fattah, for example cruised to victory with 89.28% of the votes, versus 9.37% for Robert Mansfield and 1.35% for James Foster.

By forcing the Democratic voters to “waste” votes in districts where they are a super-majority, the Republican politicians are able to construct 13 districts with sensible Republican majorities.

Conversely, Democratic seats in other Democratic strongholds such as Harrisburg and the Pittsburgh suburbs were prevented by cracking those areas into pieces and diluting them with outlying areas that lean Republican.

In other words, voters do not choose the representatives who share their values; rather, the legislators wielding their pens choose the constituents whose support they can count on in the voting booth.

The rest of the article, and TED Talk by State Sen. Daylin Leach, follow the jump.
Since the redistricting process was controlled by Pennsylvania’s Republican governor, Tom Corbett, and the Republican majorities in the state House, State Senate and Legislative Reapportionment Commission, it is not surprising that the results are skewed in favor of the Republicans as far as mathematically and legally possible.

If Democrats Drew the Map

To illustrate how easily the results can be skewed in the opposite direction, Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach drew a map, which shows Democratic majorities in 13 congressional districts, and Republican majorities in the remaining five districts.

In other words, if the map had been different, the congressional election could have been completely reversed — 13-5 instead of 5-13 — without a single Pennsylvanian changing his vote. What a farce our elections have become!

In fact, one could draw an even more skewed map, with more homogeneous districts, giving Democrats small majorities in every single district, and leaving the Republicans with no representation at all.

Could it be argued that the Republican-skewed map was dictated by the rules and the demographics, rather than by political interests?

Both Leach’s map and the actual map feature contiguous districts almost equal in population. However, Leach’s map has more “compact” districts, whereas the actual map has districts which meander across the state in search of pockets of Democrats or Republicans as the case may be.

Furthermore, the Pennsylvania State Constitution requires legislative districts to avoid splitting counties, cities, towns, boroughs, townships and wards “unless absolutely necessary.” Some splitting is necessary, because Philadelphia is too large to fit inside single district. However, Leach’s map has three fewer splits than the  map adopted by the state assembly.

Our state’s congressional delegation should be truly representative of the makeup of our state, and the Pennsylvania State Constitution should be amended to enshrine this principle into law.

Hanukkah Comes To Philadelphia (and DC)

Mayor Michael Nutter joined the festivities as enormous Hanukkah Menorahs were lit at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station and on Independence Mall. The Philadelphia Lubavitcher Center says the Menorah on Independence Mall is the largest menorah in the world.

Happy Hanukkah.

Photo of the Mayor Nutter and the 30th Street Station Menorah by Gabrielle Loeb.

Videos of the National Menorah lighting near the White House follow the jump.

Do We Want Our Judges Picked by the Luck of the Draw?

— by Daniel Loeb

I recall sometimes going directly from morning services to the polling station on election day. On election day, we recite the Psalm for Tuesday (מזמור שֶׁל יוֹם שלישי) — Psalm 82, which praises G-d who “pronounces judgement over judges.”

The irony is palpable as I am then compelled to pass judgement on Pennsylvania’s judges, and vote on who will be retained as judge and who will pass on to retirement (a veritable judicial ונתנה תוקף).

Most voters are probably like me, without legal training and with no familiarity with any of these judges. In fact, as State Rep. Brian Sims mentioned, the single most determinant factor in predicting the winner of a judicial election is the ballot placement:

It’s time to remove partisan politics and campaign contributions from selecting our judiciary and implement a merit-based system for choosing Pennsylvania’s statewide judges. As you can see from the folks backing this effort, merit selection transcends party lines and geographical divides and pursues just one, clear goal: placing the most qualified and competent jurists in the courtroom.

Do we want our judges picked by the luck of the draw? And do we really want our judges pandering to special interests in order to raise campaign money and create a public name for themselves?

I would rather have judges who interpret the law fairly and protect the rights of minorities against the vagaries of whim of the majority.

Creating a New Generation of Progressive Leaders

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s Networking Central column features different groups which make a difference in our community.

This year, I have been fortunate enough to participate in the Center for Progressive Leadership’s 2011 Pennsylvania Political Leaders Fellowship program. Over the coming months, I hope to share some of the lessons that I have learned, but first I would like to give you an opportunity to learn about CPL. [Read more...]

If Not Now, When?

The only thing more predictable than this wave of gun violence is the response from the GOP and the NRA: “Now is not the time to politicize this tragedy.”

When would be a more appropriate time to consider our gun policy? After the Minneapolis bridge collapse in 2007, Americans were rightly concerned about the state of our country’s bridges and other infrastructure, and pushed to have their bridges inspected and make long delayed repairs.

As Ezra Klein writes:

If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation’s security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it.

Similarly, Americans have every right to question now how well we are protecting our children. Should we really make assault weapons available to the general public? Should guns be sold at gun shows without the usual background check? If we require a medical evaluation, written test and practical safety test before giving someone a driving permit, then why not require the same before letting someone own a gun?

As Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) wrote:

This time our response must consist of more than regret, sorrow, and condolence. The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all victims of gun violence deserve leaders who have the courage to participate in a meaningful discussion about our gun laws – and how they can be reformed and better enforced to prevent gun violence and death in America. This can no longer wait.

Or as the Jewish scholar Hillel said:

If not now, when?


The B Team: PA’s 2nd Congressional District Candidate Forum

Since 2006, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El’s Men’s Club, Sisterhood and Israel Action Committee have jointly organized candidate forums to provide the community an opportunity to discuss issues with our Congressman and his challenger during each Congressional election. Until the recent redistricting, our township Lower Merion was located in Rep. Jim Gerlach’s 6th district. The 6th District was one of the most competitive districts in the country. While the Republican incumbent was always reelected it was usually by small margins and the district was carried by the Democratic Presidential candidate.

Year PA 6th Congressional District Presidential Race
2002: 51.4% Jim Gerlach, 48.6% Dan Wofford
2004: 51.0% Jim Gerlach, 49.0% Lois Murphy, 48% George W. Bush, 52% John F. Kerry
2006: 50.6% Jim Gerlach, 49.4% Lois Murphy
2008: 52.1% Jim Gerlach, 47.9% Bob Roggio, 41% John McCain, 58% Barack Obama
2010: 57.1% Jim Gerlach, 42.9% Manan Trivedi

Since the redistricting, Gerlach has replaced Democratic leaning Lower Merion with Republican leaning parts of Berks county in order to give himself some breathing room. Lower Merion is now part of the heavily Democratic 2nd Congressional District. The 2nd District is represented by Chaka Fattah who has been elected and reelected by enormous margins.

Year PA 2nd Congressional District
1994: 86% Chaka Fattah, 14% Lawrence Watson (R)
1996: 88% Chaka Fattah, 12% Larry Murphy (R)
1998: 86% Chaka Fattah, 14% Anne Marie Mulligan (R)
2000: 98% Chaka Fattah,  2% Ken Krawchuk (L)
2002: 88% Chaka Fattah, 12% Tom Dougherty (R)
2004: 88% Chaka Fattah, 12% Stewart Bolno (R)
2006: 89% Chaka Fattah,  9% Michael Gessner (R)
2008: 89% Chaka Fattah, 11% Chris Kunc (R)
2010: 89% Chaka Fattah, 11% Rick Hellberg (R)

The lopsided demographics in this district lead to insurmoutable odds which discourage any serious challengers. In fact, the Republicans did not even bother fielding a candidate in 2000. (Ken Krawchuk was the Libertarian party’s candidate.) I have long argued that redistricting should be nonpartisan and have the goals of eliminating such non-competitive districts and creating a state map that reflects the partisan balance of the state.

The country is best served when both parties field the best candidates they have to offer and provide the voters with a real choice. This year Rep. Fattah is facing a pair of political neophytes: the Republican Robert Mansfield and Independent candidate Jim Foster. According to the Federal Election Commission, Fattah has raised over a half-million dollars while Mansfield has raised about ten thousand, and Foster has not reported any campaign contributions.


Photo: Richard Chaitt.

Rep. Chaka Fattah

A fair crowd was on hand to get acquainted with our new Congressman. However, due to a couple of simultaneous events at the synagogue and the lack of a competitive contest the attendance fell short of the previous candidate forums organized at the synagogue. Rep. Fattah spoke first and a sizable fraction of audience excused themselves after his remarks.

Rep. Fattah described the annexation of Lower Merion by his district as “a shotgun wedding arranged by the Pennsylvania Republicans” but he was happy to meet his new constitents. His first political campaign was to represent the Overbrook neighborhood (in Philadelphia about one mile from our synagogue) in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. He won that 1982 primary by a mere 58 votes out of over 10,000 votes cast, so he is well aware of the value of every vote.

AIPAC has described Chaka Fattah as one of the most reliable and stalwart pro-Israel members of Congress. His chief of staff has just returned from a mission to Israel, and the Congressmen will soon embarking on his first trip to Israel. As the ranking member of the Appropriation Committee’s Science Subcommittee, he will be leading a delegation from the National Science Foundation to launch new collaborations between the US and Israel in the field of Neuroscience. Fattah has spearheaded this funding which is destined to improve our understanding of age-related degenerative diseases of the brain and traumatic brain injuries. The leadership of the local Hadassah chapter was on hand and encouraged the Congressman to visit Hadassah Hospital which is a pioneer in medical research and an example of how Arab and Jewish doctors can cooperate to improve the health of patients of all races, religions and nationalities.

Chaka Fattah is married to NBC10 anchorwoman Renee Chenault-Fattah and has four children. He is now running for his 10th term in Congress and emphasized the value to the district of having a senior member of Congress on the Appropriations Committee. The Congressman was happy to get acquainted with his new constituents and promised to return after the election and continue the conversation at greater length.


Photo: Richard Chaitt.

Sgt. Robert Mansfield

The Republican challenger Robert Mansfield is a combat veteran having served thirteen years in the US Army and National Guard. His service was ended by trauma from an I.E.D. explosion. In a spirit of true bipartisanship he thanked Rep. Fattah for his dedication to funding research on traumatic brain injuries.

Mansfield has been a champion of adversity:

  • At birth he had to overcome a dependance on heroin he had acquired from his mother who used drugs during her pregnancy.
  • He  endured a tumultuous childhood in foster care.
  • He overcame kidney cancer.
  • And he suffered from the homelessness all too common to our returning veterans.

As a fervent member of the Episcopal Church, he expressed dismay at Christian groups boycotting Israel. For Sgt. Mansfield support for Israel is founded in the teachings of the Bible.

He fears that Obama is not taking the Iranian nuclear threat seriously and that Obama has agreed to negotiations with Iran. He says Iran is “four years closer” to making a bomb. He says that the US has sat idly by with ineffective sanctions. He recommended imposing “real sanctions like we had against South Africa”.

During the Question & Answer session, I commented that the sanctions are having a real economic effect on Iran, with the Iranian Rial losing 80% of its value in recent months with strikes and real unrest in the streets. I added that I didn’t remember the sanctions against South Africa as being so universal and so effective. (The biggest annual drop in the South African Rand was a drop of 34% in 1985.)

While Iran was said to be “months” away from a bomb when Obama took office, his administration is clearly responsible for the CIA working hand-in-hand with the Israeli Mossad to sabotage Iranian centrifuges, missiles and most recently computers. Meanwhile, Iranian physicists are dying in the streets of Tehran and this is not from the common cold. I concluded by asking specifically what additional steps would Mansfield recommend if he was in Congress? If he were Congressman or President, would he recommend an immediate tactical nuclear strike on the underground bunkers where the Iranian enrichment facilities are hidden?

Sgt. Mansfield pondered my question for fifteen seconds and then gave a one-word response: “Yes.”

Some of Mansfield’s other remarks ran afoul of the truth:

  • He repeated the discredited meme about Obama’s “apology tour”.
  • He warned that the bridge from Yemen to Somalia “to be completed by 2020″ would strengthen al Qaeda. While such a bridge (The Bridge of Horns) was proposed, it is not under construction and has not been funded. The fanciful bridge would be 18 miles long and in order to avoid disrupting navigation it would have the longest suspension span in the world (3 miles long). The Saudi and Yemen government oppose the African refugees that such a bridge might bring to the region. Moreover, Yemen and Somalia are two of the poorest countries in the world, so a bridge connecting them would not be “a bridge to nowhere” but rather “a bridge from nowhere to nowhere”.


Photo: Richard Chaitt.

Jim Foster

Jim Foster is running as an independent although he had to win a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Election Commission in order to do so. He has published the Germantown Chronicle since 2009.

He spoke entirely about Philadelphia issues such as broken schools, cronyism, and pay-to-play. During the Question & Answer period several people tried to redirect the conversation towards questions of foreign policy or national domestic policy. He gave only the most general of answers, for example, “some extremists want no taxes at all, and some want a 97% tax rate for the wealthy. Whatever rate we pick, I just say I want accountability.”

He also mentioned that he “saw Israel as self-supporting and honest with a legitimate government, and Iran and others without one.”

He said he “would use all means to keep Iran from getting the means to make a bomb.”

He would then steer back to local Philadelphia politics. I almost got the impression that Foster was running for Mayor Nutter’s job, not Representative Fattah’s job.

Ask Me Why… Even On Shabbat… Or Not…

Last Shabbat I was wearing the button on the right at the kiddush after shul. Over kiddush people will be talking about sports, their children, the weather and even politics. To me, the button is an invitation to political dialog and quite a few people took me up on the implicit offer and asked me about polls, Keynesian economies, the debates, Iran and Israel.

This button was making my life easier since people interested in my opinion would approach me, and I could leave those who would rather not speak about politics alone.

All was going well until a fellow congregant yelled me out for wearing the button. He said “What are you doing?” I didn’t know what he was talking about so he continued. “How dare you wear that in the synagogue.” I saw he was referring to my button and said I didn’t see any problem with that. He raised his volume and threatened me, “If you don’t take this off right now. I am going to tell the Rabbi on you.”

I’m pretty sure the Rabbi was aware that I was wearing the button since it was reasonably obvious attached to my lapel, so I had nothing to hide. I was conflicted since I believe that freedom of speech and association allows me to express my political opinions. On the other hand, I didn’t want to cause a scene with a fellow congregant.

In the end, I backed down and removed the button, but after asking a number of my friends about this situation, I think he was wrong to ask me to remove the button, and I think I was wrong to comply with his request.

This congregant is actually the organizer and moderator of our synagogue’s bi-annual candidate forum where our Congressmen and his opponent answer questions of interest to our community. Thus, he certainly has no problem with politics within the walls of the synagogue

More after the jump.
I read information across the political spectrum in part because of the duties of my work in finance and my work for the Philadelphia Jewish Voice, in part because of my research interest in the mathematics of voting, and in part because of my passion for politics and tikkun olam. Accordingly, I have information at my fingertips to respond to many of the questions people raise. Occasionally, someone stumps me on a fine detail of policy or some new event that I haven’t researched yet. I especially enjoy the chance to research these new issues and get back to people after Shabbat.

In the past, I may have overstepped my bounds. For example, in 2000, I distributed a note in the sanctuary about how Texas Gov. George W. Bush signed a law preventing synagogues and other places of worship from prohibiting people from bringing concealed handguns onto their premises. However, I have mellowed out over the years, and think that my display of a small button during the kiddush in the social hall after services were over would not interfere with anyone’s devotion.

On the contrary, compared to the “Oy Vey Obama” buttons I see worn by members of the RJC, I think my button opened the door to a positive exchange of ideas.

A positive exchange of ideas that unfortunately at least one congregant is trying to stomp out.

I hope he is not successful.

The issues facing our country, Israel and the world are important, so discussion of them is important. I would rather “lose the debate” than not have it in the first place. That would be the real shanda.