On April 26, Pennsylvania held their presidential and congressional primaries. One of the hottest Democratic primaries was in the extreme southeast of the state, PA-07-- parts of Delaware, Chester, Montgomery and Berks counties (Joe Sestak's old district) currently held by 3-term, garden variety Republican Pat Meehan. Early in the cycle, the DCCC identified it as a must-win district if the Democrats were to stand any chance whatsoever of taking back the House this decade.
Obama had beaten McCain there in 2008-- 53-46%-- and Joe Sestak had defeated entrenched GOP incumbent, Curt Weldon, in 2006 and held the seat until running for the Senate in 2010. (It's worth noting that then-DCCC head Rahm Emanuel had attempted to sabotage Sestak's campaign in 2006 but he won anyway and Emanuel claimed the credit.) Anyway, this year the brain surgeons who run the DCCC, Steve Israel and Ben Ray Luján, decided to ignore the local Democratic party activists and recruited "some guy" and declared him the nominee and gave him Red-to-Blue status.
Israel got busy... busy urging Democratic donors to ignore the grassroots candidate, Mary Ellen Balchunis, a local professor who described herself as "from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party." Israel has shown a remarkable inability to elect Democrats to Congress but he has refined the fine art of political sabotage within the Democratic Party to something he can do in his sleep.
His Wall Street-backed candidate, Bill Golderer, who was overwhelmingly rejected by all the Democratic and allied organizations in the district, brought in $375,402 for the primary. Israel's negative onslaught made it impossible for Mary Ellen to spend even $50,000. But local Democrats decided to stand up and tell the DCCC what to do with their candidate and their attempt to take over PA-07. On primary night Mary Ellen beat Golderer and the DCCC by a stunning 51,525 (73.8%) to 18,276 (26.2%).
The DCCC immediately removed all mentions of PA-07 from their boards and website. They removed Golderer from Red to Blue of course but didn't replace him with Mary Ellen. They just decided to pretend that the once "must-win" district no longer exists-- like Pelosi's sometime mantra, When women win, America wins.
Blue America hadn't endorsed Mary Ellen during the primary. She checked every single progressive box policy-wise but we never really got to know her and we were busy looking for more "Berniecrats." She is a personal friend of Hillary's and although policy-wise she's more a Bernie person, she felt a personal loyalty to Hillary who had come to her class to lecture her students.
After the primary, we made a point of getting to know Mary Ellen better and getting a feel for her commitment to the key economic and social issues that motivate her. That, and a sense that PA-07 is a winnable district-- far more so that almost any district the DCCC is engaged with-- helped make us decide to jump into the race and try to help.
All of the issues of economic fairness, social equality, gun safety, environmental protection that we talk about all the time are highlighted in this clear race between the reactionary Republican incumbent and the progressive Mary Ellen Balchunis. This is someone openly aspiring to go to Congress and bring another voice to the issues Elizabeth Warren, Alan Grayson, Barbara Lee and Raúl Grijalva have been advocating for.
With Israel, Luján and Pelosi still refusing to put the concept of "party unity" into practice, even as they demand it from progressives for Hillary's campaign, Mary Ellen really needs some serious help in the fundraising department.
Joe Sestak is vigorously campaigning among his former constituents for her and there may be some big surprises coming this month from other top Democrats. Meanwhile, though, we're asking you to please dig as deep as you can for Mary Ellen.