A Key Battle in the Keystone State for Control of the House—Democrat Susan Wild v. GOPer Marty Nothstein May 27, 2018
On Tuesday May 15, 2018, the political world laser focused on PA. Why? That date was when the Keystone State held its Democratic and Republican primaries to determine their nominees for the 11/2018 midterms. The Keystone State, with a .7% Donald win, played a “key” part in Donald’s 2016 electoral victory. Democrats want a midterm “do-over”/correction here. The Keystone State, additionally, remains “key” to “Team Blue’s” chances of retaking the House this fall. Strategists in both parties see the Philadelphia suburbs as an important front in the battle for control of the House. More than half a dozen GOP-held House seats in PA and across the border in NJ are up for grabs. A Democratic sweep or near-sweep in this region could be fatal to GOPers nationally (See NY Times, Burns, 5/16/18, Kos, Morning Digest, 2/20/18). After the PA Supreme Ct. ruled a GOP gerrymandered congressional map illegal in 1/2018, the newly redrawn map gives Democrats the opportunity to recapture at least three, and, possibly, even six seats. Democrats, remember, need to take back 23 seats to get back the House, and “Keystone” PA can, therefore, provide many of these (See NY Times, Gabriel, 5/15/18). Although most of the PA seats up for grabs are in the Philadelphia suburbs, one of these contested districts is located in the Lehigh Valley, part of East Central PA. Democrat Susan Wild won a competitive primary in the Lehigh Valley and will face GOPer Marty Nothstein who won a tight race. Both of these candidates are fighting to replace retiring 7th- term Congressman Charlie Dent. Let’s do our own laser-focusing on this contest.
The open House seat for which both Wild and Nothstein are running is PA’s new 7th Congressional District, CD. The PA 7th covers much of the old PA 15th that Cong. Dent represented during the past 14 years (Radzievich, “Morning Call,” 5/16/18). It includes Lehigh, Northampton, and parts of southern Monroe Counties. The city of Allentown is in the 7th. This Lehigh Valley area is part of the Rust Belt and has many blue-collar voters. In 2016, Donald won this area by 8 points. The newly configured 7th , which now includes the Democratic-leaning city of Easton, would have gone for Hillary by 1 point, a very swingy up-for-grabs district (See huffingtonpost.com, Marans, 5/15/18, “Morning Call,” 5/16/18, Radzievich, Gabriel, NY Times, 5/15/18).
Democrat Susan Wild (60) was born into a military family. Her father spent his career serving in the U.S. Air Force. She has lived in the Lehigh Valley for 30 years. Her two children were born and attended public schools there. Wild received her undergraduate degree from American University and a law degree from George Washington University. She built her civil litigation law practice in the Lehigh Valley and lives in South Whitehall Township. In 2013, Wild was recognized as one of the top 50 Women Lawyers in PA. In 2015, she became the first woman to serve as Allentown’s solicitor. While she was solicitor, the mayor of Allentown was convicted on corruption charges. The federal attorney prosecuting this case, Joe Khan, praised Wild for her cooperation with his investigation and her ability to implement safeguards against future corruption (“Morning Call,” 3/15/18, 3/16/18, huffingtonpost.com, Marans, 5/11/18, wildforcongress.com).
Wild was involved in a very competitive six-person 2018 Democratic primary. When she entered the race, she was relatively unknown. Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli was the best-known candidate. Community organizer Greg Edwards, a Bernie-Sanders endorsed candidate, had strong recognition in the urban areas. Wild built a network of volunteers and experienced campaigners and attracted outside groups that put more than $360,000 in her race. Wild cultivated a base in her Lehigh County home and beat Morganelli and Edwards there by 18% and 14% respectively. She also did well in the higher-educated, relatively affluent Lehigh Valley areas including Upper and Lower Macungie townships where she won 53% and 46% of the vote respectively (Radzievich, “Morning Call,” 5/16/18). Even in Morganelli’s home base, Northampton County, Wild made inroads. She took 25% of the vote to Morganelli’s 39% (“Morning Call,” 5/16/18). Emily’s List, which backs pro-choice Democratic women, supported Wild. It bought television ads in the Philadelphia and Allentown markets and sent out 250,000 ads supporting her. U.S. Atty. Kahn backed her as did several local officials. Wild is strongly pro-choice. She is for legalizing marijuana and raising the minimum wage to $15. She is for federal spending on infrastructure, expanding rural broadband, and passing a paid parental leave policy. She stands against fracking on public land. She is for passing sensible gun reform regulations, including an assault weapons ban. When asked if she would support Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, a major GOP attack line, Wild argued that such a question is “sexist.” She stated that such a question would not be coming up against Pelosi, who has done so much, if she were male. Wild is clearly progressive, but at the same time, she emphasizes her professional experience and the need for bipartisan cooperation and deal-making rather than a radical “burn-it-all down” populism (huffingtonpost.com, Marans, 5/11/18, 5/15/18). Wild does use occasional populist rhetoric. She argues that she is “for ordinary people, for families. I’m not here fighting for the billionaire class. Frankly, they don’t need our help (huffingtonpost.com, Marans, 5/15/18).”
Wild and her supporters attacked prosecutor Morganelli for being anti-choice and for backing hardline immigration policies. Morganelli was legitimately criticized for issuing positive tweets about Trump both before and after his election and for wanting to get a post in his administration (huffingtonpost.com, Marans, 511/18, 5/15/18). In the end, Wild defeated Morganelli 33.3%- 30.2%. Edwards took 25.5% of the vote (nytimes.com, 5/16/18, “The Morning Call,” 5/16/18).
Meet Wild’s GOP opponent, Marty Nothstein (47). Allentown native Nothstein’s father owns a local automotive business. His paternal great-grandfather was an accomplished bicycle racer and bare-knuckles prize fighter at the turn of the 20th Century. Nothstein is a 1989 Emmaus High School graduate (“USA Cycling”). Nicknamed “The Blade,” Nothstein won a silver medal for the U.S. in the Men’s track cycling in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and then a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics (“Olympic Champion, Marty Nothstein Interview”). Nothstein ran the Valley Preferred Cycling Center. In 2015, Nothstein first entered politics. He and his fellow slate of GOPers won on a platform of cutting taxes and pushing for more efficient government. Nothstein served as chairman of the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners (Marty Nothstein, ballotopedia.org, Sieger, leighvalleylive.com, 2/10/15, Shortell, 10/27/15, mcall.com). After GOP Cong. Dent announced he would not run in 2018, Nothstein jumped into the race to succeed him in 10/2017 (cyclingnews.com, 10/19/17). In the 5/15/2018 GOP congressional primary, Nothstein eked out a 1% win over GOPer Dean Browning (NY Times, 5/16/18).
Nothstein is running for Congress as a “conservative outsider.” In 5/2018, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the group that recruits, finances, and advises GOP candidates, named him to their “Young Guns” program. “Young Guns” are GOP congressional hopefuls who have strong fundraising ability (“Lebanon Daily News,” 10/24/17, “Morning Call,” 5/07/18).”
Retiring Cong. Dent was one of the most moderate House GOPers and repeatedly criticized Trump. Nothstein is no Dent heir. He is far to the right of Dent and is a supporter of Demagogue Donald (See Barone 14 Almanac). He advocates a constitutional amendment for congressional term limits. He is upset that the Affordable Care Act/ Obamacare remains the law of the land. He wants to bring it to a “merciful end.” He will not let Congress drop the issue of repealing the Affordable Care Act. Translation: Nothstein’s “merciful” end of Obamacare will be merciless to millions of Americans who have been helped by it. He is one big fan of the 1% tax cut scam and wants to keep the “momentum” for similar cuts going. Remember the Aurora, CO, Sandy Hook, CT, Las Vegas, NV, Parkland, FL, and Santa Fe, TX gun massacres? Lifetime NRA member Nothstein, a hunter and gun owner, will work in Congress to prevent those who would undermine our “rights,” read, those who want sensible and reasonable gun control. Nothstein is “pro-life” and will work in Congress to protect this precious “first right.” He’s for keeping women from choosing what to do with their own bodies. He is fairly hardline on immigration, arguing that America can’t be a “nation without borders,” Trump talk. He is for halting job-crushing regulations and overreach by the EPA. Definition: not paying much attention to keeping hazardous chemicals out of our air and water (See martyforpa.com). You get the idea.
Christopher Borick, a political science professor in Allentown’s Muhlenberg College, described 7th CD Dem. nominee Wild as a “goldilocks” candidate, capable of exciting both existing progressives and winning over centrist Democrats, Republicans, and independents.” Borick added, “She brings a lot to the table with her nomination and will pose a matchup problem for Republicans (huffingtonpost.com, Marans, 5/15/18).” However, as we all should know by now, elections are won by turnout, and not pundit “handicapping.” The GOP is well aware that Democrats see a chance to flip the PA 7th and that this seat is crucial for them in their drive to take back the House. GOP national organizations will shower oodles of money on Nothstein and so will their “Red” leaning friends, such as the Koch Brothers. Democrats must keep funding Wild to level the financial playing field. This district, as was previously mentioned, has many conservative blue- collar voters. Their middle- class quest for jobs and a secure future must be addressed along with the concerns of pro-choice women. Wild, if she wins, would be the first woman to represent the Lehigh Valley. PA currently has no women in its 18-member congressional delegation. Wild, along with several other women nominees, now has a serious chance to change that in 11/2018 (huffingtonpost.com, Marans, 5/15/18). However, in order to change PA, and indeed, the country by taking back the House, Democrats, must not as Obama, noted “fall asleep” when the 11/06/2018 midterm election arrives. Democrats must understand that voting is “everything.” They must come out in droves to put Wild and her fellow congressional challengers in office to stop Trumpism.