Far too many Democrats believe that winning the U.S. Presidency is the “whole political ball of wax.” It is not. In order to get legislation signed and passed by the President, it has to go through the House and Senate. A GOP House/and or Senate will either kill a Democratic President’s proposals or radically change them. They will additionally be able to use subpoena powers in politically motivated investigations that will be aimed at punishing Democrats. Witness the multitude of ridiculous GOP congressional “investigations” into the Benghazi, Libya 2012 terrorist attack against U.S. diplomatic personnel. One of these witch hunts ultimately “discovered” that then Sec. of State Hillary Clinton used a private email server. The rest, as we all know, was horrible history. Too many of the major media outlets endlessly ran with this “what about her emails” story. Combining with the GOP “noise machine,” the major press helped make Hillary’s email server the “crime of the century.” As a result, Demagogue Donald won the 2016 election. Our country is still trying to recover from the damage he did to our constitutional norms. Then, there are the state governors and the state legislatures. Democrats have ignored them even more than the U.S. House and Senate and have, again, paid a heavy price. While Obama was in office, GOPers made an extremely strong effort to capture the majority of state legislatures and governorships and handily succeeded in 2010 (See Mayer, J., “Dark Money”).
As of early 2021, the GOP still dominates in state elections. “Team Red” has a “trifecta,” where it controls the governorship and both state chambers in 23 states. The Democrats only have “trifectas” in 15 states. State legislatures are the “farm team” in which political parties groom up-and-coming legislators for higher state and federal office. Unless this power is delegated by the voters to an independent commission (as in CA), state legislatures and the governor determine every 10 years how state and federal districts are drawn. Since 2010, with the help of high-tech computer work, GOPers have made political gerrymandering into a fine art. They have drawn state and congressional districts to protect and add to their GOP numbers “big time.” Under this blatant gerrymandering, the state legislators and congressmembers effectively get to pick their constituents. Such gerrymandering is contrary to the Constitution’s intent that voters are the ones who should actually pick their representatives. However, unless such gerrymandering involves racial discrimination, the U.S. Supreme Court recently stated that this political “artwork” is constitutional. Many pundits believe that the latest Census results, showing more people moving to the South and Southwest, may give the GOP an edge in recapturing Congress in the 2022 midterms.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf faces a GOP State Senate and a GOP House of Representatives (CQ Cong. At Your Fingertips 117th Cong.). GOP legislative attempts to draw a rigged GOP map were stopped by a decision by the PA Supreme Ct. That court held that under PA’s Constitution, such political gerrymandering was unconstitutional. Since this case was decided on “independent state grounds,” or just under PA law, the U.S. Supreme Ct. could not intervene to overturn the results (See Cohen & Cook 2020 Political Almanac). As a result, PA Democrats gained 4 House seats in 2018. PA went from a 2016 5D-13R House lineup to a 9-9 tie which it maintained in 2020. The State chambers, however, still retained a GOP majority. After Biden’s White House win, many pundits believed that his Democratic Party would lose seats in the PA state legislature, based on previous electoral behavior. That anti-Presidential incumbent backlash did not occur. A 5/18/2021 special election was held to replace PA State Senate Democrat John Blake. Blake represented the PA 22nd Senatorial District (SD). PA Rep. Marty Flynn (113th House District, HD) clobbered his GOP opponent Chris Chermak by a 13.5% margin, 51.5%-38%, to keep Blake’s seat in the “Blue” column (ballotpedia.org). Let’s look at this race.
The PA 22nd Senate District (SD), which Flynn just won, is in the northeast corner of the swingy Keystone State. It contains all of Lackawanna County, including the city of Scranton, the birthplace and early boyhood home of President Joe Biden. Hillary Clinton’s paternal grandparents were also Scranton natives (Cohen & Cook 2020 Political Almanac, redistricting.state.pa.us). The 22nd SD additionally includes part of Luzerne and Monroe Counties. The PA 113th House District (HD), which Flynn was representing at the time of his special election win, contains part of Scranton (ballotpedia.org). The 22nd SD and 113th HD are located in PA’s 8th Congressional District (CD), currently represented by Democrat Matt Cartwright (Cohen & Cook 2020, CQ 117th Cong. At Your Fingertips). The PA 8th CD’s 2021 Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) has an R+5 score. The 8th CD used to be a strong Democratic area of blue-collar voters working in the coal industry. With the decline of coal, the 8th CD went from giving Obama a double-digit win in 2012 (55%-43%) to a 2016 double-digit win for Trump in 2016 (53%-43%). Hillary’s 8th CD loss was one of the key reasons PA helped Donald win the Electoral College (Cohen & Cook 2020). In 2016, the PA 22nd SD barely went for Hillary by 3 points, 50%-47%. In 2020, Biden took the SD 22 area by 9 points, 54%-45% (google.com/spreadsheets, Kos Elections post-11/03/2020 D-vs. R special elections vs. presidential results). In the 5/2021 PA special election, with his 13.5% victory margin, Flynn outperformed both Hillary and Biden in the Keystone 22nd SD. Flynn, therefore, reversed a trend toward GOPers in this area during the Trump-era. Flynn’s winning margin was even more impressive because a Green Party candidate peeled off 9% of the vote (See twitter.com/DKElections/status, docs.google.com/spreadsheets).
Scranton, PA native Marty Flynn (45) received a 2000 B.S. degree in legal studies from Marywood University. Before winning election to the PA 113th House of Representatives (HD) where he has served for over eight years (2013-2021), Flynn had an interesting career. He initially worked as a Lackawanna County Prison inmate education/program coordinator and as a Lackawanna County prison guard. He was also a mixed martial arts fighter and professional boxer for ten years (ballotpedia.org, pahouse.com/Flynn, “Biography”). He served on several key PA House committees, including Appropriations, Consumer Affairs, and Insurance (ballotpedia.org). He sponsored a bill for local solar programs and renewable energy credits (ballotpedia.org). Labor unions were some of his key financial backers. Flynn handily coasted to reelection in the PA House (ballotpedia.org).
On 10/15/2014, Flynn and a fellow lawmaker were leaving dinner and walking home when a teen approached Flynn and his colleague. This juvenile demanded their wallets and pointed a gun at them. Another suspect reportedly shouted instructions to the gunman from across the street. Flynn, with his prison guard background, is licensed to carry a handgun. Flynn drew his handgun and exchanged shots with his armed attacker. Flynn and his friend and the suspects fled the area an no one was hurt. Police quickly arrested the two suspects and two more teens were arrested as accomplices. They were charged with attempted homicide, robbery, conspiracy, and aggravated assault. Police alleged that this group had committed another robbery the night before the attack on Flynn. Flynn told the Associated Press that he might have been killed had he not been carrying a concealed pistol. Flynn told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “We are used to fighting for the people in our districts every day. We certainly are going to stand up for ourselves and not become victims (AP, Fox News, 10/15/14 &12/20/15).” Under any responsible gun control laws, Flynn had every right to carry and use this gun under the circumstances he and his friend faced.
On 2/14/2021, PA 22nd SD incumbent John Blake stated he was resigning to work for 8th District Dem. Congressman Cartwright. On 3/13/2021, Flynn won the Democratic nomination to replace Blake at a special convention (Hofius, S., citizensvoice.com, 3/13/21). Flynn’s strongest opponent in the 5/18/2021 special election was GOPer Lackawanna County Commissioner Chris Chermak. He stood for the usual GOP “values.” He attacked Democratic Gov. Wolf for his “devastating” shutdown. Translation: Let’s ignore the deadly corona virus and open up recklessly and too soon against scientific advice. Chermak talked of creating a commission to examine where Lackawanna County money was “being wasted.” “Waste” is a code word for cutting the money middle class and poor Lackawanna County residents need to survive during the COVID-19 pandemic (See Cole, J., politicspa.com, 3/29/21).
Flynn campaigned on bringing economic development back to the northeast PA area. His message of jobs and standing strongly with his community, Democratic Party values, resonated well. He was endorsed by Scranton’s most famous native son President Biden and received a groundswell of support. Flynn carried his native Lackawanna County, which went a long way toward giving him his landslide victory in this swingy battleground area. The GOP, however, did not concede this race. It poured over $500,000 in TV ads against Flynn to show that the post-Trump party is “alive and well.” Democrats, however, successfully demonstrated that in northeast Rust Belt PA Flynn’s fighting for workers and families remains everything. In an interesting historical note, Flynn’s new Senate District, the PA 22nd, was represented during the early 20th Century by Edward Blewitt, Pres. Biden’s great-grandfather (dlcc.org, 5/18/21, Hiller, M., 5/18/21, pahomepage.com). Flynn immediately plans get to work in Harrisburg, PA’s capital. His special election victory allows him to fill out the rest of John Blake’s term through the end of 11/2022 when Flynn will have to run for a full state Senate term (pahomepage.com).
Yes, Flynn’s strong victory in a swingy PA area is a triumph against Trumpism. However, Democrats face many special elections throughout the country, including a key New Mexico congressional one on 6/01/2021. Most importantly, they face a crucial 2022 midterm. In 2022, they must expand their House margin to keep Trump extremist Kevin McCarthy from getting the gavel. Democrats must also expand their Senate margin which is now deadlocked at 50-50. Obstructionist Mitch McConnell, who just successfully filibustered an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the 1/06/2021 attempted coup, (latimes.com), must not become Senate Majority Leader again. “Team Blue” needs strong margins in both houses to pass Biden’s progressive agenda. Democrats must, like those in the PA 22nd SD, be fired up and come out in droves plus in every state and national election. We must keep the Trumpified GOP party out of power. Our democracy depends upon it.