The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO is backing Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in his re-election bid for the state’s First Congressional District.
The endorsement stands out because the union is traditionally aligned with Democrats, backing a congressional Republican is a sight seldom seen in today’s politics.
On the union’s endorsements webpage, only eight Pennsylvania Republicans received AFL-CIO backing out of a total 274 candidates. The other seven Republicans are candidates for the state House of Representatives.
Although the union’s GOP endorsements are rare, it’s not a surprise for Fitzpatrick, who enjoyed the AFL-CIO support last cylce as he also rolled up other union endorsements and campaign contributions in 2018 as well.
Fitzpatrick represents a district Barack Obama won twice, and that backed Hillary Clinton in 2016 by 2 points. He’s running against Christina Finello, who has worked the last decade as the Deputy Director of the Bucks County Department of Housing and Human Services, according to her website.
“I am truly honored to once again receive the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO endorsement,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement to Delaware Valley Journal. “It is my mission every day in Congress to be an independent voice for the working families of Bucks and Montgomery counties. I have always fought for the interests of local workers and their families and I will continue to push for bipartisan solutions to create more jobs, higher wages and secure benefits.”
AFL-CIO Pennsylvania President Rick Bloomingdale said the endorsement of Fitzpatrick comes down to one thing: “He supports working families.”
“I think Brian was one of two Republicans who voted for what’s called the ‘PRO Act’ – the Protect Our Right to Organize Act, so that was a biggie,” Bloomingdale told Delaware Valley Journal. (Fitzpatrick did vote for the bill).
“We were disappointed he didn’t support the HEROES Act, but we do know that he supports a number of things that were in the HEROES Act,” Bloomingdale added, referring to a recently defeated stimulus bill.
Fitzpatrick has built such an extensive record of reaching across the aisle that the Lugar Center, a D.C.-based think tank, named him the most bipartisan legislator in the current Congress. The center also said Fitzpatrick received the highest score ever in their ranking of bipartisan legislators.
The political atmosphere in 2020 isn’t always conducive to bipartisanship, however.
“In primary elections bipartisanship has grown into more of a liability than an asset, but I think in more moderate districts like the 1st it is still a positive in a general election,” Christopher P. Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College, told Delaware Valley Journal. “True partisans will remain loyal given their deep resentment to the other party, so even if you are seen as a RINO or DINO you will not lose many votes from partisans, and likely do well among that slice of moderate voters that are in play.”
A GOP-oriented poll in late July showed Fitzpatrick with a 50-35 lead, with 5 percent favoring the libertarian, and 8 percent undecided, according to Politics PA. Another late-July poll also showed Fitzpatrick performing well, but Finello released internal polling in June showing her within the margin of error.
Finello’s campaign did not return a request for comment.
In the Delaware Valley region, incumbent Republican state Reps. Megan Schroeder and Wendi Thomas, both of Bucks County, got the union seal of approval.
The AFL-CIO is also going against an incumbent Democrat in the Delaware Valley — Greg Vitali of House district 166 in Montgomery and Delaware counties — a move that would be unusual if the seat were in play, but the union knows it’s probably not.
“He’s going to win,” Bloomingdale said. “It’s a heavily Democratic district.
“Like I said, a lot of issues he’s good, some he’s not, and he doesn’t always reach out as much as we feel he should. So, it was more symbolic than we thought we were going to beat him.”
Vitali had a rare intra-party challenge this year, but after surviving that vote now faces Republican Christina Boyle in the general.
“The endorsement solidifies the basis for my campaign: Greg Vitali has not been an active representative for the people of his district,” Boyle told DVJ. “Vitali is a single issue candidate. While he has been in office for over 26 years, he has been focused on environmental issues only. While we are all concerned about our environment, I know there are too many other issues facing the residents of the district. With my legal and community service background, I plan to advocate for all the residents of the district and all of their concerns.”
Update: This story was updated with comments from Christina Boyle.