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Poll Shows Dem Challenger Might Beat Rep. Fitzpatrick Over Abortion Issue

Will the U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade shape the 2022 midterms?

One of the first tests of how public sentiment came in a poll in the First Congressional District race in Bucks County, a seat held by incumbent Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick.

Democratic challenger Ashley Ehasz hopes to capitalize on the anger that has energized many pro-choice voters since the Supreme Court’s decision last Friday. The poll, conducted by Democratic polling firm Global Strategy Group, found Fitzpatrick leads Ehasz by 7 points with 18 percent undecided. However, when voters were told Fitzpatrick “wants to restrict abortion rights, even if the woman’s life is in danger and in most cases of rape and incest,” the results changed to a 10-point lead for Ehasz, a first-time candidate.

“This just echoes the conversations I have had with people at rallies and knocking doors since Friday’s announcement, which is that when voters learn their congressman had the opportunity to protect their right to an abortion and he refused to, they feel betrayed,” said Ehasz. “Fitzpatrick could have voted to codify Roe v. Wade, but instead he washed his hands of it, and sided with the most extreme members of his party. People feel abandoned, and rightly so.”

Not so fast, the Fitzpatrick campaign countered.

“The language in this partisan poll’s script pertaining to Brian’s voting record on abortion is categorically false, and they know it. This push poll is nothing more than a desperate fundraising ploy from a flailing campaign intended to mislead voters in an attempt to make their campaign relevant,”  said Nancy McCarty,  a Fitzpatrick campaign spokesperson.

According to Global Strategy Group, the poll also shows that 44 percent of voters said they disapproved of Fitzpatrick’s job performance while 33 percent approve. That included 40 percent of Republicans approving with 37 percent disapproving.

The pollsters surveyed 626 likely 2022 General Election voters in the First Congressional District on June 24 and 25. The findings have a margin of error of +/-3.9 percent.

Still, Christopher Nicholas, a veteran Republican consultant, said Ehasz will have a tough time beating incumbent Fitzpatrick.

“Her poll shows that when people find out Fitzpatrick is pro-life and she is pro-choice, her vote percentage goes up above his. Trouble is, no one knows who she is and that won’t be the only issue that the campaigns will talk about,” Nicholas said. “In addition to having no name ID she also has no money, so she has a hard road in front of her.”

Ehasz graduated from West Point and is an Iraq War veteran. She is a former Apache helicopter pilot and company commander. A Bensalem resident, she left the Army to study for a master’s degree at Oxford University.

Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor, was embedded with U.S. Special Forces as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In the 117th Congress, he was elected co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. Fitzpatrick is the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Energy, the Environment, and Cyber, and he was appointed by House leadership to currently serve on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and as a Commissioner on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission.

U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick

He also serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and co-chairs the bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force.

In addition to being an attorney, Fitzpatrick is both a  certified public accountant and a certified emergency medical technician.

“As state legislatures across America begin to consider legislation on this extremely sensitive topic in response to today’s Supreme Court decision in Dobbs, I urge all state legislatures to always start from a place of empathy and compassion,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement released after the decision.

“Any legislative consideration must start with the process of seeing the world through other people’s eyes, and walking the world in other people’s shoes. Any legislative consideration must always seek to achieve bipartisan consensus that both respects a woman’s privacy and autonomy, and also respects the sanctity of human life. These principles are not mutually exclusive; both can and must be achieved,” he said.

 

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Southeast PA Key Battlefield In National GOP’s Hopes to Flip House

In Washington, D.C. Republicans only need five more seats to win control of the House. And they could pick up two of them in southeast Pennsylvania, strategists say.

As President Joe Biden’s poll numbers plunge, GOP hopes are rising for pick-ups in PA-6—currently represented by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan—and PA-7, where incumbent Democrat Susan Wild’s seat has already been labeled “lean Republican” by the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

At the same time, perennial Democratic hopes of taking out GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in the Biden-friendly First Congressional District have largely faded.

According to the data analysis website FiveThirtyEight, redistricting made Wild’s district more difficult to hold. Picking up Berks County was not ideal for Rep. Wild, nor was losing Stroudsburg—a borough in Monroe County that is a Democratic stronghold, said Charlie O’Neill, grassroots programs coordinator for the Leadership Institute.

Wild’s district is now considered one of the state’s three competitive congressional races, including races for an open seat in Beaver County and incumbent Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks), according to FiveThirtyEight.

Although Fitzpatrick is a perennial target by the Democrats with his Biden-backing district, Samantha Bullock with the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) said Republicans feel confident. Fitzpatrick’s opponent, 33-year-old army veteran Ashley Ehasz, has run a lackluster campaign, Bullock said, while Fitzpatrick has survived far more Democratic-friendly election cycles.

Federal Election Commission filings show Ehasz has $77,976 on hand, while incumbent Fitzpatrick has close to $1.4 million.

Wild may have twice the amount of cash as her Republican challenger Lisa Scheller, but veteran Democrat strategist TJ Rooney said this will be a difficult election cycle for the incumbent.

“Folks who have been elected in the last four or six years had nothing but favorable conditions to run as a Democrat,” Rooney said. “This time, the president has a very low approval rating and Americans, by and large, think the nation is heading in the wrong direction.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has both Houlahan and Wild in their “Frontline” program, a sign they believe the seats are at risk. Houlahan apparently believes it, too. Last week she hosted her 60th town hall meeting.

“Of all of the more recently elected members from Pennsylvania, she’s the head of the class,” Rooney said. “She’s done the things at home that will enable her to win this year.”

O’Neill isn’t so sure. Houlahan’s challenger, former Chester County Chamber of Commerce president Guy Ciarrocchi won a tough, competitive primary and is an experienced political player. And his background in the business community gives him credibility on the economic issues dominating this election cycle.

Both Houlahan and Wild voted with Biden 100 percent of the time, FiveThirtyEight reports, not a positive when the president’s approval is around 40 percent in most polls.

“It’s going to be hard for Wild to talk about the pocketbook and kitchen table issues when her president is largely responsible for inflation, O’Neill said.

Wild’s opponent, Scheller, serves as president and chairman of her family’s manufacturing company. She ran against Wild in 2020 and lost by 4 points.

Adding Carbon County and removing the majority of Monroe County will make Wild’s pathway more difficult, Bullock said.

“In 2020, Donald Trump won Carbon County with 65 percent of the vote as opposed to his 44 percent in Monroe County, which is now almost entirely eliminated from the new district,” Bullock said. “If Scheller mirrored Trump’s 2020 performance in Carbon County, she would have defeated Wild in 2020 due to her performance in Northampton and Lehigh Counties.”

Wild also faces a $50,000 ad campaign organized by the Pennsylvania Hispanic Republican Coalition of Pennsylvania targeting Hispanic voters in her district. It is the first Spanish-language advertising from the right in Pennsylvania, according to Chris Mundiath, the group’s chairman.

“We are investing in reaching the Latino community in areas like the Lehigh Valley and Hazleton where we can really make a difference,” Mundiath said. “Democrats will no longer have a stranglehold over our demographic in our commonwealth. We are ready to lead the movement.”

Lehigh County has the state’s largest Hispanic population at 26 percent, according to the Pennsylvania State Data Center. Wild won the county by a 6-point margin.

Back in Chester County, Ciarrocchi laid out a mantra voters are likely to hear again and again between now and November.

“This election is a referendum. If you like $5 gas, paying up to 40 percent more for groceries, rising crime rates, unsecured borders, our children being used as political pawns, and Russia and China growing in power, vote for Congresswoman Houlahan. She supported every single policy that brought us to this dangerous place.”

 

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Angry at the System: Ashley Ehasz Runs for Congress

There are currently 76 veterans serving in Congress, and one more hopes to join their ranks. Angry at the system and the politicians in Washington, Ashley Ehasz has decided to run against incumbent Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks/Montgomery) for the First Congressional District of Pennsylvania.

Growing up wasn’t easy for Ehasz and her family. Ehasz told Delaware Valley Journal she moved around a lot, and that instability drove her to join the military.

“Until I was about six, my mom and I lived in New Jersey, at times living in government housing,” Ehasz said. “Afterwards, we began moving around a lot in southeastern Pennsylvania, ultimately settling in Pen Argyl, where I graduated from Pen Argyl High School. Growing up with just my mom, without much stability, the best option I felt I had was to join the Army. I entered West Point in the summer of 2006 at the age of 17, after my parents signed an age waiver.”

While the instability of her childhood pushed Ehasz to first serve her country, it was the events of the protest at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 that launched Ehasz into the race against Fitzpatrick.

“As a veteran, I was deeply disturbed by the events of January 6,” Ehasz said, “and it’s from the inaction of politicians in Washington who allowed this divisiveness to fester when they should have been looking to solve problems.”

Fitzpatrick beat Democrat Christina Finello at 56.6 percent in the 2020 election. A former FBI agent, Fitzpatrick has been a member of Congress since 2016 when he replaced his brother, who was also a Republican.

Although Ehasz is running as a Democrat, her concerns aren’t limited to one political party. Her priority is to help the people of Bucks and Montgomery Counties and the rest of the United States.

“I’m not interested in partisan politics,” Ehasz said. “I am running to represent people’s priorities here in Bucks and Montgomery counties. People want their representative to come up with real solutions to how they can afford their rent, pay off their student loans, and what the plan is to build economic resilience from the threat of climate change.”

When asked for her opinions on Fitzpatrick’s policies, Ehasz said she was frustrated with how slow progress is moving toward legislation on abortion  rights.

“It’s outrageous to me, and to so many of the people I talk to every day, that in 2021 we are facing an existential threat to reproductive healthcare and the right to choose, and it’s politicians in Washington like Brian Fitzpatrick fanning the flames of anti-choice rhetoric,” she said.

In addition to her pro-choice position, Ehasz wants to bring relief to the people struggling in Bucks and Montgomery Counties.

“Whether you are a young professional just starting out, or an older adult looking towards retirement, you feel the strain on your wallet because politicians in Washington accomplish nothing,” Ehasz said. “For the first time in decades, students, workers, families, and retirees are worse off than the generation before us, unable to make a down payment, find work that offers a livable wage, or afford prescription drug prices.”

As a commissioned officer, Ehasz says she learned valuable leadership lessons which would translate into how she tackled issues in Congress.

“I graduated from West Point in 2010 and went on to complete flight school, where I learned to fly the AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter,” she said. “My first duty station was Fort Bliss, Texas, where I served as a platoon leader. From there I deployed to Kuwait and then Camp Taji, Iraq, under Operation Inherent Resolve. In 2016, after further leadership training, I was granted the greatest privilege of my career: Becoming a company commander. I assumed command of an aviation maintenance troop at Fort Riley, Kansas, and later was deployed to South Korea where I eventually took command of another troop in our unit. In 2018, after nearly nine years as a commissioned officer, I used the G.I. Bill to further my education, earning my master’s degree from the University of Oxford.”

Ehasz states in her campaign launch video she’s angry at a system that’s keeping families in Bucks and Montgomery Counties unable to reach higher goals for themselves.

“It’s time to send a representative to Washington who isn’t afraid to tackle the tough issues, who won’t shrink away from the anger Americans are feeling.”

Change is what Ehasz says she is fighting for, and she wants to make changes within Congress.

“I’m not a politician,” Ehasz states on her website. “I’m not going to Washington to cozy up to lobbyists — I am going to roll up my sleeves and solve problems. When it comes to affording things like a mortgage, health care, and student loans, I have skin in the game.”