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Three ‘America First’ Challengers May Take on Fitzpatrick in GOP Primary

Incumbent Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) may face three challengers in the May 17 primary, all espousing the populist conservatism championed by former President Donald Trump. Democrats say it is a sign Fitzpatrick, who has defied political gravity in his Democratic-leaning district, is in trouble in 2022. Republicans, however, tell Delaware Valley Journal they aren’t worried.

Fitzpatrick’s potential primary challengers — Caroline Avery, Brad Lanning, and Dasha Pruett — say they believe America is heading in the wrong direction thanks to elected Republicans and Democrats alike who they claim have misused their power. They believe the nation needs an “America First” approach to politics.

The district, as it stands prior to an impending new redistricting map, primarily consists of suburban Bucks County, a swing county that voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 4.4 percent in 2020. Fitzpatrick has held on to the seat over two election cycles by embracing political moderation. He has established himself as a hawk on foreign issues like confronting China, and according to the data analysts at FiveThirtyEight, he voted with President Trump nearly 62 percent of the time.

However, he has joined with Democrats on numerous domestic legislative efforts, including the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure bill championed by President Biden.

Fitzpatrick’s primary challengers see this middle-of-the-road approach as a weakness.

Caroline Avery

“Brian just joined 12 other turncoat Republicans to give Nancy Pelosi, the radical leftist leader of the House Democrats, a win she couldn’t get from her own house members,” Caroline Avery’s website says.

It’s time for the district to elect a “real Republican,” she said.

“A true Republican is someone who believes in limited government and states rights, fiscal responsibility, supporting the constitution as written, American Exceptionalism, and capitalism,” she told Delaware Valley Journal.

Brad Lanning

Lanning, a small business consultant and most recently a stay-at-home dad, focused on economic issues that he disagrees with Fitzpatrick on during an interview. Contrary to the incumbent’s stance, he says we need to remake international trade agreements to protect American jobs and disagrees with Fitzpatrick’s willingness to hike the minimum wage to $15-per-hour, which he says will price out American workers in favor of jobs overseas.

But Lanning also pointed to Fitzpatrick’s social issues stances as points of disagreement.

“He [Fitzpatrick] supported the so-called Equality Act, which would introduce sex to kids at too early an age and destroy the positive effects of feminism,” said Lanning. “I would support withholding funding to states that allow for teaching racist curriculum like CRT (Critical Race Theory). And I would support withholding funding from states that don’t hold radical District Attorney’s accountable.”

Dasha Pruett, a Delaware County resident and native of Russia, ran and lost in Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District in 2020. She’s reportedly considering moving to Bucks County, is also looking at challenging Fitzpatrick. She has not yet been listed on the Federal Election Commission website, and her website also does not yet list the 1st District—it still mentions her 2020 run for the Pennsylvania 5th.

Dasha Pruett

In an interview with Philly radio host Chris Stigall on Jan. 7,  Pruett also castigated Fitzpatrick for not embracing the “America First” agenda.

“If you don’t believe in your own country, and you’re running around trying to protect everyone else, then what are you protecting, what are you saving? Again, this is the greatest country in the world,” she said.

Democratic election officials see the growing list of challengers for the Republican nomination as an opportunity in the making.

“A third GOP primary challenger underscores how vulnerable Brian Fitzpatrick is heading into 2022,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson James Singer said in a statement.

But Christopher Nicholas, principal at Eagle Consulting Group in Harrisburg, disagrees.

“If past performance is the best indicator of future performance, then look at his previous GOP primary challengers. How’d they do? Not so good.”

Indeed, Fitzpatrick beat Andrew Meehan in the 2020 primary by 26.6 percent. Meehan, similar to this year’s challengers, positioned himself as an “America First” conservative hoping to replace a “Democrat, masquerading as a Republican,” as he called Fitzpatrick.

“The America-First language can definitely appeal to a portion of the GOP electorate, but not all of it,” said Albert Eisenberg, a political consultant who has worked in Fitzpatrick’s district. “[Fitzpatrick] is also probably the only Republican who can win his district, and regularly outperforms national Republicans, and that’s why he’s been able to hold this seat and make it one less vote for the Pelosi agenda from Pennsylvania.”

All the challengers dismiss the claim that only a moderate can win in this swing district.

“Talking to people across District 1, I have tried to get my finger on the pulse of what is going on,” said Lanning. “They feel they’ve been lied to. They feel that they voted for someone [Fitzpatrick] who’d represent conservative policies and they did not get that candidate.”

Fitzpatrick is unlikely to abandon his moderate bona fides.

“I will always reject the bigotry of hyper-partisanship and I will always fight for our families and for our One Community,” he Tweeted in July, after raking in a record-breaking $1.1 million in the second quarter of 2021.

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DelVal Dem Stalwarts Face Challengers on Their Left Flank

Is Pennsylvania’s Democratic establishment in for a rude a-“woke”-ening?

Although the state legislature is controlled by Republicans, left-wing candidates are targeting Democratic incumbents in some Delaware Valley districts, arguing those Democrats are not progressive enough. Races that once attracted relatively little competition are heating up.

Political newcomer and schoolteacher Paul Prescod is squaring off against state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams in the 8th Senate District. Tarik Khan, a nurse, is challenging state Rep. Pam DeLissio in the 194th House District. Those districts include parts of Delaware and Montgomery Counties, as well as Philadelphia.

First-time candidates Prescod and Khan have been involved with far-left activist groups like the Democratic Socialists of America and Reclaim Philly. They’re hoping to follow the path of progressives like state Sen. Nikil Saval and state Rep. Chris Rabb, who defeated more moderate and establishment candidates.

Prescod, who is likely to portray his opponent as a moderate, “centrist” Democrat, is a Temple graduate and has taught in Philadelphia’s public school system for the last five years. He will likely hammer away at Williams’ support for charter schools and private school voucher programs.

Williams’ previous acceptance of donations from groups backing charter schools has been described as “monolithic” and could make for campaign fodder for left-leaning voters. In a recent interview with the Delaware Valley Journal, Prescod painted a grim portrait of deteriorating conditions inside some of the schools where he and colleagues teach, noting issues with mold, asbestos, and rodents.

“The buildings aren’t fit for human beings. We need more people who come out of ordinary backgrounds,” the 30-year-old Prescod said. “We need a change in leadership and, really, a big change in direction.”

Incumbent Williams, who has a family history of public service — he took over his father’s seats in both the state House and Senate — expected attacks on his stance on charter schools. And he rejects the notion that he’s somehow not left-leaning enough for his district.

He said he’s championed progressive causes like police accountability and systemic racism for years. But now newcomers from the left tout them “like they just discovered Plymouth Rock,” Williams, who says he has helped groom a generation of younger politicians, noting he has largely bucked the party-machine structure while in office.

“I’m not gonna be put in a box,” Williams said. “I’m not a moderate. I’m a left-leaning Democrat. I’ve been at the vanguard of these issues. ..I don’t know if that’s moderate. I don’t know if that’s conservative. I don’t know if that’s progressive. I just know that’s results.”

Prescod isn’t backing off. He hopes to garner support from progressive groups and has already landed endorsements from three labor unions. And he said his “bread and butter” campaign has lined up more than 600 donations so far. Prescod is eager to test whether Williams’ base is really as big and as strong as believed.

“I really try to focus on issues that have broad support. Actually making material improvements to a majority of people’s lives, that’s really what it comes down to. I think there’s been a lot of hunger for change,” he said, citing other progressives’ wins. “It’s been the same person or the same family for so long.”

Williams is proud of his family roots but stresses he has earned his way. He points to his track record and the lack of competition in previous primaries as showing he is doing a solid job for constituents.

”My [staying power] has always been consistency,” Williams said. “It’s not just say something, it’s doing something.”

In the 194th House District race, incumbent DeLissio is being challenged by Khan, a nurse and Reclaim member. The district includes parts of Northwest Philadelphia and Montgomery County, which DeLissio has represented since being first elected in 2010.

Over the years, people announced they were primarying DeLissio only to later withdraw. Barring unforeseen changes, this is the first time she will have faced an interparty challenger since 2016 when she handily defeated Sean Stevens with more than three-quarters of the vote.

“I’m doing my job as I always do my job whether there’s a challenger or not,” DeLissio told DVJournal Wednesday.

The 42-year-old political neophyte Khan said his experiences helping vulnerable and underserved people as a nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic made him feel like the district needs a “healthcare champion in the House.” He recalled the “fear in the eyes” of first responders who came for coronavirus tests at Citizens Bank Park last year, in the early months of the pandemic. Later, he spent his days off delivering vaccinations to homebound patients.

Progressivism means “actually getting things done and fighting for issues that are central to our future,” he said.

“If I didn’t feel like I would be a better leader, I wouldn’t have run,” Khan said. “A lot of it’s showing up and listening to people.”

DeLisso says she believes the hundreds of town hall meetings she has held during her time in office are the “cornerstones” of being an effective leader and having an informed electorate.

“My goal isn’t to make your eyes glaze over. It’s to acknowledge their power,” she said. “If that isn’t the most progressive approach to governing, I don’t know what is.”

DeLissio also touts her ability to reach across an increasingly hostile aisle in this fractious divisive climate, knowing sometimes she’ll get slammed by those who adhere to party lines.

“If we don’t do that, what happens in that void is unthinkable,” she said. “What we’ll have is two extreme sides. They’ll be loud, but it won’t be effective. The alternative is very scary.”

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