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Midterm Election Dominated DVJournal’s 2022 Coverage

Looking back at 2022, the most significant stories the Delaware Valley Journal covered involved the midterm election.

The primary campaign for governor and lieutenant governor on the Republican side brought out many candidates. In contrast, on the Democratic side, only Josh Shapiro ran for governor while a few Democrats contested for the lieutenant governor’s nomination. Many Republicans supported Shapiro, who ran as a moderate.

The race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R) drew several candidates in both parties. Democrats fielded Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who suffered a stroke during the campaign, Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, Philadelphia state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, Philadelphia physician Kevin Baumlin, and western Pennsylvania Congressman Conor Lamb.

Among area Senate candidates, conservative author and commentator Kathy Barnette, Montgomery County businessman Jeff Bartos, Philadelphia lawyer George Bochetto, and Montgomery County lawyer Sean Gale all took part in a debate sponsored by the DVJournal that was broadcast on Pennsylvania Cable Network.

Celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz and hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick duked it out, spending massive amounts on television ads. With former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, Oz prevailed by a slim margin, only to lose in the general election to Fetterman. Fetterman’s poor showing in a late October debate failed to move the needle since many voters had already cast their ballots via mail-in voting before seeing it.

The DVJournal also sponsored an online debate for Republican lieutenant governor candidates.

The wide field of men and one woman running for the Republican nomination for governor also debated several times. State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) came out on top in the primary despite a last-minute play by party leaders to back former Congressman Lou Barletta. Locally, Delaware County businessman Dave White made a strong showing and Chester County attorney Bill McSwain enjoyed the deep-pocket financial support of Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs.

Shapiro, who spent millions on television commercials to paint Mastriano as an extremist, went on to handily win the governor’s race. Many believe redistricting in the Delaware Valley collar counties gave the Democrats a new advantage. Democrats defeated several incumbent Republicans, notably Todd Stephens in Montgomery County, Chris Quinn in Delaware County, and Todd Polinchock in Bucks County.

Other 2022 stories in the region included the saga of private utility companies buying up municipal sewer and water authorities. The DVJ has highlighted Pennsylvanians’ likely higher energy bills with Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), despite opposition from the state legislature.  And the state’s crucial Marcellus Shale natural gas industry remains under assault from the Biden administration’s embrace of the Green New Deal.

This year, many other DVJournal articles focused on parents who are at war with “woke” school boards and school administrators who impose critical race theory (CRT) and gender-fluid ideology on their students and critical race theory (CRT) and gender-fluid ideology on their students as well as stocking school libraries with obscene books.

The Delaware Valley Journal also brought readers the saga of the state House versus progressive Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner that culminated in the House voting to impeach Krasner for mishandling of his official duties, which they allege is a significant factor in the skyrocketing crime rate in the city. An impeachment trial for Krasner is set in the Senate for Jan. 18.

While crime has been a big issue for DVJournal’s 2022 reporting, inflation was also a hot topic with skyrocketing prices for gas, food, and other goods biting into Delaware Valley residents’ budgets.

Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision weighed on the election, causing a rise in Democratic voter registration and driving some women, particularly women in the Delaware Valley suburbs, to the polls. Conversely, the increase in arrests of pro-life activists by the Biden Department of Justice has stirred up passion on the other side of the abortion issue.

And the local reaction to the war in Ukraine is also a concern, with many Ukrainian immigrants living in the area. DVJournal also brought our readers letters from a Ukrainian mother about what it was like to live in that war-torn country.

Amid all the other news vying for attention, the DVJournal has kept its eye on the sad case of the death of Fanta Bility, the 8-year-old girl hit by a bullet fired by police officers. Three Sharon Hill officers pleaded guilty in that case, and a federal lawsuit brought by Bility’s family is pending.

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Fetterman Debate Plan Would Delay Face-Off Until After Voting Begins

Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman released a statement agreeing to one debate with Dr. Mehmet Oz, his Republican opponent—though early voters would not see it before casting their ballot. And, the Oz campaign noted, Fetterman’s pledge does not come with any details, such as a date or location.

“We’re absolutely going to debate Dr. Oz, and it was always our intention to do that,” Fetterman said in a statement. “It has simply only ever been about addressing some of the lingering issues of my stroke, the auditory processing, and we’re going to be able to work that out.

“We will debate sometime in the middle to end of October—as each of the past two Pennsylvania Senate races have—on a major television station to reach voters across the commonwealth. We are still finalizing the details.

“There is literally zero precedent in modern times for having U.S. Senate debates in Pennsylvania in early September. That was never going to happen. All of these debates have always occurred in the middle to late October.

“But let’s be clear this has never really been about debates for Dr. Oz. This whole thing has been about Dr. Oz and his team mocking me for having a stroke because they’ve got nothing else,” he said.

At a rally in Bucks County Saturday night, Oz said Fetterman’s statement was insufficient. “To actually agree to a debate, you have to actually have a date and a location,” Oz said.

And Fetterman’s demand for a single debate in late to mid-October means many voters will have mailed in their ballots before the event is held.

On Sept. 8 Oz tweeted, “John Fetterman’s misinformation campaign is busy tonight. Here’s the reality: I have committed to 6 debates in September and October. Fetterman has committed to 0. Absentee ballots go out September. 19. We need to be debating early and often.”

Brittany Yanick, a spokeswoman for Oz said Friday, “There is now a ZERO-percent chance that John Fetterman agrees to a debate between now and when absentee ballot requests can begin to be processed and ballots go out on September 19th. By refusing to debate Dr. Oz before mail-in ballots are sent out, John Fetterman is insulting Pennsylvania voters by denying them the opportunity to assess his health and to hear him try to defend his radical views on the debate stage.”

Fetterman, who suffered a stroke in April, only recently returned to the campaign trail. His public statements and struggle to speak have raised more questions about his ability to serve in the U.S. Senate. “If Mr. Fetterman is not well enough to debate his opponent, that raises serious concerns about his ability to serve as a United States senator,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board wrote last week.

Despite being off the campaign trail, Fetterman has been ahead in the polls, although those surveys have tightened lately. Fetterman has also been running numerous ads attacking Oz as a carpetbagger and for Oz’s pro-life position. Fetterman rallied for Planned Parenthood in Blue Bell on Sunday.

Oz’s ads and those of supporting PACs paint Fetterman as soft on crime for his votes to release numerous criminals while chairing the Board of Pardons. The board has recommended 50 commutations since Fetterman became chairman. Gov. Tom Wolf granted 47 of them, according to state records.

“Since 2019, they’ve recommended more citizens for commutation than in the past 25 years combined,” Fetterman’s campaign website said. But Fetterman’s campaign runs ads saying he cleaned up crime when he was mayor of Braddock.

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OZ: Biden’s Visit Highlights Democrats’ Failures

President Joe Biden’s recent visit to the region doesn’t mean anything new for Pennsylvanians. Today, we are still being slammed by record inflation, sky-high gas prices, violent crime and drugs in our communities, and misguided Washington policies that continue to hurt Main Street Pennsylvania.

John Fetterman decided against campaigning with President Biden, which means one of three things: He doesn’t want to appear with one of the least popular presidents in decades, he believes he can campaign from his basement so he doesn’t have to talk to voters about his radical liberal policies like releasing one-third of the prison population, or he’s lying about his ability to campaign.

The liberal media won’t put pressure on Fetterman to debate, which is a rite of passage to becoming a U.S. senator, and they refuse to question why he isn’t campaigning. We witnessed it with Biden’s 2020 basement campaign and John Fetterman is using the same campaign playbook. Fetterman ignored minority communities during the primary and continues to avoid having to publicly explain his far-left policies to voters.

If either Joe Biden or John Fetterman had seen, firsthand, how their radical agenda drives prices for gas and groceries through the roof, puts criminals over our communities, harms student achievement in our schools, and promotes sanctuary cities for dangerous illegal immigrants, they would realize that our communities are truly suffering under their disastrous policies.

In recent years, radical policies like defunding the police and cashless bail – coupled with soft-on-crime district attorneys who are handing out weak sentences – have dismantled decades of progress in cities across America. For example, in previously safe neighborhoods of Philadelphia – like West Philly where I once lived as a University of Pennsylvania medical student – residents are experiencing year after year of tragic milestones of record violent crime and an alarming decline in police morale.

Unfortunately, we have been experiencing these alarming trends in communities large and small, and oftentimes in places where elected officials promote policies that fly in the face of community safety and the rule of law. Look no further than the small town of Braddock, Pa., where my opponent John Fetterman served as the mayor between 2006 and 2018. During that time, John Fetterman oversaw a dramatic surge in crime as well as a noticeable population decline in the borough. Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows violent crime, specifically, began spiking between 2013 and 2018.

In 2017, violent crime peaked in Braddock as the number of reports to local police quadrupled compared to 2006. And, in 2019, the first year after John Fetterman left office, Braddock’s crime rate dropped by 61 percent – even as a recent report indicates, Pennsylvania was beginning to experience the fastest rising crime rate – up 27 percent – of all the northeast states from 2019 to 2020.

It’s no wonder why the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police endorsed me unanimously over my opponent. John Fetterman has publicly advocated for the release of one-third of Pennsylvania’s inmate population, defunding the police, lowering bail for violent criminals, and lighter sentences for convicted murderers. As Chair of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, John Fetterman has reportedly used his position to bully others, set loose more than 8,000 inmates, and even pardon convicted first-degree murderers who are now back on our streets.

John Fetterman has also been a crusader for decriminalizing all drugs, including deadly heroin and fentanyl coming from Mexico and China. Coupled with Democrats’ open-border policies, these actions would amount to a total surrender to the dangerous cartels that traffic illicit drugs, weapons, and helpless young women across our borders.

The disastrous Biden-Fetterman agenda for open borders is fueling the epidemic of drug abuse across America by allowing deadly fentanyl to flood into our communities – with Pennsylvania paying one of the gravest prices of all. In 2021, Pennsylvania was third only to California and Florida in drug overdoses with an estimated 5,360 people having lost their lives due to drug overdose. This loss of life is a tragedy for our communities, our commonwealth, and our nation because we need the contributions of every citizen to fully thrive.

Over the past few years, the increasingly radical policies pushed by liberal leaders like Joe Biden and John Fetterman at the local, state, and federal levels have set back communities across Pennsylvania by a generation or more. Too many diverse and hard-working communities full of potential have been ruined by out-of-touch radicals who don’t know the first thing about running a business or the basic functions of government.

I hear these concerns and frustrations every day on the campaign trail from voters across the Commonwealth – like during my recent walks through downtown Conshohocken where I spoke with small business owners and community leaders. I dare John Fetterman and Joe Biden to do the same. If they did, they just might see who it is that their far-left policies are failing.

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So Far Democrats Shun Debates In Statewide Races

Despite offers to debate from the Republican candidates running for governor and U.S. senator, their Democratic opponents have yet to accept the challenge.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, offered to debate Attorney General Josh Shapiro twice in October, with the venues and dates to be determined by the candidates. Mastriano’s one mandate is that he wants the campaigns to run the debates, not the media.

“As expected, Josh Shapiro doesn’t have the guts to debate Sen. Mastriano without cover from his protectors in the mainstream media,” said a Mastriano campaign spokesperson. “Given the opportunity to meet Sen. Mastriano face to face in a neutral venue with each campaign receiving the exact same terms, Josh made clear that he only wants to debate Sen. Mastriano if the moderators, venue, and on-site media are carefully tailored to give him an artificial advantage.”

Shapiro’s campaign spokesman Will Simons dismissed Mastriano’s proposal. “Doug Mastriano’s unserious proposal is an obvious stunt to avoid any real questions about his extreme agenda and record of conduct by dictating his own rules for debates. Mastriano has spent his entire campaign refusing to answer questions from local outlets across Pennsylvania–refusing to leave his echo chamber of extremists on alt-right media.

“In Pennsylvania, there is a long history of media outlets and independent moderators asking candidates of both parties fair, direct questions about their track records and plans if elected–nobody gets to pick their own moderators or set their own terms.

“It’s unfortunate that Doug Mastriano has recklessly decided to blow up good faith debate negotiations with media outlets across the commonwealth. If he’s ever ready to step up and finally answer questions about his reckless agenda, we look forward to comparing Josh Shapiro’s long record of bringing people together and delivering results for Pennsylvanians with Mastriano’s record of dangerous extremism,” Simons said.

Similarly, Republican Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz is decrying Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s failure to agree to debates. Oz has offered to debate Fetterman five times.

“Doctor Oz has agreed to five debates. John Fetterman has agreed to zero debates. If John is too sick to debate and is concerned he cannot stand in front of cameras for more than 10 minutes, then he should just say so. We’re sure voters would understand and so would we. Otherwise, he should pick some of the many debates Doctor Oz has agreed to or explain why he won’t agree to debate on KDKA on September 6,” said Oz campaign communications director Brittany Yanick.

Fetterman’s campaign did not respond when asked to comment about whether he plans to debate Oz.

Both Democrats are leading in recent polls and also have larger campaign coffers. A recent Trafalgar Group poll has Fetterman at 48.4 and Oz at 43.5 percent. It also puts Shapiro at 48.6 with Mastriano trailing at 44.7.

The Emerson College Poll showed Fetterman leading Oz by four points and Shapiro over Mastriano by three. But the Franklin & Marshall poll showed the Democrats winning by wide margins, with Shapiro at 44 percent to Mastriano’s 33 percent and Fetterman at 43 percent to Oz’s 30 percent.

But debates could be game changers.

Christopher P. Borick, professor of political science and director, Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, said it is not unusual for a frontrunner to spurn debates.

“As for debates, it is a long-established strategy for frontrunners to try and minimize or even forego debates,” said Borick. “The status quo benefits those who are in front, so why give your opponent opportunities to score hits. Of course, those trailing will ask for more debates and use the reluctance of the frontrunner to engage to score a few points. In 2022 this dance is playing out with the GOP candidates looking for opportunities to gain ground and the Democrats not eager to provide those chances.”

The two Republican contenders may also get a boost from a rally with former President Donald Trump planned for Sept. 3 in Wilkes-Barre. Trump endorsed both candidates.

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