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Keystone Town Hall Event Discusses Changing Political Attitudes Among Blacks, Hispanics

Roslyn Ross Williams is coming to Malvern, Pa. on Thursday with a question for Black and Hispanic voters in the Delaware Valley: What has the Democratic Party done for you lately?

“A lot of Black Americans are facing up to the fact we’re not getting anything from supporting Democrats,” Williams told DVJournal. “Now you’re seeing this [Biden] administration dump money and pour money into immigrants, and some of these resources that are given to immigrants are needed right here in our own country.”

Williams is southeast regional coordinator for the free-market group Americans for Prosperity. She’ll be joined by Jennie Dallas,  strategic director with The LIBRE Initiative for a Keystone Town Hall event Thursday night at the Desmond Hotel.

“Issues like inflation, fentanyl deaths, and the ongoing invasion of our nation are causing more of us to question the narratives we have been told to believe. This is a great time for Americans to come together to better understand how different American communities are beginning to look at these issues and the politicians who cause them,” said Gary Heasley, Keystone Town Hall leader.

While both Blacks and Hispanics have traditionally voted Democrat, a Gallup poll released in February showed the Democratic Party’s lead over Republicans among Black voters shrank by 20 points over the last three years. Democrats’ margin over Republicans among Hispanics age 18 to 28 dropped nearly as much.

“I had one gentleman who I spoke to while we were calling individuals, seeing if they’re planning on voting for the U.S. Senate election,” Williams said. “And this gentleman asked me, ‘I don’t want to be offensive to you, but is it true that Black people are switching parties?’ Because he watches TV and he’s heard a lot of different rumors, that Black people are switching away [from the Democrats] that they voted for or years, and he wanted to know if it was true.”

“I thought his question was very interesting,” Williams said. “And I was able to let him know that it is true based off the individuals that I am engaged in, on a daily basis and from various events I’ve attended.”

Dallas said the economy is the main concern of the Latino people she talks with.

“The economy is pretty much hitting all Americans right now but it’s hitting the Latinos much harder because Latinos have less savings. Their median income is lower, actually, by $20,000.”

Jennie Dallas

Asked why she thinks Blacks are switching parties, Williams said, the economy “has a lot to do with it.”

“Definitely with the way this inflation is going,” she said. The “dynamic for many people, especially in my community, it’s not just working for al of us.”

“It’s so rough right now,” said Williams. “I go out to the market (and ) spend $100. I’m going to come out of there with four or five things. It’s crazy right now. There are a lot of individuals, particularly in Philadelphia who are struggling…It’s gotten tremendously worse. Before you could kind of make ends meet. But now it’s extra hard.”

Dallas said, “When we’re talking about inflation, it’s hitting the Latinos pretty hard and I’m hearing…they just can’t take it anymore. They need a break. They can’t afford food, groceries, things they would normally buy. They’re having to cut back and gas has been an issue for quite some time.”

Family values are also an issue for many Blacks. Some of the social programs pushed by Democrats have resulted in unfortunate consequences for Black families, Williams said.

“You cannot get welfare unless you had no man in the house,” Williams explained. “You couldn’t have a man in your house to get public assistance. That’s not my story, but that is the story of many Black Americans. And many people are realizing that just being a single woman and not having your husband, your children’s father, in the home to help you raise the children because now the children raise themselves. Because in single-parent homes, the parent has to work all the time…I think some of the violence and stuff we’re seeing now is the result of that.”

“Many Black Americans have been awakened to the fact that we’ve been hoodwinked, and we’ve been bamboozled by the system,” said Williams.

Dallas said Latinos are also concerned about family values.

“The conversations are always about God, our family, and our freedom,” said Dallas. “That’s what the LIBRE Initiative is. The policies that we are most interested in is our freedoms. I don’t believe that most Latinos are feeling like the Democratic policies are what they actually believe in.”

On immigration, her organization believes the border should be secured, but also the entire process needs to be reformed.

The LIBRE Initiate is not “an extended arm of the Republican Party,” she said. They also back Democrats if they agree with their policy goals. They talk to Latinos about policies, she said.

“We’re trying to empower the people,” Dallas said.  “We’re educating Latinos and empowering them to live the American Dream.”

They’re also interested in quality healthcare and better schools for children, for parents to be able to “send their children to any school that they want,” she said.

“We’re advocating for freedom,” said Dallas. “And we want lower taxes. Prosperity is our main focus.”

The Keystone Town Hall will be Thursday, May 9 at 7 p.m. at the Desmond Hotel, Third Floor Amphitheater, One Liberty Boulevard, Malvern. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

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MOONEY: Government Unions Prioritize Politics Over Representation

According to an analysis of campaign finance records, government unions place a significant premium on political activism than on representing their members.

This is particularly true in the case of the National Education Association, AFSCME and their local affiliates.

Public employees who fund this political activism with their dues might want to ask some hard questions about how their public policy views square with the agenda of their union leaders. If, for example, they support a wide range of public and private educational options for parents and students, chances are their union leaders are using their union dues to block reform measures they favor.

National School Choice Week provides teachers a platform to assess if their unions have effectively advanced their professional interests and bettered workplace conditions. Parents with K-12 students and who belong to government unions also have a vested interest in learning how often their education goals align with their union’s political spending.

Some key figures from Department of Labor data highlight the political activities funded by membership dues. The latest numbers show NEA spent $50.1 million on politics versus $39.3 million on representational activities.

Meanwhile, AFSCME spent $60 million on politics compared to $34.3 million on representation. The American Federation of Teachers, another key player in union political activism, paid $93 million on representational activities versus about $47 million on political activism.

What about the local affiliates in Pennsylvania? On the surface, the ratios appear more balanced. However, a sizable percentage of union dues fund political activism that parents and teachers do not necessarily support. The Pennsylvania State Education Association spent $14.8 million on representation versus $5 million on political activities. In comparison, AFSCME Local 13 spent $6.3 million on representation versus $408,406 on political activism.

The only outlier on the list is AFT Pennsylvania, which spent $94,821 on representational activities and claims to have spent no money on political activism. Even assuming that’s true locally, AFT union members nationwide are footing the bill for political campaigns that crowd out their workplace concerns.

The Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank, found government unions directed less than 20 percent of all dues expenditures toward representational activities.

So, what about the rest?

After examining the spending of the four largest government unions (namely, NEA, AFT, AFSCME and SEIU), the foundation found government unions collectively spent more than $406 million of their membership dues on political activities. According to the foundation’s report, membership dues funded about 60 percent of union political spending in the 2021-22 election cycle.

But some public employees have had enough and are combating unions’ misplaced priorities in court.

In one high-profile case in Connecticut, John Grande, a public school physical education instructor, won an unfair labor practice charge against the Hartford Federation of Teachers. The union had declined to arbitrate Grande’s grievance because he was not a union member.

With assistance from the Fairness Center, a public interest law firm in Pennsylvania, Grande ultimately prevailed. The Connecticut labor board concluded that the union illegally discriminated against Grande because he was not a union member. Their decision bolsters the right to fair representation for all Connecticut public employees. Yet, it does not solve the problem of the teachers unions prioritizing politics over their primary responsibility of representation.

Grande balked when the Hartford Public Schools held a mandatory professional development training described as “Identity & Privilege” on Zoom, which he views as an effort by administrators to coerce critical race theory onto the school district.

But shouldn’t the local teachers union also be working to secure Grande’s free speech rights? Isn’t that part of their job?

That’s why the Fairness Center is pursuing a federal lawsuit on behalf of Grande that alleges the school district violated his First Amendment rights. The firm has represented other teachers and public employees in Pennsylvania who object to their union officials’ political agenda.

The growing disparity between the interests and policy preferences of rank-and-file public employees and their union leaders is at least partly responsible for the recent success of the school choice movement. Despite all the money and organization government unions have poured into obstructing reforms that create new public and private school options, school choice advocates continue to gain ground.

For instance, 13 states offer Education Savings Accounts, according to EdChoice, a nonprofit that favors a wide range of education reforms. ESAs enable parents to receive a portion of their tax dollars back through restricted-use savings accounts that cover private school tuition, tutoring services, instructional materials and other education services.

Perhaps the great takeaway from School Choice Week is that unions are beginning to experience diminishing returns on their investments against educational freedom.

FLOWERS: PA Voters Pick Nihilism Over Compassion

I’ve been told abortion was the deciding factor in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race.  I myself have written about the importance of abortion in the grand scheme of things, the measure and metric by which we determine our collective humanity. And if abortion really was the thing that motivated women and the men who loved (or at least wanted to date) them, we have our answer about that collective humanity: It’s missing in action.

When I think that a majority of voters in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania chose to align themselves with someone who has such a radical view of abortion rights as John Fetterman, and to a slightly lesser extent Josh Shapiro, whose Twitter feed kept sending out inane messages about “a woman’s right to choose” as if it had Tourette Syndrome, then the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade revealed a very deep schism in modern society and in this state in particular.

You might think the word “eugenicist” is a bit much, given its overtones of the Holocaust and Mengele.  The doctor who performed horrific experiments in the concentration camps was attempting to design a society where only perfect Aryan creatures existed and reproduced with each other. But the pseudo “science” of eugenics has existed for generations and was embraced by exalted historical figures like Teddy Roosevelt, Oliver Wendell Homes, and Margaret Sanger. That brings me to the point of calling abortion supporters “amoral eugenicists.”

Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, championed abortion as a form of extreme birth control.  Despite an attempt at whitewashing by the PP crowd, Sanger never actually disavowed her enthusiastic support for sterilizing immigrants, people of color, poor people, and all those others who did not rise to the level of what she considered a valuable and contributing member of society. She did not use terms like “Aryan.” She simply wanted to improve society by weeding out the less desirables. Generations later, Hillary Clinton echoed that philosophy when she talked about the basket of “deplorables,” and it is clear that from a progressive standpoint, eugenics was at the very least a nuanced issue. To them, it had some value.

Abortion is an extension of eugenics. It permits people to make judgments about the value of other people, other human beings. The terminology is carefully curated so that we stop talking about “people” and shift towards a focus on “fetus.” Some have even used the term “opportunistic parasite.” Those of us who are pro-life and follow the actual science are content to settle for the universal term “human being.”  But that is something that encourages compassion and reflection on the exact nature of the act of aborting. And to those who support abortion, like John Fetterman, reflection is a dangerous and counterproductive thing.

When I think that a majority of voters in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania chose to align themselves with someone who has such a radical view of abortion rights, I realize the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade revealed a very deep schism in modern society, and in this state in particular. While Roe was still in place, the abortion supporters were marginally pacified. They were not on the defensive, the law was on their side, and they could complain about conservative pro-lifers, safe in the knowledge that a half-century of creative precedent was on their side.  Then came Dobbs, and the tectonic plates shifted to create a social earthquake. Pro “choice” women saw their choice reduced to a state-by-state determination, panicked, and looked for people to blame.

The target was easy: Conservatives in general, Republicans in particular.

The method was easier: Elect the man who said he’d protect their right to abort whenever and however they wanted.

The reckoning came on Tuesday night, and I have to congratulate the sisters for their determination, organization, and motivation in making sure that they were still able to advance Margaret Sanger’s mission of selecting human value by calling it “autonomy.”

The nihilism vote won.

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Shapiro’s Win Lifts Some DelVal Democrats

Democrat Josh Shapiro’s big win in the governor’s race Tuesday night lifted Delaware Valley Democrats, who trounced their Republican opponents in many local races.

The Dobbs U.S. Supreme Court decision, which released the abortion issue genie out of the political bottle, apparently played well for Democrats who rode it to victory. Voters resoundingly rejected Trump-endorsed Republican candidates Doug Mastriano and Dr. Mehmet Oz.

“Real freedom prevailed in Pennsylvania. I’m humbled and proud to be your next governor,” Shapiro said via Facebook.

Retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) tweeted, “Dr. Oz ran a great campaign. I was proud to support his candidacy, as I believed he was the right choice for the Commonwealth. Nonetheless, the people of Pennsylvania have spoken, and they selected John Fetterman. I congratulate John and wish him the best as he takes on the role of representing Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate.”

In the 12th Senate district for the seat being vacated by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery/Berks), Republican Rep. Tracy Pennycuick beat Jill Dennin 62,550 to 57,081 in unofficial results.

Republican incumbent state Rep. Todd Stephens (R-151) held on to beat Democratic challenger Melissa Cerrato 16,611 to 16,585.

But Rep. Chris Quinn (R-168th) lost to Democrat Radnor Commissioner Lisa Borowski, 15,928 to 13,095.

“When the legislative redistricting committee specifically draws maps to create 100 Republican and 100 Democratic seats – primarily by drawing heavily Democratic favored districts in Southeastern Pennsylvania – the results are not surprising,” Quinn said. “Due to gerrymandering, I lost approximately half of my district. Outcome-based maps – the worst kind of gerrymandering- decided this race.  I fear that the end result will be increased partisanship and gridlock in the legislature for years to come.

“Thank you to my many supporters and volunteers who worked so hard these past few months and I wish Lisa well as she begins her service in the legislature,” said Quinn.

Borowski said via Twitter, “All I can say is thank you. I am humbled to be elected to represent the people of HD-168 in the State House. I promise to show up and stand up for you every day.”

Incumbent Rep. Craig Williams (R-160), a district that includes parts of Delaware County and parts of Chester County, was able to hold off Democratic challenger Cathy Spar, 17,467 to 14,396.

“I am excited at the prospects of continuing the work for a gun violence task force, fighting inflation, and stopping violent crime,” said Williams, a former federal prosecutor. “I am excited and humbled by this overwhelming support I have received from the people of Delaware and Chester Counties. I will continue to fight for you every day.”

In other area races, incumbent Democrat Danielle Fried Otten beat Republican challenger Kyle Scribner 14,205 to 12,964. State Rep. Melissa Shusterman (D-157) prevailed over Republican challenger Sarah Martin.

In an upset, incumbent Republican Rep. Tim Hennessey (R- 26th) lost to Democrat Paul Friel 12,851 to 14,939.

And state Sen. Katie Muth (D-Montgomery/Chester) beat Republican opponent Jessica Florio 41,694 to 40,491, in unofficial totals.

All four area Congress members retained their seats: Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks/Montgomery); Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery/Berks); Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware/Philadelphia), and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks).

“It is the honor of my lifetime to represent our community of Chester and Berks Counties,” said Houlahan, “and I am deeply humbled that the voters have decided to allow me to continue this service. I am so grateful to my family, team, and supporters who worked tirelessly to help us share our positive message across Southeastern Pennsylvania and achieve this victory. Tonight, our community sent a clear signal that they want problem solvers in Congress who will work with both parties to solve the real problems they face – from inflation to attacks on our freedoms and democracy. I’m excited to make you proud and get back to work.”

While Shapiro may have had long coattails in this election, some Republicans point to structural changes brought by mail-in voting.

One Republican leader who asked not to be named said, “Mail-in ballots change everything. The potential to harvest votes gives the Democrats a significant advantage. “

They also cited news coverage and campaigns that did not “explicitly link the inflation to Biden’s policies”

In the end, “Some voters put abortion above everything else.”

DelVal Candidates Are Rooting For The Hometown Teams

Even in the closing days of a frenzied election campaign, the Phillies and the Eagles still have a hold on our attention — including the candidates who are focused on getting their voters to the polls next Tuesday. Nevertheless, the candidates are still taking time to follow the Phillies, who split the first two games of the World Series with the Houston Astros, as well as the undefeated Eagles.

The Phillies resumed action on Tuesday night (and crushed the Astros beneath a hail of homers 7-0) while the Eagles take the field on Thursday, ironically, in Houston.

Politicians of both parties have long understood the political upside to connecting with the region’s rabid sports fans. Beyond that, many of them are fans themselves.

Democratic Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan is seeking her third term in the Sixth District, which encompasses almost all of Chester County and a portion of Berks County including the city of Reading. She and her Republican challenger Guy Ciarrocchi may differ on the issues, but both are following the fortunes of our local sports franchises.

“Southeastern Pennsylvania has a different energy when our teams are rolling like this,” Houlahan said. “(Husband) Bart and I are all in for the Phillies, the Birds, and all of our city’s sports teams—we can’t wait to ring the bell at our home games on baseball’s biggest stage and watch the Eagles’ undefeated season continue.”

Ciarrocchi recalled his first experiences watching the Phillies growing up.

“I saw my first game with my dad at Connie Mack Stadium,” he said. “I saw the Phils win it all in 1980 and lose in 1983, both times with my dad.  I saw Game Four (in the 2008 World Series) with my oldest kids. I hope the “sports gods” don’t ask me if I would trade a congressional loss for a World Series win.”

Republican Christian Nascimento is challenging Democratic incumbent Madeleine Dean in the Fourth District in Montgomery County. Amidst the pressures and obligations of a campaign, he remains an avid sports fan.

“Like just about everyone in the region, I have been following and cheering on both the Phillies and the Eagles through this amazing run,” he said. “It’s nothing short of inspirational to see the Phillies get to the World Series at the same time that the Eagles are on an undefeated streak. It’s been a thrill to see both teams perform so well, and with so much class. These are the types of moments that make you so optimistic for the future.”

Democrat Ashley Ehasz is looking to unseat Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks/Montgomery).

“Following the Eagles and Phillies during the campaign trail has been exciting, to say the least,” she said. Both teams have shown their resilience and established that we cannot count them out, proving that hard work and dedication can enact real change.

“Just like here in Pennsylvania’s 1st District, the Eagles, the Phillies, and our campaign to unseat Brian Fitzpatrick has shown how underdogs have teeth, and the time for change is now.”


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Top Stories of 2021 Point to a Busy 2022

Pennsylvania politics was awash in drama in 2021, from constitutional amendments, elections, election reform, and more.  Let’s take a look at five story lines from this year, three that happened, and two that didn’t.

What Happened:

The Constitution Shall Be Amended

Constitutional amendments aren’t new for Pennsylvania voters, but the impact of two questions before voters in the 2021 primary elections will be felt for years to come.  Tired of vetoes from the Democrat governor and lost cases before the Democrat controlled Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Republicans in the legislature took the fight on COVID restrictions to the voters.  Despite efforts by Gov. Wolf to slant the ballot questions, allowing the General Assembly to end an emergency declaration and limiting a unilateral Emergency Declaration to 21 days without the approval of the General Assembly, the measures both passed.

Pennsylvania became the first state in the nation to limit a governor’s emergency powers as a result of COVID restrictions, but it didn’t stop the governor.  Wolf used his health secretary to mandate masks in schools, but the courts overruled this move, even his Democrat allies in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court didn’t come to his aide this time.  After over a year of shutdowns and restrictions, the tide has turned on COVID restrictions, it started here on May 18, 2021.

Josh Clears the Field

Yes, the race for governor and U.S. Senate will be decided in 2022, but in today’s world of politics, the race starts well before the calendar flips.  Both contests will be no doubt be vigorous and expensive.  The primaries and general election are likely to break records in terms of money spent, save one contest, the Democrat primary for governor.  Attorney General Josh Shapiro appears to have a cleared the field and will cruise to the nomination in May.  Meanwhile Republicans have more than 12 candidates vying for the nomination.  In the U.S. Senate, Democrats have at least five major candidates, Republicans, six.

How rare is Shapiro’s feat?  The 2002, 2010, and 2014 Democrat primaries were all contested.  Of course, there are still two months before petitions are circulated.  It is not out of the realm of possibilities a candidate may declare, but with $10 million in Shapiro’s war chest, that candidate better have a big check book.

“A Good Day in Baseball”

If “two out of three ain’t bad,” than three out of four must be good too.  That’s how Republicans faired in four 2021 statewide judicial elections.  Securing victories on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, with Judge Kevin Brobson, Pennsylvania Superior Court with Megan Sullivan Kampf, and Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court with Stacy Wallace, the Pennsylvania GOP heads into 2022 with confidence.

In addition to statewide wins, Bucks County Republicans swept all contests on the ballot, along with school board victories around the commonwealth.

What Didn’t Happen:

Election Issues Continue…

Regardless of one’s opinion on the 2020 election process, it was hardly without issues.  Some of those issues spilled over in the 2021.  After vetoing an election reform bill saying it would “undermine faith in government,” Wolf would later admit to violating election law for the 2021 General Election.  Ironically, had Wolf signed the election bill he vetoed, his violation – asking his wife to drop off his ballot – would have been permitted.

Other issues were reported as well, such as Montgomery County counting undated ballots in the primary, a direct violation of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling.  Berks County sent out 17,000 mail-in voting instructions to Spanish speaking voters with the wrong return date deadline.  The English instructions had the correct date.  Indiana County made a similar mistake.  Much like COVID-19 restrictions, if progress is not made in 2022 toward election reform, a constitutional amendment is not out of the question in 2023.

Redistricting Continues…

Citing issues with COVID-19, The U.S, Census Bureau announced the data needed to draw new district lines would be delayed.  The data is necessary for the State House and Senate Redistricting Commission to draw new lines, as well as the legislature to vote on congressional districts.  With time not on their side, the map makers went to work with the information they had, then they eventually included the finalized Census data.

One map appears to be set, the state Senate.  The map passed the Legislative Redistricting Commission with a 5-0 vote on December 16.  The new maps likely won’t flip the Senate to Democrat hands but will see the Republicans hold the chamber with a slimmer majority.  The Pennsylvania House on the other hand is another story, leaving Republicans seeing red, but not on the maps.  The map passed on partisan lines, 3-2.  Under the Commission’s plan, 12 Republican incumbents will face off in primaries, compared to two Democrats.  The maps aren’t set yet, a 30-day public comment period is now underway.  Republicans in the House are sure to opine.

The Pennsylvania Congressional lines are drawn by a different process, the legislature votes on a map, and the governor either accepts or rejects it.  Population loss requires Pennsylvania lose a seat, going from 18 to 17 members.  A proposed map was voted from the House State Government Committee on December 15.  The future of the map is on shaky ground.  Wolf recently declared he would not take part in negotiations with the legislature.  Perhaps setting up the state Supreme Court to draw their own map as they did in 2018.  That map resulted in Democrats picking up five seats.

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Coleman Enters Lt. Gov Race With Political Experience, Positive Message

While keyboard warriors clash for online likes and America’s leaders bicker with each other in an “uncivil war,” driving up cable-news ratings while also driving away more moderate voters, Jeff Coleman still believes it’s a beautiful day in his neighborhood of Harrisburg.

The 46-year-old founder of Churchill Strategies and a former Republican member of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives is fashioning himself as a Mr. Rogers of Republicans in his bid for lieutenant governor, which he announced last month on Facebook.

In many ways, Coleman’s nice-neighbor persona is a throwback to the big-tent GOP that the late President Ronald Reagan embodied, with his 11th commandment “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”

Coleman knows he needs voters of “every political persuasion” to win.

“Politics is so harsh today that we are closing all of the roads back and basically we’re saying, ‘Stay in your silo, your blue silo, I stay in my red silo. I’ll listen to our media sources, and you listen to yours,’ and we make daily judgment calls on people because of their bumper stickers and their preferences,” Coleman told Delaware Valley Journal. “We’re scanning people to find the point of disagreement. Whether they shop at Whole Foods or whether they shop at Walmart. Whether they’re Chick-fil-A people or whether they would dare to go to McDonald’s. Or whether they’re independent coffee owners or Starbucks owners.”

Coleman’s tempered beliefs can be traced to his early beginnings.

The son of parents who were missionaries, he spent his early years living outside Manilla, in the Philippines, where he recalled going to a wet market each morning to get vegetables and meats as he got in touch with his mother’s culture and learned a second language.

The family lived through the People Power Revolution, resulting in the forced exile of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was dogged by election-fraud allegations and for violently cracking down on protestors who opposed his regime.

Coleman credited that experience with awakening his appetite for politics.

“The events were amazing because two million Filipinos, in the course of several days, rallied to the side of the new Philippine president. And democracy won,” Coleman said. “The idea of politics was pretty hopeful to me. I thought you could really do anything.”

After returning to the U.S., Coleman settled down in Apollo Borough, an old coal-mining town about 35 miles from Pittsburgh, where his dad led a small Presbyterian church.

He volunteered for his first political campaign at 13, went on to graduate from Liberty University, a longstanding Mecca of conservative politics, and later became a member of his hometown council.

At 25, Coleman was elected to a seat in the Democratic stronghold of the 60th House District, relying on a door-to-door campaign to defeat longtime Democratic incumbent Tim Pesci, who was criticized for running a “condescending” race.

Pesci derisively referred to Coleman as “Jeffy” and called campaign volunteers “the Children from the Corn.”

Politics so consumed Coleman that they were intertwined in all facets of his life. He proposed to his wife the day he was sworn in. Their marriage suffered while he was in office, so he retired ahead of the 2004 election, looking to salvage their relationship.

He later founded the Harrisburg-based Churchill Strategies, a communications and political consulting firm that prides itself on “telling each story with grace and authenticity.”

With his marriage and family life stable, Coleman is dipping his toe back into politics, believing it’s still possible to win with old-fashioned, respectful debate.

“Rebuilding the public square is the only way that a conservative or a progressive is going to get long-term sustained changes on issues we care about,” Coleman said. “If you burn down the public square, and don’t have political opponents but political enemies, there is really no recourse but to take your politics into the streets. And that’s what you see in a banana republic.”

Coleman’s supporters believe he’s a refreshing reprieve from politicians besotted with winning Twitter wars.

“Jeff’s what the Commonwealth needs. He comes to the table with built-in credibility. He’s a guy who has a good heart and will be civil,” said Philly pastor Joe Watkins, one of Coleman’s friends who served as a White House aide to George H.W. Bush and previously ran for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor. “Nobody should mistake his kindness for weakness. It takes great strength to be kind and not be retaliatory.”

For his part, Coleman is focused on a narrow menu of issues that he says are important to Pennsylvanians of all stripes, including restorative criminal justice — naturally, Colemans says, since the lieutenant governor sits on the state’s pardon board — education that gives parents a voice in their children’s experiences, and perhaps above all, sober and competent leadership in times of crisis.

Pennsylvania has one of the nation’s highest rates of incarceration, at 659 per 100,000 people, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. Local school board races have become battlegrounds for many national issues, as Democrats and Republicans slug it out on everything from the teaching of critical race theory to whether students should wear masks and be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Coleman may come across to some Republicans as too liberal for such beliefs as reforming the criminal justice system to rehabilitate ex-offenders and espousing a softer view on critical race theory as one explanation for “the horrors of racism and consequences of generational poverty.”

But he says civility and compromise are musts if Republicans want to remain relevant.

“Politics amplifies that entire series of questions that are irrelevant when it comes to actually deciding should we pave the road, should we build a store, should we legalize something, should we ban this?” Coleman said. “I have been very careful not to single out any one political figure because when I do that the conversation ends. There’s got to be amnesty for people who voted for Joe Biden. We need Joe Biden voters to come back to the Republican Party, or we don’t win the suburbs. That’s a fact.”

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