As a public service, today we are going to discuss the latest primary elections. And I promise there will be some sex scandals.
But first – wow, women are on the move. The big election story on Tuesday was in Pennsylvania, whose 18-member delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives is currently composed of 18 men. (Well, OK, 16 men and two vacancies due to men who abruptly left town. As we will see, Pennsylvania is having some trouble hanging on to its representatives.)
Next year there could conceivably be seven women.
In the past, if I told you the Democrats had nominated seven women for Congress you might have cynically assumed Pennsylvania had seven districts where the party was so outnumbered the Republicans would triumph if they nominated a collie. But no, four of these are likely Democratic wins.
And whatever happens, the state is guaranteed to get at least one congresswoman – there’s a Philadelphia area district with female nominees on both sides.
Meanwhile, incumbent Republicans are falling like flies. Rep. Patrick Meehan resigned recently after he used taxpayer money to pay off a former aide who accused him of sexual harassment. He claimed he was a faithful husband who simply regarded the staffer as a “soul mate.” Pick your response:
A) Interesting job title.
B) First rule of the #MeToo movement is that bosses do not get to be soul mates with their underlings.
Meehan was the second Pennsylvania Republican House member to fall to the forces of testosterone recently. You may remember that Tim Murphy, an avid anti-abortion crusader, had to resign from his seat after word got out that he’d urged his former mistress to consider terminating a possible pregnancy. When the ex-lover complained about his lack of consistency, she got a text from Murphy’s cellphone saying: “I get what you say about my March for Life messages. I’ve never written them. Staff does them.”
Murphy’s seat then went to Democrat Conor Lamb in a super-dramatic special election. Lamb is still in office. (I know it’s only been a month, but the way things go in this state I thought you’d need some reassurance.)
He’s running this fall in a new district drawn by court order. The redistricting story is super-important, but we’re going to skip the details – you already have enough on your mind about Pennsylvania today. Suffice it to say that the combination of those new districts and Donald Trump has sent still more House Republicans slinking off in despair.
“Whether it’s Stormy Daniels, or passing an omnibus spending bill that the president threatens to veto after promising to sign, it’s very difficult to move forward in a constructive way today,” Republican Ryan Costello told a local newspaper, signaling his departure.
Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican, had already been planning to retire at the end of the year. But suddenly, he was leaving right away. And off he went.
Dent didn’t really offer an explanation. But use your imagination. Do you think he’d have said it was because:
A) “Pennsylvanians have started to treat Republicans like bark beetles.”
B) “New district bad.”
C) “Just tired. So very, very tired.”
My guess is C. If you’re a person like Dent, who brags about giving “voice to the sensible center,” it’s easy to understand feeling that this might not really be your moment.
Anyhow, Dent’s gone and Democrats have great hopes that his successor will be Susan Wild, an attorney. And that Costello’s district will be taken by Chrissy Houlahan, a businesswoman and former Air Force engineer.
Houlahan, who has no political background, was one of the thousands of women who responded to Donald Trump’s victory by desperately seeking a way to get involved. “She called us the day after the march and said she’d decided to run for office,” recalled Stephanie Schriock, the head of Emily’s List. At the time, Houlahan didn’t even know what office that might be. And now here she is.
Pennsylvania wasn’t the only state nominating congressional candidates this week. The Democratic establishment was disappointed when primary voters in Nebraska picked Kara Eastman, a nonprofit executive, over former Rep. Brad Ashford, who was regarded as more salable even though he seems to have switched parties as often as he changed socks. I can see where you’d like voters to think strategically, but gee.
Over in Idaho, Paulette Jordan won the Democratic nomination for governor to replace the departing Butch Otter. If she wins – and no Democrat has done that since the year “Driving Miss Daisy” won the Best Picture award – she’d become the first Native American governor.
On the other side, Rep. Raúl Labrador lost the race for the Republican governor’s nomination. This is not going to make any impact on your life, but I just wanted to point out, sadly, that we will probably never again have a chance to use “Raúl Labrador” and “Butch Otter” in the same sentence.