Democrats are worried. Amid an election campaign riddled with laughable mistakes, the Democratic leadership in Pennsylvania is strongly questioned by national and state figures. At the same time, a more than latent tension and division emerges.
According to a report by Politico based on interviews with more than 20 Democratic and operational officials across Pennsylvania, several elected officials, county presidents, state committee members, former state party employees and blue party strategists have doubts about whether Sharif Street, the party chairman is the man to lead them with several elections just around the corner.
The straw that broke the camel’s back for many Democrats was a glaring mistake on cards to hand out ahead of a key race for the state Supreme Court.
The cards were intended to be handed out at a meeting of rural activists and the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania printed a message reminding voters to “Vote at Polls: Election Day Tuesday November 8.”
The big problem? The election to choose the state Supreme Court member is on November 7.
As a result, Pennsylvania Democrats are distraught and lacking confidence because of errors in logistics and marketing and the financial problems that the party is apparently facing.
“It’s amateur hour,” a state committee member who was granted anonymity told Politico.
“It’s a fucking disaster,” said a former state party employee.
Layoffs, funding problems and clashes
According to the Politico report, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party suffered a round of layoffs in July, something that had not been reported so far.
According to their most recent campaign financial statements, one of their political action committees had just $7,500 in the bank in early June.
For Democrats, this is worrisome, as Pennsylvania is facing a key electoral race next year and is a vital state for President Joe Biden’s aspirations.
“It’s concerning that the state party is laying people off as we’re heading into a really important Supreme Court race, which then leads into the presidential year,” said Mike Mikus, a Democratic consultant in Pittsburgh. “They’re going to have to figure out a path forward to build their own fundraising operation, and it sounds like there’s a lot of building to be done right now.”
Another senior leader spoke anonymously and was much more blunt: “Pennsylvania is the single biggest battleground state in the country in the presidential election, and we have a total incompetent, lazy guy who has no clue what he’s doing running the state party.”
Meanwhile, the party’s chairman, Street, downplays the criticism and cites his successful run in the last midterm elections.
On the recent layoffs, Street said he should have done them earlier, just after the midterms, and had dragged his feet on the matter. In addition, due to the alleged financial problems, the president of the Democratic party rejected the accusations, saying that they were solvent.
He mentioned that the state party’s federal PAC had $200,000 on its last statement and that it received $700,000 earlier this year from the group democracyFIRST, which helped fund the hiring of 20 organizers.
Politico reported that, in addition to alleged funding problems, downsizing and amateur failures, there are notorious disagreements between Biden officials in Washington and Street, who also appears to have a few internal enemies in Pennsylvania.
Street himself admitted that there are people within his party who view him with suspicion.
“We’ve done things a little differently, and I know that may have ruffled some feathers with sort of the national chatterbox class,” the questioned Democratic leader said. “They weren’t exactly excited about my candidacy for chair for a lot of reasons.”
He then argued that his political and electoral success is positive and that the party was in good hands.
“Politics is like sports. We had a good record last year. We’ve been winning,” he said.
But even so, Democrats do not trust the ability of the party and Street’s leadership to face the next election.
“I don’t see anyone that can handle the level of speed and complexity and attention to detail needed to ensure that paid communications are put in front of voters in a timely way,” said Joe Corrigan, a Democratic strategist from Pennsylvania.