Then-Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro addressed supporters at campaign event on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Philadelphia. (Capital-Star photo by Peter Hall)
Pennsylvania’s Democratic candidates for governor and U.S Senate enlisted President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama in a final push to energize voters on the last Saturday of their campaigns.
Gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro barnstormed through Philadelphia, meeting with Black community leaders in West Philadelphia, labor union members in North Philadelphia, and volunteer canvassers in an ethnically diverse South Philly neighborhood on Saturday morning.
On Saturday evening, before a crowd of more than 7,000 cheering supporters, and with the two presidents at his side, Shapiro cast the race as a fight for the future.
“My name may be on the ballot,” he told a crowd at Temple University’s Liacouras Center, who had waited in an unseasonably warm November sun to hear him speak. “But it’s your rights, it’s your future that’s on the line.”
Shapiro sharply criticized his Republican opponent, Doug Mastriano, who has held himself out as a champion of personal freedoms. The two-term attorney general dismissed his opponent’s rhetoric as a pose.
“He loves to talk a big game about freedom,” Shapiro said. “But it’s not freedom to tell a woman what she can and can’t do with her body. It’s not freedom to tell our kids what books they can and can’t read … It sure as hell isn’t freedom to say that you can vote, but he gets to pick the winner.”
Gov. Tom Wolf joined Shapiro and Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Austin Davis as they addressed smaller crowds, with local lawmakers and Philadelphia city officials earlier in the day.
At each stop, Shapiro, Davis, and Wolf hammered home the message that Tuesday’s election will be consequential for the future of the commonwealth. Wolf said Pennsylvania residents have a duty to vote for Shapiro and Davis to keep the state moving forward.
“If we don’t get them elected, we’re in deep trouble,” Wolf said.
Mastriano has endorsed a far-right agenda framed by Christian fundamentalist ideals including cutting school funding and giving parents education vouchers, banning abortion, and curtailing the civil rights of LGBTQ people.
“Their opponents are going to take us back to that dismal swamp that we existed in eight years ago in Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, in Pittsburgh, all across this commonwealth,” Wolf said at a “grits, eggs and politics” breakfast organized by state Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, and City Councilperson Curtis Jones Jr.
Hours after pitching for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman in Pittsburgh, Obama took to the stage at Temple to thunderous applause from the crowd.
Obama, who has been stumping nationwide for Democrats this midterm campaign season, let loose a volley of criticism at Mastriano and GOP U.S. Senate hopeful Mehmet Oz.
“This election requires every single one of us — it is that important,” Obama said. “Our fundamental rights are on the ballot; truth, facts, logic, basic decency, democracy is on the ballot. The stakes are high.”
Obama, who saw Republicans expand their congressional margins during the midterm cycles of his administration, stressed the importance of voter turnout on Tuesday.
“You can make a difference as long as you turn out and vote,” he said.
Fetterman, who is running neck and neck with Oz in one of the most closely watched Senate campaigns in the nation, poked the celebrity surgeon for pandering, jokingly telling the Philadelphia crowd that “I have to get this off my chest, Wawa is so much better than Sheetz.”
Fetterman is a well-known fan of Sheetz, a western Pennsylvania rival of the Philadelphia-area convenience store chain Wawa.
Fetterman, who suffered a stroke just before last May’s primary, and did not return to the campaign trail until late summer, spoke of his five months of recovery, and of the criticism he took from Oz’s campaign in the interim.
And while he “might mush words together … I will always make the right vote in Washington D.C,” he said.
Biden, who has characterized this consequential campaign as a fight for the nation’s soul, and a battle to preserve democracy, told the Temple crowd that Tuesday’s election will “shape our government for decades to come,” and “the power to shape that is in your hands.”
“This is a defining moment for the nation,” Biden said. “We must speak for one voice — regardless of party. There is no place for political violence. There is no place for voter intimidation.”
Speaking after one of the morning events, Wolf told the Capital-Star that he’s at a loss to explain the level of support Mastriano, a state senator, has achieved or the failure of Republican leaders to repudiate him after associating with white supremacists and paying to engage voters on an alt-right social media platform notorious for allowing anti-Semitic content.
Mastriano has also been identified as a key player in the plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and was photographed at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
“We are a decent group of people, Pennsylvania is a wonderful place. I grew up here,” Wolf said, adding that while some people might be frustrated, they see the contrast between the candidates and see Shapiro as the clear choice to avoid going backward.
“I think typically, elections are about different ideas, not about character, not about your life, but I think this election is, and so we may see some different patterns,” Wolf said.
Shapiro has campaigned on his successes fighting crime and corporate misdeeds as attorney general and said his priorities will be education, public safety, and the economy.
Shapiro promised that he would build on Wolf’s investment in education by doing away with standardized testing and replacing it with vocational, technical, and computer training. He added that his administration would invest in mental health counselors in schools.
“I’ve been to the schools in West Philly and across the city, you go listen to those kids – that trauma that they see in their streets every day, the trauma that they’re experiencing, we have a responsibility to make sure these children are safe and healthy,” Shapiro said, speaking at the Enterprise Center, a West Philadelphia business incubator housed in the former studio where American Bandstand was once televised.
Shapiro also spoke about his plan for public safety, saying that students should have safe streets to walk on their way to and from school.
“People have a right to be safe and to feel safe in their community. So yes, we will hire more police, but they’re going to look like the communities that they got sworn to serve. They’ll be properly trained. And with more police, they’ll get out of their patrol cars, they’ll walk the beat. They’ll look our children in the eye, see the humanity in all God’s children,” Shapiro said.
Addressing members of the Teamsters and Laborers union outside the Laborer’s District Council Training Center on North Broad Street, Davis spoke about his father’s work as a union bus driver.
Davis said he had worked with Philadelphia Democratic state Sen. Sharif Street to defeat legislation that would weaken unions by making dues optional.
“The next General Assembly is going to give the next governor a right-to-work bill to do away with the union way of life here in Pennsylvania. Doug Mastriano will sign that bill. I will proudly stand next to Josh Shapiro as he vetoes that bill,” Davis said.
At the union hall, Shapiro told the crowd he would build on decades of work by organized labor to create an economy that would improve conditions for all workers. The first step, he said, would be to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Shapiro said he would also invest in union apprenticeship programs, noting workers who begin their careers in apprenticeship programs make 30 percent more in their lifetimes than others.
“We should make that a reality for all Pennsylvanians. You know, as attorney general, I protected the union way of life. As your governor, I’m going to expand the union way of life here in the Commonwealth,” Shapiro said.
Urging his supporters to talk to their family members and neighbors, Shapiro said he would work to protect their rights and freedoms, including the right of women to make choices about their bodies and the right to cast a vote and have it counted. But, he told the crowds that first he need their help to get him and Davis into office.
“We have got to do this work and I promise you if you can work hard for Austin Davis and hard for Josh Shapiro over these next three days, hard for John Fetterman over these next three, days, then I promise you I will bust my ass for you for the next four years,” Shapiro said.
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