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Gun safety group Everytown launches $200K campaign in Erie Co. sheriff race | Friday Morning Coffee

It’s part of a broader, nationwide effort targeting the county-level law enforcement officers

October 15, 2021 7:14 am

A view of the Bicentennial Tower in Erie, Pa. (Photo via Flickr Commons)

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

When you think about high-stakes political campaigns in Pennsylvania politics, your thoughts usually don’t turn to county sheriff’s contests.

Sure, there are exceptions, and some offices get overtaken by scandal (Yes, that’s you Philadelphia).

In general, however, most voters would be hard-pressed to name their county sheriff, let alone explain the role they occupy in Pennsylvania’s crowded law enforcement cosmos (The answer to the latter, by the way, is mostly to serve warrants, and to provide security in county courtrooms. They’re not front-line police officers — as is the case in many other jurisdictions.).

That seeming obscurity has proven to not be a deterrent for Everytown for Gun Safety, the anti-gun violence group founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

This week, the group is launching a $200,000 campaign for the open seat in Erie County’s sheriff race. It’s part of a broader effort targeting sheriff’s contests nationwide, and yet another reminder that local races are increasingly being seen through a nationwide lens.

The Erie race pits Democrat Chris Campanelli, a 25-year veteran deputy sheriff, whose views on gun-related issues match with Everytown’s, the organization said — though there appears to be scant documentary evidence to buttress that claim.

He faces Republican Brian Shank, a former prison guard and current member of Erie County Council.

The winner replaces current Sheriff John Loomis, a Democrat, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek a third termGoErie reported. Which seems to indicate the spend here is less about Campanelli, more about Shank, and all about holding the seat.

In a statement, a spokesman said Everytown is “going to make sure voters know which candidates for sheriff are on the side of gun safety — and which are hell-bent on taking the law into their own hands to suit their own ‘guns everywhere’ agenda.”

The statement from Everytown’s John Feinblatt takes Shank to task for a 2013 incident in which he was cited for illegally carrying a gun in public, noting that the stakes for the law enforcement post “couldn’t be clearer.”

(Photo via (c) BortN66 – stock.adobe.com)

In June 2013, before he entered politics, Shank was one of eight people who were cited for carrying a firearm into the city’s Perry Square during a gun-rights rally, GoErie reported. In 2014, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court invalidated the ordinance, and the city dropped the charges, the news organization reported.

And in 2014, before his retirement as a guard, Shank faced misconduct accusations that included hitting female inmates on the buttocks with a ruler and discussing bacon in front of a Muslim inmate, GoErie reported.

Shank denied more serious accusations that included kissing an inmate in an office area and touching another inmate’s breasts during a pat-down search. The Corrections Department could not substantiate the allegations, the news organization reported.

“We all have things in our past where we’ve not made great judgment calls in our life,” Shank told GoErie in an earlier interview about the incident. “And, you know, we move on, we learn from them.”

The Everytown campaign, which includes digital advertisements and a direct mail component, describes Shank as “unfit to serve.” 

By law, candidates and their campaigns are forbidden from directly coordinating with such third-party advocacy groups as Everytown.

But the blitz in the Erie contest does represent the opening of a new front in the campaign wars that has seen spending on local campaigns increasingly tied to national issues.

These formerly obscure down-ballot races, which serve as feeder offices to state and national office, have attracted increased attention as Democrats and Republicans vie for power.

Republican consultant Chris Nicholas, of Harrisburg, told the Capital-Star it’s likely the independent expenditure group is using the NWPA contest as a chance to test-drive themes for the all-the-marbles 2022 mid-terms.

As goes Erie?

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

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Stephen Caruso chats with GOP gubernatorial hopeful Jason Monn, of Erie County, who thinks Harrisburg needs an everyman in the top spot.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear a 2019 case challenging the state Medical Assistance Program’s ban on abortion coverage, Cassie Miller reports.

Our Washington Reporter Laura Olson explains how a Mississippi court case could pave the way for new abortion bans across the U.S., including Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 5,253 new cases of COVID-19 in the commonwealth on Thursday, up from Wednesday’s tally of 5,012 new cases, bringing the total number of cases to more than 1.49 million since the start of the pandemic, I report.

In Pittsburgh, anti-eviction advocate Jacob Klinger, a former PennLive sports reporter, is running for constable to reform an office that is responsible for carrying out eviction orders, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

And our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News were recognized with a state historical marker earlier this week for 45 years of journalism and advocacy.

On our Commentary Page this morning, a Westmoreland County mom details her journey through Pa.’s direct support professional staffing crisis. And an industry advocate makes the case for finally providing paid family and medical leave for Pa. workers.

En la Estrella-Capital: Pa. faltan semanas para las elecciones municipales. Qué debe saber antes de emitir su voto en el 2 de Nov.

Photo via pxHere

Elsewhere.
A Bucks County man who didn’t like COVID-19 shutdown policies has pumped $500K into school board races, the Inquirer reports.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sean Parnell has lost his bid to seal his child custody case, the Post-Gazette reports.

A new Penn State study has concluded that half of all COVID-19 patients have lingering symptoms up to six months later, PennLive reports.

Former WGAL-TV anchor Brittany Garzillo has joined FOX NewsLancasterOnline reports.

Allentown’s mayoral candidates discussed former President Donald Trump, gun violence, and other issues during a debate, the Morning Call reports.

The former head of Luzerne County’s children and youth services agency pleaded guilty Thursday to child endangerment and obstruction charges, the Citizens’ Voice reports (paywall).

In an effort to improve equity, Philadelphia has banned police stops for minor traffic infractions, WHYY-FM reports.

The long-awaited Southern Beltway, which is part of the Pa. Turnpikeopens in southwestern Pennsylvania todayWESA-FM reports.

City & State Pa. runs down this week’s winners and losers in state politics.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

What Goes On
2 p.m., Norristown, Pa.: Reps. Liz Hanbidge and Melissa Shusterman, joined by Sen. Amanda Cappelletti, on bills to support working families & mothers.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
10 am.: Golf tournament for Sen. Lisa Baker
5 p.m.: Reception for Pittsburgh mayoral candidate Ed Gainey
7 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Ed Neilson
Ride the circuit, and give at the max today, and you’re out a thoroughly unnecessary $11,000.

WolfWatch
Gov. Tom Wolf heads to Philadelphia today for a 2 p.m. newser promoting a community vaccination program.

Heavy Rotation
We’ll go out this week with one from Caamp that sounds like it should be played at the end of the night at your favorite watering hole. It’s ‘Officer of Love.’


Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
Well, that’s the way to get things started. Carolina bested the visiting New York Islanders 6-3 in their home opener on Thursday night. The ‘Canes’ Andrei Svechnikov scored two goals on the way to the win.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

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