‘I don’t think anything’s gone forever’: How Gov. Tom Wolf thinks Dems can regain SWPA | Friday Morning Coffee

November 8, 2019 7:16 am

Gov. Tom Wolf (Commonwealth Media Services photo)

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

This has to be a very weird time to be Gov. Tom Wolf. With the clock ticking ever closer to 2022, the term-limited, York County Democrat can only watch as his clout with the Republican-controlled Legislature slowly dissolves.

But with the White House and Congress on the line in 2020, and home state Democrats looking to consolidate and build on gains they made in 2018, Wolf, as one of the party’s principal fund-raisers and highest-profile statewide elected official, still has plenty of influence to wield.

We caught up with him Thursday for a What Does It All Mean? conversation on big Democratic wins in the Philadelphia suburbs and what looks like the final death rattles of Blue Dogs in the steel and coal towns of the Mon Valley.

The interview below has been lightly edited for clarity and accuracy.

The Eagle Diner in Doylestown, Pa (Photo via Flickr Commons)

Q:  First up, what’s your topline takeaway from Tuesday night? What really stood out for you? 

Wolf: “Well, I think it was really heartening that the first time since before the Civil War, the democratic party now controls Delaware County. I think it’s [a] hundred-some years in Chester County. [Democrats won in] Bucks County, Northampton County, Lehigh County as well … And I think that that is nice. There’s no sure thing. But that’s a nice indication of how Pennsylvania, and I hope, the nation, is changing. Kentucky Democrats did especially well in the suburbs around Lexington and Louisville.

“I don’t know what happened, and I just don’t know what the statistics are in Mississippi, but there seems to be a movement of people who seem to be disenchanted with the way things are going in the country, and would like to see a change. And I think Pennsylvania is one of those interesting states. And even nationally, people are talking about Kentucky. They’re talking about what happened in Virginia. And they’re talking about what happened in suburban Pennsylvania.”

Kentucky Gov.-elect Matt Beshear (Photo via Flickr Commons)

Q: But Republicans all won down-ballot in Kentucky on Tuesday night. How dangerous is it to rely on that suburban and exurban cohort?

Wolf: “You don’t want to rely on any one thing too much. But I think it’s just an interesting thing that the areas where there is growth — like suburban Louisville, suburban Lexington — you actually had a pickup in Democratic votes. And so what happened in Virginia, just driven a lot by [the suburbs in] Northern Virginia, and what happened in suburbs around Philadelphia, seems to be not just a one-off event, they seem to be part of something much bigger in the country.”

Monessen, Pa. (Photo via Flickr Commons)

Q: The Southwest cast about 108,000 votes for Trump, I think, in 2016. Trump ended up winning the state by 44,000 votes. Is there a way to make up the ground with that voting bloc, or are they kind of gone forever?

Wolf: “I don’t think anything’s gone forever. I think, especially in the southwest, the things that the Democratic Party stands for are things that folks in places like southwestern Pennsylvania, as well as in the suburbs of Pennsylvania, both around Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, should want.

“We, that is the party, talked about healthcare, right? We’re trying to make healthcare work. We’re trying to promote access to health care. If you have a family, you know, you’re concerned about this kind of thing. You know, we’re the ones not trying to take it away from it. We’re trying to actually expand [healthcare]. And I think that’s the message that we need to give throughout [the state]. I think that message has been picked up maybe more easily in the suburbs, but it’s just as — if not even more — relevant in places like Southwestern Pennsylvania.”

WikiMedia Commons

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On our Commentary Page, Duquesne University President Ken Gormley says Opportunity Zones in cities only work if everyone gets the same shot at opportunity. And an advocate for needy families in Philadelphia wants your help in fighting off planned Trump administration food stamps cuts.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro appears at a rally for victims of abuse by priests. (Gov. Tom Wolf/Flickr)

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It’s a Philadelphia kind of day for Pennsylvania’s chief executive. At 10:45 a.m., Gov. Tom Wolf heads to a parent-infant center on Spruce Street to announce some “early child care and other non-traditional apprenticeship programs.” At 1 p.m., he’ll participate in opioid panel discussion at the Bellevue.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
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You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out in advance to Geoffrey Roche, of Harrisburg University, who celebrates Saturday. And congratulations go out this morning to our pal Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, of PennLive/Spotlight PA, and veteran Harrisburg PR guy/Capitolwire founder Pete Shelly, both of whom celebrate today. Enjoy your big days, folks.

Heavy Rotation.
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Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
lost 4-2 to the New York Rangers on Thursday night. Today’s a new day, fellas.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.