SEIU announces $150M get out the vote push; Pa. is at the top of the list | Thursday Morning Coffee

Voters line up at a polling place on Election Day. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

One of the nation’s biggest unions says it’s launching a $150 million push to get out the vote across 40 states, with eight battleground states, including Pennsylvania, being targeted the most intensely.

In a statement, the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, says the push is one of the largest and earliest of its kind aimed at expanding the electorate — particularly among Black, Latino and Asian-American residents. The union says it plans to connect with more than 500,000 voters in Pennsylvania, a state that President Donald Trump won by less than a percentage point in 2016.

In addition to Pennsylvania, SEIU said in a statement that such key states as Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Virginia, and Wisconsin, will also receive special focus in the effort, which aims to connect with a total of 6 million voters nationwide.

“This election is critically important for undoing the damage the current administration has done to working families and moving forward so that everyone can have a good living wage job, affordable health care and clear air and water for their children,” Gabe Morgan, the president of the SEIU Pennsylvania State Council and vice president of SEIU Local 32BJ said in a statement. “At every level of government, we must elect pro-worker politicians who will unrig the system that has left working people—whether black, white or brown—fighting for scraps while the rich get richer than they have been in a century.”

This year’s program aims to build on a 2018 outreach effort, with the union planning to add capacity in the Lehigh Valley, Erie and central Pennsylvania. The focus, it said, will be on “turning out infrequent voters in the Black, LatinX, and AAPI communities while also building capacity in persuadable ‘Obama/Trump’ geographies.”

The union said it plans to make “strategic investments in digital, mail, community partners, and member engagement — while making a major investment in pro-worker candidates at the state legislative level.”

An SEIU activist rallies for a $15/hr. minimum wage, which was one of the policies that F&M researchers polled in their most recent public opinion survey. (Stephen Melkisethian/Flickr Commons)

“The 2020 election will be a defining choice for our families and our communities. Our strength in Pennsylvania comes from the 80,000 members and organizing leaders across the state who make up SEIU and we’re going to stand together to deliver real change in 2020,” SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry said in a statement. “We are investing in the Keystone State because so many aspects of our lives will be at stake, and we need to elect leaders up and down the ballot who will fight for working people. Together, we will mobilize and we will win.”

It’s been a week of big spending by groups that are looking to influence the outcome of the 2020 election. In the last three days, the liberal super PAC Priorities USA announced a TV campaign in the Keystone State.

And the gun-violence reduction group Everytown for Gun Safety said it was dumping money into a social media campaign aimed at shaming U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, for his vote against a popular background checks bill.

That comes on top of Planned Parenthood’s own $45 million push, announced last fall, to reach voters in five battleground states, including Pennsylvania. The actor and activist Alyssa Milano is raising money to flip states that voted for Trump in 2016.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
Associate Editor Cassie Miller
 leads our coverage with a deep dive into the data of Pennsylvanians’ turnout at the polls in presidential years for the last 50 years. Spoiler alert: It could be a lot better. That’s this week’s edition of The Numbers Racket.

The Department of State has rolled out a new website to help Pennsylvanians familiarize themselves with the new voting tech they’ll face at the polls during the April 28 primary, Miller also reports.

In its eternal search for infrastructure cash, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is studying a congestion fee, which would help get people out of their cars into mass transit, generally making life better all around. Stephen Caruso has the story.

Facing skeptical lawmakers, Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller made a $3M pitch for funding for Planned Parenthood, on the condition the money wouldn’t be used to subsidize or fund abortion care, Elizabeth Hardison reports.

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District, says a House-approved bill making lynching a federal hate crime will go a long way toward fighting hate and bigotry, Washington Bureau Chief Robin Bravender reports.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.voted with Republicans on a pair of anti-abortion bills that ended up going down to defeat in the U.S. Senate, Bravender also reports.

And critics have slammed a Trump administration attempt to overhaul bedrock environmental lawCapital-Star Washington Reporter Allison Winter reports.

On our Commentary Page, the Pittsburgh Current’s Larry Schweiger has a bone to pick with retiring House Speaker Mike Turzai’s going-away present to the natural gas industry. And Franklin & Marshall College scholar Craig Lang, a former diplomat, says there’s two big reasons for Americans to care about what’s happening in Venezuela.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and his wife Mary Jane O’Meara Sanders wave to supporters before Sanders spoke before a large crowd at a rally in the Colorado Convention Center on Feb. 16, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

Elsewhere.
For Philadelphia-area Jewish residents, Bernie Sanders’ appeal is ‘powerful, but complicated,’ the Inquirer reports.
State health officials and the Wolf administration are preparing for the spread of the coronavirus, the Post-Gazette reports.
The Trump campaign is opening community centers in Pennsylvania and other battleground states to woo Black voters, the Associated Press reports (via the Morning Call).
Super Tuesday could be ‘super bad’ for DemocratsPennLive’s John Baer opines (paywall).

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

Sixteen years ago, a Philadelphia woman wrote a letter to Philly’s then-mayor, asking him to end the gun violence that ended her cousin’s life. Writing for WHYY-FMshe explains why she’s resending it.
A $90 million bond issue to pay for new voting machines has gotten the all-clear from financing authorities, the PA Post reports.
Census advocates are getting the word out on new online forms, Stateline.org reports.
U.S. House Dems are ‘wary’ of a proposed per-mile fee for trucks, Roll Call reports.

What Goes On.
Budget hearings, what else? But the docket is light.

Senate (Hearing Room 1, North Office Building)
10 a.m.:
 Dept. of Education
3 p.m.: Dept. of Community & Economic Development

House (140MC)
10 a.m.:
A public hearing on … budget hearings. Which is either so meta that it’s genius, or this is next-level trolling.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
5 p.m.:
 Birthday celebration for state Rep. Jim Roebuck, D-Philadelphia. Admission runs $150 to $500.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Belated best wishes go out this morning to Christian Alexandersen, of Pa. Senate Democrats, and Tyler Jeski, of CBS21 in Harrisburg, both of whom celebrated on Wednesday. Hope it was a grand day, gents.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s an absolute classic from Lloyd Cole & the Commotions. It’s ‘Lost Weekend.’

Thursday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
The Vegas Golden Knights 
won their seventh in a row on Wednesday, blanking the Oilers 3-0.

And now you’re up to date.

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