Wolf and Shapiro rally Bucks Dems to take back power in Washington and Harrisburg

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at a Pennsylvania Democratic Party event in Buck County (Capital-Star photo by Nick Fields).

Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Harold Hayes name.

BENSALEM, Pa. — How do Democrats take back Pennsylvania in November?

“Be true to the Democratic message,” Gov. Tom Wolf told the Capital-Star.

Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shaprio were in this Bucks County community on Saturday as part of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party’s “Back to Blue” Tour.

The tour brings the commonwealth’s most powerful Democrats to the areas most crucial to flip Pennsylvania’s twenty electoral votes back after President Donald Trump won them in 2016. Earlier this month, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman visited Erie. And last week, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-8th District, stopped in Scranton.

Saturday’s leg of the tour also included an event Monessen, in western Pennsylvania.

Bensalem is a Republican trending area in vital Bucks County. But that’s not the only reason it was chosen. A special state House election in the 18th District between Democratic nominee Harold Hayes and Republican nominee  KC Tomlinson is set for March 17th. 

Tomlinson is the daughter of veteran state Sen. Robert M. “Tommy” Tomlinson, who represents the Bensalem-based 6th state Senate District.

The ostensible goal of bringing in Wolf and Shapiro was to attract volunteers for canvassing and phone banking to support Hayes. The event also attracted scores of local Democratic officials and candidates who, in addition to working the room, got to snag a photo with the governor and attorney general.

Shapiro, of Montgomery County, has a special connection to Bucks County, he explained, because his wife is from Newtown.

As a result, he knows that the local party is considerably stronger than it was a generation ago when southeastern Pennsylvania, as a whole, was still GOP territory. Nonetheless, he noted that, in 2016 Bucks County, lagged its neighbors. 

“In 2016, Delaware County voted for our nominee by a 22 percent margin,” Shapiro said. “Montgomery County did it by 22 percent, Chester County did it by 9.5 percent. Bucks County by 1 percent.”

Shapiro went on to make the case that the special election in the 18th House District was the perfect opportunity to present a strong and united local party.

“For those of you here today, wearing the different shirts and pins of your candidates, we’re gonna have a time to sort out who our nominees will be,” Shapiro said. “But one thing we can show in our election of Howie is that we’ve grown since 2016. That we’ve got the ability to turn out the vote and that we have the ability to come together as Democrats and unify behind strong candidates like Howie. We are united behind Howie, we are united as Bucks County Democrats, and we need to prove that we can do this.”  

Wolf advocated for Hayes by tying the special election to the legislative races in November and asking those assembled to imagine what could be possible with a Democratic majority.

“Think of what I could be doing if I had a little more help in Harrisburg,” Wolf said. “If I wasn’t just vetoing things but I actually had help.”

He also told canvassers that the best counter to the argument that Republicans in the southeast are generally moderate is that those officials vote for leadership, which bottles up legislation, like a minimum wage increase, in committee. 

After the event, Wolf told the Capital-Star that his “sense going around is that there’s a real interest in making a change. Both in Harrisburg with the state House, and also in Washington, that’s just the sense that I get.” 

He went on to cite such recent victories as taking over the state Supreme Court, his own re-election and the local row offices in the southeastern part of the state as examples. 

“There’s something happening,” Wolf continued. “I think things are moving in the right direction.” 

It was after being asked what advice he would give to the eventual Democratic presidential nominee that Wold offered, “Be true to the Democratic message.”

What is that message?

“The values that make our economic system and political system fairer and work better,” Wolf said. “There’s no easy, cheap way to get a good outcome. We work really hard to be fair, we work really hard to make sure our political system is fair and that there’s a level playing field.” 

Wolf concluded, “Those are the important things that Democrats stand for and I think the people of Pennsylvania are fair-minded and they’re gonna support that.”