Philly Candidate Adopts Trump-Style Message

Ross Feinberg, running for Pennsylvania Senate in the fifth district, vows to “make the Great Northeast Philadelphia great again.”

Ross Feinberg - Donald Trump

Photo of Ross Feinberg via his Facebook page; photo of Donald Trump by Michael Vadon, used under a Creative Commons license

The press release from the Philadelphia Republican party went into journalists’ email boxes last week. Ross Feinberg, who ran last year for the city’s Register of Wills position on a platform to eliminate the office, was bashing Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed soda tax.

Feinberg is now a candidate for the state senate’s fifth district. He’s unopposed in the Republican primary, and will take on either incumbent John Sabatina, Jr. or Kevin Boyle in November. Feinberg opposes the soda tax, as you might expect.

“Mayor Kenney again proves that he’s not a man of the people,” Feinberg said in the release. “He’s attempting a slight of hand trick on Philly residents and we have to stop him.”

But it was the last line of the press release that caught my eye. “This Kenney Soda Tax is the last straw for me and it should be for everyone,” he said. “I will take my leadership ability and help show the way towards financial stability and growth. It’s time for us to take a stand and make the changes we need to make the Great Northeast Philadelphia great again.”

That’s a little clumsy, of course: “Make the Great Northeast Philadelphia Great Again.” But it’s also a direct reference to GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan (itself adapted from Ronald Reagan).

Despite Republican plans to thwart his nomination and Ted Cruz’s some recent successes by Ted Cruz, Trump remains the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. Yet many in the party are disavowing his success; just last week Mitt Romney and John McCain blasted the casino mogul-turned-candidate.

The party has pushed back, but it’s looking likely Republicans are going to have to deal with Trump at the top of the ticket this year. Some have decided to go full on and endorse him. U.S. Rep Tom Marino, one of the more conservative members of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation, endorsed Trump last month.

“He’s the man for the unprotected,” Marino told Politico. “Not the protected, not for the Wall Street people, not for the DC insiders, but for the hard-working taxpayers.” He even went further, calling his endorsement of Trump “one of my life-changing moments.” He is the only major Pennsylvania political figure to endorse Trump so far.

Philadelphia magazine got Feinberg on the phone to ask him about his use of a slogan similar to Trump. He said he saw his candidacy as similar to the Donald’s — not that he was piggybacking off him or anything.

“He’s saying things you’re not hearing from any candidates,” Feinberg said. “I ran for Register of Wills [last year], I was able to say things I wanted to say. I was able to say things in front of [Ron] Donatucci’s office. In that way, him and I are similar. I don’t mean that I’ve taken any cue from Donald. But I’ve always been the type that if it needs to be said, I’m going to say it.

“I respect the fact that Donald is saying what needs to be said. What people want to hear in a lot of ways. I like Donald. I think he’s great. Whether he’s the perfect candidate for President of the United States — that’s yet to be seen.”

Feinberg stopped short of endorsing Trump, however. He said he’s choosing between Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Pennsylvania’s primary is on April 26th.

“Is he a true conservative?” Feinberg said. “Maybe not. But you know what, on a lot of issues I agree with him… You have to live within the society in which we are,” Feinberg said. “Donald has that. He has the balance of being a conservative enough, supporting decentralized government, supporting our rights and our constitution. I think he has a good fiscal policy. I think he wants to strengthen our military. He has that balance.”

Riffing on Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan seems to fit. I was born and raised in Northeast Philly, and natives of the Great Northeast have been telling me for my entire life how Northeast Philly has gone downhill. And if Trump is just taking a book out of Frank Rizzo’s playbook, where better than Northeast Philadelphia will Trump-style politics work?

After all, one of Trump’s campaign platforms is brining manufacturing back to America. He famously vowed last year to never eat Oreos again after a Chicago plant was moved to Mexico. Well, the old Nabisco building in the Far Northeast is going to be demolished. (Even Democrats are in on this: U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, who represents part of the Northeast, held a “Say no to Oreo” event.) Trump has used the closing of a factory in the Northeast as campaign fodder. Feinberg’s Trump-style messaging fits!

“As it stands now, jobs are leaving [Northeast Philadelphia] by the thousands,” Feinberg said. “If the sugar tax gets passed, Pepsi could leave here.” (There’s a bottling plant in the Far Northeast.)

“Northeast Philly traditionally has been a good solid portion of the tax base here but we’ve gotten less and less out of the city,” Feinberg said. “We can only do so much. We need to bring jobs back into Northeast Philadelphia where they belong — good wage paying jobs, instead of trying to make it where businesses have to flee here. The tax structure here is ridiculous. I could do a lot in Harrisburg.”