Make no mistake: This year’s general election will be one for the books. The nation anxiously awaits November 6th to see how Donald Trump’s unprecedented presidency will influence the polls two years after his election, amid a political climate that’s fraught with tension, polarity, and even bouts of violence.
The Democrats will try to take back the House. Winning at least one competitive race in Pennsylvania — the 1st Congressional District, which represents Bucks County and a sliver of Montgomery County — appears imperative in that goal. Also sure to secure significant national attention are the state’s gubernatorial and Senate races, which both feature incumbent Democrats (Gov. Tom Wolf and Sen. Bob Casey) and Republican businessmen who have secured endorsements from Trump (Scott Wagner and U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta).
To help you decide what boxes to tick in the voting booth, we’ve put together a No B.S. Guide to the 2018 Midterm Election. To see what races you’ll be voting in, check out your sample ballot on the City Commissioner’s website. Then, click below to jump to the following contests — or read the whole guide if you want to be really prepared for the midterms.
Candidates to watch: Incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and former state Sen. Scott Wagner (R); other candidates are Paul Glover (Green Party) and Ken Krawchuk (Libertarian Party).
The significance: The gubernatorial race has heated up steadily since the Pennsylvania primary this past May, with Wolf and Wagner virtually refusing to pull any punches in the high-stakes contest. Wolf, an otherwise mild-mannered and fairly cautious politician, represents a major — and vital — source of power for Democrats in Harrisburg, where Republicans currently control the state House and Senate (and will likely continue to). Wagner, an indisputably fiery and Trump-like candidate, represents Republicans’ hope of securing two out of three of the state’s governmental branches.
Incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, 69, took office nearly four years ago, after unseating Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in the 2014 general election. Wolf, who is from York (as is Wagner), served as the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue from April 2007 to November 2008. He was also previously the CEO of his family-owned company. Campaign site: wolfforpa.com
While in office, Wolf has shown strong, progressive support for women’s rights (including abortion rights), LGBTQ rights, raising the minimum wage, fighting the opioid crisis, expanding Medicaid in Pennsylvania, and enacting gun-control measures. He placed a moratorium on the death penalty in the state in 2015 and signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana here in 2016. Wolf has also implemented a temporary ban on new leases for oil and natural gas extraction in state parks and repeatedly called for a severance tax on natural gas extraction (though unsuccessfully). He’s also heavily prioritized education.
Wagner, 63, started his trash collection company, Penn Waste, in 2000. It has since grown to 400 employees and is expected to bring in $70 million in 2018. Wagner also represented the 28th District in the Pennsylvania Senate between 2014 and 2018, when he resigned to run for governor. Campaign site: wagnerforgov.com
On most issues, Wagner offers a stark contrast to Wolf. He supports the death penalty (he wants to make it mandatory for school shooters in Pennsylvania), natural gas drilling on state lands, rolling back Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania, limiting women’s access to abortion, and overturning policies that lend cities like Philadelphia their so-called “sanctuary city” status. He once ventured a guess that climate change is caused by “warm bodies” and because the earth is moving “closer to the sun,” and when a student confronted him about his claims (as well as donations he had received from the fossil-fuel industry), he called her “young and naive.” In addition, Wagner has said that he wants to privatize alcohol sales in Pennsylvania. Straying from more conservative members of his party, he has said that he would not sign any bill that makes same-sex marriage illegal in Pennsylvania.
Paul Glover, a 71-year-old from New York, has been dedicated to ecology and social justice for decades. His main priorities are to support farms, to “shift the budget from prisons to schools,” and to end fracking. Campaign site: gpofpa.org
Ken Krawchuk, 61, is a longtime Libertarian party member who currently serves as chair of the state party’s Judicial Committee. He’s been secretary of the Montgomery County Libertarian Party since 2008. Born in Feltonville, Krawchuk is passionate about lowering both taxes and government spending. He also wants to allow pro-life groups to adopt unborn fetuses. Campaign site: kenk4pa.com
Candidates to watch: Incumbent Sen. Bob Casey (D) and U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R); other candidates are Neal Gale (Green Party) and Dale Kerns (Libertarian).
The Senate race is another contest that could serve as a litmus test of Trump’s influence in Pennsylvania. Two-term incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Casey is expected to win reelection — but both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have offered Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, the former mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, some potentially game-changing endorsements.
Casey has represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate since 2006. He previously served as Pennsylvania auditor general from 1997 to 2005 and as Pennsylvania treasurer from 2005 to 2007. He ran for governor in 2002 but was defeated in the Democratic primary by former Gov. Ed Rendell. Once regarded as a moderate or centrist Democrat, Casey has shifted considerably left since Trump’s election. Also worth noting: He and President Barack Obama have supported each other since Obama ran in 2008. Campaign site: bobcasey.com
As mentioned, Casey has become increasingly progressive in the Trump era. A few of his ideological switch-ups are reflected in his unlikely alliance with pro-choice activists — despite the fact that he’s one of a few pro-life Democrats — as well as his choice to support stricter gun-control measures in the wake of the country’s rise in mass shootings. In addition, Casey has supported raising the minimum wage and the Affordable Care Act, and has spoken out against the Trump administration’s efforts to cut back on immigration (one major issue where he differs drastically from Barletta).
Barletta has served as the U.S. Representative for the state’s 11th Congressional District (now the new 9th Congressional District, thanks to the state’s new congressional map) since 2010. Before that, he served as the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, his hometown, from 1999 until 2010. During his time as mayor, Barletta attracted some national attention for his decision to implement staunch anti-immigration policies — one ordinance of his, the Illegal Immigration Relief Act, made Hazleton’s official language English and allowed the city to deny business permits to entities that hired undocumented immigrants. The measure, which was approved in 2006, spurred a lawsuit from the ACLU and was found to be unconstitutional by a Federal District Court judge in 2007. Barletta’s Senate bid received early support from Trump. Campaign site: loubarletta.com
You can see where this is going — Barletta, echoing Trump, says he will “be a loud voice to fix our broken borders and immigration system.” Plus, he wants to protect gun rights, reduce “federal overreach in higher education” and eliminate “excessive” regulations on energy producers, as well as tap into the state’s Marcellus Shale rock formation for natural gas resources. In addition, Barletta wants to prohibit the federal government from spending more money than it takes in and require the president to submit an annual “balanced budget” to Congress. He previously voted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. And he identifies as a very strong pro-lifer.
Neal Gale cares about climate: He has 40 years of experience in energy conservation and efficiency under his belt. He wants to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy in Pennsylvania. Campaign site: gale2018.com
Currently residing in Delaware County, Kerns frequently volunteers in his community. He says his top priority is creating a balanced federal government budget. Campaign site: dalekerns.com
Candidates to watch: John Fetterman (D) and Jeff Bartos (R); other candidates are Jocolyn Bowser-Bostick (Green Party) and Kathleen Smith (Libertarian Party).
Anyone voting for governor will also have to check off their desired candidate’s running mate — or vice versa. For the Democratic and Republican parties, the lieutenant governor contenders function as stark contrasts (personality-wise) to both of their gubernatorial nominees.
John Fetterman has served as the mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, a small steel town located in the eastern suburbs of Pennsylvania, since 2005. There, he’s worked to fight poverty and income inequality, advocated for raising the minimum wage, and launched a social justice initiative. Fetterman ran for U.S. Senate in 2016 but lost to Democratic Party favorite Katie McGinty (and Joe Sestak) in the primary. This past May, he rallied with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at City Hall. Philadelphia magazine published a deep dive on Fetterman in 2015. Campaign site: johnfetterman.com
Jeff Bartos is a real estate developer from Lower Merion Township. Next to Wagner, he appears calm, cool and collected. He previously served as a senior executive at Toll Brothers Inc. and Mark Group Inc. Plus, he’s served on the Board of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and is a leader in the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. He dropped out of the Senate race this year to run for lieutenant governor alongside Wagner. Campaign site: wagnerforgov.com
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Jocolyn Bowser-Bostick is a very active member of the Green party. She’s served as chair of the Green Party of Delaware County and as an at-large delegate on the steering committee of the Green Party of Pennsylvania. Campaign site: gpofpa.org
Libertarian candidate Kathleen Smith grew up in Pittsburgh. She says her top issues would be pension reform and increasing economic development by eliminating barriers for new businesses. Campaign site: facebook.com/kathy4ltgov
Includes Bucks County, part of Montgomery County
All eyes — across the country — are on the 1st Congressional District race, which politicos say could be instrumental in Democrats’ hope to take back the U.S. House. Both incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and Democratic philanthropist Scott Wallace are doing all they can to appeal to voters in the swing district. Observers regard the race (which has been even more expensive than the Senate contest, by the way) as a true toss-up.
Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick has fostered a solid reputation as a moderate or centrist politician — a status he’s campaigned on and worked hard to maintain. He’s said that he prefers “party labels” to be kept out of debates with Democratic challenger Scott Wallace, despite the fact that Wallace makes it a priority to point out Fitzpatrick’s Republican affiliation. (Wallace has repeatedly brought up the FiveThirtyEight stat that Fitzpatrick has voted in accordance with the Trump administration nearly 84 percent of the time — Fitzpatrick disputes that figure.) The Republican representative has strayed from Trump on some key issues: He voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act in January 2017; he voted against the repeal of a rule requiring energy companies to reduce waste and emissions (and later in favor of a carbon tax — he’s said that climate change is a serious issue); and he voted against legislation that would make concealed-carry firearm permits valid across all states. He also opposed Trump’s executive order for a temporary ban on U.S. entry for citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries and has said that Trump was “manipulated” by Vladimir Putin during the 2016 election. Before his election to Congress, Fitzpatrick served as a special assistant United States attorney and an FBI supervisory special agent. Campaign site: brianfitzpatrick.com
Democrats are relying on Wallace to win the 1st Congressional District race in hope that his victory would tip them toward securing power in the U.S. House. For this reason, Wallace, a self-described “patriotic millionaire” from Bucks County, is working to get out the Democratic vote. He and his wife, Christy (a retired U.S. diplomat), have for the past 15 years run the Wallace Global Fund, a charitable foundation that works to empower women, fight climate change, and create clean-energy jobs. Earlier in his life, Wallace worked as a clerk for a federal judge from Bucks County, as counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee (under Sen. Arlen Specter), and as general counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. His family has a history of public service: His great-great grandfather, great-grandfather and grandfather have all served past U.S. presidents, and his father fought in World War II. Wallace is looking to fight climate change, “take on Donald Trump and the NRA,” support “sensible laws to regulate immigration” (he condemns Trump’s stance on the issue), as well as support women’s reproductive rights, require corporations to disclose their political spending, and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Campaign site: scottwallacepa.com
Includes Northeast Philadelphia, the River Wards
Brendan Boyle was elected to represent Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District, which covers eastern Montgomery County and parts of Northeast Philadelphia, in 2014. After this year’s congressional map switch-up, Boyle opted to run in the new 2nd District, where he lives. As both a state lawmaker and a congressman, Boyle has fought for greater access to healthcare and education and economic equality (he’s supported efforts to raise the minimum wage). He’s a harsh critic of President Trump. Campaign site: voteboyle.com
David Torres has lived in North Philadelphia since he was 12 years old. There, he’s served outreach programs and shelter systems, where he’s worked to fight drug and alcohol abuse. According to his website, he wants to prioritize efforts to combat the opioid crisis and help small businesses create more jobs. He aligns with Trump on several issues, according to his social media pages. Campaign site: torres2018.org
Includes Center City, South Philadelphia, Northwest Philadelphia, West Philadelphia
Incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans is favored to win the newly redrawn, heavily minority and Democratic 3rd District. Evans served the Pennsylvania Legislature for 36 years (first when he was 26 years old in 1980). In 2016, he was elected to represent the former 2nd Congressional District (now the 3rd Congressional District). Over time, Evans has fought for food, job and education access, as well as equitable urban renewal. He strongly opposes the Trump administration on nearly all issues. Campaign site: dwightevans.com
Bryan Leib, a 33-year-old former Democrat, chose to run because he was “frustrated with the status quo” and believes “that Philadelphia’s best days lie ahead of us.” His platform is pro-Israel, and he supports efforts to fund skilled trade apprenticeships. Campaign site: bryanleib.com
Includes part of Montgomery County, part of Berks County
Madeleine Dean has served as a state representative for Pennsylvania’s 153rd Legislative District, which includes parts of Abington and Upper Dublin, since 2012. She is chair of the Pa. House Democratic Southeast Delegation and a member of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women. As a state representative, she’s prioritized education funding, environmental protection and gun violence prevention. (She helped create and lead PA SAFE after the shooting at Sandy Hook.) Before becoming a state representative, Dean practiced law and served as executive director of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association. She wants to reduce student loan debt interest to 0 percent, make community college free, full fund public schools, and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Campaign site: mad4pa.com
Dan David is a Republican businessman currently living in Montgomery County. David co-founded the Skippack, Pennsylvania-based equities research firm GeoInvesting in 2006. He’s sought to change federal law regarding the listing of China-based firms on U.S. stock exchanges, claiming that U.S. investors have been defrauded of more than $50 billion by Chinese companies. Before co-founding GeoInvesting, David served as a senior executive for Finlay Enterprises and Macy’s and was the director of stores for Lord & Taylor. He supports immigration policies that “put the interests of our country and citizens first” and claims that “sanctuary” cities violate federal law. He wants to create “a path to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants that protects their legal status.” In addition, he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and fight the opioid epidemic. He is pro-Israel. Campaign site: dandavidforcongress.com
Includes South Philadelphia, part of Delaware County, part of Montgomery County
An attorney with a focus in child advocacy, Mary Gay Scanlon is the current co-chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Pro Bono Committee. She’s testified before the state legislature about the harms of zero-tolerance policy in schools and has served as a judicial clerk for the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. Before that, she served as national pro bono counsel for 14 years at Ballard Spahr, where she represented women seeking fair compensation, as well as refugees and victims of crime, domestic violence, and human trafficking. She’s said that her “first priority is stopping the Trump agenda and its attack on our American values,” and she wants to focus on gender equity, education and voting rights. She won an ultra-competitive primary for her party’s nomination this past spring. Campaign site: scanlonforcongress.com
Pearl Kim is a former assistant direct attorney in Delaware County, where she served in the Special Victims and Domestic Violence Division and was chief of the division’s Human Trafficking Unit. She also worked in attorney general Josh Shapiro’s office of public engagement in 2017. She has said that her parents’ immigration to the U.S. from South Korea has inspired her to “ensure the opportunities afforded to me and my family are available to all Americans.” If elected, she would aim to spur economic growth by voting to “hold the line on taxes.” She has also said that she wants to secure the country’s border “so we can focus on legal immigration” and continue to address issues of human trafficking and sex crimes. Campaign site: pearlkimforcongress.com
Includes part of Berks County, part of Chester County
Chrissy Houlahan has an impressive résumé: It includes captain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, chief operating officer of AND1 Basketball, founding COO of nonprofit B-Lab, member of Teach for America, and president (and CFO and COO) of Springboard Collaborative. Plus, she’s the daughter of a Holocaust survivor/U.S. Navy captain, and she’s secured an endorsement from former vice president Joe Biden. Houlahan said her choice to run was directly influenced by her frustration with the Trump administration. She wants to expand healthcare access and affordability, improve and strengthen education, fight for veterans and increase government transparency. Campaign site: chrissyhoulahanforcongress.com
Greg McCauley, a tax attorney living in Chadds Ford, is a 38-year member of the Union League in Philadelphia. He’s previously worked as a clerk in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and as an associate at Blank, Rome, Comisky & McCauley — his father’s law firm. He opened his own practice, McCauley Law Offices, in 1987. He and his family also owned and operated a chain of Wendy’s restaurants for more than 20 years. If elected to Congress, McCauley says he would advocate for a balanced government budget, lower taxes and a strong economy. He supports an immigration plan to “secure our borders and ensure that we know who is coming into our country.” Campaign site: mccauleyforcongress.com
Only one state senator in Philadelphia faces a challenger: 4th District Democrat Art Haywood will go up against Republican Ron Holt. Meanwhile, six state House races are being contested: the 152nd District, the 170th District, the 177th District, the 181st District, the 182nd District, and the 194th District. Both Billy Penn and the Committee of Seventy offer guides to these races.
Additional reporting by Molly Dooling.
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