At Berks Democratic Party dinner, get out the vote is the message

Oct. 9—Last year, the election was big news.

With the post of president on the ballot, the 2020 election was hard to ignore. It was covered night and day, yard signs and flags could be seen everywhere.

This year’s version doesn’t have a big-ticket race. It’s a municipal election, which means votes will be cast for positions like township supervisor and borough council member and school board director.

But just because it doesn’t have the glitz and glamor of last year doesn’t mean it’s not important.

At the Berks County Democratic Committee’s fall dinner Friday night, keynote speaker U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb told a crowd gathered at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in downtown Reading that elections like 2021 are crucial.

They’re where real connections can be made and where real change starts to happen.

Lamb said he speaks from experience.

While these days he’s traveling the commonwealth in pursuit of winning the Democratic nomination next spring in the hotly contested race for Pennsylvania’s soon-to-be vacant U.S. Senate seat, Lamb isn’t too far removed from another daunting campaign.

Lamb gained national attention in 2018 when he won a special election for Congress by 627 votes, despite a Republican registration advantage and a campaign that spent more than $8 million to defeat him.

After redistricting, he was forced to run in an intensely Republican-leaning district and against a competitor who President Donald Trump actively campaigned for.

It was a fiercely divided environment, one where people had chosen sides and dig in deeply.

“What Trump has done is make it possible to wonder whether what we say to our fellow Americans matters at all and whether everyone is hopelessly sorted into two categories of red and blue and whether it really even matters to go out and try to persuade people,” he said. “But we have to. We have to.”

Lamb, a former Marine and federal prosecutor, overcame those challenges by pounding the pavement.

He went door-to-door, often coming face-to-face with voters who told him they were staunchly in his opponent’s corner. But time and time again, by talking about his beliefs and his stance on issues like healthcare, education and his support for unions, he turned them around.

“People didn’t think it was possible, but we knew that if we went and talked to people without any barriers between us and the voters to talk about the issues, talk about their paychecks, talk about their situations,” he said. “Not want any consultant says, but just neighbor to neighbor. We knew people would see us fighting for how much we anted to represent them.”

Lamb, who represents Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District in Allegheny and Butler counties, said that’s how Democrats change change people’s minds, how they can win hearts and elections.

“That’s how we have to compete every time,” he said.

Lamb said that Democrats need to refuse to let others define what they’re all about, that the party needs to actively tell it’s own story and clearly share what they stand for.

“We have the work ethic, we have the pride and, most importantly, we have the dedication of the people we are trying to represent,” he said. “And we can carry that out of this room tonight and help get these judges and local candidates elected. That’s how we protect democracy at the end of the day.”

Three candidates running for statewide judicial races on the November ballots echoed that sentiment in their remarks at the dinner.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court candidate Maria McLaughlin is a Democrat from Philadelphia who has served on the Superior Court since 2017. She began her legal career as an assistant district attorney in Philly before serving in the family division of the city’s Court of Common Pleas.

She is running against Republican Kevin Brobson for a single open seat.

“We want all of our rights protected,” McLaughlin said about the slate of Democratic candidates running for statewide judicial seats. “What is more important than those values in our Constitution? We are the ones who are going to protect those rights.”

Pennsylvania Superior Court candidate Timika Lane is a Democrat from Philadelphia who serves as a Common Pleas Court Judge who handles criminal matters in the city. She previously worked in the public defender’s office and practiced family law as a private attorney.

She is competing against Republican Megan Sullivan for the lone open seat.

“We are fired up and ready to because we know how the courts impact each and every one of us,” Lane said. “We know time and time again that the courts have been the stopgap to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. And that is why it’s imperative that you go out and talk to everyone about this election.”

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court candidate David Spurgeon serves on the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. Before that he served for nearly two decades as assistant district attorney and then deputy district attorney for the county.

He is one of four candidates running for two open seats. The other candidates are Democrat Lori Dumas and Republicans Andrew Crompton and Stacy Wallace.

“These seats are 10-year terms and once you win you are probably never going to lose your job so that means all can serve 20 to 30 years — which is great if Democrats win but horrible if Republicans win,” Spurgeon told the crowd. “Because the winners will be making decisions about our elections, about women’s reproductive rights, about gerrymandering, about all the things that are important to Pennsylvania.”

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