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Challenging the Narrative of Pennsylvania’s Primary Election Results

Earlier this month, primary elections in Pennsylvania decided nominees for Allegheny County Executive and Philadelphia Mayor. The dominant narrative told us that progressives struggled in Philadelphia while they excelled in Pittsburgh. Looking closer at the Philadelphia election results, the truth is a little more complicated.

In Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, Sara Innamorato, a progressive state representative, surged to victory over County Treasurer John Weinstein by running a strong race focused on making the economy more equitable, while Matt Dugan defeated longtime district attorney Stephen Zappala Jr., a moderate.
In Philadelphia, meanwhile, Cherelle Parker defeated Gym along with a field of candidates including Rebecca Rhynhart, Alan Domb, and Jeff Brown. Parker was considered the more moderate candidate, particularly on policing issues, whereas Gym had a long record of advocacy for progressive causes and had secured endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
In Philadelphia, Parker faced no negative television advertising, while the ads against her opponents were strong. Ads against Gym, for example, undercut her progressive bona fides. A champion of public schools? Gym founded a charter school. A voice against corporate malfeasance? Gym voted against tightening regulations on opioid distribution while her husband worked at a pharmaceutical distribution company. For progressives on the fence, the ad barrage was likely effective. Meanwhile, Parker and her allies ran a disciplined campaign that told her story effectively.


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