“This candidate’s opponent chose not to respond.”
Those who have been following our Candidate Spotlight Series know this phrase well. Every week, the editors at Broad + Liberty reach out to over 60 candidates running for public office in Pennsylvania — an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, incumbents and challengers — with one question on public policy.
On average, only a third respond, the majority of whom are non-incumbent Republicans.
Every week, our commenters address this ideological imbalance: “Where is Fetterman?” “Where is Mastriano?” “Why does the response pool skew red?”
We hear you, and we recognize this as a flaw in our series. As we inch closer to Nov. 8, it’s important for us to address it.
READ MORE — Report: Pennsylvania election integrity middle of the pack
Here at Broad + Liberty, we are intense advocates for diversity of thought — it’s the reason we founded this endeavor three years ago this month. We are an ideologically transparent publication. In other words, we don’t hide the fact that our editorial board believes that policies informed by the unalienable rights enshrined in our Constitution, free markets, and self-determination do the most good, for the most people, most of the time, in particular, for the most vulnerable among us. We also recognize that the phrase “diversity of thought” is used most often by those on the right who feel marginalized by the tone and tenor of more fashionable ideologies espoused by legacy media, academia, the entertainment industry, and many large corporations. However, to us, it means all are welcome to bring their stories and perspectives to our platform — and all means all, as we make clear to nearly 65 candidates each week.
We also recognize, and emphasize, that a significant portion of our readership consists of undecided voters — registered independents, those questioning their current party affiliation, those who value individual policies over party loyalty, those reeling from the effects of untested pandemic-era policies, the naturally ideologically heterodox, etc. We know this because we hear from many of them every day.
You’d think candidates of all parties would jump at the opportunity to attract thousands of new voters. So would we.
No other media outlet or civic institution in our region has provided candidates with the opportunity to go this far into detail about individual leadership qualities, personal backgrounds, and policy preferences at this stage of the campaign cycle. Most outlets cover the horse race, the negative ads, the monied interests. We cover how these folks actually intend to govern, at a level of detail that allows voters to connect the dots between policy implementation and policy outcomes. For instance, the historic, tragic level of violent crime in the City of Philadelphia is not a natural disaster. For these reasons, and many others, the Candidate Spotlight Series is a fundamental public good.
So, for curiosity’s sake, we reached out to those candidates who have gone totally unresponsive these past seven weeks and gave them a chance to speak outside of the context of our direct questions. “This is your opportunity to send a message to our undecided readers,” we said. “Whatever you would like to say, we will publish.”
This week’s question: How do you feel about this initiative from Broad + Liberty? What message about your campaign would you like to send to our undecided readers?
Crickets. Radio silence. Record scratch, freeze frame. However you want to define it, we heard nothing from the candidates we contacted — mostly Democratic incumbents — except one.
Chris Pielli, a U.S. Army veteran and former public defender running against Heidi Vanderwaal to represent Chester County (District 156) as a Democrat, voiced his appreciation for our project: “I believe strongly that voters deserve to know where you stand on important issues even if it may cost a candidate support. As such, I greatly appreciate Broad + Liberty’s efforts to urge candidates to be open and transparent.”
He told us about his platform.
“For too long, unfair tax cuts to the rich have stifled the growth of our economy and services. Lower wages that have not kept up with the cost of living have been the cause of a shrinking middle class while corporate profits have gone through the roof. It is time for those protected interests to patriotically pay their fair share…
“I will advocate for more state funding for our public schools. I will legislate for secure and expanded voting. I will fight for accessible, affordable health care for every citizen. And I will defend a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body.
“Finally, I will fight with every fiber of my being those extremists and lobbyists who seek to cut your pay, cancel your benefits, eliminate your healthcare, or take your retirement. You worked for it. You earned it. You deserve it. Let’s work together so you can keep it.”
Mr. Pielli is among the few Democrats who see the appeal of using a center-right outlet to widen his base and win an election mandate to govern as advertised. Education technology CEO Ilya Breyman, running to represent Pennsylvania’s 178th House District, has been a consistent contributor to the Candidate Spotlight Series, graciously letting our readers know where he stands on school choice, inflation, prosecutions, and other topics.
Gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro has also earned a shout-out. Not only have he and his running mate Austin Davis been consistent supporters of our Candidate Spotlight Series, he’s used other center-right outlets such as Fox News to paint himself as a candidate with broad appeal — the emergence of the vocal political committee Republicans4Shapiro is testament to this.
If our Candidate Spotlight Series has taught us anything, it’s that most of our region’s establishment politicians don’t believe independent-minded voters are worthy of a response.
Also worth lauding is senatorial candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz, whose engagement overall has been very good. We applaud Oz for taking time out of a very hectic campaign schedule to speak to our readers on such a detailed level.
Of course, these men are just a few outliers in a greater, disappointing trend. If our Candidate Spotlight Series has taught us anything, it’s that most of our region’s establishment politicians don’t believe independent-minded voters are worthy of a response. They hide behind PAC-spending and TV soundbites and don’t think they need to be held accountable. Take Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman’s refusal to debate Dr. Oz, or Representative Madeleine Dean’s silence when asked in a formal letter to debate her Republican challenger Christian Nascimento. Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, a member of the House Progressive Caucus, evidently does not believe her support for some of the most extreme policy positions espoused in the halls of Congress should be explained to voters suffering from high inflation, higher crime, and an invasive, yet incompetent government.
Candidly, we just don’t understand State Senator Doug Mastriano’s lack of effort to broaden his base in statewide general election campaign, which isn’t only reflected in his engagement with the press, but also in his fundraising efforts. We’ve only heard from the senator once.
We aren’t giving up just yet. Broad + Liberty will continue pressing your incumbents right until Nov. 8 — keeping in mind that silence often speaks louder than words.
We also encourage you, dear reader, to participate in this process as well. If you wonder why we’ve yet to publish your representative or candidate for local office, you now know the reluctance is not ours. Give them a call, write them a letter, or DM them on their favorite social media platform, and ask them why they do not believe you are worthy of a thoughtful and honest response.
As always, stay broad-minded.
Broad + Liberty is a nonprofit news and editorial outlet dedicated to freedom of thought and giving voice to issues and ideas that have been shut out of our discourse for too long. @BroadAndLiberty