TRUMPadelphia: Backlash in the burbs, Don Jr. and Wikileaks, and more

APTOPIX Virginia Election Transgender Candidate
Danica Roem (center), a Democrat who ran for Virginia's House of Delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, is greeted by supporters as she prepares to give her victory speech on Nov. 7 in Manassas, Va.

Good morning, pals. If you’d told me in July that before the year was out, Don Jr. would up and tweet another screenshot of possibly-incriminating private messages involving Russian meddling in the election, I would have… believed you. That guy’s a gift to journalism.

This newsletter covers President Trump and how his policies affect greater Philadelphia. You can sign up here to get it in your inbox, for free, every week. You can send suggestions/complaints/questions my way by email or on Twitter, and if you like this newsletter, please forward it to a friend!

Aubrey Whelan


Today, let’s talk about the Democrats.

What’s at stake

Last week’s elections, as everyone and their mother told you, were widely regarded as a bellwether (if there is an overused word in the age of Trump, it’s that one) on Trumpism. And the Democrats made out pretty well. Gubernatorially, they scored a big victory in the Virginia and a more-predictable win in New Jersey, plus some surprising gains in smaller races.

There’s the democratic socialist who beat a Republican incumbent for a Virginia delegate seat. The transgender journalist (and heavy metal singer) who knocked out the author of the state’s bathroom bill. The New Jersey woman who ran against a county councilman after he made a misogynistic comment about the Women’s March — and defeated him.

But for today’s newsletter, let’s look at some even smaller races — like, prothonotary small.

The local angle

Delaware County’s Democrats won competitive county races for the first time ever. In Chester County, Democrats swept races for row offices like county controller and clerk of courts. (When I said small, I meant small.) In Bucks, Democrats likewise scored row office wins for the first time in 30 years. In Philly, where everyone’s a Democrat anyway, progressives outside the mainstream party like DA candidate Larry Krasner and controller candidate Rebecca Rhynhardt racked up easy wins.

In the burbs, where voters tend to swing red for local offices and blue in presidential elections, local pols on both sides of the aisle are chalking up the sweeps to a Trumpian backlash — GOP state chairman Val DiGiorgio told the Daily Local that the race “turned on things that happened outside of Chester County,” and local Dems crowed that Trump was on the ballot, whether he liked it or not.

What’s ahead

Trump isn’t quaking in his oversized suits over a controller race. But national Democrats are taking notice, if my inbox full of celebratory tips and press releases is any gauge — and they’re looking at Tuesday as a sign of things to come when the House is up for grabs in 2018. And, as the New York Times noted, Democratic sweeps in these little local races were replicated all over the country last week. We’ve long looked to the burbs as bellwethers (sorry, sorry) in presidential polling. It might be time to start paying attention a little earlier.


What they’re saying

“Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!” then-candidate Trump, tweeting last October, 15 minutes after Wikileaks DM-ed his son and asked him to plug their trove of Hillary Clinton’s campaign emails.

“That’s a real smart tough guy and the most famous australian [sic] you have!” — Wikileaks, trying to convince Don Jr. to convince his dad to pressure the Australian government to give Julian Assange an ambassadorship — and providing a script for what to say.

“I believe the women. I think he should step aside.” — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling for Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to step down after allegations surfaced he had molested a 14-year-old (and after a week of Congressional Republicans waffling over the allegations — “if true, he should step down,” was a common refrain).


In other news…

  • The Atlantic gets a big scoop: the Wikileaks Twitter account spent much of the campaign DM-ing Don Jr. — and, when the organization got a hold of Clinton campaign emails (courtesy, American intelligence agencies believe, of the Russian government), they sought out his help to publicize the leaks. The whole article’s worth a read, if only for Wikileaks’ increasingly bizarre, largely unanswered demands — get the Australian government to make Julian Assange an ambassador! Tell everyone the election was rigged if you lose! Give us your tax returns! (Go big or go home, I guess.)
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions is on Capitol Hill this morning, denying he lied under oath about his knowledge of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russians last year.
  • Roy Moore was once banned from a mall over his interactions with teenage girls.
  • A dispatch from President Trump’s trip to the Philippines, where he cozied up to President Rodrigo Duterte but dodged questions on whether he would bring up the human-rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, that have marked his host’s internationally-criticized war on drugs.

What I’m reading

  • My colleague Jason Nark on Democrats in rural Columbia County looking to sway Trump voters their way in 2018.
  • The Pittsburgh City Paper hits back at an explosive Politico piece on Johnstown, Pa. featuring hardcore Trump supporters who said some truly horrendous things in print. But Johnstown, the City Paper notes, actually went for Hillary Clinton, and progressives there are furious about the story. The article is also worth reading for its larger premise, which is that out-of-town reporters looking to connect with Trump voters usually focus on depressed steel towns while ignoring the wealthy suburbs that probably turned the state to Trump.
  • In the midst of a society-shaking outcry over sexual abuse and harassment, CNN talked to dozens of Congressional staffers who detailed harassment in the halls of the Capitol.

A non-political palate cleanser

My colleague David Gambacorta’s masterful true-crime serial on a North Philly kid with a triple life — gang member, antiviolence advocate, DEA informer — and the cop who tracked him down is running all week. Catch up here.

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