How the Working Families Party managed the 2020 primary in PA amid crisis
The party has followed up its success in Philadelphia’s elections with wins in statewide contests.
Back in November of 2019, the Working Families Party made political history in Philadelphia when it backed Kendra Brooks to an improbable at-large spot on Philadelphia City Council as a third party candidate.
She is the first third-party councilmember in Philadelphia history, and her party has followed up that moment with more success in Pennsylvania’s statewide primary on June 2.
One of those leading the charge was Brooks’ old running mate for City Council, Nicolas O’Rourke.
“We have extremely gifted, trained, time-tested, experienced staff who have been committed to seeing each one of our candidates through to the election day line,” he said.
In all, the Working Families Party endorsed 22 Democratic candidates throughout the state ahead of the primary on June 2.
But unlike in Philadelphia, where Brooks’ win was based largely on the back of a door-to-door outreach strategy, the coronavirus pandemic required adaptation.
“We believe that building power is person-to-person relationship building,” said O’Rourke.
Initially, he said there were technological gaps when trying to reach all the party’s targeted voters.
“There had to be some commitments to make sure our leaders, our loved ones get used to Zoom, set up emails if they didn’t have those,” said O’Rourke. “All those things that millennials might have or persons who are in a better position to have access to even just Internet.”
In addition to a robust call center set up by party volunteers that made up to 30,000 calls in the lead up to June 2, there were also 208,000 texts made to voters.
Working Families Party Political Director Vanessa Clifford also added that the quarantine cut travel time, actually allowing her to have more one-on-one time with candidates’ individual campaigns to better cater their outreach.
“We were able to spend more time with more campaigns,” she said.
The party also provided virtual statewide and national training programs for campaigns.
O’Rourke said the party’s message also falls in line with what’s being demanded by protesters during the uprisings following George Floyd’s murder.
“We see this moment as central to the work that we’re called to do. We are committed to building grassroots political power for the multiracial working class and working poor,” he said.
He continued to drive home that the power needed to be “durable,” to create the policy change and kind of world its constituents deserve.
Echoes of that sentiment continue around the country every day and a few policy reforms have been proposed as a reaction.
The last day mail-in votes stamped June 2 or earlier can be received is today (June 9), but some of the party’s candidates have already declared victory.
Of the 22 they supported, six have declared victory, including PA House candidates Summer Lee, Emily Kinkhead, Jessica Benham and Nicole Miller, and Senate candidates Shanna Danielson and Amanda Cappelletti.
Cappelletti’s was particularly big, considering her opponent was now-former state senator Daylin Leach, who was hit with a number of sexual harassment allegations from former female staffers in 2017.