In 2022, Pennsylvania Democrats had a banner political year, electing Josh Shapiro as governor and John Fetterman as the state’s newest US senator, while also flipping control of the state House of Representatives.
Shapiro has since become widely touted as a future Democratic presidential candidate, while Fetterman, a former lieutenant governor, had garnered national recognition in his own right even before his election to the upper chamber. And with control of the state House, Democrats now have leverage in the politically split legislature.
But less than a year after those victories and one year before the 2024 presidential election, Politico is reporting that Democratic insiders are slamming the state of the party, citing financial problems and an apparent lack of trust.
In speaking with roughly 20 Democratic figures throughout the state, many told the outlet of their deep frustration at how the party — in one of the top presidential swing states in the country — is being run.
A state Democratic committee member described the state party as “amateur hour.” And one former state party staffer called the organization a “fucking disaster.”
Politico reported that the party went through some staff layoffs in July, and one of the party’s political action committees reported only $7,500 in its coffers as of June.
As Democrats have increasingly expressed concerns about the party, many are looking to the party chair, state Sen. Sharif Street of Philadelphia, to provide answers.
And they’re looking to help right the ship quickly, as a key state Supreme Court race will be held this November. The party has sought to make the contest a referendum on abortion rights in the Keystone State.
“It’s concerning that the state party is laying people off as we’re heading into a really important Supreme Court race, which then leads into the presidential year,” Democratic consultant Mike Mikus told Politico. “They’re going to have to figure out a path forward to build their own fundraising operation, and it sounds like there’s a lot of building to be done right now.”
Street, the party chair, told Politico that the state committee wasn’t experiencing financial issues and touted funding that had already been used to hire 20 organizers. He also said that the state party’s federal political action committee now had a balance of $200,000. And he added that he had to push through layoffs due to high staff overhead costs.
“I really should have done some of that trimming back last December,” he said of the layoffs. “But they were people who had won so many elections. We have done things no other party did. And I couldn’t look at any of them in the face and say I wanted to let them go.”
Some Democrats remain concerned over the pace of fundraising, especially as President Joe Biden and Senator Bob Casey Jr. are both aiming to continue the party’s success next year.
Street told Politico that he has sought to bring on organizers from Pennsylvania, which has caused some friction with national Democratic officials.
“We’ve done things a little differently, and I know that may have ruffled some feathers with sort of the national chatterbox class,” he told the outlet.
But he defended his leadership of the state party, pointing to last year’s electoral victories.
“We had a good record last year. We’ve been winning,” he said.