Election rundown: Why votes matter

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Alicia Dye | News Editor

Oct. 27, 2022

Pennsylvania is one state that is being heavily watched in the upcoming 2022 general election. With dozens of races across the state, The Duke is detailing three; the PA-12 Congressional district race, the U.S. Senate race and the gubernatorial race.

For each race, The Duke will detail the republican and democrat candidate, their key issues and how each race is doing in the polls according to FiveThirtyEight.

Why Pennsylvania’s Elections Are Important

Not all state elections are watched with such intensity. So why Pennsylvania?

“Pennsylvania is one of a handful of battleground states,” said Alison Dagnes, a political science professor at Shippensburg University and commentator on American politics. “Battleground states are fairly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. In Pennsylvania’s terms, in the 2020 election, Joe Biden won by 72,000 votes. In 2016, Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by 46,000 votes. When you have 9 million registered voters, that is a tiny margin.”

According to the National Governors Association, Pennsylvania has elected two Republican governors and two Democrat governor’s, including current Governor Tom Wolf since 2001. Since 2000, Pennsylvania has voted for a Democratic president 83.3% of the time, according to Ballotpedia.

“A vote may determine the outcome in an election,” said Lewis Irwin, a political science professor at Duquesne said. “It can come down to 1,000 votes to determine who wins. Voting in Pennsylvania is important.”

Issues Among Voters

At the top of the list of importance is the state of the economy remains the largest among voters regardless of political affiliation.

“Among all voters, inflation and the economy remain a top issue,” Irwin said. “It is still the top issue among Republican voters, but not among Democrat voters.

According to a Pew Research Center poll conducted in August, 77% of registered voters polled said the economy is very important to their vote this election season.

“Rising prices and how much everything costs, and the fact that it feels like the economy is not in a great place right now, that is top of mind for most people,” Dagnes said.

Lewis and Dagnes also cite abortion as a key issue among voters, although it is more of a key issue for democrats.

“it is also a very important issue for some people,” Dagnes said. “Especially those on the left.”

“The top issue is abortion for democrats, especially after the Dobbs decision,” Irwin said. “Democrats overperformed in special elections due to their stance on abortion. The democrats emphasize where they have the advantage, and abortion is one of those advantages.”

Abortion is a key issue for women in college when it comes to voting.

“The races are super important to me because I’m pro-choice,” said senior Rebecca Fisher. “I want women to be able to make decisions for their own bodies, and to have so many pro-life candidates who are promising to outlaw abortion is frightening.”

Crime remains a significant issue among Republican voters as well.

“There are some areas where crime is a very real issue and there are certain cities, Philadelphia is one of them, where crime rates have escalated,but that is not everywhere,” Dagnes said. “The reason we are hearing more about crime has to do with right-wing media and how every two years they emphasize crime as an election motivator. It resonates in areas where that is true.”

“Crime rates are a large issue among republicans,” Irwin said. ‘Shootings and other crimes are their top priorities and similarly to democrats, they emphasize where they have the advantage and this is one of those advantages.”

The crime rate in Pennsylvania has risen, with the violent crime rate rising to 3.9 incidents per 1,000 people in 2022, with the violent crime rate being 3.1 incidents per 1,000 people in 2021. The U.S. rate is 4.0 incidents per 1,000 people according to Safe Wise.

For college students, student loan forgiveness is an issue very important to them.

“I think student loan forgiveness is one of my top issues,” said Junior Dina Gumaa. “College gets more expensive every year and more people, specifically those who are low-income, have to take out even more loans every year. I think forgiving student loans would be helpful to many.”

PA-12 Congressional Race

For clarity, PA-12 used to be located in the north central and northeastern parts of Pennsylvania, and included State College. The 12th district has changed many times over the years, but for the upcoming election in November, the district covers different cities in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties including East Pittsburgh, Homestead, Monroeville, Jeanette and more according to vote.pa.gov. Both candidates, Summer Lee (D) and Mike Doyle (R) were originally running to replace Mike Doyle (D) in the PA-18 district. Duquesne University is located in the PA-12 district as well.

Mike Doyle (R) is not the same as U.S. Rep Mike Doyle (D), who is retiring this year. The name can cause confusion among voters, however the two have different political ideologies and are from different political parties.

Lee is currently serving as a Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 34th district and has been since 2019. Lee is from North Braddock and has lived in Pennsylvania most of her life. She graduated from Penn State University and got her law degree from Howard University School of Law in 2015.

According to Lee’s website, some of her top issues are making public schools and vocational schools free, canceling all student loan debt, transitioning to 100% clean and renewable energy, expanding Supreme Court and ending lifetime appointments for unelected justices and keeping abortion legal. Lee has been endorsed by many members of the Democratic party, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and current Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.

The Republican opponent Doyle is the Vice-President for Excalibur Insurance in Pittsburgh and has been a Plum borough Councilman starting in 2005. Doyle attended King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and got a degree in Business Administration. Doyle has over 30 years of experience in business.

According to Doyle’s website, some of his top issues include reducing inflation, anti-green new deals, cutting government spending and opposing criminal justice reform. According to WESA, Doyle has been endorsed by U.S. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy.

According to Irwin, the U.S. House seat isn’t a top contest, with Lee being the top contender. According to Politico, the PA-12 district will most likely vote blue and vote for Lee. There have not been official polls for this race since May, however it is most likely going to vote blue, experts said.

PA Gubernatorial Election

The current Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf (D) is unable to run for re-election due to Pennsylvania’s constitution which limits governors to two consecutive terms. Current Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D), and Pennsylvania State Senator from the 33rd district Doug Mastriano (R), are running to replace Wolf.

Shapiro has been Attorney General since 2017. Shapiro attended University of Rochester, where he majored in political science. Shapiro got his juris doctor from Georgetown University Law Center in 2002. Prior to becoming Attorney General, Shapiro was a representative for the 153rd district in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

According to Shapiro’s website, some of his top issues are abortion rights, workers rights, investing in Pennsylvania’s infrastructure, reviving rural communities and lowering costs for Pennsylvanians through gas tax refunds, eliminating the state cell phone tax and expanding the Property Tax and Rent Rebate program. Shapiro has received endorsements from many labor unions including American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania and Laborers’ International Union of North America. Shapiro has also received endorsements from PA Dems, former national security Cabinet member and a former Trump administration lawyer Michael Chertoff, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Mastriano has been serving as the senator for Pennsylvania’s 33rd district since 2019. Prior to becoming a senator, Mastriano was a colonel in the U.S. Army and had 30 years of active-duty service, before retiring in 2017.

According to Mastriano’s website, his top issues are making Pennsylvania a “2nd Amendment Sanctuary,” where citizens Second Amendment rights will be protected; protecting election integrity; which includes getting rid of no excuse mail-in voting, the right to life; which includes enacting a heartbeat bill and ending funding to Planned Parenthood, and putting an end to mask and vaccine mandates. Mastriano has received endorsements from former President Donald Trump, U.S. Reps. Guy Reschenthaler and Mike Kelly, and almost the entire GOP Congressional delegation, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

According to FiveThirtyEight, Shapiro is heavily favored to win the gubernatorial race. Shapiro is ahead by 8.3 points, a closer race than a few weeks ago where Shapiro was leading in the polls by almost 11 points.

U.S. Senate Race

The U.S. Senate race is the closest and most important race, according to Irwin. John Fetterman (D) and Dr. Mehmet Oz (R) are running to replace Sen. Patrick Toomey (R) , who announced he would not run for re-election in Oct. 2020.

Fetterman is the current lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and has been since 2018. Prior to becoming lieutenant governor, Fetterman was the mayor of Braddock, a small town just outside of Pittsburgh. Fetterman also has a masters in public policy from Harvard University.

According to Fetterman’s website, his top issues are cutting taxes for working people; protecting abortion rights; legalizing cannabis; criminal justice reform and fighting inflation. Fetterman received endorsements from President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, United Steelworkers District 10, Utility Workers Union of America and more, according to City & State Pennsylvania.

Oz is a TV personality, having his own program “The Dr. Oz Show” that ran from 2009 to 2022. Oz graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1986.

According to Oz’s website, his top issues are stopping illegal immigration; protecting innocent lives; supporting small businesses and being tough on crime. Oz has received endorsements from former President Donald Trump, Fox News host Sean Hannity and U.S. Sens. Tim Scott and Kevin Cramer.

According to FiveThirtyEight, the senate race is slightly favored toward Fetterman. He is ahead by 2.2 points, a small gap compared to previous polls where Fetterman was more than 10 points ahead.

Irwin encourages everyone to do their own research to make an educated vote.

“The U.S. Senate race is the most important race to research,” Irwin said. “It can determine who controls the U.S. Senate and could pivot the entire Senate.”

Dagnes wants the younger generation to know that voting is important.

“Every two years in an ad someone says this is the most important election of your lifetime,” Dagnes said. “We’re getting to a place where that hyperbolic catchphrase is starting to be true.”