Five Takeaways from the 2014 Pennsylvania Progressive’s Summit

1) John Hanger’s message resonates with the activist base

In my opinion, the performances from all 6 candidates in democratic gubernatorial debate was pretty weak.  I don’t know if that’s from the format with candidates only having a minute and half to answer the questions with a 30 second rebuttal, but the overall performance from all the candidates seemed really week.  Candidates were constantly going off topic, using a noun, verb and “I worked with Al Gore,” not answering the actual questions or reminiscing about their squirrel hunting days, but John Hanger’s message resonates with the activist base of the party.

John Hanger received over 30 percent of the straw poll results, and he was the only candidate who is against the wholesale privatization of public education, from kindergarten through higher education.  He was the only person to openly talk about building union density in the state, and his marijuana policy makes sense.  In the debate and in an interview I conducted with John Hanger – which will be available when we launch our podcast – Hanger made many key points on his marijuana policy.  Having a system that allows minorities to be incarcerated fives times more than white population is barbaric, and it’s morally wrong for democrats to allow this system to continue.  Decriminalization of marijuana is a dated, middle of the road, third way, policy that doesn’t address keeping marijuana out of the hands of minors.  Decriminalization doesn’t address the underground economy and it doesn’t address the safety risks people are taking when trying to buy the stimulant.  Legalize it, and sell it in state stores or licensed businesses.

2) Keystone Progress’ endorsements are a big freaking deal

My first interaction with those heading Keystone Progress was in 2011 and I was skeptical of the organization, but over the weekend Mike Morrill and Keystone Progress took a huge leap forward with their first time endorsements.  The organization’s first political endorsement went to freshman democrat Erin Molchany, whose district was gerrymandered with conservative democrat Harry Readshaw.

This endorsement is a big fucking deal for the progressive movement because it was the first time the organization has made an endorsement and it shows the base that Keystone Progress isn’t afraid to engage in intra-party fighting.  It’s intra-party fighting and primarying bad democrats for younger progressive candidates that will make the party more progressive.  

3) The Friday night parties are really great

Harrisburg has a few good bars and Daylin Leach’s party at Molly Brannigans didn’t disappoint.  Always a fine time meeting up with other activists, organizers and lefties.

4) The progressive movement in Pennsylvania is getting stronger

From the time Governor Corbett came into office and proposed his first budget to today, it feels like the progressive movement in Pennsylvania is getting stronger, and it will only continue to get stronger as the demographics in Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware and Chester counties to change.  Having the Progressive Summit in Harrisburg will allow this event to get bigger and bigger because of location and because of affordability.  Last year was the first year the summit was in Harrisburg, and roughly 700 people attended the event.  This was the second time the summit was in Harrisburg and it added an extra 100 attendees.  Having an event like this once a year is tremendous for the movement because it gives a place for grassroots organizers, environmentalists, union leaders and activists to hold amazing panels and to exchange ideas.

5) Jo Ellen Litz hunted and ate squirrels.

Probably the funniest and oddest thing said during the debate, and was the but end of plenty of twitter jokes.


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About Sean Kitchen 681 Articles
Contributor and Assistant Editor for the Raging Chicken Press. Stationed in Harrisburg covering politics in the capitol. You can send tips to or reach me on twitter at @RCPress_Sean!
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