In the primaries of Pa. with low turnout, location and luck may have mattered more than politics

She went everywhere

From the start, McClelland was running behind.

Bizzarros’ list of endorsements, prominently displayed on his campaign website, was a who’s who of state Democratic politics. He also secured the endorsement of the state’s Democratic Party late last year, setting the stage for him to be the frontrunner in the primary.

He also raised nearly five times as much money as McClelland: about $500,000 to his $107,133, as of April 8 with $100,000 of that money he lent to his campaign.

It was virtually impossible to raise money, he said Wednesday, noting that he relied on a loyal army of volunteers rather than paid staff to help his campaign.

Bizzarro had far more cash in the bank to get his message out to voters, outscoring McClelland nearly 15-to-1 since the start of the year, according to campaign finance reports.

Still, despite his day job as a member of the General Assembly, Bizzarro, like McClelland, lacked statewide name recognition. McClelland argues that it ended up working in his favor.

Both her gender and her Irish last name, she said, likely also helped her with voters who knew little about the race, office or candidates.

When a person who knows nothing about this breed, hasn’t heard much about him or me, goes in to vote and sees these two names, what will their visceral reaction be? McClelland said.

Part of McClelland’s strategy, which he believes ended up paying off, was to push Bizzarro on social media, where his sometimes mercurial posts were a frequent topic of conversation within his campaign.

When you have two degrees in psychology, game theory comes into play, McClelland said, referring to the practice of analyzing conflicting interests to gain an advantage.

Bizzarro did not respond to a request for comment. In an email, campaign spokesman Bud Jackson said the representative was leaving post-campaign analysis to the experts. In a statement on election night, Bizzarro simply congratulated all of tonight’s winners and thanked his supporters.

Although the results were not what I expected or hoped for, I respect the voters’ choice, he added.

Mike Mikus, a Democratic strategist who was not involved in the race, said he thought gender and geography were the biggest factors in the McClellands’ victory. Since former President Donald Trump became a major figure in politics, she said, Democratic voters are excited about voting for a woman.

Plus, he added, in low-information races voters tend to look for other factors, and having the county next to your name on the ballot is a big plus. If you’re from a larger county and your opponents are from a smaller county, I think that probably had more to do with what happened.

In the end, McClelland won more votes than Bizzarro in 53 of 67 counties, according to unofficial results, and did particularly well in his home district of Allegheny County, as well as its neighbors. She also won in the states’ northeastern counties, an advantage that helped her overcome landslide victories by Bizzarros in Erie County and Philadelphia and most of its suburbs.

Chuck Pascal, who chaired McClelland’s campaign and considers her a friend, said she worked hard to win.

He went everywhere, he said of his work ethic and campaign style. He traveled all over the state.

Voters tend to focus more on contests such as presidential and congressional, rather than state treasurer. This year’s race between Bizzarro and McClelland, despite the surprising result, was no exception.

Jennie Sweet-Cushman, a professor of political science at Chatham University who studies women in politics, told Spotlight PA that all things being equal, voters, particularly Democrats, will increasingly support a female candidate who to a male candidate when they know little.

The same dynamic may have helped GOP state Treasurer Garrity win in 2020 over Democratic incumbent Joe Torsella, Sweet-Cushman added.

But McClelland also swept the state, his campaign spending mostly gas station receipts and small dollar donations to local political committees with a message focused on office rather than national policy.

In a late-night digital campaign ad, McClelland highlighted cybersecurity and Republicans declaring war on public pensions and workers. He also campaigned to prioritize domestic investment over foreign investment.

In a race where no one knows what the treasurer does, no one knows how important he may or may not be, she highlighted what was going on in the world, Sweet-Cushman said, and probably, in some ways, the people invested in it. doing it

Instead, Bizzarro focused on Garrity’s opposition to abortion and criticized her for attending a pro-Trump rally at the state Capitol the day before the Jan. 6 uprising. He also attacked McClelland’s mistakes in his campaign finance filings and a handful of previous unsuccessful runs for other elected office.

Garrity’s campaign picked up on that latest talking point in a statement Tuesday night, saying McClelland is a perennial candidate in the hunt for a spot on the public payroll with odd propositions at best.

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