Satire/Odd News

Novembers to Remember

Unforgettable moments from Keystone State Election Days past

Donald Trump flipped Pennsylvania red in 2016, winning the state by 44,292 votes – a margin of 0.72%.

Donald Trump flipped Pennsylvania red in 2016, winning the state by 44,292 votes – a margin of 0.72%. Mark Makela/Getty Images

Forget about the October Surprise – no, really, you can forget about it. There were no memorable, game-changing revelations unveiled in the final days before last month’s election, to the relief – and disappointment – of those of us who live for the First Tuesday in November. 

But the commonwealth’s Election Days – both recent and historic – have often culminated in head-scratching happenings and shocking, surprise upsets. To fill the void this year, here are some of our favorite “Can you believe that just happened?!” moments from past first Tuesdays in November.

Lincoln’s Laurels

Abraham Lincoln
Photo credit: Universal History Archives/Getty Images

In May 1860, former Congressman Abraham Lincoln upset the Republican front-runner, William Seward, for the presidential nomination. With Pennsylvania key to Republicans’ success, party members rallied behind Lincoln and created a stronghold state in the process. Lincoln won the general election by a margin of 18.72% – on his way to becoming the country’s first Republican president. The commonwealth wouldn’t vote for another Democratic presidential candidate until Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. 

Honorable mention: Buchanan represents

Presidential history can’t be discussed without mentioning the commonwealth’s lone native to hold the Oval Office. Dickinson College alumnus James Buchanan, from Cove Gap in Franklin County, edged out incumbent President Franklin Pierce for the Democratic nomination and defeated former Whig President Millard Fillmore and Republican John C. Frémont in the 1856 general election – becoming the 15th president in the process. 

A Bug’s Life

Photo credit: Peter Tobia-Pool/Getty Images; Gannet77/Getty Images

Leave it to the feds to get involved in what was the most recent competitive mayoral election in Philadelphia. Democratic Mayor John Street’s administration, amid a reelection campaign against Republican Sam Katz, discovered an FBI listening device in the ceiling above Street’s desk on Oct. 7, 2003. Despite Republicans hoping the federal investigation news would hurt Street in the polls, Democrats claimed the Department of Justice was partaking in election interference – and Street, who was not among the 20 people convicted in what widely became known as the “City Hall corruption probe,” ultimately came out on top. 

First flip since Bush

Donald Trump
Photo credit: Mark Makela/Getty Images; Gannet77/Getty Images

Few events have had a seismic impact on America like the 2016 presidential election. For the first time since President George H. W. Bush’s reelection in 1988, Donald Trump flipped Pennsylvania red in 2016, winning the state by 44,292 votes – a margin of 0.72%. The upset was the narrowest margin in a presidential election since 1840 and the first time Pennsylvania voted more Republican than the nation’s average since 1948. 

Ballot Blunder

Kathy Boockvar
Photo credit: Commonwealth Media Services; Gannet77/Getty Images

Secretaries of state have taken center stage since the 2016 and 2020 elections. But in the commonwealth, the resignation of Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar in 2021 was a surprise precipitated by an uncommon slip-up. A statewide vote on whether survivors of sexual abuse should decades later be able to sue the perpetrators and institutions that covered up the crimes was mistakenly not advertised – as required by law – leaving the long-sought constitutional amendment off the spring primary ballot that year and victims in another wait-and-see position, where the issue still stands today. Boockvar subsequently resigned in February 2021. 

Crudités and Canines

Dr. Mehmet Oz
Photo credit: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images; Gannet77/Getty Images

It’s safe to say our campaigns and elections have gotten wilder and weirder in recent years. A prime example of that is last year’s U.S. Senate race between John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz. Known on television as Dr. Oz, the physician-turned-host-turned-political candidate came up short when a combination of campaign calamities and questionable medical experience hindered his ability to connect with Pennsylvania voters. Oz took heat for alleged animal abuse that occurred under his watch while he served as a researcher at Columbia University. And when he attempted to relate to voters by talking about rising grocery prices – the mention of crudités and a store name that resembled “Wegner’s” all but sealed his fate.