Campaigns & Elections

Mailer featuring gun to head of state rep causes upheaval at a Philadelphia PAC

An attack ad targeting state Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler resulted in PAC members resigning amid the fallout

Rep. Liz Fiedler makes comments during the House debate on the 2019-20 state budget.

Rep. Liz Fiedler makes comments during the House debate on the 2019-20 state budget. PA House of Representatives

A heated primary season in Philadelphia became even more contentious this week as mailers from a political action committee caused backlash for their implied violence against progressive incumbents.

A mailer sent out by Greater Expectation PHL, a political action committee formed this month by the nonprofit organization A Greater Philadelphia, criticized incumbent state Reps. Elizabeth Fielder, Rick Krajewski and Chris Rabb for the violence taking place in Philadelphia. As the city continues to reel from increasing gun violence, attacks against progressive Democrats have largely centered around soft-on-crime messaging. 

One flyer in particular, sent out this week, has drawn the ire of Democrats as it depicts crime statistics and a gun pointed in the direction of Fiedler. Several board members of A Greater Philadelphia have resigned amid the fallout, including Charles Ellison, WURD radio host and Philadelphia Citizen contributor, and Jason Tucker, vice president of acquisitions and development at the Goldenberg Group. 

“Several months ago, I joined AGP’s board out of a belief in fresh new ideas and bold structural changes that can once and for all benefit Black communities in Philadelphia,” Ellison said in a tweet. “The recent campaign material, among other operational and funding issues, does not reflect that vision.”

The reelection campaigns have riven the city’s Democratic Party. The Philadelphia Democratic City Committee voted to endorse Fiedler’s opponent, Michael Giangiordano II, in the race for the 184th legislative district, as well as James Wright, who’s challenging Krajewski in the 188th district. Such a move is highly unusual: the DCC has historically endorsed Democratic incumbents.  

Rabb, another progressive incumbent, has seen his district redrawn into the 200th legislative district alongside state Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald. Greater Expectations PHL has attempted to pin the gun violence and rising crime on the progressive candidates as they’ve called for police reforms. 

“Greater Expectations PHL produced the mailers as calls for accountability. They address the chasm between what elected officials are focused on and what residents want them to be focused on,” Mark Gleason, founder of A Greater Philadelphia and treasurer of Greater Expectations PHL, said in a statement to City & State Wednesday. “The one that seems to have gotten the most attention presents official city crime statistics, as well as public statements made by state representatives and the groups that support them. Crime is far and away the No. 1 issue of concern to city residents, community leaders and business owners.”

Krajewski said that calls for police reform can still go hand-in-hand with the need for accountability and reducing crime. 

“To have them put a mailer out like that – which was not rooted in any kind of political reality and was intended to scare people and create fear about a serious issue – I found that to be irresponsible,” Krajewski told City & State. “We all believe in accountability, we all believe in justice, but we also believe the system disproportionately affects Black and brown people … Addressing gun violence will take a lot more than just addressing the police.”

As the candidates head into the homestretch ahead of Tuesday’s primary, a spokesperson for Fiedler said elections are decided by the voters and not any one organization. 

“Desperate last-minute junk mail by anti-labor, anti-public education dark money groups isn’t going to change the minds of Elizabeth’s neighbors, who know she has their backs," Sarah Nenadovic, campaign manager for Fiedler’s reelection, said in a statement. 

A Greater Philadelphia states on its site that it “remains nonpartisan and will continue to advocate for real solutions to complex problems.”