A Philadelphia Republican has announced a new party affiliation … sort of.
Republican City Commissioner Seth Bluestein – using Independence Hall as a backdrop – announced his affiliation with the Forward Party in Philadelphia on Thursday.
While still registered as a Republican – and running as one in November – Bluestein said his move to take the Forward Party pledge should send a message that free and fair elections will remain a top priority while he is in office.
“My goal is and always has been to ensure that Philadelphians have a people-first election system – a system that provides the opportunity for every eligible voter to vote and to make sure that their voices are heard,” Bluestein said Thursday while standing outside the National Constitution Center. “The Forward Party and I share these common goals. That is why today I stand here to partner with them and send a simple message to the voters of Philadelphia: I will always put Philadelphia first.”
The Forward Party, formed last year, is co-chaired by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and Christine Todd Whitman, a former Republican governor from New Jersey. The party supports implementing ranked-choice voting and open primaries, and has frequently emphasized the importance of welcoming voters from all political stripes.
“Political parties have become an instrument of power, not policy,” Whitman said Thursday at the event. “Forward is about ensuring that the (election) process is open. We support candidates that are Republican, Democrat and Independent as long as they agree with our principles – uphold the rule of law, respect the Constitution (and) be willing to work across the aisle to get problems solved.”
Bluestein isn’t the first Pennsylvania official to take the step forward. In June, longtime Democratic state Sens. Anthony H. Williams and Lisa Boscola both announced their affiliation with the Forward Party. And while the two will remain registered Democrats – like Bluestein will remain a Republican – both expressed frustration with the tribalism in the nation’s politics in general and the chamber’s in particular, and made the case for a collaborative, reform-minded approach to governing.
“It's not that we're switching our party registration away from Republican, because it's important that we have a Republican voice in the room where ballots are being counted,” Bluestein said. “It’s that we’re sending a very clear message that elections are about not being partisan in nature. This is not about batting for one team; this is about being the referee.”
Bluestein was a top aide for then-Republican City Commissioner Al Schmidt during the 2020 presidential election, one in which both Bluestein and Schmidt faced threats and abuse for debunking former President Donald Trump’s false election fraud claims.
He was then appointed as a city commissioner to replace Schmidt, now Secretary of the Commonwealth, last year and currently holds the one non-majority party seat. He’s now seeking a full four-year term.