Washington, DC – Pennsylvania Democrats had a good night on Tuesday, as statewide candidates and key House battlegrounds stayed in or shifted to Democratic control. The issue of immigration and Latino voters’ margins are key parts of the story.
While immigration wasn’t a driving issue for most Pennsylvania voters, a number of Pennsylvania Republicans embraced ugly anti-immigrant attacks throughout the midterms – a strategy that failed and may have backfired in key races. Meanwhile, leading Pennsylvania Democrats recognized the need for a managed process at the border, but simultaneously maintained a pro-immigrant stance in the face of aggressive GOP nativism. Among the key races and candidates’ immigration stances:
- PA Senate: GOP candidate Mehmet Oz and his allies ran on nativist fearmongering attacking John Fetterman for supporting “sanctuary cities,” with Oz even fundraising off the deadly white nationalist conspiracy about a so-called migrant “invasion,” echoing the terrorist who murdered people in Buffalo. Meanwhile, Fetterman’s formerly undocumented wife and his campaign had a powerful message that “Immigration Makes America, America,” and Fetterman was a vocal support for a legislative fix for Dreamers.
- PA Governor: GOP candidate Doug Mastriano ran unabashedly as a hard-right candidate who campaigned on a slew of extremist positions, including anti-immigrant attacks and even called for the deportation of Dreamers. In what should have been a competitive race, Mastriano lost by 14 points. Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro fought to protect Dreamers and preserve DACA and reiterated his support for immigration reform.
- PA-08 House Race: GOP candidate Jim Bognet is an anti-immigrant zealot and protégé of renowned restrictionist and failed candidateLou Barletta. Bogent ran hard on nativism, convinced it would be the decisive issue in his election. Bognet employed “invasion” rhetoric and lost in this battleground district for the second time after making his extremism on immigration the centerpiece of his campaign. While reiterating the need for security at the border, Democratic incumbent Rep. Matthew Cartwright was also clear about the need for comprehensive reform and warned of Bogent and his fellow Republicans’ attempt to “arouse ethnic animosity” with their anti-immigrant attacks.
- PA-07 House Race: GOP candidate Lisa Scheller and her allies ran hard on anti-immigrant messaging, using xenophobic dog whistles in fundraising pitches and campaign ads. But these divide and distract tactics came up short in this battleground district in the contest against Democratic incumbent Rep. Susan Wild, who leaned into her support for DACA and Dreamers.
As Beatriz Lopez of The Immigration Hub noted, and explained in a Twitter thread, “Pennsylvania wins – statewide to congressional districts – is also [the] story of anti-immigrant extremism completely rejected.”
Meanwhile, Latino voters provided key margins in key races across Pennsylvania and aligned with Dems on a range of key issues, including immigration.
An NBC News article written by Julio Ricardo Varela, “Latinos helped Democrats win key Pennsylvania races,” examined how Latinos made a difference in keeping the Keystone State blue for another two years:
“Digging deeper into state-level polling data outside of national exit polls, Latino support for the Democratic winners in Pennsylvania was exceptionally strong, suggesting the state’s 6% eligible voter share was indeed an influential decider.
According to the Pennsylvania section of the 2022 Midterm Election Voter Poll, organized by the African American Research Collaborative, President Biden’s 70% approval rating from the state’s Latino voters easily translated to similar support for both Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro and Sen.-elect John Fetterman. In the same poll, Shapiro got 73% of Latino voter support and Fetterman got 70%.
These are Barack Obama-like Latino voter numbers from 2012 and essentially ensure clearly solid Democratic support from Pennsylvania voters, who are mostly Puerto Rican. From 2010 to 2020, the state’s Latino population of about 1 million increased by 45.8%. Census data listed the following five counties as having the largest percentage of Latinos: Lehigh (25.9%), Berks (23.2%), Monroe (17.0%), Philadelphia (14.9%) and Luzerne (14.4%).”
In the large sample Midterm Voter Election Poll of Pennsylvania Latinos who voted in 2022, Latino voters in the state broke:
- 73-24% for Shapiro over Mastriano in PA Governor
- 70-26% for Fetterman over Oz in PA Senate
- 73-26% for Democrats over Republican candidates in PA House races
According to Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director for America’s Voice:
“Senator-elect Fetterman demonstrates that candidates can articulate a proactive vision on immigration that aligns with the majority of voters. His campaign had a powerful positive message on immigration and was vocal on its support for a legislative fix for Dreamers. The results further demonstrate that the vile rhetoric pushed by GOP candidates is out of step with how much of the American public feels. Voters in Pennsylvania want common sense solutions on immigration and showed that ugly scare tactics are not part of a winning strategy and that Latinos are a crucial part of a winning Democratic coalition. The outcomes across Pennsylvania propel the ever-pressing need to establish a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and action on meaningful immigration legislation.”