Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) enters the final days of campaign 2018 in a dead-heat against Democratic challenger Scott Wallace in Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District. Donald Trump’s latest actions have made clear that racist fear-mongering is his party’s closing argument to the voters for the midterm elections. And even though Fitzpatrick has attempted to portray himself as a “centrist” who does not always vote with Donald Trump, his campaign and those supporting his re-election also have been pulling out every race-baiting trick in the book to push him over the finish line.
Fitzpatrick’s campaign slogan is “One Community. Now more than ever,” and his campaign website promises “No more finger pointing.” But in September, he approved and ran a Willie Horton-style smear ad attempting to tie his opponent to Mumia Abu-Jamal, a radio journalist and co-founder of Philadelphia’s Black Panther Party who was convicted of murdering a police officer in 1982 and is currently serving a life sentence in prison. The alleged tie: a grant-making foundation Wallace led helped support Democracy Now!, an award-winning independent news program that gave air time to Abu-Jamal. The Philadelphia Inquirer called the ad “misleading.”
A pro-Fitzpatrick super PAC took the smear a step further, falsely claiming that Wallace had funded Abu-Jamal’s legal defense. Local television stations stopped airing the ads.
And in recent days, voters in the district have received text messages sending them to the NRCC IE ads. The SMS messages purportedly came from a Philadelphia number, but it is a fictitious “out of service” phone number and the texts give no indication who paid for them.
ThinkProgress reached out to the NRCC IE to ask whether they had any role in the texts; a spokesperson responded with a snarky question about the reporter’s Twitter avatar and did not respond to the question.
The racist fear-mongering has not stopped there. In recent days, voters in Bucks County (which makes up most of the district) received a letter pretending to be a “public safety alert,” but actually was just a campaign flyer from the Bucks County Republican Committee. The message warns that should Democrats win control of Congress on November 6, “cop-free drug zones” and “violent criminal illegal aliens being released in Bucks County” would be the result — although even if congressional Democrats tried to enact such policies, it seems unlikely President Donald Trump would sign them.
A paid staffer for Fitzpatrick’s campaign was caught last month posing as a reporter for a local newspaper. Fitzpatrick called the conduct “unacceptable” and said he severed ties with him. But with other GOP candidates around the country using similarly sleazy campaign tricks and plays to bigotry, racism, and xenophobia, the Pennsylvania 1st District race is about par for the course.