Sunday, July 29, 2018

Katie Muth on "Two Broads Talking Politics" podcast

I just discovered a new podcast, Two Broads Talking Politics.  They have been interviewing some PA candidates in the last few months.  One of them was Katie Muth, who appeared on the June 25th, 2018 episode (episode 87).  Danielle Friel Otten was the other guest.  Each interview took about 20 minutes.  To post these notes in a more timely fashion I am doing one at a time.  Katie Muth was the first guest so this post is the notes from that segment.

As always, this is not intended to be a verbatim transcript.  These are just notes, and any errors are my own and should not, in any way, be attributed to the candidate.  I encourage everyone to listen to the podcast for themselves.

Hi, I’m Gary from Youngstown, Ohio and you are listening to Two Broads Talking Politics, two Midwestern moms talking about politics and activism with expert guests.

Hi everyone this is Kelly and today I’m here with Katie Muth who is running for PA state senate in district 44.  Can you tell us who you are and why you decided to run?

I grew up in Western PA, outside the suburbs of Pittsburgh. My mom’s family was from there. My dad’s family is from Latrobe nearby.  I grew up with humble means but I had great parents so we didn’t know any better.   Unfortunately, I lost my mom when I was 11.  She had a brain aneurysm so my brother and I were raised by a single dad.  One of the reasons I wanted to run is that most of the public resources that allowed my dad to raise us on a single income, like social security benefits, public schools, public libraries. We couldn’t afford cable tv so the public library was where we went for a reward.  I used planned parenthood.  My grandmom used Meals on Wheels and many of these public programs that help people get by or get to the next level are on the shopping block at the federal or state level.   I went to Penn State on student loans and Pell grants, as did my brother.  Penn State is a great school and my dad couldn’t afford it on a single income.  I got a degree in athletic training and sports medicine, as did my husband and that opened my eyes to gender barriers.  It is hard for a woman to get a job get a job with a high profile team or a job with health benefits.  My husband works in the same field and makes twice what I do.  I was the first female athletic training student to get an internship with the NFL and it wasn’t that long ago; this helped me realize the inequity.  Higher level sports operative like government, on power and money.  I worked on the Hilary Clinton campaign as a Fellow.  After the election I waited anxiously to see what would happen.  It came to this moment that you can’t wait for someone to save you.  It’s you.  I started an Indivisible group, which is doing a great job and still meets monthly.  I stepped up to run after meeting Art Haywood.  Met some great folks.  I realized you don’t have to be a lawyer; I have a masters degree in sports training.  My experience with health care.  Kids I knew in public schools, couldn’t afford to get knee replacements or even tennis shoes.  That’s why things are the way they are -- we have a government that it is a pay to play system.  To know that you come in to this, you come in to this as hard working middle class candidates, without a lot of money.  Pay to play.

Your opponent is the incumbent first elected in 2002 and has been in office a long time.  It looks like in recent cycles he’s won by large margins.  In primary you were running unopposed but you had nearly the same number of votes as the incumbent.

It is interesting, I had 123 fewer total votes than the incumbent.  The district is the most gerrymandered senate district in the state.  I have parts of three counties.  In Berks Count I only had three municipalities.  I only knocked on doors there one weekend.  After the primary we looked at the votes.  Everywhere we knocked on doors we had higher vote totals.  We pulled this together knowing we were coming after incumbents, that had been elected mostly in tea party years.  In 2010 and 2014 the Dem vote totals don’t look so hot.  In 2017 the district woke up and Democrats were elected in local seats, some of which had never elected Democrats before, row offices, my town of Royersford elected its first female mayor.  My Indivisible group had a lot of these candidates in our group.  We got out and knocked on doors and really got out the vote and now the district looks purple.  We called out a lot of these incumbents that just sit back and collect a paycheck.  I hope I am voted out if I don’t have anything to show for being in office; if you’ve been in office that long you should make a real impact.  Now we’re on our 4th weekend of persuasion campaigning.  People want this new energy and view government as ineffective.  It’s a movement not a one cycle thing.  I’m proud of this.  Of course it is going to be hard.  I’m 34 and short and small and people look at you and say “that’s so sweet, you’re running for office.”  It took a long time for everyone to take you seriously.  I’ve been doing this for a year, but people know who you are and it’s a people powered campaign.  I’m proud of all the people working to help get me and others elected.

Looks like you have a large number of strong endorsements.  What kinds of endorsements and what that means

I’ve been really lucky to earn this support, very grateful to have these endorsements.  Named a champion by Bold Progressives.  II went to candidate training last year.  Got a lot of advice.  When they named me a champion and went back this year.  Reinforced what I thought, run a people-powered campaign.  Endorsed by Planned Parenthood’s PAC, Run for Something, Equality PA [blogger’s note – this is not the entire list].   Sister District projects, groups in Calif and Hawaii have written postcards, made phone calls.  Amazing, people bring handwritten post cards to the polls.  Endorsed by PA NOW, and RepresentPAC, which contributes to women candidates, and I’m humbled that that support.  As a newbie people think you don’t have what it takes but they see these endorsements and get respect.  Especially Planned parenthood as I’ve relied on their resources.  My opponent has some labor support; the GOP has the majority in the House and Senate.  Labor unions are held hostage to avoid retaliation when a Democrat runs against a Republican incumbent.  One of only two candidates not endorsed by state AFL-CIO.  I don’t look at it as a setback but a different path to victory.

PA used to be a blue state until 2016 but has had rep majority in state house and senate for awhile.  You mentioned gerrymandered.  What’s going in PA.  Recent case on congressional seats.  What’s going on in with state level?

Did have some success in congressional lines, thanks to a Democratic state supreme court.  People think it is fixed but not on state level.  We are very gerrymandered, not a fair process.  Majority party has control.  Census in 2020.  Many legislation pieces have come through this session, SB 22 was a bipartisan effort with the help of the Fair District group, worked on this bill for over a year.  And so 72 hours before the bill was to be voted on the majority party hijacked the bill and gutted it, so it now had no independent commission to draw district boundaries but now had lines for geographic boundaries for electing statewide judges.  It was a retaliation for the state supreme court ruling.  Saw great bill go to garbage.  I would like to say we’re in a good place but one thing I’ve learned is that when you’re dealing with people who don’t care about doing the right thing you can’t negotiate with them.  If people are willing to rig the system so they always win it’s very difficult to have any collaborate effort.  I feel bad for all the people who worked on this for a very long time.  Their voices weren’t heard nor were the rest of Pennsylvanians.  This is a blatant example of what we are dealing with in Harrisburg.  That’s unacceptable.  November has to be a success.  We are being represented by people who don’t care.  That’s dangerous.

Anything else we should now?

I’m one of many amazing candidates this cycle running people powered campaigns, trying to get the money out of politics, get rid of pay to play.  I think that we’re making a statement here.  We stepped up to run knowing there would be intense scrutiny.  We’re here to make change happen.  If everyone puts in their time and talents and treasure we can win.  Everyone that listed can hopefully persuade one more person to get involved or give a dollar or vote.  It’s such a different slate of candidates.  If we keep working hard we can make this happen.  We have small donations from 48 states, none from N or S Dakota.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Jared Solomon's Office Gets NYT Mention

The New York Times included a photo of a volunteer in Jared Solomon's office and his chief of staff.  See "Leaving New York to Find the American Dream in Philadelphia," by Matt Katz (7/20/2018).  The article focuses on immigrants.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Katie Muth for State Senate

Katie Muth is the Democratic candidate in the 44th State Senate District.  The district includes parts of Montgomery and Berks Counties.  There is a map of it on her website.  Like many first time candidates in 2018 she decided to become involved after the 2016 presidential election.  ‘We elected a sexual predator to our presidency and that was really hard for me as a victim of rape,’ she said. ‘It really infuriated me that we were willing to overlook this.  That was the final straw for me.” (Shuey).  She was involved in starting the Indivisible Mid-Montco group and is the current chair.

Muth works as an athletic trainer at a local university and is also a part-time instructor in anatomy and kinesiology.  She graduated from Penn State and then went out of state for a graduate degree in her field.  Her training included an internship with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  She and her husband live in Royersford.  After running unopposed in the Democratic primary she will face Republican incumbent John Rafferty in November.

According to her website her priorities are:  property tax relief, quality and affordable healthcare for all, rejuvenating our public school system, balanced government, security, and progress. 


Burns, Alexander and Alan Blinder.  “Long dominant in statehouse, Republicans brace for energized Dems,” The State (Columbia, SC) 4 February 2018

Devlin, Eric.  “Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale spars with Planned Parenthood advocaes.  Delaware County Daily Times 7 Sept 2017

Shuey, Karen.  “Berks voters have a chance to put more women in state, congressional seats.”  Reading Eagle 28 May 2018

Tumulty, Karen.  “Women running for office have to run uphill.”  Patriot-News (Harrisburg) 22 May 2018

Personal note for anyone researching this candidate, there are a number of Katie Muths in the area and it takes some effort to disambiguate them.  One is in a similar line of work, so it can be very confusing.  It would be easy to quickly google the name and cut and paste statements found online but accuracy requires more attention to detail.  While this is a short post it took several hours to compile.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Me and Paul Begala

I've noted in a few recent book reviews that they are aimed at a different audience, that there has been a generational shift in how political memoirs are written.  Well, turns out, it isn't just me.  Paul Begala reviewed Beck Dory-Stein's new book in the New York Times last week ("A White House Memoir That's Equal Parts C-Span and 'Sex and the City'," July 10, 2018).  Here's a quote:

Nowhere in George F. Kennan’s “Memoirs” does he recount how many times he drunkenly shagged someone named Jennifer. But that was then, this is now. Apparently T.M.I. now stands for Totes More Intimacy.

and another later on:

As a middle-aged man who’s still married to the woman he met when he was 19, I am likely not the target audience for this book. 

While I find this reassuring, since it leaves me comforted to be in such well-known company, it does add to a sense of thinking the world has passed me by.

Monday, July 16, 2018

A Question for Townhalls

So, here's a question to ask elected officials (at all levels) or candidates at public forums:

If the American intelligence community and the leader of Russia disagree on something, who will you believe and support?

That's a pretty basic question, and one with an expected, basic answer.  Today the President of the United States got it wrong.  Attentive voters should ask all candidates that question from now on.  It's important to know the answer.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Beach Reads IV: Archimedes Principle

Archimedes Principle by Jack English

Not many writers can create an engrossing thriller out of a story about an insurance company but Mr. English manages to do it well.  He throws in some science and law as well, just for fun, and a lot of auditing, which is much more suspenseful than you might think.  (Legal) pharmaceuticals also play a role.  The main action takes place in South Jersey and Philadelphia, and a further excursion out west to a mine.  There is also a cross-country road trip.  So, there is local interest and some semi-exotic locales for color.

The characters are realistic enough to be believable and fanciful enough to pull off the story.  The interactions among them keep the plot moving.  The villains are villain-y enough but not too villain-y, just the right amount of villainy.    Mr. English also strikes the right tone with his female characters – they are complex, realistic people without wearing an obvious “I’m a strong female character!” sign.  I would enjoy sitting down and talking with them and they are multi-dimensional enough to have a real conversation with.  The main character is saddled with the name Buckley Mills Forrester but still manages to keep the book on track.  While none of the characters is a detective by occupation it is something of a mystery story,

I like the action scenes too.  Unlike a lot of thrillers this one doesn’t have a lot of unnecessary violence.  If you read a story like this in the newspaper you would think it was fascinating, but still believable.  The book likewise keeps the reader’s attention and things like accounting and auditing rules, usually relegating to comic relief and parody, move the plot along.

I wasn’t sure I would enjoy this book but I did, and may read some of Mr. English’s other works as well.  This book, like most of his others, is only available as a Kindle title, not as a physical book, but reading it on my phone on the train was easy to do.

Beach Reads III: West Winging It

Like Alyssa Mastromonaco’s book, this is a White House memoir from a young staffer in the Obama administration and is clearly intended for a young audience.  Cunnane worked in the Obama press office from 2010 to 2016.  He writes about his experiences there, for example, his role in having Obama on an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.  If you have seen that video reading the planning that went into it, and the behind the scenes comments are really interesting.  His stories about learning the ropes in the various offices he worked in, and how communications staff interacted with the press are equally interesting.  Cunnane was also a writer on the television show “Designated Survivor,” which I watched regularly.

This is not so much a policy memoir as a look inside the often frantic, always in motion world inside the White House, and a good view of the current (or recent past) interplay between the press office and the press.  The balancing act of staying on good terms with the press and maintaining boundaries is tricky, indeed.  His descriptions of the physical layout of the office were also very illuminating.  Bo Obama (the former president’s photogenic dog) makes a cameo and office design plays an important role in it.  Some of the names of Cunnane’s colleagues are recognizable, others not so much (especially the ones whose last names are not provided).  We often see the big moments of a presidency on tv but seldom have a chance to see how those moments came together.  There are always many people in offices or open floor seating who put heart and soul into making those big moments happen.  It is refreshing to read about that aspect of politics and public service.

There are a few jarring notes, which are perhaps a result of generational changes in humor.  On page 185 he writes about Obama relaxing on overnight flights on Air Force One, wearing “Athletic zip-up sweatshirt (okay), unusually tight sweatpants (not okay), and, of course, sandals with white socks (really not okay).”  With all of Pete Souza’s photos of Obama I’m not sure we need that word picture.  I do not know if a comment on p. 119 is youthful humor or a reference to a MeToo moment; he writes about the difference between flying with the press on Air Force One and flying with the overflow press on a charter.  “My biggest worry on those [charter] flights was the hands-y middle-aged stewardesses who were a tad too attentive.”  The idea that a young staffer cannot fly on a press plane from one event to another without being molested is distressing indeed.

At some point in the future someone could read all of the Obama staffer books and put together, like a jigsaw puzzle, a rough image of how all the people and offices intersected and get several different views of the same event or strategy.  Anyone wishing to do that should hang on to a copy of this book as I’m sure it will be a linchpin in any such effort.  

Cunnane is from a political family and his mother currently holds elective office in Pennsylvania.  He discusses his family interest in politics and it is clear he grew up in a very loving and supportive household.  This is an interesting book for anyone in politics but especially for those interested in political communications.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Beach Reads II: Why They Stay

If you plan on watching A Very English Scandal this summer and are wondering who Jeremy Thorpe is and why you should care, a chapter in this book will provide an outline of the story.  That is one of the nine scandals outlined in this book.  I’m about halfway through and, having read a fair amount about some of the cases in this book, the ones I am familiar with are represented well, even if briefly.  Entire books have been written about some, if not all, of the examples presented, but looking at them in a group allows for some comparison.  She has devised a White Queen scale and compares each spouse in the book by a rating based on the scale.  I think this will confuse some readers, especially if they have no idea who Elizabeth Woodville was.  On the other hand, if, like me, you know very well who Elizabeth Woodville was, it is equally perplexing.   The widow Grey (nee Woodville) managed to do quite well by her family after her marriage (I had Richard III’s picture in my locker in high school and have never been a particularly big fan of Liz, or, for that matter, her husband.  Those Woodvilles, ugh.)

Back to Michaud’s book, it is an excellent introduction to a number of political sex scandals and the spouses that stayed.  While most of the couples are American there are chapters that take place in other countries, such as the UK and Israel.

Beach Reads I: The Blackbird Sisters

This mystery series features three sisters from the Main Line with colonial ancestors.  The family wealth has been frittered away and they have all taken different paths toward adjusting to working (or not) for a living.  One has inherited the family farm in Bucks County and writes the society column for a local newspaper.  All of which is to say that there is a lot of local flavor in these books, as well as murder, fashion, siblings, and assorted other goings on.  The author, Nancy Martin, lives in Pittsburgh.  I haven’t read all the books in this series yet but what I have read is well-done and interesting