State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

Conservative group chalks up more election wins

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 29, 2016 3:58 PM

An advocacy group focused on bankrolling conservative candidates for the state Legislature is flexing its muscles after the Pennsylvania primary.

The Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania, commonly referred to as CAP, has run afoul of top Republican lawmakers for its "purist" views opposing organized labor and eschewing lawmaker perks, like pensions. But being likened to dictators hasn't slowed CAP down.

Executive Director Leo Knepper said CAP and its political action committee spent about $60,000 on primary election campaigns, helping six of its seven endorsed candidates win their contests. The group claims to have catapulted 15 representatives and five senators into office since 2009, when the group was founded.

"We're not just an idea," said Knepper. "We are successfully taking on that iron triangle of career politicians, lobbyists, and special interest groups."

CAP has its eye on about a dozen races this fall. Three of its successful primary candidates for House seats face no Democratic challenger, but that could change.

The House Democratic Campaign Committee launched write-in campaigns in 22 House districts, in response to hand-wringing among its members that many Republican candidates faced no Democratic challenger.

"Message received," said Nathan Davidson, executive director of the HDCC. "We're actively trying to do this."

Davidson said it could take the next two weeks for counties to tally write-in votes. Each candidate must receive 300 such votes to make it onto the ballot -- and more if there are other write-in challengers in the Democratic primary.

Republicans have huge majorities in both the House and Senate. CAP, though controversial within GOP circles, is helping to add to those margins. But Davidson is hoping Governor Tom Wolf's support will prove to be an asset.

"He hasn't pledged anything specific," Davidson said, "but in the winter of last year and earlier this year, they were pretty explicit in saying that they were willing to get involved in state legislative campaigns."

Published in State House Sound Bites

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