The following blog was written May 2, 2022 by Maurice Sampson II, a fellow Democratic Committeeperson in Philadelphia, PA. Reprinted with permission.
I live in Mount Airy and received a very confusing postcard the other day calling for the re-election of State Representative Isabella Fitzgerald in the 200th legislative district. Wait a minute. I live in the 200th legislative district. Rep.Chris Rabb has been my representative since 2017 so how can I be “re-electing” Isabella Fitzgerald?
Rep. Rabb has been amazingly responsive to the needs in House District (HD) 200 and a leader in the State Legislature on the issues important to me. Why are State Senator Art Haywood, Congressman Dwight Evans, Ninth District City Councilmember Cherelle Parker, and other elected officials I respect supporting a woman I’ve never met, and against Rep. Rabb – a man who has earned my trust and respect as my State Representative?
It took me more than a couple of hours of research but I figured it out. Here’s what’s going on:
Legislative redistricting is pitting two competent elected officials against each other. Rep. Fitzgerald has been the elected representative from HD203 since 2016, the same time Chris Rabb was elected in neighboring HD200. Redistricting shifted the boundaries, annexing 16 Divisions of the former HD 203, including where Rep Fitzgerald resides, into HD200. No longer a resident of the District, Rep. Fitzgerald is not eligible to represent HD203. Contrary to her campaign literature, she is not running for re-election. She is the challenger and Rep Rabb is the incumbent in HD 200.
Representative Isabella Fitzgerald is a long-time and beloved Philadelphia Democratic Party stalwart. Chris Rabb is an independent, progressive Democrat who does not toe the line for the Philadelphia Democratic Party. He has and continues to be targeted for defeat. In addition, Representative Fitzgerald is also the Democratic Ward leader in the 10th Ward, a former staffer to Congressman Dwight Evans, and was elected to replace Evans in the HD203, when Evans was elected to Congress. Her support also includes Bob Brady, Chair of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, and Ward Leaders whose geography comprises the HD200 and the part of the 4th State Senatorial District that lies in Northwest Philadelphia, represented by progressive Haywood, who is also up for re-election. He must support Fitzgerald or commit political suicide. It is a devious and brilliant strategy that offers the greatest challenge to date to Chris Rabb’s formidable campaign organization. Chris can win if his base remains loyal and turns out to vote in high numbers. It is likely to be a close race.
How do you decide which candidate is the best choice?
Let me offer some observations of each candidate and then suggest a process. While there are similarities between HD200 and HD203, the constituents have different expectations. Based on their record of service, each candidate was re-elected three times. Constituents in both Districts expect strong constituent services and funding for community projects, and both Fitzgerald and Rabb have been responsive to their constituents.
Based on her activities in her district, the residents of former HD203, West Oak Lane value Rep. Fitzgerald’s focus on reducing violence, gun safety, affordable housing, youth, education, and women’s health and business development.
Rep. Fitzgerald’s legislative pursuits are few but focused. She has been the prime sponsor, introducing 10 bills in five years: one for Full-Day Kindergarten; one for the rights and privileges of homeless persons; one bill each term for women’s health, and five bills for gun safety-related issues. The Republican-dominated legislature allows very few Democratic measures to proceed. None of Rep. Fitzgerald’s bills were released from Committee.
Based on Rep. Rabb’s activities in his district, the residents of HD200 in Mt Airy, and Chestnut Hill value the Representative’s focus on a broad range of issues including environmental justice, climate resilience, renewable energy, fracking and oil industry operations, police, prison, corporate and election reform, education on all levels, tax policy, banking as well as the important issues that Fitzgerald values.
Rep Rabb has authored well over a hundred bills in his six years in office.
Six were enacted into law, including scholarships and grants for youth living in neighborhoods with high rates of incarceration; pediatric cancer research; increasing eligibility for microenterprise loans for small businesses, and dealing with police misconduct.
Given their popularity in their Districts, I would submit that Isabella Fitzgerald represents the ideal candidate for West Oak Lane and Chris Rabb the ideal representative for Mt Airy. How successful the winning candidate will be in the new House District 200 will depend on their ability to bridge those differences.
My suggestion to anyone who is seeking to make an informed choice is to take an hour and review the district office websites linked here for Chris Rabb and Isabella Fitzgerald. Summarized on each website in their own words are every action performed by these legislators since they were elected in 2016.
In my opinion Rep Rabb is the candidate of choice. This should not be a surprise. I am a 30-year resident of Mount Airy, a block captain for 20 years, and a Committee Person for 12 years. Rep. Rabb is my neighbor and has always had my back. My ties in Mount Airy and relationships with my neighbors resemble Rep. Fitzgerald’s history in West Oak Lane. I emphasize and have great respect for Rep. Fitzgerald’s commitment to her District.
This, however, is not enough. State Representatives and Senators need to consider the big picture that only begins with service to their Districts. We as a people will not prosper unless we demand the leadership of our representatives in the State Legislature for action that improves
Rep. Rabb has been in leadership roles in most of the Legislative committees and Caucuses he serves; Rep. Fitzgerald has been a follower. Rep. Rabb’s work ethic as a lawmaker is unmatched: he has introduced or authored over a hundred bills with six enacted into law. Rep. Fitzgerald in comparison introduced ten bills in five years that were never discussed in Committee.
The District websites for each candidate, reporting the activities of both offices are the most telling. Representative Fitzgerald’s actions are covered in six pages; Rep.Rabb’s website is 16 pages long. The information illustrates both Representatives serving their District. Rep Rabb’s documents are visionary and his transformative leadership is what we should expect from all our elected officials.
One last professional observation. I serve as the Eastern Pennsylvania Director for Clean Water Action, one of Pennsylvania’s leading environmental organizations. I work closely with the Pennsylvania legislature and we participate with colleagues in other environmental organizations to produce an environmental scorecard tracking the votes on environmental legislation. Both candidates scored high, 100% for Rabb and 92% for Fitzgerald.
The bills on which Fitzgerald scored incorrectly, would have provided public subsidies to the oil and gas industry and outlawed future state legislative action to address climate change. Her support for that legislation is troubling. Gov. Wolf vetoed those bills.
The consequences that precipitated the race in the new HD200 is a subject lesson in the danger of gerrymandering, redistricting, and control of the state legislature. It underscores why it is so important to vote and fill out census forms. By no fault of our own, the outcome of this race is we are being forced to lose a valued representative.
My choice and my recommendation are clear: Mark your mail-in ballot or vote in person on May 17th and re-elect representative Chris Rabb to House District 200.