Progressive Summit Sells Out

Keystone Progress held its sixth annual Progressive Summit Friday and Saturday and this year they sold it out.  800 people gathered at the Harrisburg Hilton for two days of speakers, workshops and parties.   The highlight on Friday was a speech by Cecile Richards of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.  She brought down the house by reminding the audience that although the Koch Brothers want to spend close to a billion dollars in the 2016 elections progressives can counter that with millions of people.

Cecile Richards:

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The Koch Brothers were also the object of a speech Saturday morning by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.  The Independent socialist empowered the full house in a talk about the dangers of income inequality, how we got into the mess and how the Koch Brothers want to make things far worse.  Jim Dean of Democracy For America, based in Vermont, introduced the Senator.

Cecile Richards with Kate Michelman:

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Michael Morrill, Executive Director of Keystone Progress, reminded the progressives that we have to be the conscience of the Commonwealth and hold our elected officials accountable for their corruption even when they are on our side (or so we thought).  That comment only got sparse applause but I salute Mike’s courage in saying it.  It was something, in light of the Rob McCord case, which needed to be said.

44 workshops filled much of Saturday and topics ranged the entire spectrum of progressive issues.  Sen. Daylin Leach hosted a party Friday evening and Manan Trivedi hosted a karaoke party into the wee hours.

Jim Dean’s introduction of Sen. Bernie Sanders:

Sen. Bernie Sanders:

The Summit Debate

Six Democratic candidates for Governor debated last evening at the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit here in Harrisburg.  Jack Wagner jumped into the race too late to participate.  Jo Ellen Litz’s comments about growing up in a hunting family and eating wild game resulted in many squirrel jokes in the lobby afterwards.  And here I thought she only ate chocolate!  There was no mention from the other candidates about her anti-choice positions.  No one went after Katie McGinty for her close ties to fracking either.  All in all it was a rather collegial discussion more than a debate.  Most of these candidates obviously like one another.

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Jo Ellen Litz

Following a question on fracking (they don’t support the official Democratic Party position for a complete moratorium) a large group stood up in the center of the ballroom holding signs saying “Ban Fracking Now.”

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Rob McCord

John Hanger was clearly the most liberal candidate repeatedly saying he’d legalize marijuana to raise revenues and save costs.  McGinty turned the common sense gun safety issue (I loved everyone using a term I coined) into a discussion of her renewable energy record as DEP Secretary.   She appeared to be a one trick pony.

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Katie McGinty

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John Hanger

Wolf was also clearly progressive and McCord raised some eyebrows when he mentioned pragmatism instead of progressivism at one point.

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Tom Wolf

I spent the day at a campaign field training seminar put on by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (more on that later) so by the time the debate began both my video camera and iPhone batteries were low.  I did manage to capture a considerable amount of video.  I expect to see a lot of Allyson Schwartz’s comments about running a women’s health clinic this fall if she is the nominee.

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Allyson Schwartz

Update:  John Hanger won the straw poll at 31.5% and the others as follows:  McCord 24%, Wolf 22.8%, McGinty 10.9%, Schwartz 9.4%, Litz 0.4% and Jack Wagner 0.1%.  None of the above received 0.7%.  Allyson Schwartz hasn’t attended either of these Summits since she announced except for appearing at this debate.  Only Hanger and McCord attended the Keystone Progress fund raiser following the debate and that was noticed by many of those in attendance.

The room was packed and, all in all, the debate was a two hour live show on PCN showcasing progressive issues and values.  In that regard I thought it a huge success.

Pennsylvania Progressive Summit 2013

Six hundred people from 42 counties and 17 states converged on the Harrisburg Hilton Friday and Saturday for the fourth Pennsylvania Progressive Summit (not affiliated with this blog).  It kicked off with a session Friday afternoon with David Cobb of Move to Amend.  He leads the effort to overturn Citizens United and repeal corporate personhood.  He also gave a rousing speech Saturday at lunch telling the crowd that righteous anger is not only justified but necessary.

Scott Paul:

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Jim Dean:

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The morning session on Friday had a welcome speech from Eileen Connelly Chair of Keystone Progress.  Mike Morrill, the Executive Director, also spoke.

Keynote speaker David Cobb:

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AJ Marin of Lancaster introduced four of the Hershey guest workers whom Keystone Progress aided last year.  These foreign students came to Hershey as part of a J1 visa cultural program and then were subjected to enormous exploitation by Hershey Foods.  They were housed in a basement room with no more than curtains separating each person and males and females weren’t given separate accomodations.  They worked double and triple shifts at a packaging plant for low wages when they had supposedly been brought for a cultural program.  The only culture provided by Hershey was the opportunity to see how American grassroots advocacy comes to the aid of the oppressed.

Jim Dean of Democracy For America and Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing also spoke.  Kate Michelman received the Anna Burger Award for lifetime achievement.  She led NARAL Pro Choice America for years and worked for the Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates.

Kate Michelman:

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The lunchtime event was scheduled to have the three Democratic Row Officers Attorney General Kathleen Kane, Treasurer Rob McCord and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.  Eugene had a family event get in the way and had to cancel and Kane simply didn’t show up leaving McCord with the audience all to himself along with moderator Sen. Daylin Leach.  Both men are known for their senses of humor and they provided a spirited exchange including questions of whether either one had a big formal announcement to make.  McCord is rumored to be running for Governor and Leach will be running for Congress when Allyson Schwartz declares her campaign for Governor.  With Daylin supporting Allyson sharing the podium with McCord could have been awkward but these are two very nice men who don’t have it in their bones for that nonsense.

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The first workshop I attended was a legislative update with reporter and columnist Will Bunch moderating.  Rep. Jesse White was very good reviewing the state of the legislature along with the Chiefs of Staff for both Sen. Leach and Sen. Jim Ferlo.My second workshop was called “The Fourth Estate:  Cracking the Code on the Role of Journalsim in Government and Politics.  This is what I do so the session was very interesting.  It was moderated by reporter John Micek and included Bunch, Eric Boehm of PA Independent, Chris Comisak of CapitolWire and Tara Leo Auchey of Roxbury News.

The legislative panel:

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The media panel:

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Since I work with the White House Office of Public Engagement I wanted to attend their session but it was canceled.  Maybe sequestration hit their travel budget.  Instead I went to the AFL-CIO’s panel on Right to Work For Less.  Frank Snyder, Secretary-Treasurer gave a great, humorous Powerpoint.  On the issue of lottery privatization (also called crony capitalism)  he showed this slide of the House chamber turned into a giant keno casino.  

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The day wrapped up with Beth Becker’s Social Media 101.  Beth worked for Lois Herr’s Congressional campaigns in Lancaster County and now resides in DC where she does consulting on using social media.  She represents the Congressional Progressive Caucus among other clients.  I always learn new secrets about using social media at her workshops.  The only downside to the Summit is only being able to attend five workshops.  Each session has four or five you’d want to attend.  I try and hit the ones where I can learn the most.

Saturday ended with a film about ALEC and then a salsa dance party.  In future years the Summit is going to remain in Harrisburg where it is best attended due to its central proximity.  Last year it was in Philadelphia where few people came from western Pennsylvania and the year before that we were in Pittsburgh where most attendees were from the western part of the Commonwealth.

PA-Sen Primary Eve: Recap from PA Progressive Summit

( – promoted by John Morgan)

cross-posted from Sum of Change

As Pennsylvania gets ready to vote in, arguably, the most-watched primary of the year, we thought folks might appreciate one last look at the two candidates, Senator Arlen Specter and Congressman Joe Sestak, back-to-back on the issues. (Videos from the PA Progressive Summit)

–Question 1- What Do You Think of a Partial Spending Freeze?

–Question 2- What Would You Do To Increase Manufacturing Jobs in the US?

–Question 3- What is Your Opinion of Same-Sex Marriage?

–Question 4- Will You Vote For The Employee Free Choice Act With Card Check?

–Question 5- What Are you Going to do About the Trade Deficit?

–Question 6- Do You Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

–Question 7- What Should We Do About the Filibuster?

Marriage Equality: Details You Should Know to Make it Happen

( – promoted by John Morgan)

Cross Posted from

Also from the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit (, I’d like to bring you a few videos form a panel simply entitled ‘Marriage Equality’.  On this panel, the speakers discussed the benefits, issues, and consequences or allowing homosexual couples marriage rights equal to those of heterosexual ones.  The panelists and approached the topic from a variety of angles.  Some spoke about the legal issues equality, both in the PA state legislature and in the constitution, others talked about the religious aspects, especially from the Christian and Jewish traditions, and others talked about the moral and human rights aspect of the debate.

The clips below go into many of the arguments against marriage equality and gay marriage and why most of them struggle for validity.  The first video, PA state senator Daylin Leach, who sponsored a bill in the PA state legislature in support on marriage equality, goes into many of the arguments against gay marriage that he has heard while debating the bill.  As he says, no one has debated him twice, because no one has presented him an argument with any validity.  The second video looks at many of the religious issues brought up by the marriage equality debate.  Many think that religion has no part of the legal debate over gay marriage and often when religion is invoked, it is done so incorrectly.  Finally, the last clip discusses why marriage equality supporters should want legalized gay marriage and not civil unions.  Civil unions seem like an acceptable compromise, but really they are impractical and still discriminatory.

For more videos from the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit, go to

For more info on the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit and it’s organizer, Keystone progress, please go to and

Support Netroots Nation

Netroots Nation is gathering things it can auction to support the annual gathering of bloggers, candidates and supporters.  If you went to the recent Pennsylvania Progressive Summit you attended a smaller scale Netroots Nation.  In fact that event was designed as a state level NN and the idea was formed at Netroots Nation last summer when it was held in Pittsburgh.  I couldn’t attend that because it was going to cost me $1000 and I don’t have that kind of money.  These auctions raise funds so people can attend Netroots Nation who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go.  They also help defray the large costs which go along with planning, organizing and pulling off a national convention.

If you have any goods or services you would consider donating for auction to support this cause go to this website and respond.  This is a good cause.  Take the recent Summit and multiply it by 50 states and that is Netroots Nation.  This year it will be held in Las Vegas.

Pennsylvania Progressive Summit Friday

I arrived at the Harrisburg Sheraton around 5 PM yesterday to find a lot of friends here, people who have worked tirelessly for months organizing this event.  I know the hotel well from covering many Democratic State Committee meetings at this venue.  Tons of dedicated liberal activists, labor leaders, and candidates are roaming the halls and networking.  There are lots of people I don’t know (yet) so seeing new faces is amazing.

The Gubernatorial debate was interesting.  It was quite clear who the progressives are and who the pretenders are.  The audience repeatedly gave Joe Hoeffel loud rounds of applause as he hit question after question out of the park.  The loudest applause of the night was his advocacy for single payer healthcare.  Chris Doherty is obviously the next best progressive candidate.  He isn’t the best speaker (by a long shot) but established his bona fides well.  Jack Wagner, as usual, was polished and professional but completely avoided answering a question about abortion.  He is virulently anti-choice.  He and Dan Onorato both said they would not support same sex marriage.  This is a core progressive issue along with a woman’s right to choose.

The state’s primary political reporters are all here covering the event and debates (well, forum tonight as Sen. Specter refused to debate).  Today will be a very long day full of speeches and panels.  I organized the panel on Blogging 101 and hop to see a good crowd gather to learn about blogging and ask questions.  I already have a full camcorder from the Gubernatorial debate and need to download it to my computer then upload it to YouTube.