Progressive candidate for Congress Jess King who is gaining ground in a conservative district in Pennsylvania says the liberal versus conservative narrative ignores the real concerns of voters, healthcare and corporate control of congress


Story Transcript

TAYA GRAHAM: This is Tara Graham, reporting for The Real News Network in Ephrata, Pennsylvania.

When newcomer and Democratic candidate Jess King begin closing in on the Republican incumbent, we wanted to know how her progressive message was resonating with Trump voters. Our journey started here, in the offices of Lancaster Stand Up; a coalition of residents organizing for progressive candidate Jess King, who is running a surprisingly close race in the conservative 11th District.

OTIS: Like, when we’re knocking doors on Trump supporters, yeah, they might not use the same terminology that progressive politicians might. But when you say, like, hey, do you want health care? Like, how are your healthcare bills? Like, yeah, everybody is struggling with that.

TAYA GRAHAM: The group calls voters on the phone and canvasses door to door, but not with the message of Democrats versus Republicans. Instead, the grassroots organization has been focusing on core issues like Medicare for All and getting money out of politics.

ALEX HERR: And so there’s been quite a few- I personally know a few people who are registered Republicans I plan to vote for Jess.

TAYA GRAHAM: It’s an approach that candidate Jess King described as top to bottom, not left to right.

JESS KING: You know, and I think what we see is that voters aren’t necessarily on the left-right spectrum as much as they are on a bottom-to-top spectrum, and that we need to talk more about two political parties that have sold out to special interests, have sold out to a corporate establishment and a political establishment that isn’t working for people. And so rather than a left to right, we see bottom to top. And so you have a huge opportunity to talk to folks across, you know, what we think of as a traditional spectrum, to win them over on ideas that really are commonsense at the end of the day.

TAYA GRAHAM: A way of campaigning for issues that affect and appeal to people. It was a theme that resonated throughout a town hall in a small library outside of Lancaster, where King talked about why she was not only shunning big money from Washington PACs, but had concerns about the Democratic Party and its reliance on corporate money.

JESS KING: That politics as usual is this, you know, us and them, they’re bad, we’re good. It’s not that way. I think both parties have failed us in many ways at the national level and sold out to special interests. Both parties are doing this. We know that the DNC- I’m running as a Democrat. In a two-party system you have to be that, but trying to show that we’re like an independent. The DNC is taking fossil fuel money. You know, so how- we know that Democrats have sold out on deregulating Wall Street, and don’t reflect the values of working families as much as they need to at the national level. We have our disagreements with the party, right, [inaudible].

I think that our elected officials today need to be willing to stand up to leaders in both parties; to say we need to have new leadership and new resolve to reflect the interests of the American people across party lines.

JENNY D’ILLIO: Well, what we’re finding is that issue-based politics, if you will, is much more effective. People here, they think Democrats and they think, you know, the horns and the tail and all that. But when you get to talk to them about the issues, we agree. We agree on the issues. They want to take care of him. Immigrants, they want healthcare for all.

TAYA GRAHAM: Her strategy seems to be working. In a district with two so-called ‘pivot counties’ that went for Trump in 2016. King has managed to pull within the margin of error against her opponent Lloyd Smucker.

After the town hall we went back to Lancaster to talk to voters and to see if King’s message was resonating.

SEAN: What is important to me is that we elect somebody who is willing to stand up to the current president.

There we found genuine concern about the direction of the country, and a feeling of unease.

PETE: I’m a Democrat, but a conservative Democrat. And I’ve often found that Republicans have been right on certain issues. But they’re not right on anything while they stand idly by a president like this.

TAYA GRAHAM: The question is will King’s message resonate enough on Tuesday to turn a red district blue?

KIRSTEN: I’ve seen her even talking to people who don’t necessarily agree with her, but she hears them out and listens to what they have to say.

TAYA GRAHAM: This is Taya Graham and Stephen Janis reporting from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


Taya Graham

Host & Producer
Before joining TRNN as an investigative journalist, Taya worked in Baltimore’s neighborhoods of color for years as an advocate and was awarded the Coalition of 100 Black Women’s Torchbearer Award and YANA’s (You Are Never Alone) “Love in Action” award. Her years of outreach to underserved communities have uniquely prepared her to connect with city residents. Now she cultivates relationships with Baltimore’s citizens to cover the stories on the ground.

Stephen Janis

Host & Producer

Stephen Janis is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work has been acclaimed both in print and on television. As the Senior Investigative Reporter for the now defunct Baltimore Examiner, he won two Maryland DC Delaware Press Association Awards for his work on the number of unsolved murders in Baltimore and the killings of prostitutes. His in-depth work on the city's zero-tolerance policing policies garnered an NAACP President's Award. As an Investigative Producer for WBFF/Fox 45, he has won three successive Capital Emmys: two for Best Investigative Series and one for Outstanding Historical/Cultural Piece.

He is the author of three books on the philosophy of policing: Why Do We Kill? The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore; You Can't Stop Murder: Truths About Policing in Baltimore and Beyond; and The Book of Cop: A Testament to Policing That Works. He has also written two novels, This Dream Called Death and Orange: The Diary of an Urban Surrealist. He teaches journalism at Towson University.