To: Interested Parties
From: Jermaine House, Regional Press Secretary at DCCC
Date: April 26, 2016
RE: The Case Against Brian Fitzpatrick
The Case Against Brian Fitzpatrick
With Steve Stantarsiero’s win in the Democratic primary, the general election battle lines have been drawn. Pennsylvania voters will choose between an accomplished state representative with deep local ties and the brother of the incumbent who launched his campaign under a cloud of scandal.
Brian Fitzpatrick and the Hatch Act
Incumbent Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick has been unabashed about his attempt to pass his seat on to his brother of the same last name. They are obviously hoping voters don’t notice the difference. His brother Brian Fitzpatrick lived 3000 miles away in California until January of this year, moving back to Pennsylvania shortly before he officially announced his candidacy for his brother’s seat.
The problem is the eyebrow-raising speed at which Brian Fitzpatrick’s campaign took shape suggests that the brothers had a carefully orchestrated plan, starting the process well before Brian left his job at the FBI. If true, this raises questions about violations of the Hatch Act – a federal law that prevents employees of the government from participating in partisan political activity on the taxpayer dime.
- October – December: A robust Republican primary was underway for the open seat in Pennsylvania’s 8th district in the months following Mike Fitzpatrick’s retirement announcement.
- January 21: In January, Congressman Fitzpatrick’s brother who lived in California announced that he would be seeking the open Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District.
- February 2: Despite having raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, Scott Petri drops out in an attempt to clear the field for Mike Fitzpatrick’s hand-picked successor.
- February 18: Brian Fitzpatrick was added to the National Republicans’ Young Guns Program by Mike Fitzpatrick’s colleagues at the NRCC.
The existence of a scheme to get Brian elected was unearthed when Politico reported that Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick was making calls on his brother’s behalf well before Brian resigned from the FBI in January. These calls, which likely helped lay the groundwork for Brian’s expedited campaign timeline, potentially violate the Hatch Act. Making this potential violation even more egregious, Brian was employed in the FBI’s political corruption unit up until a week before his campaign announcement. By his telling, in this extremely brief period, Brian dubiously managed to move across the county and mount a campaign organization capable of winning major endorsements. For days after the POLITICO revelation, the Fitzpatrick brothers were silent, while every major outlet in the district raised concerns over the potential violation.
To date, neither brother has adequately addressed the issue, which will continue to cloud Fitzpatrick’s candidacy during the general election.
Democratic Performance & The Donald Trump Effect
Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick’s incumbency has kept the seat in Republican control, but with a solid Democratic base, chaos at the top of the Republican ticket, and a candidacy under a cloud of suspicion, this race will be very competitive for Santarsiero. Voters will know Mike Fitzpatrick is no longer running, and that his brother Brian is not qualified simply by virtue of his last name. Mike’s absence on the ticket makes the district a pure toss-up, as ranked by The Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report.
In 2012, Democrats performed well in PA-8. President Obama split the district 50-50 with Romney. In the same year, Bob Casey won the district narrowly with 51.6% in his bid for U.S. Senate. In 2014, a challenging year for Democrats, Tom Wolf defeated Tom Corbett with 51.6%.
Trump’s win in Pennsylvania brings him closer to the nomination and his negative down-ballot effect on Fitzpatrick will be acute in PA-8, a moderate, well-educated, suburban district. Brian’s few public positions place him out of touch with voters here. While he claimed to support organizations funding women’s health, he said he would vote to defund Planned Parenthood. He even sided with the most extreme elements of his party and claimed that the science behind global warming was disputed.
The Democrat to Win: Steve Santarsiero
Tonight State Representative Steve Santarsiero won a tough primary and will enter the general election battle-tested and ready to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the 2016 political landscape. As a State Representative, Santarsiero has proven he is willing to roll up his sleeves and tackle tough issues like climate change, ethics reform, healthcare, and access to women’s health services. Steve is also endorsed by the Sierra Club, Governor Tom Wolf, and many influential labor organizations who know he will fight for Pennsylvania’s working families.
Brian Fitzpatrick will not have same easy route to the general election that he experienced in Republican primary thanks to his brother. Santarsiero’s campaign will benefit greatly from strong local Democratic organizations, demonstrated fundraising capacity, and a national environment that especially threatens Republican running in moderate districts. This district was a top pick up opportunity for Democrats before the rise of Donald Trump. Now with Trump one step closer to the Republican presidential nomination, Steve Santarsiero is well-positioned to add Pennsylvania’s 8th District to the Democratic column.