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PA Democrats 'Showed Up' for Rural Voters


Friday, December 9, 2022   

In Pennsylvania and across the country, Democrats have struggled to gain support from rural voters in recent elections, but this year's midterms revealed their grassroots efforts in rural areas paid off.

Sage Lawrence, a former regional organizer for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said he and fellow organizers worked in 20 counties in Central Pennsylvania. They recruited volunteers to make calls and knock on doors.

He noted Sen.-Elect John Fetterman made appearances in rural communities where he had already campaigned before, and voters were familiar with him. He is convinced Fetterman's victory was a result of his strong performance in rural areas.

"He emphasizes the importance of showing up for places and people that feel left behind, and kind of this progressive populist messaging," Lawrence explained. "And I think, talking in that way, it didn't feel like he was tailoring a message to one group and then had a different message for another group. He really had a message that appealed to people across the state, but also included rural communities."

The race for Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate seat was one of the most hotly contested of the 2022 midterms, and the office had been held by a Republican since 2011. The most recent numbers showed more than four million registered voters in the state are Democrats.

The Rural Urban Bridge Initiative has a new report about the keys to success for Democrats in rural areas.

Anthony Flaccavento, co-founder of the group, said winning candidates were widely seen as engaged with the local community, whether they were fourth-generation residents or relative newcomers.

"They had strong what we call in the report 'local fluency.' They knew the community, they knew the history, they knew the language and the mores and the vernacular, and all of that," Flaccavento pointed out. "They knew what mattered to the majority of people. And they, in one way or another, had been engaged with trying to make the community strong."

Flaccavento emphasized the report not only contains tools for Democratic candidates to win or improve their chances in rural areas. It also brings attention to the fact rural America is not a monolith, and respect for rural voters' concerns is the key for any candidate to succeed with them.

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