Heated Fight Ends in Slim Fitzpatrick Win

Brian Fitzpatrick | Kristie Boyd; U.S. House Office of Photography

Brian Fitzpatrick stood in a power pose in front of Giuseppe’s Pizza & Family Restaurant in Warminster the morning of Election Day, staring into a camera.

“It’s going to be a very, very important election today,” Fitzpatrick said, hands on his hips. “Just want everyone to get out and exercise your voice, whatever that is. Let your voice be heard. God bless you guys.”

Fitzpatrick’s call for civic responsibility was posted on his Facebook page at 9:36 a.m. on Nov. 6. A little more than 12 hours later, major news outlets reported that Fitzpatrick, the incumbent Republican in Pennsylvania’s 1st District, had defeated Democratic challenger Scott Wallace and would hang on to his seat.

Fitzpatrick received 51.3 percent of the vote, compared to Wallace’s 48.7 percent, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

It marked the conclusion of one of the most closely watched elections of the midterm season, and one that was of special importance to the local Jewish community.

Bucks County, which comprises the majority of the district, has a sizable Jewish population. The race’s profile grew over the summer, in the wake of the revelation that a family foundation Wallace previously served as co-chair had donated money to groups supportive of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Wallace vehemently denied his connection to the donations, insisting that another member of the Wallace Global Fund was responsible. Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania made headlines and provided fodder for Republican attack ads when it announced in early June it would not endorse Wallace.

“As an organization that cares deeply about Israel, we’re not comfortable with what is, at best, carelessness,” Burt Siegel, a member of DJOP’s steering committee, said at the time.

DJOP eventually reversed course and endorsed Wallace, but the stain on the candidate’s reputation had been left.

Still, Wallace’s campaign resonated with large swaths of voters frustrated by President Donald Trump’s first two years in office. Democrats targeted the seat as a possibility to flip, given Trump’s perceived unpopularity among suburban voters.

On election night, the Democrats took back control of the House of Representatives, in large part due to their success in suburban areas. But Fitzpatrick, who is quick to label himself a moderate, was one of the  few Republicans in such districts to hang on to his seat.

He thanked his supporters on Facebook on Nov. 7: “As a community, we have reaffirmed our commitment to bipartisanship and problem solving,” he said. “Together, we will advance this mission into the next Congress. And we will be One Community who looks out for one another who cares for each other. Our community must join together in this cause, now more  than ever.”

Wallace expressed disappointment in the election results, but hope for the future.

“This race was never just about me — it was about the soul of our country, it was about restoring the decency, civility, and goodness of this nation. It was about restoring our faith in government and despite the result in PA-01, Democrats have had victories all across the country and with the majority in the house, we can begin to recover our vision of America,” Wallace wrote on Facebook.

The campaign took a few ugly turns, particularly in its advertisements. An ad that erroneously claimed Wallace had helped fund the legal defense of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal was pulled by local television stations, and The Washington Post said an ad that falsely claimed Fitzpatrick voted against protecting preexisting conditions “crosses the line,” and was given “Four Pinocchios.”

That’s all in the past now, though. Wallace will retreat to private life, while Fitzpatrick returns to a House looking much different from the one he joined in 2017.

It’s unclear how the new Democratic majority will respond to Fitzpatrick’s pleas for bipartisanship.

A member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, Fitzpatrick repeatedly pointed to his ability to work across the aisle on the campaign trail.

jneedelman@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0737


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