Amidst all the talk among Democrats and the Media that the Trump election and presidency is a one off that will soon be remedied by a Democrat wave — there is actually evidence to suggest that just the opposite will ring true in 2018. For example, look at upstart Pennsylvania Congressional candidate Justin Simmons, who is running to be the GOP nominee in the 15th District. Simmons, 31, currently represents PA State House District 131 and was planning to mount a Conservative challenge to seven term incumbent Rep. Charlie Dent in the Spring 2018 Primary. That was until Dent abruptly announced his retirement, opening the door for 35 year old Ryan Mackenzie to enter the now open race, a race that could prove to be a battle between conflicting wings of the Republican Party.
Simmons recently called in to FYNTV’s Good Morning from the Office for an exclusive interview regarding his initial decision to run, the surprise of Dent’s retirement, and the differences between himself and Mackenzie.
Simmons made it clear from the beginning that his motivation to run was the dissatisfaction among Conservatives in the 15th District with Dent, as evidenced by the recent rally in protest of the seven term Congressman. According to Simmons, “just his voting record alone is bad enough… then going on MSNBC, CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times… being the go to Republican to rip Donald Trump and Conservatives,” had angered voters in the district won by both Donald Trump and Charlie Dent. However, Dent had spoken out aggressively against Trump during the campaign, refusing to endorse him and frequently criticizing him after his inauguration.
“I was never fully on board with Charlie, I always knew he was pro-choice and supported taxpayer funded abortion… but he was fiscally Conservative at first,” said Simmons, adding “as time went on he just got more Liberal.”
The news of Dent’s sudden announcement to retire was a surprise to the Simmons team, although he insists they were “ecstatic” and this it was a “victory” because it creates a chance to elect a Conservative representative. However, it has created a brand new dynamic with the entry of Mackenzie, setting up a race described by The Morning Call as a “Hatfield’s and McCoy’s race” between what they described as two longtime rivals. Although Simmons dismissed the “Hatfield’s and McCoy’s” comparison he did elaborate on what he sees as the differences between him and the only other declared candidate.
Ryan and I have worked together on a lot of good issues. The difference between Ryan and I, is Ryan is establishment and I am not. I got my foray into politics by taking on a Liberal Republican, I took on the party and I took on the establishment. Ryan Mackenzie, he came into politics, his Dad was the former chair of the party, he was very connected. When he first ran for State House in the 134th District… there was a special election and the party hierarchy greased the skids for Ryan, they cleared the field in the special election for him, he hasn’t had an opponent since.
Simmons also described Mackenzie as Charlie Dent’s hand picked successor, which means he will be the beneficiary of the PA GOP fundraising network. However, Simmons described it as a negative because it means Mackenzie would be beholden to the moderate Republican structure of the state party and not the Trump Coalition that delivered PA to a Republican presidential candidate for the first time in a generation.
This race will be one of many that pits establishment Republicans against the new, Trump Republicans. In his recent interview with 60 Minutes, former White House strategist Steve Bannon made clear his intentions to target establishment Republicans in the 2018 Primary races. This has already manifested itself in races like the special election for Senate in Alabama, where incumbent Sen. Luther Strange was leading in polling until Bannon endorsed his opponent, former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore.
What’s more, the race in Pennsylvania will pit two millennial candidates, Mackenzie is 35 and Simmons is 31.
You can see Simmons’ entire interview here: