Decision 2020: Rural Pennsylvania
Jacob Feuerstein ’22
Kathleen Evans, Former Candidate for State Representative, 85th Legislative District
The citizens of the 85th Legislative District of Pennsylvania
The 2020 election was a point of inflection for Democratic candidates across the United States. Securing tossup states like Pennsylvania and Arizona along with parts of the industrial Midwest, the performance of Joe Biden and other down ballot candidates raises serious questions about the future of the Democratic Party. In particular, the geographic distribution of voters in the 2020 election surprised many in election-watching circles.
While many have analyzed Biden’s over-performance in suburbia and underperformance with Hispanics in Texas and Florida, few have attempted to break down the results of the election in rural Pennsylvania. Because it is at such a unique intersection of the class, race, and conservative-liberal divide, understanding the rural election results is crucial to developing strategies for improving Democratic performance in the Midwest and South.
As the Campaign Manager for a Democrat in 85th District of Pennsylvania (Lewisburg, Selinsgrove, Mifflinburg), I had the opportunity to interact with thousands of voters and develop strategies to improve outcomes in a R +32 district. The statewide data tells us that the 2020 election in Pennsylvania was, as local organizer Jordi Comas coined, an example of the “choppy purple surf.” In other words, the Republican turnout was unusually large, but slightly over-crested by Democratic voter turnout.
I will review the results of the election for my campaign in both a historical and geographical context and answer the question, “how did the ‘choppy purple surf’ play out in the the 85th District and other parts of rural Pennsylvania?