Pennsylvania’s House Special | Crooked Media
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February 12, 2024
What A Day
Pennsylvania’s House Special

In This Episode

  • Control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives hinges on a special election taking place today in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Democrats currently have a one-seat majority in the chamber. The results of today’s race will determine if Democrats can pick up one more seat or if they become tied with Republicans. We’re joined by Melissa Walker, head of Giving Circles over at The States Project, to learn more about who’s running and what’s at stake.
  • It’s looking like a whirlwind of a week for Trump and the many battles he faces in court. After an appeals court ruled last week that he did not qualify for immunity from prosecution, Trump and his lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court on Monday and asked them to pause the case. Meanwhile, the hearing to address the allegations that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis engaged in an improper and unethical relationship with her lead prosecutor will take place on Thursday.
  • And in headlines: Israel’s military killed at least 67 Palestinians in Rafah, a new bill that was introduced in Wyoming could take trans kids away from their parents if they receive gender-affirming care, and Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash drivers will walk off the job this Valentine’s Day.


Show Notes:





Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Tuesday, February 13th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson and this is What a Day, the podcast that is here to finally welcome President Biden to the clock app. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, Biden officially joined TikTok over the weekend and announced it with a video captioned Lol hey guys, what were your thoughts Tre’vell? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, probably a little late. 


Priyanka Aribindi: When’s he doing a dance challenge? 


Tre’vell Anderson: No, we don’t want that Priyanka. Cut it out. [laughter] Cut it out, okay. [laughter] [music break] On today’s show, Israel’s military launched a wave of attacks overnight that killed at least 67 Palestinians in Rafah. Plus, Uber, Lyft and DoorDash drivers across the country are planning on walking off the job this Valentine’s Day. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives hinges on a single special election that is taking place in the suburbs of Philadelphia today. The 140th state House District in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, was previously represented by a Democrat, but he was elected to a judgeship last year, and the race to take his place could determine much more than just who represents this single district. Now, this isn’t the first time that the balance of power in this particular state House has been challenged. Because of vacancies this is actually the fourth time in just a year that this has happened. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Currently in the Pennsylvania State House, Democrats have the slightest of majorities with 101 seats, while Republicans hold 100. Which means that the result of today’s special election will determine if Democrats can build on their slim majority, or if the state House goes back to being all tied up. To learn more about this race and its place in the bigger picture of representation, both in Pennsylvania and nationwide, I decided to speak with Melissa Walker. She is the head of Giving Circles over at The State’s project, which is an amazing organization that’s committed to getting Democrats elected to state legislatures across the country. She’s been helping get the word out to voters in Bucks County about today’s election. And I started by asking her about the two candidates who are running for this seat and what they’re all about. 


Melissa Walker: So the candidates are a Democrat named Jim Prokopiak. He’s a Levittown attorney, a member of the Pennsbury School Board. And then we have um his opponent, who is Candace Cabanas. She is a hospitality professional, and she is also a part of Moms for Liberty. And they are representing pretty different points of view. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yup. Moms for Liberty really says it all. 


Melissa Walker: Yeah. So this is a district where Democrats have a bit of an edge. But in a special election on a random Tuesday in February, anything goes. So it’s really about turnout and helping folks become aware of this election. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. I mean, Pennsylvania very famously, a swing state in presidential nationwide elections. Buck county has gone blue in every presidential election since the ’90s. The district is reliably Democratic, but, you know, it’s still considered a purple county. Can you tell us a little more about what you’re doing to ensure that Democrats keep winning here? 


Melissa Walker: I think that something that is really challenging in general about state legislative elections, is that many, many people are not really aware of who goes to their state capitol for them and how much power those people have. So I think in terms of raising voter fluency as to how much this matters is an incredibly important piece of the entire picture. Because when we have a Pennsylvania where in 2022, the State’s Project was there, and we also we were working with you all there to help shift power. We were able to flip 12 state House seats to change the balance of power in the state House, which no one thought was possible, and the final district was won by 63 votes. These are the kind of margins that happen even on General Election Day. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So wild.


Melissa Walker: So when we’re talking about holding that majority on a special election day, we just have to make sure that people understand what’s at stake. Changing the balance of power in Harrisburg has meant that the first Black woman speaker is there. It has meant that Pennsylvania has been able to do things like free school breakfast for 1.7 million public school children. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. 


Melissa Walker: Expanded apprenticeship programs, no cost breast cancer screenings, statewide requirements to protect the health of moms, including a requirement to publish maternal health mortality data. And this is the kind of thing that can happen when majorities shift in state capitals. 


Priyanka Aribindi: In everyone’s sights here is making Pennsylvania possibly the next Democratic trifecta, where each branch of government is held by Democrats. We saw that happen in states like Minnesota and Michigan after the 2022 midterms. Can you talk to us a little bit about the progressive policy wins that have come out of states that have trifectas? You know what that could possibly look like in Pennsylvania? Why that would be a really momentous deal? Not just for this county, but, you know, for everybody. 


Melissa Walker: Absolutely. For everybody. And really not even just for Pennsylvania. You know, there were trifectas won in Michigan and Minnesota in 2022. And in those states, it’s led to incredible policy change. So what that looks like really is that in Michigan, where we helped flip both chambers by fewer than 400 votes each. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Amazing. 


Melissa Walker: Won seat majorities in each chamber. If someone’s car breaks down on the way to Lansing, the votes aren’t there. Michigan has been able to form an incredible caucus that has been able to codify the right to abortion, has been able to end the so-called right to work laws to make unions strong again. They have been able to pass a climate plan that goes farther than the federal level has ever gone. And we see similar moves in Minnesota. In fact, the media was calling Minnesota and their legislative session the Minnesota miracle. So when state majorities change, these are the types of life improving policies that can go through. And it not only helps the people of that state, but it serves as a model for other states too. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 


Melissa Walker: And what is possible. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I also want to ask you about the path to get there. I mean, obviously, Republicans right now control the state Senate. Democrats hold the governorship in Pennsylvania. And, you know, we’re talking about control of the House with this special election. Tell us more about this plan you have to flip Pennsylvania’s state Senate blue, given that the split is a bit wider there. 


Melissa Walker: Yeah, absolutely. So in the state Senate, people have called it a long shot. And we are working with only half the seats up in the Senate to really get to a tie in 2024. And even that’s a long shot. But it sets us up for a potential trifecta in 2026. And of course, we all know that this is a long game and we know that these races are going to be won again on these slim margins. In 2022, The State’s project was involved in 59 races that were decided by fewer than a thousand votes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. 


Melissa Walker: If you know people in the area, get them out. You know, you may be the 64th voter that matters in these races. And we really encourage folks to be incredibly strategic with their political giving. You know, state legislative races, it is often cheaper to change the balance of power in an entire state chamber than it is to win a single competitive congressional seat. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Bang for your buck. Absolutely. 


Melissa Walker: Absolutely. Huge return on investment. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That was my conversation with Melissa Walker, the head of Giving Circles over at The State’s project. We’ll link to her organization and Vote Save America, so you can learn more about how you can get involved in crucial state legislature races all year long. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Thank you so much for that, Priyanka. Now on to a series of updates regarding Donald Trump and his many, many legal woes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Buckle up everyone. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen up. Okay, it’s looking like this week is going to be a whirlwind with new developments in a number of his cases, so I just want to make sure that we’re all prepared for what could come so that we can govern ourselves accordingly, like the Black folks in the Black church say, you know. So first up, let’s tackle the federal case in which Trump is accused of breaking conspiracy laws in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election. After an appeals court ruled last week that he did not qualify for presidential immunity. Trump and his lawyers went to the Supreme Court yesterday asking them to pause the case. They want the court to delay the trial indefinitely, while they put together a formal application for the High Court to consider. 


Priyanka Aribindi: All right, no surprise there. He has been trying to avoid accountability this entire time. So this checks out. But this is just the first of so many things that this man has going on this week. It’s actually wild. If you thought you had a busy week. No you don’t. But tell us what else is happening? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So another instance of him trying to avoid accountability is in his federal case in Florida. This is the one about his mishandling of classified documents. He’s facing dozens of felony counts because he had all of these classified documents that he shouldn’t have had just–


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –hanging out in Mar-A-Lago. 


Priyanka Aribindi: In the bathroom. Yes, we all saw the photos. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We all saw the photos. And then he tried to prevent the FBI from getting them back. Trump actually appeared in court for that trial yesterday and used the opportunity to campaign to his supporters. He actually had an email scheduled to go out at the same time that he was in court with the subject line, quote, “I’m in court,” period, “again,” exclamation point. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Again, exclamation point. Truly mind blowing. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. There were many of his supporters gathered outside the courthouse as well. All of this, of course, is just yet another example of how he’s using every single one of these cases as campaign fodder. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. Fundraising off of um being a criminal, I guess. Hate it for all of us. That is just the world that we are in. But both of these updates happened yesterday, still at the tip of the iceberg. What other developments can we expect this week? Because I know you have much more for us. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So let’s move now to the election interference case in Georgia. This coming Thursday, the hearing to address the allegations that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis engaged in an improper and unethical relationship with her lead prosecutor, that will take place. Of course Fani Willis has already copped to the personal relationship, and so now the judge in this case is moving forward to determine if Fani benefited financially from the hiring of Nathan Wade, that’s the name of the prosecutor, when their romantic relationship began and whether it still continues. And Donald Trump is reportedly planning to attend this hearing, according to The Washington Post. Even though he is actually supposed to be in New York for a pretrial thing for one of his other cases there. But there’s these anonymous sources telling the post that he’s going to go to Atlanta. And if they are correct and he does go to Atlanta this week, it’ll be his first court appearance in that racketeering case since he and the 18 others were indicted last year. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It is so rich that the only reason that this man is going is because he wants to exploit the fact that this is like a messy situation–


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –in Fani Willis’ personal life. Like this has objectively nothing to do with him. Not even very little. Nothing. And yet here he is, ditching another case in New York to just attend this. To do what? Send like obscene things on Truth Social afterwards? Like we all know what he’s going to do, have an outburst and then be going off on the internet. It is so wild. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, Trump is a messy bitch who lives for drama. We are very clear about this. So, you know. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Like you just said, the fact that Fani Willis will have both her personal life and her professional decision making questioned right, is definitely something that he probably will want to witness so that he can exploit it for further gain. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. So you also mentioned one of Trump’s trials in New York. What do we need to be prepared for there? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, okay. 


Priyanka Aribindi: We’re just ping ponging all over the country with this man. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Literally it’s giving like a really good tennis match where you’re just going, you know one side to the other.


Priyanka Aribindi: Everywhere, left to right. Yeah, everywhere. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay, so on Thursday, at the exact same time as the Fani Willis hearing, a judge in New York will decide whether or not to dismiss the criminal case Trump is facing there, which stems from the alleged Stormy Daniels hush money payment situation. If y’all remember that.


Priyanka Aribindi: We are still dealing with that. It’s so wild. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. And so if the judge does not dismiss the case, he will set a trial date for what could become the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president. And then on Friday, the New York Times is reporting that a different judge in New York is expected to rule on Attorney General Letitia James’ civil case accusing Trump, his adult sons and the family business of fraud. That judge, of course, has already said that the Trumps behaved fraudulently, and so he will be deciding the extent to which they should pay for that, which could include up to $370 million dollars in fines and Trump being barred from leading any business in the state. So we can take a deep breath now, I know that was a lot Priyanka. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I think by my count, that was five separate cases. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s a lot going on. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s a lot. 


Priyanka Aribindi: In one week. 


Tre’vell Anderson: In one week. You can blame Trump and his foolishness for all of this, but we’re going to do our best to keep all of the folks updated on these very unprecedented times. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But that is the latest for now. We’re going to go pay some bills and be right back. [music break]




Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Israel began bombing Rafah, one of the last safe places for displaced people in Gaza to go, early Monday morning local time. Before the war began, around 280,000 people lived in Rafah. Now the southernmost city in Gaza is housing more than a million civilians, and it’s now covered in a sea of tents as people have tried to escape Israel’s siege. The Israeli army said that it rescued two of the hostages taken by Hamas on October 7th from a house in a district of Rafah yesterday, who were reportedly in good condition. However, the wave of attacks Monday in Rafah by Israeli forces killed at least 67 Palestinians. In total, more than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed in this war so far, and more than 12,000 of those are children. That is according to Gaza’s health ministry. Meanwhile, President Biden met with Jordan’s King Abdullah the second at the white House yesterday to discuss how to end the war and to plan for what comes afterwards. Biden is supposedly working to negotiate another hostage deal that would pause fighting for at least six weeks. King Abdullah condemned Israel’s military operation and said this on the White House steps yesterday. 


[clip of Jordan’s King Abdullah the Second] We need a lasting cease fire now. This war must end. 


Priyanka Aribindi: We’ll link to ways to support relief efforts in Gaza in our show notes below. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The motive behind a shooting at a megachurch in Texas on Sunday remained unclear on Monday after authorities searched the home of the suspect. The shooting happened around 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Police say the shooter entered the megachurch, one of the largest in the U.S., with an AR style rifle, and opened fire. Two people were wounded, including a seven year old boy who was the shooter’s son. He was in critical condition on Monday. Authorities yesterday said that the shooter had a history of mental illness, and that investigators discovered anti-Semitic writings and a sticker with the word Palestine on the shooter’s rifle. But again, police have not identified a motive as of yet. Two off duty officers killed the suspect during the attack. 


Priyanka Aribindi: A new bill that was introduced in Wyoming’s Republican controlled legislature yesterday could give federal agencies the power to take trans kids away from their parents if they receive gender affirming care. House Bill 156 would deem hormone therapy, puberty blockers or transition related surgery as, quote, “not in the best interests of the child.” The bill could play a role in custody battles between divorced parents and in cases with child protective services. For example, if you have a trans kid in the state who has one parent who allows them to receive gender affirming care and another parent who doesn’t. If the parents get a divorce, the non accepting parent could argue that they deserve full custody of the child because it is not in the child’s quote unquote, “best interest” to receive that care. And under the proposed legislation, the state would likely agree with them forcibly cutting off the child’s access to both lifesaving care and a supportive home. It’s worth noting that Wyoming has a Republican trifecta. The GOP controls the House, the Senate and the governorship there, and House Bill 156 is sponsored by House Majority Leader Chip Neiman. If you live in Wyoming or know somebody who does, now would be a great time to get that phone out, make some calls to elected officials about why they shouldn’t support this bill. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Roses are red. Violets are blue. App drivers want fair pay and baby so should you. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yup. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Uber, Lyft and DoorDash drivers across the country are planning on walking off the job this Valentine’s Day, aka tomorrow, to demand fair wages and safety. According to the justice for App Workers Coalition, which represents over 100,000 drivers and delivery workers. Its members will not take any rides to or from airports on February 14th across ten cities. Those include Austin, Chicago, Miami, Newark, Philadelphia and more. The group says they’re going on strike because they’re, quote, “tired of being mistreated” and of, quote, “being constantly scared for our safety and worrying about being deactivated with the click of a button.” In Los Angeles, an independent union called Rideshare Drivers United is also planning to picket tomorrow. In a post on their website about the event, the group said, quote, “together we are going to make it clear that drivers won’t stop fighting until we’ve won the fair pay and dignity that we all deserve.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. And if you are listening to this, and were planning on maybe getting some nice takeout on Valentine’s Day, having a relaxing night in, I would make some plans to pick that up. Just don’t get it delivered. Don’t get it delivered at home. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, it’s the least you could do. 


Priyanka Aribindi: The least. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Support the Uber, the Lyft drivers, the DoorDash workers. It wasn’t that long ago that these folks were considered essential workers because many of us didn’t want to–


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –leave our homes for various different reasons. And so here’s an opportunity to prove whether or not you believe these folks are essential or not. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. And those are the headlines. 




Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Welcome Biden to TikTok and tell your friends to listen. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading and not just how to stop Wyoming’s House Bill 156 like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


[spoken together] And support app workers. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Not that hard guys. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s not. 


Priyanka Aribindi: We’re giving you the heads up. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I know it’ll feel like a huge inconvenience because you can’t get your sushi delivered. But you’ll be all right, I promise. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Pick it up. We told you, we planted a seed now so you can make the plan. That is why we are here. [music beak]


Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers, and our showrunner is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.