In This Episode
- Following Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary elections, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. And State Senator Doug Mastriano, one of the leading proponents to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the state, was nominated as the GOP’s gubernatorial candidate. Amanda Litman, co-founder of Run for Something, joins us to discuss various primary races from earlier this week.
- And in headlines: a Russian soldier pleaded guilty in Ukraine’s first war crimes trial, top White House officials recommended taking precautions amid rising COVID cases, and professional soccer players on both the U.S. women’s and men’s national teams will finally earn the same pay.
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Gideon Resnick: It is Thursday, May 19th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, where we’re still participating in the standing ovation for Top Gun Maverick that began last night at Cannes. We are still clapping.
Gideon Resnick: We are nowhere near the theater, to be clear, but we’ve been standing and clapping along with our friends in France for nearly 20 hours now.
Priyanka Aribindi: You can’t hear us because our hands are so swollen, but we are doing it.
Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, a Russian soldier pleaded guilty in the first war crimes trial since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Plus, women who play for America’s best-in-the-league national soccer team will finally get paid as much as their male counterparts.
Priyanka Aribindi: Woooo! That is a long time coming.
Gideon Resnick: Indeed.
Priyanka Aribindi: So very exciting news. But first, we will talk a little bit more about Tuesday night’s primary elections. So starting in Pennsylvania, we knew on Tuesday night that Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman easily won the Democratic Senate primary, and that state Senator Doug Mastriano, one of the leading proponents of overturning the 2020 presidential election in that state, was nominated as the GOP’s gubernatorial candidate. Very different outcomes there. But what have we learned since that time?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so let’s start with what we don’t know, and that is who Fetterman is going to face in November. As we record this on Wednesday night at 9:30 Eastern, the GOP Senate primary race has still not been called. Dr. Mehmet Oz, the candidate that Trump supported, is leading Dave McCormick, a former hedge fund CEO, by less than 2,000 votes, according to the AP. Kathy Barnett, the ultra-conservative candidate that was surging and that had establishment Republicans worried about winning and even Trump worried about winning, was far behind those two. It appears that the margin is narrow enough that there is going to be an automatic recount here.
Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. So what do we know in general about how progressive candidates fared in their challenges against more moderate Democrats?
Gideon Resnick: Yes, there are a lot, but two that could be poised for victory in their House primaries to focus on for now. In Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, which is in the Pittsburgh area, Summer Lee narrowly led her closest opponent, Steve Irwin–yes, it is the same name. While the race hasn’t been called, the group that backed Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and supports Lee, the Justice Democrats, declared victory in that one. Then, moving outside of Pennsylvania to Oregon, early results show that progressive Democratic challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner is currently beating the incumbent there, Representative Kurt Schrader, for Oregon’s fifth District. We’ll have more on those and the other races when more final results are in.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right. And we’re still sorting through, you know, what we learned, what we have yet to learn about these races. But we wanted to catch up again with Amanda Litman. She is the co-founder of Run for Something. They recruited and they backed a bunch of candidates that were on the primary ballots across the country on Tuesday and wanted to hear what she had to say. We talked with her yesterday afternoon. We started by asking what her bigger takeaways from Tuesday night’s primaries were.
Amanda Litman: I think we see how much quality of candidate matters. You know, we saw this in Pennsylvania. John Fetterman ran away with a Democratic nomination for the United States Senate. And in many ways, it’s like a come-from-behind victory. You didn’t have that many Democratic endorsers. You sort of like a quote unquote “unconventional candidate,” a dude that, wears like shorts and a hoodie. But in many ways, he’s also exactly the kind of person you expect to win. He’s incredibly likable, is the subject of just dozens and dozens and dozens of glowing magazine profiles. He is very authentic, and he talks about the issues in a way that his neighbors and fellow Pennsylvanians can understand. He is deeply connected to his community. And that’s not to say that Conor Lamb wasn’t, or that Malcolm Kenyatta, my personal fave and friend and Run for Something alum isn’t an All-Star as well, but it is no surprise that someone like John Fetterman was able to run away from it. It is also, I would say, incredibly terrifying what happened on the Republican side. For the Senate race, we’re still too close to call. We’ll see who comes out ahead. But on the governor’s race, Doug Mastriano is a scary dude. He does not believe in the validity of the 2020 election. He does not believe in the right to abortion. He barely believes people should be voting at all. And he will have the opportunity to, if he wins, appoint the secretary of state in Pennsylvania, who will then control the elections in Pennsylvania in 2024.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, one of the themes of last night seem to be candidates that sort of have this false belief and have touted this false belief that the 2020 election was stolen, performed well. Including, as you said, Doug Mastriano, who’s now the GOP gubernatorial nominee in Pennsylvania. Can you talk about the implications of that happening a little more broadly across the country?
Amanda Litman: Yeah, we saw this in a congressional race in North Carolina. We saw in Idaho, although at least some of the really crazy people in Idaho didn’t come out ahead. Trump’s chosen gubernatorial candidate lost pretty handily, which is excellent, although the person who won, still a little nutty. It matters that these people don’t think that the 2020 election was legitimate because they are going to be, if they win this fall, in positions to undermine the 2024 election, whether that’s undermining the presidential election or undermining other Senate races or lower races. All of this plays into the structural power that if they win, Republicans will be able to hold, where it won’t matter who’s on the ballot because the people counting the ballots will have already decided how they want the outcomes to go.
Gideon Resnick: One thing I was thinking about with Mastriano specifically is he came from the state legislature. State legislatures around the country are where we’ve seen some of the more extreme beliefs on the 2020 election and abortion take shape. How unprecedented is it that that pipeline exists from state legislature to potential governor, and what can it mean elsewhere? Is that something that is sort of happening with more frequency?
Amanda Litman: Oh, it’s not unprecedented at all and that’s the scary part. I think the last time I looked at this was maybe 2015 or sometime between 2015 and 2020, but something like two thirds of all governors got their start either in state legislator or local government. It’s pretty unusual that you rise to the top and become a governor without having some kind of experience in elected office. That is both terrifying, and is why we should be paying attention to who’s winning these offices, both on the Democratic and Republican side. It matters not just because of the kind of pipeline that it builds, but also because the people in state legislatures and in county commissions and in city clerk offices, as we’ve talked about on this show before, really do have control over the outcome of these elections, whether that’s determining the structure of voting rules or literally counting the votes. So we should be paying attention to who is winning these offices and making sure that they’re folks who share our values or at least aren’t going to proactively undermine them.
Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. Another big thing we’ve been talking about, in addition to, you know, election security is abortion rights in this country. Can you talk to us a little bit about some of the key legislative races we saw on Tuesday that could affect this access in different parts of the country?
Amanda Litman: I mean, basically, every office that we are looking at is going to touch on abortion access, which is what makes it so scary. You know, we saw some of the Senate races. It matters that we’re going to elect someone, hopefully John Fetterman, to the Pennsylvania State Senate who we know has said he will be a proud voice for abortion access. It matters as we look at some of these House races that we have people who are deeply progressive. Out in Oregon, we had a very progressive person beat out a slightly more conservative incumbent. In Pennsylvania, Summer Lee who took on the establishment, it seems like came out ahead. We know she is going to be a fighter for abortion access. And it’s going to matter because we’re going to need every possible tool in our toolbox to take on this work.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah and similarly, as you mentioned, we’ve talked on the show before about how these different races are impacting election administration. So what did we find out there on Tuesday night?
Amanda Litman: Well, we’re still pretty early in the season for some of these races, but here’s a cool one. So out in Portland, Oregon, the position that controls election administration, or in part controls election in Missouri is called the city auditor. This is the first time in 36 years that this has been a contested race. It’s usually been like pretty blasé. Simone Rede, who is a Run for Something candidate we’re so proud to work with, who’s been an auditor for years, has worked in the public sector, in the private sector, won this race! Which means we’re going to have someone overseeing elections in the city of Portland who is genuinely democracy-oriented and who’s going to do it well and do it competently. And we’re really excited to keep seeing people like Salmon win these election administration roles all across the country.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. And I mean, I don’t want to encourage anyone to play pundit before everything is wrapped up, obviously there is still stuff that is in the air and races that haven’t been called, but what, if anything, do you think we’ve learned about what voters are thinking this year so far from Tuesday night?
Amanda Litman: I think voters want someone who can connect to them in a way that makes sense. We’ve seen that in John Fetterman. We saw that in Summer Lee. We saw that out in Oregon where the incumbent who got taken out because he wasn’t really connecting with his voters and didn’t vote on the infrastructure bill. These are candidates who who understand what their communities face. And on the Democratic side, that really does move the needle. On the Republican side, we should be terrified because our Republican voters, generally speaking, seem to be eager to vote for people who are ready to undermine the election. I will say it was thrilling to see Madison Cawthorn lose. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, as they say, although I’m not sure the GOP totally thought through what it looks like when you have a lame duck Madison Cawthorn in office for eight months, but boy, is that not my problem. So it’s nice to see that when they decide that a line has been crossed in terms of talking about cocaine and orgies, they’re willing to put some muscle behind it.
Gideon Resnick: Right, that is the line.
Amanda Litman and Priyanka in unison: That’s the line.
Gideon Resnick: Perfect. Oh, thank you so much again, Amanda.
Priyanka Aribindi: Awesome.
Amanda Litman: Anytime.
Gideon Resnick: That was our conversation with Amanda Litman, the co-founder of Run for Something. We’re going to be following all of this in the days and weeks to come and the months after that as well, but that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Thomas Lane, one of the three former Minneapolis police officers charged for their role in the death of George Floyd in 2020, pleaded guilty to second degree manslaughter yesterday. Lane was initially scheduled to go to state trial in June alongside his fellow former officers, J. Alexander Kuang and Tou Thao on charges of second degree unintentional murder and second degree manslaughter, but now that Lane has pleaded guilty to the latter, the state of Minnesota dropped the murder charge against him, meaning he will not be tried next month. This comes after all three former officers were convicted of federal crimes for their failure to intervene when then-officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd. And lawyers for the Floyd family released a statement yesterday about Lane’s plea, writing, quote, “Hopefully this plea helps usher in a new era where officers understand that juries will hold them accountable just as they would any other citizen.”
Priyanka Aribindi: Hopefully it does. A Russian soldier pleaded guilty yesterday to killing an unarmed Ukrainian civilian in Ukraine’s first war crimes trial since Russia launched its attack on the country. As a result, the soldier could face life in prison for his alleged crimes, and Ukrainian prosecutors will continue presenting evidence against the soldier today following his plea. Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Irina Venediktova, said that her office has been preparing war crimes cases against 41 other Russian soldiers for various offenses, but it’s not immediately clear how many suspects are currently in Ukrainian custody. Also yesterday, Finland and Sweden submitted their applications to join NATO after signaling that they would do so in recent days. President Biden formally endorsed the two Nordic countries membership bids yesterday, saying that the U.S. will work with them to, quote, “remain vigilant against any threats to our shared security and to deter and confront aggression.” But for Finland and Sweden to be accepted into the alliance, they need the support of all 30 NATO nations and this could prove difficult because Turkey currently opposes both countries joining the club. Yesterday, Turkey blocked the alliance’s initial effort to fast track their applications. In the meantime, Sweden’s Prime Minister and Finland’s President are set to visit the White House today to discuss the matter and what they can do to support Ukraine.
Gideon Resnick: Just in time for the second annual cancelation of Hot Vax summer–we love to hear it–top officials in the Biden administration recommended taking precautions yesterday amid rising cases of COVID. At the first White House briefing devoted solely to the pandemic since early April, officials said that one third of Americans are living in areas where cases are so high that they should resume masking indoors, even if their local officials are not requiring it–and from our perspective, even if they stopped buying new masks months ago and are down to KN95s that could be described as vintage and or lightly distressed if the rip is small enough. No, I don’t advise that. Strike that for the record. Right now, the areas with the highest level of community transmission are concentrated in the Northeast, but mask wearing is still advisable in areas with medium levels of transmission, which CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said are in every state. To get a sense of our current trajectory, dr. Walensky said yesterday that the seven-day average of COVID hospitalizations had risen by 20% over the previous week, and if Congress has any interest in preparing us for the surge officials are predicting for the fall and winter, it should sign off on more COVID funding ASAP–turns out there is no such thing as a free pandemic. We learn and we learn every few months. White House COVID Response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said that without the $22 billion in COVID funding Biden has requested, the federal government won’t have the vaccines and treatments it needs to keep infections down. Ai yi yi.
Priyanka Aribindi: There are several lessons to be learned here, and the least important of which is what I’m going to call attention to. I think that we should stop using the phrase “Hot blank Summer.”
Gideon Resnick: Oh, yeah.
Priyanka Aribindi: It should be like “Make blank Great Again.” Like, no, we’re just, absolutely. It’s over. Stop it. It’s not a hot anything summer.
Gideon Resnick: No. Have no positive predictions for anything and you will not be disappointed when the [unclear] changes.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Exactly. Learn your lesson, everybody.
Gideon Resnick: It’s done.
Priyanka Aribindi: The gender pay gap and US professional soccer officially got a red card yesterday as a deal was announced to guarantee equal pay to players on both the women’s and men’s team. This result is unprecedented among all the world’s pro soccer leagues, and comes after years of hard work and campaigning by the four-time champion U.S. Women’s National Team–a.k.a. the one of the two main soccer teams that we can name a single player on. No offense the men’s team, but I’m sorry, I’ve no idea who you are. Last year, the women’s team settled a gender discrimination lawsuit with the U.S. Soccer Federation, netting them $24 million, but achieving equal pay was a whole nother ball game, specifically a soccer ball game. It required the support of the U.S. men’s national team and an entirely new pay structure. Here is what the collective bargaining agreement that was announced yesterday dictates. First, it standardizes roster and performance bonuses across teams, and then, in a more revolutionary step, it pools all the prize money that the two teams earn from participating in World Cup tournaments and divides it equally between them. This step is necessary because FIFA, which runs the World Cup, continues to pay way more to men’s teams than to women’s. Some players say that pushing FIFA to correct that should be the next step. We definitely agree with that. That feels like the big issue here. But after that, we can look into making sure that each team gets the same number of orange slices from their parents at a game.
Gideon Resnick: I love that. I also, so it’s pooling the prize money from participating in World Cup tournaments and dividing it equally between them, the men’s team would stand to benefit the most there, I would assume, right?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I know. I feel like this is really helping them the most.
Gideon Resnick: That’s a good little–
Priyanka Aribindi: I don’t know. I mean, I think that they might be getting paid a ton for even like doing really poorly, like just for showing up-kind of thing. I don’t know the specifics of that, but like if we’re going by wins here, like they really stand to benefit.
Gideon Resnick: I would think comparatively so. This is rad. Long time coming. Orange slices for all of them.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, they’re awesome. Congratulations to every single one of them.
Gideon Resnick: Yes. Band-Aids for your grass burns when you need them. I assume that’s still the preferred thing.
Priyanka Aribindi: Orange slices, Band-Aids, Capri Suns. We want it all.
Gideon Resnick: We want it all. Pacific Coolers for all, we will be drinking. And those are the headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: One more thing before we go” on this week’s Pod Save The World, Tommy is joined by Palestinian writer and journalist Jalal Abukhater discuss the killing of the beloved Palestinian American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh and the violence that he witnessed by Israeli police at Sharon’s funeral. New episodes of Pod Save The World drop every Wednesday. You can listen wherever you get your podcasts.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, share your orange slices, and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just all the zeros on the checks of professional soccer players on the women’s soccer team like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And we’ll see you on the highway to the danger zone!
Gideon Resnick: I assume it’s not going to be in this movie, but if they play it in the theater, there’s a decent chance I will combust.
Priyanka Aribindi: Gideon will lose his mind on the spot. We will never hear from him again.
Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzy Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.