A Republican Wins by a Landslide in Philadelphia

by John Fund

No, the above headline is not a typo.

Philadelphia has been a Democratic stronghold for decades, but proposed tax increases at the city and state level gave Republicans a breakthrough victory last night in a special election for a state house seat.

Martina White, a 26-year-old financial planner, just became only the second elected GOP state legislator to represent a district in the city of 1.5 million. She won by an astonishing 14 points in a district in Northeast Philadelphia where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 2 to 1. The seat was vacant after its Democratic incumbent, Brendan Boyle, was elected to Congress last November. Nor was the election result typical of a special election — the last time Republicans won an open seat from Democrats in the state house was a quarter-century ago.

White certainly exploited some divisions in Democratic ranks by picking up a few union endorsements. But a major issue was the massive tax increases that were proposed this month. Mayor Michael Nutter announced he wants to raise property taxes in the city by 9.3 percent. For his part, new Democratic governor Tom Wolf has announced a state budget with the largest increase in spending since the 1970s. It would be paid for with a 20 percent increase in the state’s income tax and a 10 percent hike in the state sales tax — the largest tax increase in the state’s history.

The governor has said he plans to provide property-tax relief with some of the money, but the tax increases are likely to outweigh the property-tax benefits by a ratio of three to one. Apparently, voters in Northeast Philadelphia didn’t buy that logic. A tax revolt is alive and well in the Keystone state, and the Republican legislature would be foolish to go along with Wolf’s predatory increases.

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