Pennsylvania is taking its turn in the 2016 presidential spotlight this week and the campaigns are in an all-out push for votes in next Tuesday’s crucial primary - votes that could determine who will be the next Republican presidential nominee.
And the most important of those ballots will be cast for 54 of the state’s delegates to this summer’s Republican convention, not one for the one of the three well-known candidates - Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich - remaining in the GOP contest. Instead, voters must chose people whom they might not ever have heard of.
They aren’t household names, although they may be known to some voters locally. Like the rank-and-file voters who will elect them, these candidates are regular people with regular jobs, they are party enthusiasts who want to go to the Party’s big party in Cleveland this summer.
Most importantly, these delegates are independent, not bound to support any one candidate in Cleveland this summer.
In a race were every single delegate counts, these 54 delegates are an essential part of the race to secure the 1,237 votes needed to claim the nomination.
Pennsylvania has a unique system that is unlike any other in the country. Like most other states, delegates are awarded to the candidates based on the outcome of the statewide vote as well as the results in each Congressional district.
What’s different in Pennsylvania is that when it comes to choosing their presidential preference in their Congressional district, voters don’t vote for the candidate, instead they vote for three delegates they want to attend the Republican convention. Even more confusing is that these candidates for delegate appear on the ballot with no signifying characteristics - even lacking the most obvious and necessary one - presidential candidate affiliation.
It’s serious business for these unbound delegates, especially this year when the Republican nominee could be decided at the convention.
Since only three people are chosen from each of the 18 Congressional districts, candidates actually campaign to win his or her election because all but two districts have more than three candidates.
Take Pennsylvania’s second Congressional district. It includes much of Philadelphia - not a Republican-dense part of the state. The incumbent member of Congress, Rep. Chaka Fattah, for example, is a Democrat and won with more than 89 percent of the vote. It has four candidates running for three slots.
One of the candidates for delegate is Calvin Tucker, a 63-year old former banking executive who now raises money for business startups in under served communities.
Tucker says that if he wins his election to be a delegate, at the convention he will vote for the candidate based on a number of criteria: he will take into account how the district and the state votes as well as who he thinks is the most electable in November.
Tucker wants to win. “I wanna win by two touchdowns,” he told a friend at the Chester County Republican Party spring fundraiser Thursday night.
Even though he was endorsed by his local Republican Party, he’s not taking any chances.
While he was endorsed by the local Republican Party, he has spent $2,500 of his own money running to be a delegate to the convention.
Tucker has sent out mailers to houses in his district - just like a presidential candidate does. He has attended at least 15 community meetings and Republican Party events to meet voters. He even teamed up with two other candidates to print a flier to hand out on election day to voters headed into the polls. It has their picture, their names and tells voters what button to hit to vote for them on the voting machine. It also has the Philly’s 2016 schedule.
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