Erie, much like its home state of Pennsylvania, doesn’t always clearly lean one way or the other. How can we expect this city to vote in future years? Is the close margin likely to change?
Erie, Pennsylvania is a liberal city. However, the gap between liberal and conservative is very slim in this city, with both sides gaining a decent following. The slim margins point to Pennsylvania’s status as a swing state, as the state is split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats.
Erie’s political leanings can tell you a lot about the city and why certain regions vote the way they do. Find out why this city is liberal and what impact that has on American elections.
Why is Erie a Liberal City?
Erie is a city that tends to vote Democrat. Erie is located in Erie County, which also votes Democrat, if just barely. Much of Erie’s government is very closely split down the middle, as it has nearly equal left and right-wing representation. Erie County voted Democrat in the 2020 presidential election, with 49.7% of votes being for the Democrat candidate and 48.6% of the votes going to the Republican candidate.
The current mayor of Erie City is Joe Schember, who was sworn in in 2018. Joe Schember is a registered Democrat, as was his predecessor, Joseph Sinnott. Erie City also has a City Council consisting of four Democrats and two Republicans. This shows that the Democrat party has a lot of support in Erie.
Pennsylvania is a swing state, which means it could vote for Democrat or Republican in the election. It has a history of switching its allegiance between the two. Erie’s slim margins are probably a direct result of this.
How Does Erie’s Mayor Reflect the City’s Politics?
Mayor Joe Schember is a registered Democrat, as was his predecessor, Joseph Sinnott. While you might be tempted to look at the mayor’s political party and assume that most government officials are part of it, you are likely mistaken, especially because Erie has a pretty good mixture of Democrat and Republican government officials.
In the 2018 mayoral election, when Mayor Schember was elected, Schember only won a small majority of the vote. He won 53% of the voters, while his Republican challenger won 47% of the vote.
By looking at this, we could assume that Schember just barely won this election and that there was a good chance that he would not be re-elected. However, this isn’t the case. After 3 full years in office, Joe Schember did not have anyone running against him in the 2022 mayoral election. From this, we can infer that while he may have initially won his first election by a small margin, within his first term he had united enough of the city behind him that he was unopposed in his bid for a second term.
So, what were the things that Schember did that untied the city behind him, and where do they fall on the political spectrum? To figure this out, we will take a look at the Vision for the City that Schember put together and lists his priorities as mayor. For each of these things, we will look at the proposal and whether it would be considered a liberal or conservative issue.
Diversity in First Responders
The first thing on the list is that Mayor Schember wants to diversify the city’s police officers and firefighters. The goal is to increase the number of applicants taking their respective physical and written exams that are members of a minority group.
The goal is to have 15% of the applicants be part of these minority groups. This is definitely a liberal position since the city is setting a firm number of applicants that it wants from these backgrounds, instead of a more conservative position which would advocate only for qualified applicants of any group to apply. That isn’t to say that unqualified applicants will be hired because of Mayor Schember’s plan, it just means that people that are part of minority groups will be encouraged to apply more than others.
Diversity in City Workers
Similar to the goal from above, the mayor of Erie wants to increase the number of minority workers that are part of the city. There are two parts to this, and Schember’s goal covers both common employees of the city as well as any who are put into leadership positions.
His goal is that 26% of all new employees are hired and 26% of those appointed to leadership and committee roles should be a member of a minority group. This is also a heavily liberal position.
The City of Erie Certified as a Welcoming City
This one is a bit of a mouthful, but essentially what Joe Schember wants here is for the city of Erie to earn recognition as a Welcoming City. What does this mean? Will the city be setting up balloons and food trucks to welcome visitors to the city? Not quite.
Soon after this goal was proposed by the mayor, Welcoming America, the organization behind the Welcoming City award, announced in 2020 that Erie had become one of the first cities in the country to earn that designation.
According to their website, a welcoming city actively works to increase the network between the communities within the city, including communities that have many minorities and immigrants that may be otherwise excluded from opportunities within the city activities. Here are some of the things that cities like Erie must do to be considered a Welcoming City.
- Support immigrants in obtaining US Citizenship
- Help immigrants vote
- City programs are available in native languages
- Immigrants hold leadership positions within the city
- The local government does not make statements discouraging immigration
- Public buildings include art from diverse backgrounds
- Biases about immigrant communities are addressed
There are dozens of these items that we could talk about. Ultimately, however, many of these items tend to be the priority of more liberal people and cities than conservative cities. With the city government taking the lead role in almost all of these points, this aligns with the liberal idea that government should intervene and aid people directly, which is often advocated for by Democrats.
Looking at these priorities that the mayor of Erie has, it is clear that he is quite liberal. While the mayor is only one person, they do need to have the support of their city in order to implement their ideas. It appears that Schember has this support considering no one opposed him in the most recent election, which implies that the vast majority of the city agrees with his ideas. From this, we can assume that the city of Erie can be considered a liberal city.
Erie’s Political History
How Does this Compare to Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania is a swing state, so it doesn’t have a consistent history of voting one way or the other consistently. The state has voted overwhelmingly in favor of Democrats for the past 20 years, with Democrats winning over 80% of the elections in Pennsylvania. However, it has also voted for Republicans within that time frame.
If you look at elections further back, however, you will find that Republicans have actually had a stronger hold on the Keystone State over the past century. The state has voted Republican in just over 50% of all elections since 1900. This slimmer margin over a longer period of time better displays Pennsylvania’s swing state status.
Like Erie City, however, Pennsylvania has voted Democrat in the 2020 presidential election. The election in 2020 was between the then-current president Donald Trump (a Republican) and Joe Biden, (a Democrat). The election gained some notoriety for being held during a country-wide pandemic, making voting a more difficult process, as many Americans couldn’t or didn’t feel safe going out and voting in large crowds. Ultimately, Joe Biden won the election.
Pennsylvania’s clean division between political parties is in part because the state itself is split. Pennsylvania consists of two major cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, that both sit in the center of a blue bubble. In between the two cities, however, there is a conservative rural region that is less centralized and more agriculturally focused. These two sides manage to balance each other out and keep Pennsylvania as a whole from leaning one way or the other.
Whether or not Pennsylvania will remain a swing state will just have to be seen in future elections. Although the state has shown a recent bias toward liberalism, there’s always the possibility it will swing one way or the other once more.
What Do We Mean When We Say Pennsylvania is a Swing State?
Pennsylvania is a swing state, but what does that really mean? It means more than you might think. Pennsylvania has voted for the winning candidate in presidential elections over 77% of the time since 1900. States will usually pick one side and stick to it consistently over long periods of time, like Texas voting Republican for over a century and California doing the exact same with Democrats. There may be small areas where counties vote for the candidate that the rest of the state didn’t vote for, but they don’t have much impact on the overall result. That is not the case in Pennsylvania because of how large Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are.