Former Congressional candidate talks running for office and hope for the future

Aaron Anthony

Aaron Anthony decided to run for Congress in the 12th district as “a meaningful check on a Presidential administration that very much felt like a threat to the country.” However, he dropped out after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court drew new maps that would have had him challenging current congressman Conor Lamb in the primaries. Despite no longer being in the race, he sat down to discuss his campaign and the apparent Democratic wave that has swept the country. 

When Anthony first considered running, he felt like his experience was lacking. He soon learned that his background in teaching high school English was not a hindrance. “It kind of made sense for a ‘normal person’ who isn’t wealthy or politically connected to try and have a go at it.” Despite having to untangle the filing process (he accidentally sent his forms to the wrong office), and having to get used to the constant fundraising, Anthony discovered he was good at campaigning, and would be a good public official. His goal, he says, was “real, measurable change.” 

Anthony dropped out of the race and endorsed sitting Congressman Conor Lamb, who he would have had to campaign against in the primary elections. He maintains that the apparent division in the democratic party between moderate and progressive candidates is not as much of a problem as it has been made out to be. 

“I don’t think it’s as big of a split as a lot of national media outlets made it… you know, of the primary candidates in the new 17th district, I was the most progressive. I was hoping, that by me being the first to endorse Conor, that would send a signal. The areas where we overlap [are] way bigger than where me or Conor overlap with a Republican incumbent like [current Congressman] Keith Rothfus overlap. Democrats need to be a broad coalition of candidates who are running in the right fit for their district… we need to not wedge the party where it doesn’t need to be wedged or divided.” Anthony hopes that this coalition will be able to take back the House of Representatives and the Senate in the midterm elections this year. However, he advocates vigilance, noting that anything could happen, ever the President’s reelection. Unless the wave of democratic activism “translates to voting,” it doesn’t matter, he notes. 

As to whether or not the Democrats have a chance to take back the Senate and House of Representatives, Anthony expressed hope. He noted that a poling consultant he had hired had predicted Conor Lamb’s win could indicate that as many as 300 House seats could be under Democratic control. The Senate would obviously be harder, but there are still chances to pick up seats. In the Senate, only two seats are necessary to give Democrats a 51-49 majority. Anthony pointed to the increased turnout in primaries as a catalyst for the Democratic wave. “The difference [for Lamb] was that people showed up to vote,” Anthony said. “When voter numbers are up, that tends to benefit democrats.” 

Running for office was a learning experience for Anthony. He had to face the pressure to be constantly fundraising. Talking to wealthy donors was a major part of campaigning, but the first step was to exhaust his personal social networks. Having to call up his friends and ask for money was an awful experience. “I hate it,” he said. “I knew it kind of superficially and conceptually- I knew money was a corrupting force in politics… but the pressure to always be fundraising is enormous. I think it really prevents a lot of qualified candidates from seeking office.” 

Asked if he would consider running again, Anthony left the door open. “I would love to continue to help the party in a way that keeps me involved,” he said. “Yeah, it would be great.”