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 September 13th, 2022       Political Note #503 Pennsylvania’s State legislature

2022                                    General Election

In contrast to the Republican gerrymander of the past, analysts report that Pennsylvania will have a fair distribution of its legislative seats for 2022.  CNalysis says that of the 203 House seats, Republicans will probably elect 103, Democrats 98, leaving 2 pure toss-ups. Among those Republican seats and among those Democratic seats, there are enough contests so that the Democrats could gain a majority in the House.

CNalysis says that of the 50 state senate seats, 28 are likely to go Republican and 21 Democratic. That leaves a single pure toss-up seat.  Three Republican leaning seats could be flipped creating a tie.  A tie in the state senate would keep the newly elected Lt. Governor busy presiding over that body.

Democrats probably need to win the following eight seats to win the House.

HD 09 (Tilt D)

Chris Sainato is as local a legislator as you can get.  He was born in New Castle. He lives in New Castle. He graduated from nearby Union Area High School in 1977. His official website has a picture of him with the Union Area Marching Band.  The closest big town (New Castle has a population of about 20,000) is Youngstown, Ohio.  Chris Sainato went to Youngstown State University where he got a BS in education and social services.  Elected as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1994, he is proud to say that he has never had another job since his election. Virtually every bit he does in the legislature is designed to serve local interests.  He has earned statewide recognition once.  Attacked for collecting per diems and unvouchered reimbursements, as he is allowed, he says he is proud of what he does. He has never missed a day of work.

His Republican opponent is Marla Gallo Brown.  For 14 years, she was a Sales Director for UPS in Atlanta.  For the next ten years, she owned and managed Youthtopia Medspa in Alpharetta, GA.  From 2015 to 2018, she was CEO of Pregnancy Aid Clinics with three sites in Atlanta, clinics she explains were operated from a Catholic philosophy.  Until she announced her candidacy, she was working as a fitness instructor at the YMCA in Boardman, Ohio, a half hour west of New Castle.  Provide some support for Chris Sainato.  He should return to the legislature.

 HD 26 (Tilt D)

Paul Friel remembers when his father’s business started to go downhill.  It was after the cabinet making business was stiffed for a job in New York City, stiffed by a fellow with the now familiar name – Donald J. Trump.  Paul Friel has done fine as a businessman.  After graduating from Temple University and working his way up in various types of businesses, he built his own business for environmental testing and engineering.  He is also president of his local school board.  His main issues in the campaign to replace a long-time incumbent is improving the economy through support for small businesses, closing corporate tax loopholes, and easing the property tax burden with the state taking more responsibility for the cost of education.

Tim Hennessy, the incumbent, elected in 1992, in this district northwest of Philadelphia about one third of the way to Harrisburg, is pro business, pro life, and pro gun.  His most serious political problem, though, he is one of the 60 or so Pennsylvania legislators who urged that the Pennsylvania voters be ignored and a fake set of electors be accepted as member of the Electoral College.

HD 30 (Tilt D)

Arvin Venkat comes from a family that immigrated from India to the US.  A diligent student, he is a graduate of Harvard and has an MD from Yale.  He is currently head of the state association of emergency doctors.  His principal issue for the campaign is public health through strengthening communities so that communities support their members and make certain that no one falls through the social cracks.

His opponent for this district that includes part of Pittsburgh is a nurse, Cindy Kirk, an active volunteer with the scouts and with seniors, from advising a science center to volunteering in a kitchen.  Included in her goals are to keep taxes low, to “Restore our Freedoms,” to  “protect the unborn right to life” and to preserve 2ndamendment rights. Arvin Venkat has been an effective fund raiser.  Help him raise enough to win.

HD 82 (Tilt D)

Paul Takac has spent his career working in educational technology.  His district is just northeast of State College, PA, home of Penn State University.  He promises to ensure reproductive and healthcare rights, to advance equal rights, to fund education adequately and to protect the environment.  His opponent, Justin Behrens is a social worker who has worked with those with “extreme mental illness.”  He argues for a voucher system for public education and for a greater say for parents in the schools their children attend.  Paul Takac will put every dollar he receives to good use in this effort to make certain Pennsylvania’s  decisions about taxes, about support for local business, about reproductive health and guns are made by a Democratic legislature.

HD 33 (Toss Up)

Mandy Steele’s District 33 is Northwest of Pittsburgh.  Currently, she is a member of the Fox Chapel Borough Council.  A conservationist, she has been a leader in ridding the community of toxic substances – on her own and through the two non-profits that she founded.  She has been a member of the Democratic Committee and also mentors Engineering students from Carnegie Mellon.  Her principal goal as a legislator would be to ensure that Pennsylvania addresses climate change. Other goals including sensible gun safety laws, support for local police and women’s rights.  Her opponent is Ted Tomson.  His family owns Tomson Scrap Metal and a dirt car race track.  He argues that it is important that the area’s natural resources continue to be tapped and that first responders be supported. Mandy Steele would be an important voice for Pittsburgh. Help her get to Harrisburg.

HD 168 (Toss Up)

Lisa Borowski, a graduate of Radnor High School, just a few miles north and west of Philadelphia, has been very active in her community – on the school board, the Radnor Commission, the Shade Tree Commission, a library trustee, and more. It was the school board budget that really moved her. And she moved the board – to obtaining the resources they needed and developing the programs they needed, like full day kindergartens.  When she was elected to the town commission she was chosen to be President by a deadlocked majority Republican board.  She earned her bipartisan credentials in that role. Public education is still her abiding interest. She also favors common sense gun reform and protecting people’s right to make their own health care decisions.  Lisa Borowski is running against incumbent Chris Quinn.  He has a knack for finding terrible cases, (death from DUI, death of a foster family adoptee) and proposing law enforcement solutions.  Support Lisa Borowski.  She can make a long-term difference in Pennsylvania.

HD 118 (Tilt R)

This district is near Wilks-Barre, the part of Pennsylvania that Joe Biden loves.  Jim Haddock will not be a member of the squad if the Pennsylvania legislature has a squad.  He was the mayor of Avoca, proud of getting sound barriers installed along Route 81 and holding Kerr-McGee accountable for carcinogens that affected the health of people in the community.  He spent more 30 years in the banking and insurance industries and at least that many years in the community.  He promises to fight for properly funded public schools and reduced property taxes, jobs that pay a living wage and affordable, high quality health care.  He will not be attacked for taking away people’s guns.  He is a NRA member and President of the Valley Rod and Gun Club.

His opponent is James May.  A veteran and a “trusted conservative” who served as a chaplain during the Iraq war.  His second, third, and fourth issues are restoring election integrity, protecting the 2nd amendment from any restrictions, and supporting the “sanctity of life,” by opposing any “taxpayer funded abortions.”  His first priority? Protecting taxpayers from “out of control spending…”. Help Jim Haddock get elected.  Pennsylvania could use him. Pennsylvania Democrats could use him.

HD 151 (Lean R)

Melissa Cerrato is in a district north of Philadelphia and west of Trenton, NJ.  Her husband is a union steamfitter.  She has been part of the gig economy – nanny, uber driver, caregiver.  She happened upon politics. A friend was elected to a House seat and asked Melissa Cerrato to manage her office. She grew to understand how a legislator helps constituents and to appreciate the extent to which right wing members were proposing anti-women, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-human rights legislation. Her first priority is health care, including reproductive freedom, reasonable cost, and mental health and addiction treatment.

Her opponent is a six term incumbent Todd Stephens.  Stephens is a former prosecutor in the County DA’s office and the US Attorney’s office. His first issue is gun violence and has frequently proposed bills that would disqualify those with mental health problems from getting firearms. He has made access to mental health records more quickly available through Instacheck.  Let’s help Melissa Cerrato win this race.

The Democrats probably need to win the following eight seats to win the State Senate

 Senate District 18 (Tilt D)   

Senator Lisa Boscola’s office is in Bethlehem. The district nearly surrounds Allentown. This is Biden country.  Elected to the House in 1994, she is now serving her fifth term in the State Senate.  If she could, and she has tried, she would eliminate the property tax for the support of schools. She has been an advocate of eliminating gerrymandering and providing people with easy access to information about political candidates. And she has been an advocate of support for the local economy.  Her opponent is John Merhottein, a Bethlehem town commissioner whose slogan is that he is “one of us.” He is a businessman working in information technology and has focused on reducing the township’s debt while “controlling taxes.” Donate to keep Lisa Boscola as District 18’s State Senator.

Senate District 38 (Tilt D

Senator Lindsey Williams has offices in Pittsburgh and its suburbs.  Raised in a union household, she does not forget that her mother’s job was relocated to India.  She has been the Director of Advocacy for the National Whistleblower’s Association, a job from which she was fired after she sought to organize a union.  Before she was elected to the state senate in 2018, she had worked for the Teamsters and for the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.  As Minority Chair of the Education Committee, her legislative focus has been education funding. Her opponent is State Rep Lori Mizgorski.  A library trustee and member of an economic development non-profit, she served on her township board of commissioners and is proud that she never raised the property tax.  Her issues including job training for workers, making certain schools are safe, and healthcare (which she supports taking care not to say a word about abortion). Help reelect Lindsey Williams. 

Senate District 14 (Toss Up)        

Nick Miller has been a busy young man.  He founded businesses: Golden Lion International, Terra Drones LLC.  He has been elected to office. Elected to the Allentown School Board in 2019, he was one of the youngest to ever be elected to office in Allentown.  He is running for the State Senate ( having won the Democratic primary by about 40 votes). His three main priorities are education, the economy, and women’s rights. He would level up funding for Pennsylvania’s 100 poorest school districts.  Redoing infrastructure and fixing blighted properties will, he argues, revitalize communities and their business sections. He is clear about the importance of women’s right to choose whether or not to have a child.  One of Nick Miller’s advantages is the quality of his opponent.  You would think that Dean Browning was a pretty smart guy.  He went to Denison, gut an MS in Business from Georgia Tech.  For nearly 20 years, he was the CFO and Executive VP for New World Aviation.  Before that he was VP of Harvel Plastics.  Nevertheless, he made a terrible mistake which will not go away.  First he forgot to switch to his phony twitter account.  So using his own account, he tweeted “I’m a black gay guy and I can personally say that Obama did nothing for me …Everything is so much better under Trump….  Keep Dean Browning out of the Pennsylvania Senate.  Give money to Nick Miller for his campaign.

Senate District 06 (Likely Republican).     

Ann Marie Mitchell, with her BA from Wharton and JD from Penn, has been a business attorney for more than 25 years.  She touts her experience as a negotiator and her experience building consensus.  She also discusses her family history, a grandmother who cleaned hotels in New York City, a father who was a public high school science department chair and a mother who was a bookkeeper and the daughter of a union master electrician who eventually owned his own business.  Her first priority is to ensure that Pennsylvania support public schools that prepare all students for their lives ahead, accessible and affordable health care, and sufficient support for those with mental health needs, especially victims of the opioid epidemic.  Her opponent is Frank Farry, a state rep.  His legislative achievements have included designating cancer as an occupational disease for firefighter and establishing a program allowing anonymous reporting of unsafe or possible criminal activities.  Before his election to the legislature, he was an assistant town manager and a community services director.  Support Ann Marie Mitchell.  She brings a world of experience to the job.

Senate District 24 (Likely Republican).  

A graduate of Goucher, Jill Dennin followed her Naval Academy graduate husband to Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia.  He made a career working for Exelon Nuclear.  She /made a life volunteering for the St. Columbkill Church, for the boy schouts (they had four boys), for the PTO, for the local school board, and for the state school board association (on whose legislative advisory council she served). Of the many possible issues, especially education, only one gets its own button on her website – responding to the Dobbs decision. She would go to Harrisburg to make certain the government has no role in women’s medical choices.  Her opponent, one term State Rep Tracy Pennycuick, is a combat pilot veteran and business consultant. Does she have political views?  She believes in constituent service and would like to reduce local taxes.  And she believes it is important that Republican retain control of the Pennsylvania legislature.  Oppose that view. Help elect Jill Dennin and help Democrats control the Pennsylvania Senate.

Senate District 40 (Likely Republican) 

In the Poconos, Stroudsburg is north of Philadelphia and slightly closer to and west and north of New York on Route 80. Jennifer Shukaitis, whose grandmother was a Monroe County Commissioner, is Vice chair of the Stroud Township Board of Supervisor.  She has worked in the tourist industry and the medical industry, has been active in the local Democratic Party, and has a few goals in her quest to be the area’s state senator – expand voting rights, reform school taxes, ensure healthcare access.  Top of the healthcare list is ensuring reproductive healthcare rights. Fixing the school funding formula tops the school issues.  Free and fair elections (remember – Pennsylvania is one of the states where people sought to overturn the 2020 election) are, she says the foundation of democracy.  Her opponent is State Rep Rosemary Brown, formerly a management executive in retail and pharmaceuticals.  She demonstrates her commitment to reducing spending and rejecting what she calls Governor Tom Wolf’s “massive tax increases” by refusing to accept state paychecks or per diem payments.  Support Jennifer Shukaitis in effort to create a Democratic State Senate.

I urge you to support every one of these Democratic House and Senate candidates. As with Michigan and Arizona, there is a chance to have a Democratic Governor, House, and Senate that will make a difference in people’s lives and will help us with the likely storm associated with the 2024 Presidential election.

I used to tell people in my school district, there were no unimportant appointments or employees.  Now I have to say there are no unimportant elections. Help win these important elections.

Consider Every District

You can support Democrats through Every District as I suggested for Arizona.  It is more complicated for Pennsylvania.  Every District only endorses one Senate candidate – Ann Marie Mitchell (SD06).  However, they include Incumbent Katie Muth of SD 44 as an additional Lean D candidate to be considered.  They also endorse four House Candidates I did not include.  If you do not donate directly through Every District, take at look at Sara Hagerton for HD 88, Gwen Stoltz for HD 143, Brian Munroe for HD 144, and Cathy Spahr for HD 160.  I am grateful for every organization that is working for Democratic majorities in state legislatures and in Congress.

Check out Len’s Political Notes for Political Note #494 Michigan House of Representatives and Political Note #493 Michigan State Senate.  And for Political Note #502 the Arizona Legislature.

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