Pictured: Joe Billotte, Candidate for PA House of Representatives, 63rd District (left) and Kerith Strano Taylor, Candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, 5th Congressional District (right).
With Election Day just around the corner, local Democratic leaders are making their case as to why they deserve voters’ consideration on Nov. 8.
According to Bill Miller, Chairman of the Clarion County Democratic Party, the upcoming election is perhaps the most significant in a lifetime.
“It is very, very important,” he said. “First of all, it’s an opportunity for people of a progressive nature to elect somebody that’s going to move our country forward. On a national level, we have been held back by the House, the Senate, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s commitment to stop President Obama’s progress at any cost. We can do so much better.”
Joe Billotte, a Clarion businessman, is a Democratic candidate for State Representative for the 63rd Pennsylvania House District. He believes that Harrisburg’s approval rating of 19 percent shows that incumbent lawmakers are vested only in themselves. “The gridlock and lack of compromise have been evident in the extremes of partisanship,” he said. “We need to start looking at the difficult problems and create real solutions, not the same gimmicks that got us where we now are. The time has come to bring change to Harrisburg and tell them you are tired of the status quo.”
Kerith Strano Taylor, a Brookville attorney and Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Pennsylvania's 5th Congressional District, agrees. She says the fact that both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders won the 5th District in local primaries last spring proves that a majority of voters do not believe Congress is serving the people who elected them.
“This fall, we have a chance to replace Glenn Thompson,” she said. “When I ran in 2014, no one knew who I was. But they do now. And I’ve been pretty consistent about talking about what I’m going to bring, which is not being beholden to money, and actually serving the 5th Congressional District.”
The status quo isn’t good enough anymore!
According to Miller, in the 63rd District race, this election marks the first time in many cycles that current representative Donna Oberlander, a Republican, must respond to questions related to her voting record. “I am sorry to report that it is not Clarion-friendly,” he said. “A close analysis shows that Oberlander has voted just the way her party leaders in Harrisburg wanted her to vote every time. It didn’t matter that Clarion school districts would be affected negatively, or that local township governments would be hurt. It didn’t matter that the budgets she voted for damaged local communities. Oberlander and her fellow Republicans in Jefferson and Venango counties toe the line in Harrisburg instead of voting for what will help their constituents at home.”
Billotte says he is most committed to serving the people who live and work in the 63rd District. “This commitment has led me to a different kind of fight, a fight which helps people regain respect for government,” he said. “My agenda is to bring honesty in creating a fiscal budget, require accountability for government officials, reduce the size of the legislature, create term limits, and advocate for changing the term of a legislator from two years to four years. While working on this heavy agenda, I will always remember to put the needs of the district first, before any political party or special interest.”
According to Strano Taylor, Thompson, a Republican, is a “status quo” candidate. “What Thompson is doing is not good enough,” she said. “And this isn’t a mild difference of opinion. Most of the people in the 5th District are not wealthy benefactors. We don’t have all the money in the world to buy policy. We are hard-working people that are trying to get by. A lot of us are living on minimum wage and struggling to do so. I would like a shot at this job, because I know I can do it better.”
Miller says that Billotte and Strano Taylor will truly represent local citizens and institutions when they go to Harrisburg and Washington D.C. “I personally know these folks well,” he said. “I cannot fathom them voting the party line rather than the Clarion line. I’m not saying that the Republicans are dishonest or evil. I would just like a representative that is responsive to the needs of our area. So far, we have not gotten that.
“Mr. Thompson and Ms. Oberlander do not own their respective positions,” Miller continued. “They should have to earn them every two years. It’s up to the evaluation process of the voters to see that they are doing their job.”
Voters don’t have to pull the lever for a “straight-party” ticket!
Miller noted that when voters walk into the voting booth, no one — no other Republican leaders or even one’s spouse – can control how they vote. It is simply a matter of one’s own conscience.
Billotte says he is the candidate who will go to Harrisburg and not follow straight party lines. He says he’ll be looking for issues that will affect the 63rd District and get behind the person that offers legislation to make the district prosper. “It doesn’t matter to me what party they are from as long as they’ll help us to make the 63rd a better community,” he said. “I’m one of the only candidates out there at any level who has not been partisan. You need to vote your conscience, for who you think is the best candidate for the people.”
According to Strano Taylor, if you think the system is broken, then you have to get rid of the people who broke it. “I didn’t break it. However, Glenn Thompson certainly has helped break it. Even if you’re voting for Trump at the top of the ticket, you can vote non-incumbent down the line on the other side. If you really want the system to be fixed, this is exactly what you should do. And where we live, non-incumbent is the way to go.”
Miller says the Clarion County Democratic Party is proud of the fact that in last fall’s elections, Democrats swept judicial and gubernatorial elections at the state level. “And we are poised to do the same thing this election cycle with Katie McGinty for U.S. Senate, Josh Shapiro for Pennsylvania Attorney General, Eugene DePasquale for Pennsylvania Auditor General, and Joe Torsella for Pennsylvania State Treasurer,” he said. “We realize that we will not carry large segments of Clarion County, but our contribution is meaningful in a statewide election.”
How about some real change?
According to Miller, many Republicans have rightfully complained about the Affordable Care Act and its many complications. However, not one Republican in Congress ever lifted a finger or a vote to correct the deficiencies of the program. Miller says it never happened because Republicans in Congress wanted to deny President Obama any possible successes.
“And guess who suffers? You do -- the American people. Here is the humorous part: the electorate says they want change. OK -- let’s have change. Let’s change the Congress and the Senate. Let’s elect Joe Billotte to the State House. Let’s elect Kerith Strano Taylor to the U.S. Congress, and let’s elect Katie McGinty to the U.S. Senate.”