Clinton Democrats look to the future
So said many of the speakers at the Clinton County Democratic Party’s annual dinner Thursday at the Moose Family Center.
Dan and Rose Reeder of Swissdale, two local residents who have stood up for what they believe for many years, were honored as the 2017 Democrats of the Year.
Their help has been “invaluable,” said Joe Waltz, local party chair. There have been times they lived at the party’s headquarters, contributing food, stuffing envelopes, and volunteering in general. They have participated in marches and have written many letters to the editor on political issues.
State Rep. Michael K. Hanna Sr., D-Lock Haven, lauded the Reeders for working their posts from sun-up to long past sundown on election days, and remembered that they were both active in his first campaign 27 years ago.
Rose was unable to attend the dinner due to recent shoulder surgery, but Dan made his way to the front of the room to accept the award. He also received a hearty round of applause from the close to 200 people present.
He said later that he and his wife have more than 50 nieces and nephews between them — they even have three great-great-great-nephews.
“We just want to leave a better world for them,” he said. “It’s not a free ride — you have to work to make it better. This is the way we choose to do it. We think it’s the most effective way.”
Toni Tomasi was also honored for her many years of service. She is party secretary and is a former Democrat of the Year. She said she plans to move in a month or so to Buffalo, N.Y. to be closer to family. Lianne Russell, president of the Clinton County Democratic Women, presented her with a plaque saying, “We thank you for a lifetime.”
Waltz called the names of all the Democrats currently serving in local office, asking them to stand for applause.
He also recognized Richard Morris who is running for city council, Bill Mincer who is running for Keystone Central School Board, and Karen Elias who is a candidate for judge of elections.
Waltz pointed to what he called the Republican strategy of focusing on all the “down ballot” races. That party celebrated major successes last year, he said, and Donald Trump winning the presidency was just icing on the cake.
“We have to step up, we have to get people registered, we have to see they get to the polls,” he said.
Last year’s election woke some people up, said Katie Blume, deputy political director for the Pennsylvania Democrats. It made it clear that Pennsylvania is more than just its east and its west, she said. There are more than 18,000 precincts in Pennsylvania, and the Democratic party wants to see all spots in every precinct filled with candidates.
“Every single vote matters, every single race matters,” she said. “This is not an off year, it’s an opportunity year.”
Local candidates took the microphone, starting with Zach Hanna, who is running unopposed for re-election as county coroner.
He said he worked for about a decade for the former coroner, Donald “Woozy” Walker who held the office for 20 years. Hanna said he has continued many of Walker’s practices but also reviews how things are done and recently installed new software for further efficiency.
Hanna also said he seeks opportunities to talk to legislators and law enforcement about the heroin epidemic. He stressed the importance of the issue and the importance of educating youth about it.
Waltz then introduced Magisterial District Judge Joseph “Satch” Sanders, who is among two candidates listed on the Democratic ballot in the May primary for his seat. Sanders is the only one who is a registered Democrat, Waltz said.
Sanders had fun passing around an old clipping from The Express community newspaper, showing Sara Budinger as a very young “Sesqui-Belle” during Clinton County’s 150th anniversary celebration. That girl grew up to become his secretary, he said. That clipping is a photo of her and a young Michael K. Hanna Jr., who was also at the dinner, in their sesquicentennial attire. The two local children posed for the photo with Judge Thomas Raup in Williamsport, who donned a judicial wig for the occasion.
Sanders said his own career of public service began at a young age. He talked about hosing flood mud off the streets with a fire hose in 1972 when he was 10, fighting forest fires across the state in 1976, joining Citizen’s Hose Co. where he has been a member for 37 years, working as a police officer from 1987 to 1992, working for Keystone Central School District from 1996 to 2000, and serving as a magisterial district judge for 17 and a half years.
Although he has had a struggle with his health for the past two and a half years, he said, he still wants to serve.
“I’ve worked for you all my life and I’m asking you for your support,” he said.
He also harked back to a fateful morning in 1967 when he, at age 5, answered the phone at 7:15 a.m. That phone call was for his father, Officer Joseph Sanders, to go to work. Sanders said his father became the police officer who stopped Leo Held, a man who went on a shooting rampage that day.
“I want to say thank you to my father who has provided me the qualities I try to exhibit. He taught me as a police officer… as a son,” Sanders said.
He asked his father to stand, and the crowd responded with applause.
Michelle Crowell, a Clinton County auditor, is running for county treasurer. She pledged to work more closely with the county commissioners office should she win the seat, and to make budget sessions and similar meetings a top priority.
A native of Lock Haven, she is the mother of a 10-year-old daughter, and she and her husband are currently renovating a building in the downtown. She is also an active member of Holy Spirit Parish and assistant treasurer for the Millbrook Playhouse Board of Directors.
Being an elected official is more than showing up for work, she said. It is also attending community events and knowing what is happening in the community.
Judge Maria McLaughlin of Philadelphia, a candidate for Pennsylvania Superior Court, said Clinton is the 37th county she has visited in this campaign, and she planned to visit nine counties just this weekend.
“There is no one who knows better that elections are won and lost by more than Pittsburgh and Philadelphia,” she said.
A prosecutor for 19 years, she was one of the youngest female chief assistant district attorneys appointed by the D.A. Before that, she served as a clerk at Superior Court where she now hopes to be elected as judge.
She is currently only one of three judges in Philadelphia to sit over both family law and criminal law, she said. Her decisions have only been appealed five times and she has never had a decision overturned. She is the only candidate in this race who can say that, she told the dinner crowd.
“We really can change this court to a Democratic court this year,” she said. “I know how much you count. That’s why I am here.”
Kate Martucci spoke on behalf of Carolyn Nichols, also a Philadelphia judge running for Superior Court. She urged voters to make an educated decision and vote for a candidate with experience like Nichols has, which includes about six years on the Court of Common Pleas presiding over 30 to 40 jury trials a year.
Forrest Bennett spoke for Todd Eagan, an attorney running for Commonwealth Court. That particular court has nine seats and seven of them are held by Republicans, Bennett said.
Eagan is the grandson of former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael J. Eagan. He has represented unions including the Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers.
He also is the only candidate endorsed by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, and he is recommended by the State Bar Association.
Rep. Hanna read a letter from Gov. Tom Wolf that echoed the sentiments expressed by the other speakers — that although these may be tough times for the party, that is no reason to give up. The governor pledged to continue to protect and defend the values his fellow Democrats hold dear, and to continue fighting for education, senior citizens, solutions to the heroin epidemic, and jobs.
Hanna reminded the gathering that First Quality Tissue’s expansion will be a boon to the area, and the new access road to the plant, which the governor has supported, will keep truck traffic moving while keeping it out of the downtown.
He also thanked the audience for their help in the past election.
“It’s because of you I’m standing here,” he said. “Without you, I couldn’t go back to Harrisburg and fight for us.”
The Republicans started decades ago looking at every race as very important, and that attitude has taken them far, he said. But in 2015, Pennsylvania Democrats delivered a clean sweep and took the Supreme Court, he reminded his listeners. Renewed efforts now could mean a future victory for the Democratic party.
The dinner featured turkey and stuffed shells with tomato sauce, and the evening included door prizes and a silent auction. Information was shared about a local bus trip to and from the Climate March in Washington, D.C. on April 29. Those interested should call Joan Heller at 570-726-0029.