Riding ‘a blue wave’
Democrats upbeat at annual county dinner
By WENDY STIVER
LOCK HAVEN — An outburst of applause greeted Mike Hanna Jr.’s firm statement, “No budget, no pay.”
The candidate for his father’s seat in the state House of Representatives said the Pennsylvania Legislature has only one bill that must be passed, and that is the budget bill. If a budget isn’t passed in a timely manner, legislators should not be paid, he said. And not only that, he said, if no budget is agreed upon within 90 days after the deadline, “the leaders on both sides of the aisles need to step down and let others step up.”
Hanna was one of the candidates who spoke at the annual Clinton County Democratic dinner Thursday evening at the Moose Family Center.
In the upbeat, convivial atmosphere of the dinner, county party chair Joe Waltz announced Rose Reeder will be his replacement. Reeder has been county coordinator for Fair Districts PA, fighting against gerrymandering of legislative districts. She will resign that position to become party chair, a step that will declare her to be a proud Democrat, after she has striven to be a nonpartisan voice for Fair Districts.
Wearing red, Reeder did not call for a “blue wave” but rather a “blue tsunami” in the fall election, with Democrats sweeping to victory.
“This election is going to be amazing!” she said.
Waltz received a handsome desk clock from the party, and he and his wife Stephanie were given a large houseplant for their new home.
“I made a lot of friends statewide, as well as locally, and I hope I can count everyone in this room as a close friend,” he said.
Waltz also thanked his wife. “She truthfully was more of a county chair than I was,” he said.
He will step down as chair and Reeder will take the helm on May 15, the day of the Primary Election.
Among his last official acts, Waltz presented the Democrats of the Year awards at the dinner.
One award went to party vice chair Kim Coleman, a woman Waltz called a self-described behind-the-scenes worker who walked him through his first year as party chair and has continued to help him with gentle reminders, he said. She has put out mailings, she creating the printed program for the dinner, and she even organized the plentiful desserts for the event.
LaKeshia Knarr received the second award. Waltz praised her intelligence, talent and hard work and said she has created a newsletter that is the envy of all the county Democratic chairs in the commonwealth.
Waltz also called for applause for Lock Haven University students Katie Merritt of State College, a senior, and Melanie Tunaitis of Benton, a junior, who were instrumental in forming the LHU College Democrats student group in the fall of 2016.
Candidates speaking at the dinner included Judy Herschel and Marc Friedenberg, both running for the U.S. House seat in the new 12th District.
Herschel, who is from Susquehanna County, called herself a career mother, the wife of a self-employed electrician, and a certified drug and alcohol counselor.
She has visited all the counties, three or four times, she said, in the original Congressional district she started running in, meeting lots of people and discovering that no matter what political affiliation they had, most had four priorities: good-paying jobs; quality, affordable health care; good public education; and solutions to the opioid crisis.
She stressed the importance of public education and said, “Every child in the country deserves the right to succeed.”
The region needs help in the face of high numbers of opioid deaths, as well as better roads, improved broadband and cell phone infrastructure, higher incomes and new sources of jobs, she said.
She called the incumbent, Tom Marino, R-Williamsport, an enabler of the current administration whose legislation took rights away from individuals with disabilities and “flooded the streets with opioid pills.”
“Everyday people just like myself are running for public office like never before,” she said, “so we can start working on the things that matter to us.”
Friedenberg, who has a wife and two young daughters, showed a copy of a favorite bedtime story at his house, “I am Abraham Lincoln” by Brad Meltzer, a children’s book in the Ordinary People Change the World series.
Ordinary people are moved to make changes, to fix the injustices perpetrated by people in power, he said. He criticized U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson for “kicking friends and neighbors off health insurance, which is really a death sentence.” He also spoke about the need for jobs, high-speed internet, shoring up Social Security, and public education.
“I’m here to restore government for working people, not Wall Street, Big Pharma or the NRA,” he said.
Kimberley Yarnell Bierly, legislative aide for U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. and a Lock Haven native, brought encouragement from the senator to “keep up the pace” for the 2018 elections.
Dianne Gregg spoke for Nina Ahmad, former deputy mayor for public engagement in Philadelphia who started a bid for Congress but lost her district when new lines were drawn. She immigrated to the United States at 21, has a Ph.D. in chemistry, and is a successful civic leader. Just eight weeks before the primary, she cast her hat into the ring for lieutenant governor.
State Rep. Michael B. Carroll, chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, spoke on behalf of Gov. Tom Wolf who is running for re-election this year. The governor has restored $1 billion for education in public schools, expanded health care, expanded the CHIP insurance program, made a start toward solving the opioid epidemic, and plans to reform the system of legislators accepting gifts from lobbyists, Carroll said.
He characterized Wolf as “a different type of governor” who is effective, thoughtful, and has the ability to get things done. He said the governor shares these characteristics with state Rep. Mike Hanna Sr., D-Lock Haven, who is retiring as a legislator and supporting his son’s campaign for his seat.
When Hanna Jr. stepped to the podium, he reminded the large crowd that he grew up in Lock Haven, played basketball with Waltz as his coach, had his first jobs at LHU and on the night shift at First Quality in McElhattan, and continues to enjoy hunting and fishing.
He said he wants to make sure government “doesn’t get in the way of jobs, a good public education, and our fair share for Clinton and Centre counties.”
A public servant for close to a decade, he has worked in both the legislative and executive branches of government.
He is expected to face Republican candidate Stephanie Borowicz, wife, mother and volunteer, in November.
“I’m the only candidate who has the experience to make sure we have our fair share over the big cities,” Hanna said.
He supports fair districts and wants to make banning gifts from lobbyists a priority, he said.
A fundraiser for his campaign is planned for May 5 at the local Sons of Italy Hall.
Hanna Sr. said, “I’ll be around, and as long as my son lets me, I’ll help him get some things done.”
He also assured Reeder that in retirement, he will help “work that wave” and will be out getting voters registered.
“We really are the party of working families,” he said. “We need to get the word out.”