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Two Democratic 76th District candidates face off in Tuesday’s Primary

DENISE MARIS

LOCK HAVEN — Two Democratic candidates will face off during Tuesday’s Primary election to see who will be on the November ballot.

Denise Maris and Elijah Probst are each vying for a chance to go up against incumbant 76th District State Representative Stephanie Borowicz (R-Clinton/Union) who is running unopposed during this Primary.

The 76th District — which previously encompassed Clinton and a portion of Centre County — has since shifted to now include Clinton and a portion of Union County.

The Express asked Maris and Probst a set of questions leading up to the Primary. These are their responses:

1. What do you believe is the biggest issue facing 76th District residents? What steps would you take to fix this issue if elected?

Probst: “For the average individual in the district currently, the biggest issue they face is the economy and rising cost of living. I’ve considered (Josh) Shapiro’s plan to put a temporary halt on the gas tax, which would save everyone money and reduce the pain we are all feeling at the pump. I also have larger plans for the legalization of marijuana, which is already a multi-billion dollar industry in many surrounding states and would also grow to be a massive source of new jobs and businesses in PA. This would both introduce potentially hundreds of millions in tax revenue and also save tax dollars by lowering the operating cost of state prisons. I hope to support subsidies for local small businesses to allow competition with larger companies. My pledge to donate half of my $90,000 salary to struggling local businesses is also one way I plan to contribute to the local economy directly. This would be a great boon to many local businesses and organizations, and I don’t think it’s fair for a State Representative to make so much in the first place when so many people struggle locally. I am the only one to have taken this pledge. To not consider the economy a primary issue as a candidate is irresponsible.”

Maris: “There are many issues that need to be addressed in the 76th District. The area that I think will have the biggest impact on everyone is improved funding for our educational system. Currently, there are millions of dollars allocated for schools that have not been utilized. As a representative, I would work to ensure that those allocated funds were directed to the school districts in the 76th District. Having access to a quality public education, and affordable higher education empowers our students to compete on a global scale. I would also work to further develop relationships between our local students and local industry to benefit both, and encourage our young people to stay, live, work, and raise their families here. With a well educated and prepared work force, everyone living in the 76th District would benefit.”

2. What are the main points of interest you’ve focused on during your campaign? Why?

Probst: “I’ve put a heavy emphasis on direct outreach to the people of the district, and I’ve managed to visit thousands of them leading up to the Primary. I’ve been able to explain my common sense policies to a large number of constituents and get my message out across the district. My plans to bolster the local economy, which I touched on earlier, will support local communities and help people without letting party or politics get in the way of what’s best for people. I also explain my stance on personal liberties and let people know that I will fight for their rights and freedoms, like the 2nd Amendment for example. I’ve also been making it clear that the district deserves quality representation so we aren’t forced to take anymore bad deals, like the LHU integration that cost the school over $40 million in savings and has caused the enrollment and student population to sharply decline. This will have lasting negative consequences on the local economy for years to come. These are all very realistic and common sense stances, and almost everyone I talk to agrees that these are important subjects they want their State Representative to focus on, which further shows that I am in touch with and understand the needs of the people.”

Maris: “Another one of the top priorities as a representative in a rural district is infrastructure, specifically broadband access. During the pandemic, our children were required to attend school via Zoom and other video conferencing apps. There were children who were not able to participate due to lack of internet access. Some children were forced to access Wi-fi at places like McDonald’s or Dunkin Donuts just to be able to receive assignments. Of course, this difficulty extended to parents who were struggling to find ways to work from home while teaching their children. In the 21st century, we should have the broadband infrastructure necessary to perform basic tasks.”

3. For those who may not know much about you, explain in your own words why they should vote for you?

Probst: “During my outreach, I have received an incredible amount of support from voters of all sides and beliefs. As well as Democrats, many Independents and Republicans have also shown their support for my common sense policies, and this unilateral approval from the people makes me the most electable in the general. I am focusing on issues that really matter, and presenting steps to solve them. It’s important to have plans and steps to work towards to actually solve the issues facing our areas. My common sense, moderate approach is the best way to solve these issues, and makes me popular with Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. If I win in the Primary, I am the candidate to flip the district blue. We win by focusing on the issues that matter to everyone and that we can actually realistically change for the better.”

Maris: “My 15 years of experience as a paralegal give me the tools necessary to understand complex legal documents, including bills which will be presented to me for consideration. Applying my understanding of the legal framework required in writing bills, makes me the most qualified candidate. From speaking with voters in Clinton County, there has been a lack of constituent services for people who did not vote for the current incumbent. When voters try to call and discuss any concerns, the incumbent is unavailable or flat out will not take an appointment with them. I will always meet and talk with anyone who has a concern or problem. If they have a problem, then we have a problem. With my education and current position as a Human Resources manager in a long-term care facility, I have helped many employees dig in and understand difficult medical bills and coverage concerns. I know firsthand what it is like to have to make decisions about healthcare and whether I can afford the deductible for treatment. These are the concerns that keep voters up at night and I can help them find answers and solutions for them. I bring the passion and commitment to service that the role of State Representative requires.”

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