Candidates seek local vote at county Democratic Party dinner

The race for the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Cogan Station, was among the campaigns to bring candidates to downtown Williamsport Saturday night for the Lycoming County Democratic Party dinner.

Judith Herschel and Marc Friedenberg asked county residents for their votes to represent the region in Washington, D.C., speaking about their qualifications and agendas.

“I made a promise to myself that I would be the candidate I would want to vote for,” Herschel said.

She said she has learned a No. 1 lesson from campaigning: “We’re united. We all want good paying jobs.”

She continued to list good schools in voters’ communities, affordable health care and a solution to the opioid crisis.

She said she and the Democrats want to pursue infrastructure investment and more affordable higher education and stand up against gun violence and for veterans and middle-class and working-class families.

“Health care remains too unaffordable,” she said. “Social Security is not an entitlement.”

She also contrasted herself to the incumbent. Marino, she said, “is an enabler of the current administration.”

She said she would represent the communities in the district instead.

Friedenberg said he prioritizes education, infrastructure, freedom of speech and the press and an independent judiciary, and that on these issues the country is heading in the wrong direction. He noted that supporting a “Medicaid for all” system and rural broadband investment, raising the minimum wage, funding for education including specifically teacher pay and the environment as major goals. He said Pennsylvania, in its history, had been a leader in coal, oil and natural gas as energy sources.

“We can be a leader in the fourth — renewable energy,” he said.

He said he won’t take money from the National Rifle Association or Wall Street and won’t act on legislation without reading it.

“We won’t hide from the hard questions,” Friedenberg said.

He cited his experience as an educator and as an attorney challenging banking abuses in the wake of the 2008 recession.

The dinner also featured candidates for the nominations to run against incumbent state legislators — Airneezer Page, running against state Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township, and Linda Sosniak, running against state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy.

Page, a member of the South Williamsport Area School Board, credited a sense of public service that led to both her military service and career in a local hospital.

“At 18 years old, I joined the military because I believe the United States is the best country,” Page said. “I believe in justice, everyone has the right to work … has the right to a decent life.”

Sosniak, a Picture Rocks borough councilwoman, called for more state funding for education, noting about a third of funding for Pennsylvania schools comes the state rather than local funding while other states on average see more than 45 percent of schools funded by state appropriations.

She added jobs and business growth as other issues she cares about and said Pennsylvania needs to bring family-sustaining, environmentally sustainable jobs to the state. She described herself as “pro-union,” adding labor unions deserve “their rightful place” in the state’s economy.

She said her career in the United States Postal Service, which included working with federal legislators, qualified her for the seat and that Everett was “lock-step” with his party’s leadership while she would offer independent-minded representation for the state House district.

“I am ready for Harrisburg,” Sosniak said.

While Page and Sosniak are running for their respective nominations unopposed, Democrats voting in the May primary election will have another competitive race on the ballot — lieutenant governor. Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone said there are three reasons she’s running.

Cozzone said her service as vice chairwoman of the county commissioners demonstrates her ability to work across the aisle, and Harrisburg needs someone to speak out about the state legislature’s cuts to funding county-delivered services.

“It’s time for local government to have a voice,” Cozzone said.

She also said her background positioned her to shine a light on the more neglected concerns of Pennsylvania, such as workforce development and initiatives she has been involved in to lower the number of non-violent, mentally ill people in prisons and review and improve pipeline safety.

Dianne Gregg represented Nina Ahmad’s campaign for the nomination for lieutenant governor, and in acknowledging Pennsylvania method for selecting a lieutenant governor — voting in primaries for candidates for governor and lieutenant governor separately then on tickets together in November — is “crazy,” said voters should consider who helps Gov. Tom Wolf’s chances of re-election. She pointed to Ahmad’s experience as Philadelphia’s deputy mayor for public engagement and Ahmad’s background as a scientist and entrepreneur.

“She’s proven she can create jobs herself,” Gregg said.

Nancy Mills, vice chairwoman of the Pennsylvania state Democratic Party, said the party has “the opportunity of a life-time.”

She praised the records of Wolf and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, particularly on jobs and health care.

“They have the same values we have,” Mills said.

She held up the success of Conner Lamb in a special election in March for a U.S. House seat and of Democrats in Allegheny County in many races to a willingness to meet their neighbors and make the case to all of them, including Republican and independent voters. She said this factor and one other contribute to the optimism about Democrats’ chances in November: President Donald Trump’s record.