Friday, January 11, 2008

3 Female candidates running in PA


Exciting news, several of my 2007 Center for Progressive Leadership Fellows are running for office! Please note, I’m only listing the ones who’ve officially declared they’re running. If you know people in these women's districts, please share this information with them.

1. Cindy Purvis is running for State Senate - 49th District

District includes: the CITY of Erie and the TOWNSHIPS of Conneaut, Elk Creek, Fairview, Franklin, Girard, Greene, Harborcreek, Lawrence Park, McKean, Millcreek, Springfield, Summit and Washington and the BOROUGHS of Albion, Cranesville, Edinboro, Girard,Lake City, McKean, Platea and Wesleyville.

Cindy’s campaign Kick Off is: Sunday, January 20 12:00-2:00 Erie Dance Conservatory 8335 Edinboro Road (3 miles south of Millcreek Mall)

2. Joanne Tosti-Vasey is running for State House – 171st District

District includes: Centre County, the Townships of College, Gregg, Harris, Penn, Potter, Spring, and Walker, and the Boroughs of Bellefonte, Centre Hall, Millheim, and State College [part - Districts East (part, Divisions 01, 02, and 04), East Central (part, Division 01), Northwest, and West Central (part, Division 01)], and part of Mifflin County consisting of the Townships of Armagh and Brown.

Joanne’s campaign website:

3. Not one of my CPL Fellows, but a bright, progressive female candidate:

Kathy Dahlkemper is running for U.S. Congress in PA’s 3rd District – the incumbent is Phil English.

This district is includes all of Erie County and parts of Armstrong, Butler, Crawford, Mercer, Venango and Warren counties.

Kathy’s campaign website:


  1. Anne Dicker is running in the Pennsylvania 1st State Senate District against indicted incumbent Vincent J. Fumo. She, too, is a 2007 CPL fellow.

    Here's her website:

  2. Thanks for the info. I can't believe you guys haven't posted on Lisa Bennington yet, unless I missed it?

  3. Anon., thanks for the reminder about Anne Dicker's campaign in Philly.

    Bram, not sure what commentary you were expecting re Bennington. All I know is what I read in the papers. Brenda Frazier's the only female candidate I've heard of that's considering running for that seat.

    Apropos of nothing/something, my 2 cents:

    Holding elected office is appealing to a minute percentage of the population. Holding local office, in particular, is like being a celebrity, without the perks.

    Should you take a chance & run to the drugstore in the crummy sweatsuit you wore to paint your garage, you'll be cornered by three constituents in the Foot Care section of the Pain Relief aisle, as you're comparing prices on bunion pads. Each constituent will individually lobby/harangue you on a their particular issue and your 5 minute dash to the drug store will have taken 45 minutes.

    Regardless of how many weeks there are in Lent, all 9 churches in your district will pick the same Friday to hold their Family Fish Fry Sail-a-bration & each church will expect you to not only attend their Fish Fry - but to also eat a sandwich.

    This rule also applies to Spaghetti Dinners and Pancake Breakfasts held by the Rotary, Kiwanis, community activist orgs, ethnic heritage/history societies, etc.

    Although you will pay for 9 fish sandwiches, you will barely take a bite out of even one of them b/c, at each event, 5 constituents will lobby/harangue/complain to you while you try to eat. One or two more will ask you for a job. You will get tartar sauce or pasta sauce or syrup on the only suit jacket not at the cleaner's.

    Consider that a state rep must drive to Harrisburg once a week, every week. And once they arrive their reward is having to deal with legislators from across the state (shudder).

    It's a human pastime to bitch about politicians, I get that. However many really are in it to do good. The challenges they face are myriad, it's worth thinking about that once in awhile.

  4. I obviously can't speak for Bram, Gloria, but I know that some of us are interested in the Blogging Society's take on Bennington's decision not to run again. It raises a ton of questions for women and everyone else.

    If I recall correctly, Run Baby Run touted Bennington to no small extent because her opponent a) was a man, and b) voted in favor of the pay raise. (As Elsie Hillman put it in a RBR release, "Can you imagine the difference in the culture of Harrisburg if half of our legislators were female? It is time to change realities like ... the pay raise.")

    I'm not suggesting those are bad reasons for casting a vote. But as you no doubt recall, Bennington's opponent was Frank Pistella, who was actually a reliably progressive vote on issues like abortion and gay rights. Now that Bennington has decided to step down, we face the very real possibility that she will be replaced with yet another male ... and one who is less reform-minded and less friendly to women than Pistella ever was.

    Chris Briem has made this argument very cogently over at Null Space, and I won't belabor it here. I would, however, be interested in your take -- and that of other society members -- on some questions that arise from it.

    1) Bennington ran on a campaign of reform. Since serious reform often requires sustained effort over many years, has she let down those who supported her by bailing out after a single term? Your remarks about fish fries suggest that some of us -- potential office-seekers included -- may underestimate the challenges of holding office. Is that true? If so, how should we change the way we engage in politics, or our opinion of those politicians we love to bitch about?

    2) Run Baby Run's efforts have been directed at PUTTING women in office. Is there a way to expand the organization's efforts so that it finds a way to help KEEP them there once elected? Fish fries aren't going anywhere, and the legislature seems likely to be male-dominated for the foreseeable future. Is there anything RBR or other groups can do to support female candidates who have to contend with that?

    3) If Bennington is replaced by, say, Leonard Bodack, would that necessarily mean it was a mistake to turn away from Pistella in the first place?

    4) Could, and should, RBR put a premium on running women against reactionary males -- as opposed to more enlightened incumbents like Pistella? Similarly, in the future, should Run Baby Run establish a "litmus test" criteria for supporting candidates OTHER than gender? (I ask because in 2006, RBR also supported an anti-choice candidate, Eileen Watt, against Democrat Frank Dermody, who is pro-choice.) Or should female candidates be supported no matter where they run, and no matter what their politics? I believe the latter is RBR's position at present. Can that policy be changed? should it?

    5) More generally, when faced with the choices we had in those two 2006 races, where should progressives put their emphasis? On the established track records of pro-choice males, or on our hopes that more inclusivity is a good thing in itself -- even if it means backing candidates we disagree with, or who are simply less know quantities? If we choose the male in the race, we risk perpetuating politics as usual, and leaving the guys calling the shots. If we choose the latter, we risk a kind of identity-politics tokenism.

    I don't profess to have answers to any of these questions. But maybe like Bram, I'm a bit surprised that Bennington's announcement hasn't prompted more discussion here.

    -- potter

  5. Chris,

    Thank you for the wonderful questions.

    I often think about these issues & sometimes feel I have a good answer, that feeling usually doesn't last for long.

    On a private listserv I posed the question:

    What does 'representative' mean as it relates to an elected representative?

    I don't know if< (other than voting records), any measures/gauges exist by which we can determine if we're being well represented. I'd like to know what criteria people use.

    I'll post my listserv comments here & post your questions separately, in the hopes of a broader discussion.

  6. Wow, Potter and I are in agreement. Only in the nurturing embrace of this benevolent society could such a thing have been possible.

    Gloria, it's an interesting line of inquiry. I think you may be sort of Dowd-izing the question, as it were, but we can move forward in that legislative district.

  7. Bram,

    I don't know what Dowd-izing means, but I'd love to find out...


    Thanks for pointing me towards Chris Briem's comments on his blog, I wasn't aware that he'd written on the Bennington issue.