Haverford Township Democratic Party meeting, Jan. 14, 2020
Each candidate was given FOUR minutes to speak.
Each answered a couple of questions from the audience.
Jen Leith shared a story about her first job after college with the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, detailing one family’s path to near-homelessness when the father sustained an injury, lost his job, and nearly lost the family’s home. Leith drew on this experience to highlight her persistence in advocating for this family in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., to show that squeaky wheels do get greased (the family did not lose its home) and to demonstrate that by putting the spotlight on specific instances of social justice, legislation and public programs can be enacted to better serve families and social justice. Leith named her top legislative priorities as expanded funding for PA. schools to achieve statewide educational equity, creating greater economic opportunity in the state and developing programs to encourage families’ financial resiliency, and reforming our politics by establishing term limits for legislators. Leith argued that her career in social justice has taught her that this work is a marathon relay, not a sprint. Individuals must “show up, take action, hold the marathon baton for a time, and then hand it off.” She is running because she believes that it is time to pass the baton to a new State Assembly representative.
Greg Vitali emphasized his 27 years of experience in the State Assembly and his record of victories in the district, starting in 1992 when Democrats made up just 22% of the district’s electorate. Vitali voiced his support for reproductive choice in general and Planned Parenthood in particular, as well as his support for equitable funding of “brick and mortar public schools” rather than using tax money for vouchers to charter schools. He also noted his endorsement by CeaseFire, a group advocating for legislation to stop gun violence. The bulk of his comments, however, were focused on his long experience in advocating for environmental protections and against the coal and natural gas lobbies. Arguing that “you can’t replace my experience” in knowing how to “spot bad [environmental] bills” and “who to talk to” to alter environmental legislation, Vitali said that the new Democratic legislators who entered the assembly in 2018 “get climate change” and look to him for guidance on how to act on certain bills. When asked about how many pieces of legislation he has proposed and passed in his seven terms in office, Vitali pointed to his 2007 work on behalf of then-Governor Ed Rendell’s “energy independence plan” as “the best thing I’ve done” in Harrisburg.