NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> Former State Representative Steve Santarsiero is back on the campaign trail.
A little more than a year after losing his Congressional bid to Republican Brian Fitzpatrick, Santarsiero stood before a wildly enthusiastic crowd inside The Temperance House to announce his candidacy for State Senate in the 10th Senatorial District.
The seat is currently held by Republican Chuck McIlhinney who announced earlier this month his retirement at the end of 2018. He has held the seat since 2007.
“There is a new day dawning here in Bucks County, in Pennsylvania and throughout United States. We are that new day,” said Santarsiero, as cheers erupted from the crowd.
“I know there are Democrats, Independents and Republicans in this room and frankly throughout Bucks County who just want to see a return to sanity,” said Santarsiero. “They want to see people who are going to go to Harrisburg and to Washington not to shout at each other, but to reach across to each other and get things done, find common ground where we can move our community, our state, and ultimately our country, forward. We can do that,” he said, to more cheers and heavy applause from the room.
“These elections this year are that critical first step to get us to that point,” said Santarsiero, who was joined at the event by State Rep. Tina Davis who is running for State Senate in the Sixth District, State Rep. Perry Warren who is seeking re-election in the 31st District and Solebury Township Supervisor Helen Tai who is running for State Representative in the 178th District.
“What a year this has been. It seems more like a decade,” said Santarsiero, who represented the 31st Legislative District in Bucks County from 2009 to 2017. “But the truth is these problems didn’t start on Nov. 8, 2016. Yes, we need to replace Donald Trump in 2020 or perhaps sooner,” he said to a roar of support.
But truthfully, said Santarsiero, the problems began with the Tea Party wave in 2010.
“The people who were elected and came into the Pennsylvania legislature at that time had no interest in governing. Their interest was in tearing things down,” he said. “They made it hard for moderate Republicans in the legislature who wanted to get things done.”
The Tea Party, he said, set out to make it hard for people to vote. “Fortunately the courts told them no, you can’t do that and struck that down. They tried to put up more obstacles on a woman’s right to choose … They cut billions of dollars from our public schools, our state universities and made it harder for kids to realize their dream and a great education to move themselves forward so that they could do as well if not better than their parents. They made it very difficult to get anything done. And that was before Donald Trump,” he said.
“Now, with Trump and in this climate, as we are seeing in Washington, very little is getting done. We need to change that. It’s not about partisanship,” he said.
Santarsiero, a former public school teacher in Bensalem, said if elected he would “put investment back into education at the public school level locally and our colleges. We need to make our colleges more affordable.
“We need to make sure we have job training. We talk about globalization, automation and about how good manufacturing jobs are leaving our shores. And it’s a complex issue,” he said. “But what we need to do is make sure that right here in Pennsylvania we train and follow people throughout their careers so that when industries change they’re not going to be left behind and fall prey to the false promises of a demogogue down the road as we’ve seen with the current occupant of the White House.
“We need to be there for them first,” he said. “We have a great system with our community colleges. Let’s partner with our community colleges, vocational schools and the private sector in creating a job training program that follows people throughout their careers. We can do that,” he said.
“We need to invest in new industries and in particular renewable energy,” he said to more loud cheers. “When the history of our times is ultimately written, the number one issue historians are going to look at is global warming because it is the issue that has potential to wreak such havoc across our globe. It is our responsibility as a state to make a difference right now. The great thing about investing in renewables, we also create jobs here at home. Pennsylvania can be a leader in that and Pennsylvania ought to be a leader in that and I will fight for that as a member of the senate.”
Santarsiero said he’d also fight for the right of working people to organize no matter what segment of the economy they are in. And Santarsiero said he would work “to rebuild our democracy. We need to make sure the mechanisms of our democracy are strong and will enable us, as a country, to move forward. And when we say democracy we actually mean it, that is the majority of people get to decide.”
He continued, “We need to reform the way we draw legislative districts. It should never be the case that someone gets elected to office purely because he or she were able to draw lines to make that happen. People have the right to have their voices heard. We need to make that reform happen.
“We need campaign finance reform,” he said. “We need to make the system more transparent, we need to have limits and we need to make it easier for people who want to run for office so that we can get a wider range of voices heard,” he said.
Santarsiero also said he would fight for a free press, which he called “one of the pillars of our democracy. I’ve been in office and I know it can be challenging sometimes, both for reporters and elected officials. But without a free press and without confidence in that free press and its ability to do its job, everything falls apart.”
As a member of the senate, which votes to confirm appointments made to the judiciary by the governor, Santarsiero said, “We can make sure the person will stand up for the right of a free press to do its job.”
Santarsiero said he would also fight for the health and safety of all the people in the community.
“Certainly we have to fight for a woman’s reproductive rights as I did in the State House and will do again,” he said. “And I will be a leader in the fight to make sure that if the law says you are not allowed to have a firearm, that we are going to have a system of universal background checks that ensures that does not happen.
“We are in challenging times and it’s very easy on a daily basis to open a newspaper or turn on the TV and come away thinking, ‘Oh my God, is there nothing we can do and just throw up our hands,” said Santarsiero.
“We have to fight against the cynical urge,” he said. “We cannot succumb to this idea that our voices don’t make a difference, that the things we do in our community don’t matter and the people we elect to office don’t make a difference. They do.”