The 25th Pennsylvania Senatorial District includes all of Cameron, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, Potter and Tioga counties, and part of Clearfield County. It is currently held by Republican Joe Scarnati, who decided to retire this year.
Margie Brown is the Democratic candidate running for this seat against Republican Cris Dush in the general election this year. Brown is a St. Marys City Council member and serves as the Vice Chair for the Rural Caucus of the state Democratic Party. She is a former public school teacher and teaches communications at the University of Pittsburgh’s Bradford campus.
WPSU’s Min Xian talked with Margie Brown.
Min Xian: Margie Brown, thank you for joining us.
Margie Brown: Thank you for having me.
Min Xian: Tell us about your background and experience. How does that influence your motivation in running for the state Senate?
Margie Brown: Well, I've been a public school teacher, I teach at the university half time. And I've worked as a volunteer. I'm a mother and a grandmother. And now I'm on City Council. And I serve as vice chair of the rural caucus for Pennsylvania. And that's a passion of mine. And one of the reasons it's a passion of mine is because I feel that the quality of life here is really good in so many ways, but we have so many needs that have not been addressed. And really, what we need is a voice in Harrisburg to help us out.
Min Xian: What do you believe are the most important challenges facing the 25th district?
Margie Brown: So, there's sort of a myth that this is not a place where people can thrive, and we can have good jobs and good salaries. We have everything here. We have great air and water despite what some people say. We have timber, we have energy, we have amazing forests and game lands, we have tourism.
What we don't have are people investing in our local economies. I'm talking about manufacturing and everything. We've just had a lot of divestment in our areas. And not only that, we have a shrinking and aging tax base. And because of that, you know, our schools are not supported in the same way. The state has not been supporting our schools at the same levels that they used to, and all of those problems, people point to someone else, someone else's taking the money somewhere else, we're not getting our fair share of the federal monies.
Min Xian: What specifically would you do a state Senator to achieve these goals?
Margie Brown: When I say we have all of these wonderful things from rural Pennsylvania, it's a great place to live, we have all the resources, the one thing that we don't have that we absolutely need is the internet everywhere. The kids may be, you know, in school for a while, maybe it'll last all year. I'm sort of doubting it.
Even before all of this, we needed the internet, we needed more cellular coverage. We needed more infrastructure, rebuilding certain things, including our sewer lines and our water lines in some areas. We had a bridge collapse in Elk county a couple of years ago while they were working on it. So I think it's worth investing in our area. We've been investing in the cities for a long time. And we've definitely left our rural towns behind.
Min Xian: In more rural areas like the 25th district, there haven’t been a lot of cases of COVID-19, but there have been economic impacts. What do you think about the state’s handling of the coronavirus so far, including mandated closures and reduced capacities at restaurants?
Margie Brown: So yeah, I've thought -- I've spent a lot of time actually trying to learn as much as I could about the disease, about the needs in the healthcare industry, about the needs of the people working. And, and then with businesses, big and small in our area. And I understand that people are frustrated, I was frustrated, it's, it's kind of depressing to be shut in for months, in our region.
And I understand the businesses, they were all ready to open up and then there were restrictions. And they looked at Walmart. And they said, How is this fair, everybody's able to go to Walmart. We're small businesses in our small rural communities that were trying to keep this place afloat. We pay taxes, Walmart has taken away some of our tax base. I understand. It did not feel fair.
It's very hard to have the same perspective, as people do in places where they've experienced this. I sympathize with everyone. I am a little bit worried, though. I've talked to a lot of people around. I know a health care worker who had COVID and has permanent effects from it. I don't think that people understand the severity of it. So shutting everything down. I think that was the right thing to do. I don't think that the rural areas necessarily needed to be closed down for as long as they were once we figured out that the disease hadn't spread here. But hindsight is 2020.
Min Xian: There have been protests for racial justice and against police brutality nationwide this summer. Are there changes you would make as a state Senator to address these issues?
Margie Brown: You know, I was a public school teacher, and they had like this saying, you know, one bad apple can, you know, ruin the whole bunch? I don't believe that. I don't subscribe to that. I think that the places where they had real problems with their police, it was systemic. Here, not so much. I don't think that we necessarily, it's sort of like the virus. I don't think that, we in the rural areas, it's like, less than 1% of the population are people of color. So we don't have, you know, that same experience that people do in other places. It's not something that's going to get worked out in the rural area, I'll tell you that right now.
You know, I from the beginning didn't feel like that slogan defund the police was a good one. I think it was misleading. Certainly there are reforms that need to be made. And defend the police is actually the first person who said that -- it was President Trump. And he didn't say defund the police. What he said was defined community policing. Well, community policing is research based. And it's one of the best things they have going on in terms of a solution for policing in communities where they're most needed. So when I did speak at an equality demonstration, I did say, please, you know, support community policing. That is actually something that is research based, and has been proven to work. And it was a reaction to some of our earliest examples of police brutality. It was after the Rodney King beating, Los Angeles adopted this and it has been working well for them. No solution is perfect. But this is something that has worked well for them.
Min Xian: Margie Brown, thanks for joining us.
Margie Brown: I really do appreciate you taking the time to speak with me.
Min Xian: Margie Brown is the Democratic candidate for the 25th Pennsylvania Senatorial District. You can find our interview with her opponent, Republican Cris Dush, and more information about the elections on WPSU.org/vote. I’m Min Xian, WPSU.