Photo courtesy of campaign
Like many left-leaning women in Western Pennsylvania, Betsy Monroe of Fox Chapel felt the need to do something in response to the election of President Donald Trump. Monroe attended the 2017 Women’s March
in Washington, D.C., and the presence of about 500,000 marchers inspired her to get more involved in her local politics.
“I went to the march on Washington and it was absolutely eye-opening. It was absolutely amazing,” says Monroe. “I came away from it knowing I was going to have to continue to take action.”
Monroe started by writing letters to her local elected representatives. She said she got mostly “lip service” from local Republicans, and “I’m here for you” messages from local Democrats. She wanted something more substantial.
Monroe started growing more frustrated with Pennsylvania state Rep. Hal English (R-Hampton) and his votes on women’s health and his stances on environmental protections. Then, when she realized that English had run unopposed in the last two elections, she decided to run against him herself. “When [elected officials] have no opponents, they get cozy, and they stop listening to the people,” says Monroe.
In 2017, Monroe saw the success of Democrats getting elected
at the local level in her North Hills district. She notes how three Democrats defeated three Republican incumbents in the 2017 Hampton Township Council
Monroe says that changes to who draws the state’s legislative districts can help in getting representatives to respond better to their constituents. She supports HB 722, which would create an independent body
to draw the legislative districts after each 10-year U.S. Census. Currently, the Pennsylvania General Assembly draws the districts, and thus the district boundaries are at the whim of whichever party has the majority. English also supports this bill, as he is co-sponsor of HB 722.
But there are areas where Monroe sharply contrasts with English. For one, English voted for a bill that would make it illegal for Pennsylvania women to have abortions after being pregnant for 20 weeks
. (The bill was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.) Monroe says she would have voted against this bill. Monroe has worked for 10 years as a health-care professional at Highmark, where she tries to reduce the cost for patients who utilize Medicare, the government-provided health care for senior citizens. She believes that her experience in health care can be valuable in Harrisburg.
Monroe is also in favor of a severance tax
on frackers and natural-gas drillers, and says it’s wrong that Pennsylvania is the only gas-producing state in the U.S. not to have such a tax. She says the money raised from a natural-gas tax could be used to fund things like education and renewable-energy production.
“In a perfect world we wouldn't have fracking, but right now, we are not even getting a lot of money into our community from it,” says Monroe. “It has to benefit our people. We can put that money into education. We can put that into renewable energy, those are jobs that are actually going to stay.”
Monroe also says the Commonwealth needs to consider bolder strategies to combat the opioid epidemic
. Monroe feels Allegheny County should consider the use of safe-injection sites
for drug users, so those users have easy and welcoming access to support services and treatment for their addictions. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has also recently indicated some support for the creation of safe-injection sites.
Above all, Monroe believes Harrisburg needs more female legislators, and she wants to use her experience as a working mother of three as a selling point throughout her campaign.
“It is something that women are good at, they are really good at putting cause above self. Women are better at reaching across the aisle,” says Monroe citing a 2016 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research
. “We are better at forming alliances, and we are less constrained by our own needs.”
Monroe’s official campaign kick-off
is Feb. 3, starting at 11 a.m. at Beechwood Farms Nature reserve in Fox Chapel.