Democratic candidates celebrate 100 days until midterm election
Julianne Cahill | July 30, 2018
BELLEVILLE — Rural Pennsylvania is a place where residents can welcome change while keeping tradition, said Erin McCracken, Democratic candidate for state representative of the 171st District.
McCracken is one of four local candidates who attended an event held Sunday in Belleville by the Mifflin County Democratic Committee and Mifflin County Democratic Women’s Club. In front of a group of nearly 50 attendees, she spoke about revitalization of rural areas.
“I’m running because the system is broken,” she said. “We’re trying to lead the way, and our leaders are not.”
McCracken spoke about exploring possibilities for a renewable energy economy within the state and providing health care for all Pennsylvanians.
She was joined by Rick Rogers, Democratic candidate for state representative of the 81st District, who said change requires community effort.
“Collaboration is our success,” he said.
Rogers urged constituents to support their candidates by volunteering during the campaign.
Marc Friedenburg, Democratic candidate for Congress from the 12th District, also asked supporters to rally together to canvass neighborhoods, help citizens get registered to vote and encourage turnout on election day.
Talk from the heart, said Ezra Nanes, Democratic candidate for Senate from the 34th District.
“We have lost a sense of commitment to a common cause,” he said, adding that “we all care fundamentally about the same things.”
Nanes pointed to full and fair funding for education, access to higher education and preservation of the environment as a few of his goals.
Sunday’s event was held to celebrate 100 days until the November 2018 election. Nanes is running against incumbent Jake Corman, PA Senate Majority Leader (R-34), Friedman faces Congressman Tom Marino (R-10), McCracken faces Representative Kerry Benninghoff (R-171) and Rogers faces Representative Rich Irvin (R-81).
BY ANDREW MICKLE ON JULY 23, 2018
PA 34th District State Senate Democratic Candidate Ezra Nanes hosted a town hall on July 16 to discuss gerrymandering, the recent history of redistricting efforts, and the path forward for redistricting reform advocacy. He spoke on the topic, alongside who he described as “a panel of experts, from the frontlines of the fight for fair districts,” followed by questions from the audience.
Nanes opened the town hall by explaining that he got into politics because he saw “the cherished values of our state and nation being trampled on.”
“One of my absolute top priorities has been good governance,” said Nanes. He expressed his strong support for reforming the redistricting process that occurs naturally every 10 years, to eliminate gerrymandering, through efforts such as creating an independent redistricting committee.
Nanes briefly discussed his disappointment with how PA Senate Bill 22 was amended in a way that he said would’ve allowed politicians in power to “gerrymander the courts.” SB 22 has a complicated history. Its initial House counterpart, House Bill 722, was initially strongly supported by Fair Districts PA. HB 722 was then amended in a way that gutted the intended effect of the original legislation, causing Fair Districts PA to withdraw their support. HB 722 was effectively retired on March 14, 2018.
After this, SB 22 went through a number of amendments, including a controversial amendment that would change how PA Commonwealth, Superior, and Supreme Courts judges would be elected. The amendment proposed that these judges would be elected through judicial districts, instead of being elected on a statewide level. This raised concerns that the exact same issues of gerrymandering would arise with these judicial districts as they do with Congressional districts, concerns that caused Fair Districts PA to also withdraw support from SB 22.
The amended SB 22 was voted 35-14 to be sent to the House, where it was introduced as House Bill 2402. HB 2402 was voted as re-committed to the House Rules Committee on June 20, 2018, during the final days of the Congressional session, effectively killing the bill. This has left Fair Districts PA and other redistricting reform advocates without legislation currently on the table.
Nanes finished his opening remarks by introducing the panel members.
- Bill Van den Berg, member of Fair Districts PA
- Jessica O’Hara, member of Fair Districts PA
- Pamela Monk, member of Fair Districts PA
- Gretchen Brandt, party to the State Supreme Court case that led to the new court-mandated districts, and State College Area School Board of Directors member.
- Gillian Warner, member of Better Politics PSU, and sophomore at Penn State.
Van den Berg spoke next, on the importance of redistricting reform for everyone, saying it’s “absolutely crucial we be nonpartisan in this fight.” He explained that he has personally taken every “partisan sticker” off of his car in favor of Fair Districts PA stickers. He said gerrymandering paralyzes our politics as well as promote extremist politicians to listen to extremist supporters.
Monk added about potential methods of moving forward for redistricting reform. She said the goal of any redistricting reform is to take the process of redistricting out of the hands of politicians. She used the California redistricting model as an example of a successful example of a nonpartisan redistricting effort. “California led people towards the middle, instead of towards the extremes.” She mentioned that the California model is specific to the state, and Pennsylvania might have variations, even if we continued to pursue a similar route.
O’Hara highlighted the challenges facing redistricting reform efforts. She said every politician in the state was elected under a gerrymandered system, meaning that reform advocates are asking the same legislators who were given power by that system to change it. “We should know that this is going to be a hard process,” she said. She used HB 722 as an example of these issues, where she claimed that majority of the house sponsored it, but no one really had to actually stand up for it and defend it, until it was ultimately “gutted” by Daryl Metcalfe.
O’Hara then listed a number of problems she had with the final SB 22/HB 2402, even outside of potential judicial gerrymandering, such as a majority of the proposed 11-person citizen’s commission being “hand-selected by politicians,” a lack of true independents in the commission, and the ability for individual legislators to block voting on proposed maps they disliked. She said the House ended up looking at the bill and quit on fixing it, so now Fair Districts PA is trying to work with Governor Tom Wolf to get a clean redistricting bill.
Brandt began by explaining that she was one of the 18 plaintiffs in the PA State Supreme Court case against gerrymandering, which resulted in new district lines being drawn and used, starting with the May 15 PA primary elections. She said there needs to be a “two-pronged approach to fighting gerrymandering,” both electoral and judicial. She said she didn’t have much time for political participation, but wanted to “do something that might matter.”
Brandt discussed the process of the case and its challenge of only having three weeks to find 18 registered Democratic voters to serve as plaintiffs, all ready to testify that the former PA 5th Congressional district was discriminatory against Democrats. The case resulted as a success said Brandt. She said the map and our Congressional representation “will be much more fair than it has been for nearly a decade.” In response to a question from the audience, Brandt also clarified that if no new legislation is pursued before 2020, the court-issued map will be used for the 2020 elections as well.
Warner spoke last, talking about Better Politics PSU. She said she joined the student group because she had friends “on both sides” after the 2016 election, and felt that we need to “find a way to work with each other.” She explained that Better Politics PSU focuses on a number of nonpartisan issues, and that gerrymandering is a huge issue across the political spectrum. She said a number of her friends have told her they aren’t voting specifically because of gerrymandering. She encouraged everyone to continue working against gerrymandering, and to “always vote.”
At this point, the panel opened the floor to questions from the audience.
One attendee asked Brandt what questions were asked of her in her deposition, such as whether or not anyone had actually prevented her or other Democrats from campaigning and voting. Brandt responded by saying “in the district where I’m from there’s no debate. We know Glenn Thompson will win,” and explained that the lack of caring brought on by an effectively predetermined election was preventing voters in the former 5th Congressional district from having meaningful conversations, discussions, or debates. She also explained that, if the situation were reversed, the case would’ve required 18 registered Republican voters.
Another attendee asked if there were other non-California models that were “good enough” in the eyes of Fair Districts PA. O’Hara responded that the commission proposal in the pre-judicial districts amendment SB 22 was an example. There would’ve been significantly more influence by politicians over the commission than there is in California, but she said it would still have been the “second-most independent commission in the country.” The politicians still wouldn’t have been able to look at voter registration data, and there would’ve still be a transparent process with legislative hearings, O’Hara explained. While she said “the perfect might be in the way of the good,” is a legitimate concern, she expressed that the two final House bills, 722 and 2402, were not even good.
After a number of questions from attendees, Nanes concluded the town hall. After earlier remarks during the question period, where he said “I don’t want Democrats to have the power of gerrymandering,” he again mentioned the importance of redistricting reform for all voters, regardless of party affiliation. He said we live in a “profoundly unresponsive” district, and stressed how important registering to vote and staying civically engaged are. He said you can make a small difference by stepping up and talking to others, “in any situation that you feel comfortable to have an open conversation about politics with someone,” and that if a lot of people are having little conversations, it will make a big difference.
“Let’s talk to each other.”
Editor’s Note: Article has been updated to more accurately reflect history of SB 22/HB 2402 and HB 722, and to correctly report on a statement Ezra Nanes made regarding those bills.
Written by Kelly Cernetich Brown, interim Managing Editor | June 13, 2018
A proposed state constitutional amendment creating an independent commission to oversee redistricting passed the state Senate today by a vote of 33 to 16.
The bill, which has been in the works for more than a year, went through revisions as late as yesterday. Its final version included a controversial amendment from Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) that, in addition to legislative districts, would create districts for the state’s Commonwealth, Superior and Supreme courts.
A subsequent vote to revert to an older version of the bill without the judicial districts failed by the same vote margin.
The bill now goes to the House for consideration, but not before opponents got the chance to air their grievances online:
From Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) opponent Ezra Nanes:
From Rep. Alexander Charlton (R-Delaware) opponent Jennifer O’Mara:
From Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny):
#SB22 passed the Senate today – but not in the form of a good redistricting reform plan. Instead, Republicans forced it through with a disingenuous amendment to gerrymander our court system. I explain what happened here: https://t.co/nhAep5g7q8
— Senator Jay Costa (@Senatorcosta) June 13, 2018
And the Pa. Senate Dems weighed in, too:
Republicans have defended the bill in its final form as measures that should be advanced at the same time. At a Tuesday press conference, Aument denied the judicial districts amendment was partisan. He said creating judicial districts, which would also be overseen by the same independent commission, would make voters feel more represented and give them a greater stake in elections.
Opponents, including Sen. Costa, described the new amendment as a hijacking of the original bill designed to retaliate against judges with whom state Republicans disagreed.
For her part, Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton), the bill’s prime sponsor, said the process required a lot of “give and take” but she is ultimately satisfied with the outcome. Should voters approve the measure, politicians will be out of the business of legislative boundaries, she said.
“It is truly a historic day for the chamber. In most other states where redistricting reform took place it was through petition and referendum, something not available to the voters of Pennsylvania. Today, we took steps to diminish our influence over the way in which we draw all our legislative district boundaries and turn it over to an independent commission,” she said.
Meredith Peachey | May 16, 2018
LEWISTOWN — Ezra Nanes, the Democratic nominee for the 34th Senatorial District, will challenge incumbent Republican and Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman in the 2018 general election, according to unofficial results.
Both candidates ran unupposed in their respective primaries.
Corman, from Bellefonte, was elected to the state Senate in 1998 and earned an associate degree in communications from the Pennsylvania College of Technology as well as a bachelor of arts degree from Penn State.
Nanes, from State College, graduated from both the University of Pennsylvania and the Penn State Smeal College of Business.
According to unofficial results, Nanes received 11,021 votes in the Democratic primary, and Corman received 15,532 votes in the Republican primary. There were 20 Democratic write-in votes as well as 54 Republican write-in votes, between Mifflin and Juniata counties.
The 34th Senatorial District includes all of Mifflin, Juniata and Centre counties and a portion of Huntingdon County.
The general election is scheduled for Nov. 6.
Candidate says more funding needed for education
Erin Thompson | April 6, 2018
LEWISTOWN — A candidate running on the Democratic ticket for the 34th Pennsylvania Senatorial District seat in May’s primary election said he feels more attention should be placed on public education and infrastructure.
Ezra Nanes, of State College, hosted a town hall meeting Thursday night where he discussed his stance on a number of issues and listened to constituent concerns.
“It is really important to me that people feel their voice is heard,” he said.
Nanes said he hopes to be able to provide more funding to schools.
“We need to fund public education, and fairly, so people can develop the skills they need to do well in life,” he said.
Nanes said he feels there is a need for a charter school reform, adding that, while a large percentage of funding for charter schools comes from real estate taxes, they are not held to the same standards as traditional public schools.
Nanes added that there is also a need to make higher education more affordable.
Funding for infrastructure, such as broadband, is also a priority, he said.
If elected, Nanes said he plans to be more accessible than other candidates, noting that one complaint he has heard from constituents is that current Majority Leader Jake Corman is not easily reachable.
Corman has represented the 34th Senatorial district, which includes Centre, Mifflin, Juniata and portions of Huntingdon counties since 1999.
“Twenty years is enough,” he said. “There is a real hunger for change and we’re going to make that happen.”
Nanes said he has been going door-to-door to talk to constituents and hear their concerns.
“I think 2018 is an important election year. Whoever is voted in is going to make a difference.”
Nanes said Lewistown was the first in a number of campaign stops he plans to make throughout the district.
Originally from New York City, Nanes earned his masters of business administration from Penn State University in marketing and finance. He currently lives in State College with his wife and two children, and he is currently the director of business development for AccuWeather in State College.
Nanes will also make an appearance at a Meet the Candidates event, which will be held 2 to 4 p.m., on April 29, at the Elks Lodge, in Lewistown.
by Geoff Rushton on April 06, 2018 3:52 PM
Democratic state Senate candidate Ezra Nanes held a kickoff event this week for his campaign in the 34th District.
Nanes, a State College resident and the only Democrat seeking election in the race, will challenge incumbent and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, for the seat representing all of Centre, Juniata and Mifflin counties and part of Huntingdon County.Ezra Nanes held a kickoff event this week for his campaign in the 34th District.
Corman is seeking his sixth term, having first been elected in 1998.
In March, Nanes gathered more than 2,000 signatures to get on the ballot.
At Wednesday’s campaign kickoff at Schlow Centre Region Library, Nanes, who is director of business development at AccuWeather, discussed his priorities and said it’s time for a change in Harrisburg.
“This campaign is 100 percent fueled by a grassroots movement that is fed up with the status quo and ready to set Harrisburg on the right course,” Nanes said.
His priorities include public education, economic development, responsible governance, and environment stewardship.
Nanes said the state needs greater investment in public schools, from kindergarten through college for both students and teachers.
He said those investments should include pre-kindergarten, career and technical training and making college education more accessible.
“With the right investments, and reforms in current public education spending for charter schools, we can train a workforce ready to tackle the challenges of the 21st century economy,” he said.
Protecting and preserving the environment is a matter of pragmatism, he said, and the state also must do more to develop clean energy.
“It is critical that we develop our clean energy economy — particularly wind and solar power — where there is strong job growth, good jobs that stay put, and where we can save money by being more efficient,” he said.
Nanes added that he wants to increase the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour as a start. He said the state needs to invest in rebuilding infrastructure, expanding broadband internet access, and supporting farmers, rural communities and small businesses.
Following the kickoff event, Nanes launched a “Firehall Tour” to meet with voters throughout the district.
State College Mayor Don Hahn and Centre County Commissioners Mark Higgins and Michael Pipe were among those in attendance at the kickoff event.
Sentinel photo by MATT STRICKER | February 19, 2018
Ezra Nanes, right, candidate for Pennsylvania State Senate 34th District, watches as David Dedmon, left, and Alan Aumiller, both of Lewistown, sign petitions for democratic candidates at the Mifflin County Democrats Sips and Signatures Petition Signing event, held Sunday, at the Chestnut Manor Bed and Breakfast, in Lewistown. Standing in line to sign petitions is Cameron Auxer of Lewistown. Nanes will be challenging Jake Corman, R-Bellefonte, for the state senate position.
Other candidates in attendance were lieutenant governor candidates John Fetterman, Aryanna Berringer, Craig Lehman, and Madeleine Dean; state representative for the 82nd district candidate Kim Klingensmith Hart; and state representative for the 81st District Rick Rogers.
BY MADISON STARR ON FEBRUARY 15, 2018
Ezra Nanes, director of business development for AccuWeather in State College and current hopeful for the Democratic nomination for Senator in the 34th Pennsylvania senatorial district, garnered 400 signatures within a 24 hour period after challenging his supporters to hit the 500 signatures needed to be on the ballot.
“We set our sights high and got over 400 signatures in the first 24 hours. We hit 500 by Wednesday evening. I’m thrilled to see such grassroots support. People are excited and I’m ready to get to work for them,” said Nanes.
Though Nanes and his team reached the necessary signatures to get on the ballot, supporters can continue to sign the petition until March 6. Nanes is currently the only declared Democrat.
“This campaign is about sending Republicans in Harrisburg a message: what they are doing is not working for working-class Pennsylvanians and we’re going to change that”, said Nanes.
Nanes’ platform is based around supporting public education, bringing jobs to the region that can support families, protecting the environment and investing in clean energy, improving access to healthcare in rural areas, and rebuilding infrastructure.
State College, PA, November, 20, 2017
Today Ezra Nanes announced his candidacy for the PA State Senate seat in the 34th district. Nanes, a Democrat, is Director of Business Development for AccuWeather in State College.
“As a leader within AccuWeather, it’s my responsibility to grow the business. I help some of the most recognizable names in television and digital media compete and succeed in a very challenging environment. I want to put those skills to work for this district. We need more family sustaining jobs so our good people and small towns can thrive. If elected, I promise the voters I will work every day to bring more and better jobs to the 34th district,” said Nanes.
“Fair funding for education is another issue I care about deeply because we cannot create good jobs without an educated workforce to fill them,” Nanes added. “The state legislature is not doing enough to meet its responsibility to fund our schools equitably.”
“Improving our educational and employment climate is the key to correcting other problems. I will have more to say about the issues as the campaign goes forward.”
The 34th PA Senate district covers all of Centre, Mifflin and Juniata counties and much of Huntingdon.
Nanes earned his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and his MBA from Penn State. He is 45, and lives in State College with his wife, Mieke, and their two children, Mila  and Raffa .