Contests in 161st and 165th state legislative races

Snow may still be on the ground and temperatures may be low but the election field is heating up as Democratic and Republican contenders have emerged in the 161st and 165th state legislative districts.

Patti Rodgers Morrisette, a Ridley realtor and former Republican committeewoman, has received the GOP endorsement for the 161st state legislative district, held by state Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161, of Swarthmore. In the 165th state legislative district being vacated by House Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph, Alex Charlton, chief of staff for state Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-26, of Springfield, will face Radnor Township Commissioner Elaine Paul Schaefer, a Democrat.

Neither Charlton nor Schaefer are strangers to the political process.

Charlton, 35, whetted his political chops as the campaign manager for former U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon in 2006. Then, he worked as district director for state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44, of Montgomery County, followed by a stint as president of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce until he assumed his current position in January last year.

Schaefer, an attorney, is serving in her second term as commissioner in Radnor. During that time, she served as board president for two terms, being the first woman elected to do so.

Charlton said he viscerally saw the impact of government while working at the chamber.

“When I was working at the chamber, I was working with a lot of businesses that ran the gamut,” he said.

He said shortly after being there, the threat of the three refineries closing appeared and his organization worked on the ancillary businesses that benefited from the operations there. However, he said he saw how bi-partisan committed effort can work.

“(Elected officials) quickly helped those three refineries rebound,” he said. “They were going to get this done because this was good for the community.”

From that, he saw the importance of helping businesses build relationships with new industries and the need to make it easier for businesses to expand.

As the married father of a daughter with a spinal cord injury, Charlton said he personally sees how challenging human services can be, particularly in an environment where the state budget has not yet been finalized.

“I want to be up here helping those other people who don’t have it have it too,” he said of needed services.

His opponent, Schaefer, 50, married with three children, likewise finds the system burdened.

“Like all Pennsylvanians, I’m very frustrated with the process right now,” she said, pointing to the seven months without a budget. “Partisan antics seem to be getting in the way.”

She said there should be reasonable people capable of getting things done.

Her priorities include fair and full funding for education, implementing a shale tax, protection of natural resources, increasing recreation, common sense gun control and protecting access for women to health care.

“We need full and fair funding for our education,” she said. “At some point, we’re going to run out of money if there is no increase of revenues.”

She said a fee on extraction of Marcellus Shale gases could assist.

“That would do us a great deal of good in getting us some positive on the revenue side,” she said.

In addition, she noted her ability as a Democrat to work in a heavily dominated GOP township.

“I represent a largely Republican area so I’ve really learned to work with both sides and represent both parties,” Schaefer said. “Compromise is not a four-letter word here in Radnor — and that’s what’s needed in Harrisburg.”

In the 161st, Republican Morrisette faces incumbent Krueger-Braneky, who’s less than a year into her tenure, winning her seat after the abrupt resignation of former state Rep. Joseph Hackett.

“I hope I can make a difference for everyone,” Morrisette said. “I lived within the community my whole life. I worked within the community as a realtor. I deal with the residents of the community the whole time.”

The 58-year-old grew up in a political family as her parents, Bud and Helen Rodgers, were active locally.

A former Republican committeewoman and election machine inspector, she said it was her work as a realtor for the last 14 years, most of which have been with Long and Foster Real Estate Inc. in Media, that has driven her to run.

“It’s been a bit sad this year with sellers wanting to sell their homes because they can’t afford the taxes,” Morrisette said.

She gave the example of one seller who moved to their home in Concord eight years ago and the taxes were $4,300. Now, she said, they are almost $8,800 and they are moving out.

“That is shame,” she said.

In line with that, she said, “Taxes are my biggest concern. I know Gov. (Tom) Wolf wants to increase taxes. For our area, it would have such a dramatic impact on everyone. I think they have to look at some of the services they have now and determine what’s working and what’s not working. Let’s take a big audit of things.”

Although she doesn’t have a political background, she said she’s a quick learner.

“It will be a new experience but I’m a hard worker and I’m intelligent and I think I can do a very good job,” she said. “I just think we need an advocate who will represent our community well.”

Joe Corrigan, spokesman for the Krueger-Braneky campaign, issued a statement.

“Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky will be announcing her bid for re-election in the coming days,” he said. “We look forward to running a lively campaign highlighting her brief, but impressive legislative record. Rep. Krueger-Braneky has kept her promise to fight for our schools, for our seniors, for our environment and for making gas drillers pay their fair share and she looks forward to serving her first full term in the House.”