The Pennsylvania General Assembly’s 154th District has two new names on the upcoming general election ballot.

The seat was formerly held by Democratic State Rep. Steve McCarter. This year’s contenders consist of Democratic candidate Napoleon Nelson and Republican candidate Kathy Garry Bowers. The legislative district covers parts of Montgomery County, including Cheltenham Township and Jenkintown.

Both candidates gave their responses to the following questions:

Nelson

Napoleon Nelson

Napoleon Nelson

Describe your background and qualifications as a candidate.

I am a graduate of Central High School, MIT and UPenn's Wharton School. I currently serve as a Trustee for the Montgomery County Community College and as the Cheltenham Township Finance Officer. Previously I was elected twice to the Cheltenham School Board and served as School Board President. Public policy and governance is about serving your community. As an African American man from Philadelphia who is raising a family in Cheltenham, I am deeply connected to a community that spans from Southwest Philadelphia to Montgomery County. Serving this community demands that we focus on how we educate and nurture our children to achieve successful adult lives, how we care for our seniors, and how we establish a social safety network that meets the needs of vulnerable community members. We need policy makers who are dedicated to supporting small business owners who must care for their children and aging parents, families struggling with healthcare challenges and are facing bankruptcy and homelessness, residents who struggle with crumbling infrastructure and communities that need to broaden the tax base with development projects that serve a comprehensive community rather than special interests.

Why are you running for this office and what do you hope to maintain or change?

Government is supposed to ensure our education, healthcare, social service and justice systems are improving our lives and not producing disparate outcomes. Government is supposed to ensure our children are fed, our seniors are healthy, and everyone is safe. Government is supposed to ensure that when you work for a living, you should make a livable wage! Our campaign platform is anchored in fighting for public education, community investment and real tax reform, but we know that there is far more work to do. We will fight for middle class families and workers, small businesses, minority communities, and all those that Harrisburg has ignored for so long. My top priorities are:

  • Safe, equitable, rigorous and fully funded public schools
  • Tax reform that protects seniors and small businesses instead of industrial polluters and internet giants
  • Investing in our communities with legislation to reduce inequalities based on race, religion, and socio-economic status. This includes reaching out to faith based leaders to understand how local and state government can bridge gaps in social service delivery, to facilitate greater collaboration and achieve social justice priorities.

How has this campaign season and your campaigning been affected or influenced by COVID-19?

The day after the schools were closed to protect our children, teachers and staff, our campaign launched a virtual campaign with online meetings, no canvassing during quarantine and no-contact literature drops. We held online roundtable meetings with struggling businesses including the Real Estate industry to understand what needs weren’t addressed as the federal government abdicated its responsibilities and pushed response on the states. We held town hall style meetings with voters three times a week to talk about policy from the environment to hate crimes legislation. Our campaign called thousands of voters to check in and ask if they needed assistance. We compiled lists of food pantries, educational resources, and restaurants providing takeout and translated those resources into multiple languages. We set up a Facebook group to crowdsource needs and solutions specific to our district. In the general election we instituted a COVID-19 safe campaign office with strict sanitation procedures, testing, contact tracing information for staff and visitors and no-contact lit drops to reach out to voters in the most effective way to help them have their voices heard on election day. Although COVID-19 changed the way we campaign, it reinforced the need for government to do its job.

This answer was edited for length.

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Bowers

Kathy Garry Bowers

Kathy Garry Bowers

Describe your background and qualifications as a candidate.

I have lived in Glenside my entire life & graduated from Cheltenham High School. As a single parent, I raised three daughters who also graduated from Cheltenham High School & supported them financially through college. I hold a degree in Business Administration/ Paralegal Concentration, along with a Pennsylvania State Insurance Producer License. As your neighbor, I successfully in the past fought for our children when mold was overtaking our schools & pushed for safer family friendly community pools. I have the knowledge and first hand experience of the issues that our community faces everyday at their own kitchen table. I have personally Navigated the Pennsylvania Medicaid System, as the Laws in Pennsylvania allow High School graduating Seniors to be removed from their health insurance at age 18 on the day of High School Graduation Commencement, even if a medical condition is present this must change! I have experience working and helping seniors navigate and find the services they are entitled to through the Pennsylvania Department of Aging. Many seniors are not taking advantage of the services needed as it is so very cumbersome for the aging to navigate technology, and unnecessary paperwork involved. Working in the insurance industry, I work closely with small businesses, and listen to their struggles they face everyday, most recently during the pandemic, the destruction of their businesses during the rioting, and help them get their business back open and stay open.

Why are you running for this office and what do you hope to maintain or change?

I have a calling to serve my community. I have lived my entire life in the 154th Legislative District serving Cheltenham Township, Jenkintown Borough and Springfield Township (Montgomery County). I am not a politician and I will not use this office to seek higher ones in the future. Our community needs someone who is willing to serve the interests of our residents, period. I will serve my community and this is the best office to fulfill that goal. My priorities are improving workforce development by matching education to job skills, developing effective addiction awareness programs, and improving our public education & school safety. Additional priorities consist of reform to a number of areas including child support and divorce law, judicial, health care, and voting machines and mail-in ballots.

This answer was edited for length.

What are the main differences between you and your opponent?

The differences between me and my opponent are stark. I grew up and spent my entire life in this community. As a single parent and involved citizen, I know the challenges our hard-working families face. I am just like them. My only interests are to serve our community, fighting hard to make things better for everyone. My opponent is on his way to becoming a career politician. He will seek another office and one after that and one after that. My interests are selfless, not self-serving.

How has this campaign season and your campaigning been affected or influenced by COVID-19?

This is my second campaign for Pennsylvania State Representative in the 154th Legislative District. COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on how I am approaching this campaign. I grew up and have spent my entire life in Glenside, right in the heart of the 154th Legislative District. My children are the fourth generation of my family to live in the 154th. As a concerned and extremely involved citizen, I have always had an active role in my community. In my previous campaign, I knocked on thousands of doors, participated in community events and supported as many of our local businesses on a frequent basis. I would actively engage fellow citizens every day. However, COVID-19 has affected the way I engage fellow neighbors in our community. I still knock on thousands of doors, but the personal engagement with friends and neighbors in our community is distant and far less social than before. Since our local businesses have been affected by COVID-related restrictions, it is much more challenging than before. However, I have found creative ways to engage voters and get out the word.

List your website and/or social media pages where voters can learn more.

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