With just over three weeks remaining until the Nov. 3 general election, the 2020 presidential election – one of the most decisive in modern history – naturally remains at the forefront of the national consciousness. However, it is important to note that we choose much more than our next president that critical Saturday; the fate of many local candidates, seeking to improve our local communities or bring regional concerns to Capitol Hill, will be decided by our ballots as well. It is imperative that we place due emphasis on these local races; their results may well be as important to our daily lives as the presidency itself.
One such election is occurring in our own town. Since 2019, Republican David Rowe has represented Pennsylvania’s 85th District, which comprises parts of Snyder and Union County. The district is primarily red, and has consistently been represented by Republicans for over thirty years. In 2019, Rowe replaced current Congressman Fred Keller, beating out Democratic nominee Jennifer Rager-Kay with 62.6% of the vote. But this year, local candidate Katie Evans believes that she can turn 85 blue.
Katie Evans moved to the Susquehanna Valley in 1969 to teach English at Selinsgrove High School. After 17 years as an instructor, she began work as a field representative for the Pennsylvania State Education Association. “I negotiated contracts, I acted as an advocate in arbitrations and I answered a million questions about school policies and finance,” Evans said of her time as a representative.
Evans is also deeply invested in the upkeep of libraries, serving as an active member of the Snyder Counter Library Board. Currently, Evans is an adjunct professor for the Pennsylvania State University’s World Campus, where she teaches courses in the School of Labor and Employment Relations.
Evans said her decision to run for office was inspired by her deep love for the surrounding area and its constituents, as well as her concern about growing political polarization both in Pennsylvania and at the national level. She admires the “hard-working and community-oriented people” who volunteer together in local organizations to improve their community; however, she has observed how a dearth of bipartisan initiatives has resulted in “a real lack of that cohesiveness,” which once bound our populace together. With an inclusive and comprehensive platform, Evans hopes to cross increasingly cardinal party lines, appealing to conservatives and liberals alike.
On the Issues
Evans is committed to remedying the inequalities between the district’s eastern and western regions — a dichotomy made yet starker by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. With only one hospital in Union County, for instance, those who live in certain areas of the county are forced to travel great distances to receive comprehensive medical care. Evans’ platform attempts to assuage this problem by increasing accessibility and convenience in health services across the district. On the state level, Evans similarly hopes to expand access to affordable healthcare, find ways to lower the cost of prescription drugs and improve outcomes and overall quality of care.
Evans additionally notes a fulminant “digital inequality” throughout the region, marked by uneven access to modern technology and internet utilities. “When the schools closed back in the spring, everything went online, there were actually groups that had mobile hotspots that would drive around to the Western parts of the county to give these kids access,” she said. Evans observes accurately that Union County’s broadband speeds are defined significantly below the federal standards, and that maps of the county omit crucial population data. To ameliorate this, Evans demands fairness and accountability from elected officials and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to maintain access to WiFi throughout the 85th.
Despite her candidacy on the Democratic ticket, Evans holds some views that are slightly iconoclastic to the liberal mainstream; she considers herself a strong proponent of the Second Amendment, while at the same time supporting common-sense gun laws. Such regulations are not intended to establish barriers for responsible gun ownership, she notes, but merely seek to mitigate issues of domestic violence and self-harm. Evans’s campaign aims to close the existing loopholes in purchasing firearms from a gun show, confiscate the weapons of those who have been issued a ‘protection from abuse’ order, and enact stricter laws against allowing people with severe mental health issues to own guns. “I support the Second Amendment, but I support enforcing the responsibilities that go along with the right to bear guns,” she said.
With the onset of COVID-19, Evans was forced to switch her campaign strategy to adapt to the pandemic. While she originally hoped to host an in-person listening tour, traveling across the county and hearing the concerns of community members, she has since moved online. “I live on Zoom,” Evans joked.
Evans credits her Campaign Committee — a diverse, intergenerational crop ranging from recent high-school graduates to retirees — for managing and augmenting her social media presence. Notable among the team’s accomplishments are “Espresso with Katie” events, a series of short video discussions posted on Facebook and the official campaign website. Evans’s campaign team also regularly hosts phone-banking and text banking sessions over Zoom to engage with potential voters and respond to their most pressing concerns.
Evans’s online strategy seeks to reach persuadable Republicans and Independents on vital, material issues. “I’ve reached out to Republicans, because we really have for the most part, the same objectives, the same, the same wishes, the same cares, the same concerns. Where we might differ is on how we deal with them,” Evans said.
Evans understands the power young people, particularly students, have in this election as they are “much more open to new ideas.” She implores University members to register to vote, whether it be through an absentee ballot, early voting or in-person. She encourages students to not only focus on the national election, but to understand the importance of local politics in shaping their own communities; in fact, local political engagement is a highly effective way of integrating the University with the surrounding Lewisburg community. “I think that as members of the community, you have a stake in the community. And that’s, of course, being interested in local politics,” Evans said.
Evans’ opponent, David Rowe, was unable to be reached for an interview.