While there is a lot of attention on the 2020 presidential election, Wendy Leland and Rep. Howard have found novel ways to campaign during the pandemic.
As national attention is focused on a contentious presidential race, down-ballot candidates have been campaigning as well. Wendy Leland is running for Pennsylvania State Representative for the 167th District, which covers mostly the eastern part of Chester County. Leland, a Republican, hopes to defeat freshman incumbent Kristine Howard, a Democrat. The district had been represented by Republicans for decades before Howard won in 2018.
Both women candidates are vying to represent a district that includes the townships of Easttown, Charlestown, East Whiteland, Willistown, West Whiteland, West Pikeland, and the borough of Malvern.
Leland served in the United States Army for 32 years and retired as a colonel in 2012. She is a Butler, Pennsylvania native and has lived in Charlestown Township for the last 24 years.
Howard is a lawyer. Her mother worked at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, and her dad was a probation officer. She has raised her seven children in Malvern.
During Howard’s first term in office, she focused on challenging the Republican majority in Harrisburg by putting forward policies to increase the minimum wage and guarantee paid family leave to workers.
Both Leland and Howard responded to the same interview questions, via email. Responses have been edited for clarity and style.
What should voters know about you as you run for office?
Leland: Voters should know who they are voting for as their representative, and not merely vote along party lines. As the judge of elections for six years in Charlestown, I consistently urged voters to vote according to principle, not politics. I believe that my neighbors in the 167th District deserve a representative who listens to them and who is a channel of communication to and from Harrisburg.
I have been asked many times to run for office, but the timing for my family was never right before. Now my four children are all grown, I am retired after serving 32 years in the Army, I have been paying attention to local issues affecting us all for the past 24 years, and I am focused and ready to serve our community in Harrisburg.
Howard: I am a graduate of University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers Law. I served as the director of a legal aid clinic in New Mexico providing legal services to indigent clients. My legal representation of Philadelphia children in foster care and my work as a child abuse investigator for Chester County Children, Youth, and Families Division prepared me to be a legislative leader on issues affecting children and families.
Engaged in my community for years, I have raised my seven children in the district with three of my high school- and college-age kids still living at home with me while attending public secondary and postsecondary educations. In the legislature, I serve on the Children and Youth, Human Services and Finance committees of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. I was also appointed by the Governor to the Juvenile Justice Reform Task Force.
What are the goals you hope to achieve if elected?
Leland: Pennsylvania must have a comeback that provides lower taxes — not raising taxes — and incentivizes manufacturing and job creation, staying competitive with our neighboring states. Our tourism, personal care, and hospitality sectors have suffered much, and these businesses must have immediate assistance before they shutter their doors for good.
Howard: My goals if reelected are to increase funding for foster families, provide hazard pay to essential workers, and reform the juvenile justice system.
What has prepared you to serve the citizens of the 167th District?
Leland: In Charlestown, I have been a planning commissioner for 20 years and serve on the Phoenixville Regional Planning Committee, and been a municipal liaison to the Great Valley School District. I know this area, and I have been paying close attention to the surrounding communities and their issues. I have been the judge of elections for Charlestown for six years. I believe that both mail-in ballots and in-person voting procedures will be handled with the integrity that I know is Chester County Voter Services’ hallmark.
Being a mother of four, closely watching our children grow and being actively involved in all their activities, I have been affected by experiences in their lives. And some are what I would focus on as your elected representative.
PTSD is a genuine issue for me, both as a combat veteran myself and as a first responder mother. The stigma of reaching out for help must be overcome, and resources must be made more readily available. And mental illness must be addressed for those who need help and their families.
Howard: My focus in the legislature has been on child welfare and family issues. My work history managing a small legal aid clinic in New Mexico, providing legal representation to foster children in Philadelphia, and working as a child abuse investigator for Chester County has given me a solid foundation to make a difference on the issues central to my focus.
Add to that my two years serving as a member of the House Human Services and Children and Youth Committees, along with my appointment to the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Task Force. These positions provided me more experience and expertise, strengthening my ability to improve the lives of children and families in Pennsylvania.
What are your closing remarks for your campaign as Election Day nears?
Leland: If I am elected to be your representative for West Pikeland, Charlestown, West Whiteland, East Whiteland, Malvern Borough, Willistown, and Easttown, I pledge to you that I will never shutter my office doors. I will never fail to show up in Harrisburg for crucial votes and committee meetings, and I will never neglect to respond to phone calls, emails, or requests for assistance.
When I get the opportunity to speak to voters, I ask them to approach their ballot differently this time. I ask that you start your voting at the bottom of your ballot and work your way up to your nation-level vote. Because like no time in our history has it mattered more who your local representative is.
Howard: As a state representative, I don’t see my voters as constituents. I see them as friends, neighbors and members of the community I love and where I raised my children.
I believe in respectful political discourse. The unhinged rhetoric on social media from both the right and the left is not conducive to an environment fostering the free exchange of ideas without prejudice or furthering the assumption of good faith.
I want to cultivate a different environment where extremists and alarmists cannot hijack the mediums of communication and people of good will can work together in a rational way to solve real problems and find common ground.
Editor’s note: Our special reporting on COVID-19 may focus on communities outside Philadelphia because many of our student journalists are now temporarily located outside of the city. Instead, our reporters will cover how the coronavirus is impacting their own communities from across the country and around the world. We will return to hyperlocal coverage of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods as soon as possible.
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