Big election day wins for women in Pennsylvania

Thursday, November 8, 2018
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Big election day wins for women in Pennsylvania . John Rawlins reports during Action News at 5 p.m. on November 7, 2018.

SWARTHMORE, Pa. (WPVI) -- Tuesday's election saw Pennsylvania elect a state record four women to the U.S. House, smashing what had been an all-male congressional delegation in Pennsylvania since 2014.

Katy Gonder of Swarthmore said, "My overall reaction it's great to have more women represented in government because there are a number of woman issues that are especially pertinent right now that need to be addressed, and I'm very positive and happy about the future because I think they will probably be addressed."

The win by four women is a reported record for Pennsylvania, all four are Democrats, and all are from our region.


Dean, who won an open congressional seat in Montgomery County, is a lawyer, former writing and ethics instructor at La Salle University who won her first election to the state House of Representatives in 2012.

She said she wants to go to Washington to continue doing what's she done in Harrisburg: "fighting."

After Trump's victory in 2016, Dean found inspiration to run for a higher office.

"I don't know about you, but in my house there was some crying," she told a Democratic primary crowd earlier this year.

In Harrisburg, she earned a reputation as a hard-nosed and smart legislator. But even before that, she showed no fear of running for public office, winning a seat as an Abington Township commissioner when she was just 18.

Before she ran for state House, Dean, 58, the youngest of seven children, raised three boys, one of whom worked in former President Barack Obama's White House.

After the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, Dean started a caucus of lawmakers devoted to fighting gun violence and introduced bills to expand background checks and ban bump stocks.

Dean won a three-way primary and beat Republican Dan David on Tuesday. She'll effectively replace the retiring longtime Democratic Rep. Bob Brady.


Scanlon, a longtime public interest and pro-bono lawyer, won an open seat in Delaware County.

For most of her career, Scanlon, 59, was an attorney at the non-profit Education Law Center, a public-interest law center that works to improve public education, or heading up the pro-bono committee at a prominent Philadelphia-based law firm.

Through it, she raised three children and stepped up after the 1999 school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, paying for two school buses to take friends and neighbors to the "Million Mom March in Washington, D.C.

Her pro-bono work took on a new dimension after Trump's election: more immigrants were threatened with deportation, more voting rights groups sought help because of strict voter identification laws and the threat of gerrymandering, she said. That, plus the "Me Too" movement springing to life.

"That's the point at which I decided I had to run," she said.

Scanlon beat Republican Pearl Kim after winning a 10-way Democratic primary in May.

She will succeed Republican Pat Meehan, who resigned in April while under an ethics investigation for using taxpayer money to settle a former aide's sexual harassment complaint.


Houlahan has been a lot of things: an Air Force engineer, athletic apparel company executive, a chemistry teacher and president of a national non-profit working to improve literacy in early childhood education.

Now, Houlahan is one-for-one in her campaigns for public office, winning an open Chester County-based seat.

Houlahan, 51, was overwhelmed with emotion on Tuesday night, despite an easy victory.

"I'm genuinely overwhelmed and I'm going to do my very best to be as collected as I can be in a moment that I never thought that I would have," she told a jubilant crowd.

Trump's election also was a seminal moment for her: her daughter, who is openly gay, and her father, a Holocaust survivor, were in tears over the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, she told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Houlahan, who raised three girls, is also motivated by stop gun violence: it is a persistent topic on the campaign trail from parents afraid to send their kids to school.

"Given the state of our democracy, and the state, frankly, of our discourse, I felt like I had to do something," she said.

Houlahan beat Republican Greg McCauley to succeed two-term Republican Rep. Ryan Costello, who decided not to seek another term.


Wild, a lawyer, won an open Allentown-based seat that had been under Republican control for two decades.

Wild, 61, is a prominent Allentown lawyer, including serving briefly as the city's solicitor. Last year, she worked with civil rights lawyers in the midst of Trump's newly announced travel ban to help a Syrian family that had been turned away at Philadelphia International Airport and had their visas abruptly cancelled after spending 13 years trying to get them.

A mother of two, Wild said she was running primarily because she was concerned about her children's generation.

"The most terrifying prospect for me as a parent is my children's generation is facing a future where they will be worse off than the generation before them," she told a primary audience last spring.

While Wild tended to mute her criticism of Trump, she fell in line on core Democratic Party issues on minimum wage, taxes, health care, climate change and gun violence.

Wild beat Republican Marty Nothstein on Tuesday after winning a six-way primary in May.

She will succeed Republican Charlie Dent, who announced last year that he wouldn't seek re-election before he faced a potentially hostile electorate. He resigned in May.

"We are going to be building a constituent services operation that will be second to none. In response to constituencies whether you identify as a Republican, an Independent or Democrat or none of the above, whether you voted for me or you did not. I will work as hard as I can to earn your trust, to deliver results for you and to carry your voice, and to represent you," said Wilde.

The four women will be joining a record number from other states headed to Capitol Hill.

It's projected more than a hundred women will take seats in the House of Representatives in January, compared to the 84 the prior record.



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