More than 100 of the party faithful gathered Thursday evening for the Indiana County Federation of Democratic Women’s spring banquet to hear brief comments from 10 candidates, or the candidates’ representatives, in the primary election, now just 18 days away.
The crowd at the Rustic Lodge in White Township was also urged to get out the vote for all Democratic candidates.
Another highlight of the evening was the naming of Indiana County Commissioner Patricia Evanko as the group’s 2014 Woman of the Year.
[PHOTO: Attending the banquet Thursday were, front row, from left, Danielle Rura, scholarship nominee; Pat Heilman, co-president, FDWIC; Martha Buckley, emcee; Maureen McHugh, representing gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf; and Alanna Hartzok, 9th District candidate. Back row, from left, Jim Blue, representing lieutenant governor candidate Brandon Neuman; Rep. Joseph Petrarca, 55th District; Patricia Evanko, Indiana County commissioner, representing gubernatorial candidate Rob McCord and Democratic Woman of the Year; Jennifer Rapach, representing gubernatorial candidate Katie McGinty; Toby Santik, 66th District candidate; Eric Barker, representing lieutenant governor candidate Brad Koplinski; and lieutenant governor candidate Mark Critz. (Teri Enciso/Gazette photo)]
Lori Rittle, last year’s recipient of the honor, made the announcement and called Evanko “an inspiring leader.”
“I’m overwhelmed,” Evanko said. “There are so many great women … so many women who are deserving” of the recognition.
Evanko was then the first to speak on behalf of four Democrat gubernatorial candidates in the spring election, and she urged support for Rob McCord, the state treasurer.
Evanko asked the audience two questions: “Who can beat Tom Corbett in November? Who can we trust to get good work done?” The answer to both questions, Evanko said, is McCord.
Jennifer Rapach spoke on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Katie McGinty, the former secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“Katie comes from a working class background,” Rapach said. “She knows this is a time when Pennsylvania should be shining, and it’s not. … She cares about growing the economy. … She’s an expert on energy and the environment.”
And, Rapach said, the fact that McGinty could be Pennsylvania’s first female governor should bring more women to the polls.
Former state treasurer Barbara Hafer said all the Democratic candidates running for governor are “exceptional,” but she urged support for Allyson Schwartz, congresswoman in the 13th District.
“She is a go-getter,” Hafer said. “She won in Philadelphia as a Jewish woman. … She has worked tirelessly, she has performed” and started a health care clinic for women in Philadelphia.
Dr. Maureen McHugh spoke on behalf of gubernatorial hopeful Tom Wolf, a former state secretary of revenue whose family business is a major supplier of kitchen cabinets in America.
“He’s an earnest person, an honest person,” McHugh said. “His motto is ‘A Fresh Start for Pennsylvania.’”
McHugh said Wolf also strongly supports better education to provide a promising future for the state’s children.
Former 12th District Congressman Mark Critz is running for lieutenant governor.
“Public service is the job I should have been doing all my life,” Critz said, because it has given him the most satisfaction.
“This is about November,” Critz said. “We need to put the strongest candidate in the field.” All the gubernatorial candidates are from the eastern half of the state, and Critz said that as a resident of western Pennsylvania he would be part of a Democratic ticket that could defeat incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett in the fall.
Lieutenant governor candidate Brad Koplinski said that as a member of Harrisburg’s city council he helped the capital city get out of a $350 million debt.
Koplinski said Corbett does not have a comprehensive jobs plan.
“Marcellus shale — absolutely wrong what he’s done with that. … Tom Corbett has not been a friend of women,” Koplinski said.
Jim Blue urged support for lieutenant governor candidate W. Brandon Neuman, 32, a state representative from Washington County.
“Brandon has natural leadership ability,” Blue said. “He’s young, he’s intelligent, he has high energy. … He’s pushing jobs and child protection. He’s a fiscal conservative.
“He’s from the west as well,” Blue added. “We need a voice for the western half of the state.”
Alanna Hartzok, of Franklin County, is unopposed for the Democratic nomination for representative in Congress from the 9th District. She has worked with nonprofit organizations.
“We have a democracy problem with wealth and equality,” she said, adding she decided to run for office because of joblessness among youth, child impoverishment and a growing heroin problem she said she has seen in the 9th District.
And Robert “Toby” Santik, a member of Punxsutawney Borough council and co-owner of 5-Star Frac Support Services, is unopposed for the Democratic nomination for the 66th District in the Pennsylvania House.
Santik described himself as a proponent for coal, oil and natural gas and timber.
“This is the 66th District. It’s the essence of what we are,” Santik said. “I want to move the 66th in a new direction. I want to represent everybody.”
State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, whose 55th District gained Saltsburg Borough under redistricting, spoke to the crowd earlier in the evening because he had to leave for another engagement.
Pat Heilman, co-president of the federation, urged the county’s Democrats to work to get voters to the polls on May 20.
“Democrats don’t let Democrats vote alone,” she said, and she challenged everyone to take one other Democrat with them to the polls in May and to take two others with them in November.