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Democratic Candidate Vera Cole Looks to Unseat 2020 Election Denier Craig Staats from Pennsylvania’s 145th House District

Cole, unlike her Republican opponent, supports women’s reproductive freedom, wants to bolster public education, and protect the environment. She also explains what else she plans to do to benefit district constituents.
Democrat Vera Cole.

For the last 12 years Republicans have controlled both chambers of Pennsylvania’s statehouse. During three of those years the GOP had a trifecta with a Republican governor.

How have Pennsylvanians fared under Republican control?

The minimum wage is stuck at $7.25 an hour. Laws for gun control have become weaker. Programs for the disabled and poor have been reduced. Funding for public schools is being drained by vouchers to enable for-profit charter schools. A multitude of lawsuits have been filed to make voting more difficult and, worst of all, the GOP – had the Democrats not won the House in 2023 – would have changed the state’s constitution to abolish abortion.

Republican Craig Staats has held the 145th statehouse seat for ten years and accomplished little to enhance actual day-to-day challenges for his constituents.

Vera Cole, a Democrat running for Staats’ house seat, thinks it’s time for Harrisburg to start addressing real problems and provide actual results.

The Beacon had an opportunity to ask Cole some pretty specific questions about her campaign and future plans should she win her race. Here are her responses.

Why do you believe the 145th District is ready for a Democrat to represent its collective interests in Harrisburg?

Moderate voters in the district have been abandoned by our current representative, Craig Staats, and his increasingly extreme positions. The two that worry me and many voters the most are his opposition to any right to abortion—I repeat, any right—and his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results. In 2020, he used the power of his office to urge Congress not to accept our Electoral College votes. In other words, Staats attempted to put his will over the will of the people of Pennsylvania. Thankfully, Staats failed.

Most voters in the 145th want nothing to do with the kind of chaos and violence we saw on Jan 6. It could have easily spread to our communities, had the efforts of Staats and others succeeded. The threat remains as Staats continues to align himself with groups like CPAC. His efforts to overturn Pennsylvania election results are an affront to the district’s voters and show an extraordinary lack of judgment and basic common sense. I mean, how could election results be wrong for only one name on the ballot? 

Rep. Craig Staats’ voting record has, at times, been bipartisan on various pieces of legislation including requiring Fentanyl and Xylazine screening in many diagnostic urine tests; prohibiting hidden or “junk” fees in all online sales and advertising, along with the prohibition of hair discrimination.

On the flip side, he has voted against bills that would serve to better the lives of constituents, including authorizing funding for home repair subsidies, adult mental health services, public defenders, funding for state K-12 public education, establishing a women, infants, and children state advisory board and against background checks for the purchase of any firearm.

Do you believe Staats’ votes align with that of the district’s electorate or do you see the 145th District changing and providing the Democrats an edge in the 2024 race?

I don’t think the 145th has changed as much as the Republican party has changed. The party that used to say it stood for freedom and law and order is now calling to overturn elections and putting politics into some of the most personal decisions in a person’s life. Staats unfortunately has followed along with this most extreme branch of the Republican party and now finds himself voting against things like funding for public education.

On the bipartisan votes you cite above, yes, I would’ve voted for all of those bills, too. The difference lies in other very important areas. I support a woman’s freedom to make her own reproductive healthcare choices, in private without political interference. Staats does not. He supports no rights, whatsoever, to abortion care. (SB 106, 2021-2022) I support responsible funding for our public schools to take good care of our children, teachers and schools and give relief to those who pay property taxes. He does not. A bill modernizing our public school code passed with bipartisan support this year. Staats voted against it. (HB 1422, 2023-2024) I support responsible practical action to keep our environment and climate safe. He does not. Environmental groups give my opponents’ voting record a lifetime score of 11%, out of 100%. (Conservation Voters of PA)

Last week Staats was the only representative in Bucks County to vote against Kayden’s Law, a bill named for a 7-year-old Bucks County girl who was killed by her father during a court-ordered unsupervised visit. The girl’s mother had fought to protect her daughter, arguing the father was dangerous. Kayden’s Law puts a child’s welfare first in custody hearings. It passed with bipartisan support. Staats voted against. (SB 55, 2023-24) To answer your question, I do not believe Staats’ votes align with the wishes of the district’s voters.

What do you believe are the top three concerns of residents in the district and how do you plan to address them should you win the race?

We want freedom, opportunity, and safety, for ourselves, families, and community. This means keeping government out of our private lives to the fullest extent possible. It means affordable childcare, housing, and healthcare; good schools; and jobs that pay a living wage with decent hours. It means increased support for police, EMS, and firefighters, and for medical workers, including caregivers. It means social order and strong communities that encourage small businesses and young families to stay in the district, close to home.

In Harrisburg, I will work with my peers, reaching across the aisle, to address today’s unmet needs and to plan for the future. I believe one of the most important things we need to do is make our electricity grid more reliable and flexible.

In these highly polarized times, do you believe you can find common ground to work effectively with Republicans and are there any issues where you think both parties are on the same wavelength?

You bet! I will work with anyone who is putting country first. In fact, I think we are at our best when multiple points of view are brought to bear on a problem. We do this in our families and businesses all the time. We ask, “What do you think?” and we listen to the answer. I see working across the aisle as a strength, not a weakness. I grew up in South Carolina and have some admiration for Nikki Haley, for example. However, I absolutely draw the line on election deniers and calls for overthrowing the government. My opponent proudly aligns himself with the likes of Mastriano in his failed run for governor, and CPAC. Anyone who is denying election outcomes and denying court decisions is denying democracy, the very foundation of our country and a peaceful society.

I had family on both sides of the civil war, my mother’s family in the south, my father’s family in northwestern Pennsylvania. The scars from that horror run deep. Talk of overturning elections and overthrowing the government is deadly serious, and not to be made lightly for political gain.

What, in your view, is the most significant challenge to overcome in this race to secure a victory?

People have full, busy lives and talking about politics can feel stressful. It’s easy just to fall back on party lines – I always vote R or D. But those party lines are making less sense these days. Since when are Rs calling for civic disorder and the kind of violence and chaos that come from overturning elections? Or for taking away basic freedoms? My challenge is to connect with voters of all stripes, not along party lines, but about the issues: about how I will vote and lead in Harrisburg, and why. I am a level-headed engineer and teacher. I pride myself on fiscal responsibility, keeping an open mind, and making commonsense decisions. I will defend government, always, as representation by the people and for the people. For more about me and my campaign, please visit www.veracoleforpa.com.

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Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens is a freelance journalist who has written for a variety of publications, including The Reporter. An avid collector of all things vintage, she resides in the Philadelphia area.

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