Saint Vincent finds itself connected to another unusual congressional election weeks after the close special election in which former professor Rick Saccone lost to Connor Lamb.
Saccone and board of directors member Bibiana Boerio are running for House of Representatives in the Republican and Democrat primary elections, respectively, on May 15 in Pennsylvania’s 14th congressional district. The district’s general election is Nov. 6.
The 14th district is made up of Westmoreland, Washington, Greene, and Fayette counties, and is newly redrawn.
This is because the district boundaries in PA were modified by the state’s Supreme Court in February since the court decided the district map was gerrymandered in favor of the Republican party, according to The New York Times.
Gerrymandering is illegally splitting up a state into districts with the intention of giving a certain group a political advantage.
Students shared their opinions on the updated PA district map and the upcoming election.
“I can only hope that the new districting is as fair as contemporary politics can make it,” Robert Mangan, politics and theology double major, said.
William Vana, history education major, said he has been paying attention to the redistricting story since the PA Supreme Court ruling. While courts have ruled against gerrymandering on the basis of race, he said, none before this have redistricted due to gerrymandering based on political parties.
“Pennsylvania lead the charge as the first state to end gerrymandering that dilutes political groups’ electoral power,” he said.
Vana said he supports the redistricting since it allows PA citizens who are geographically and culturally close to each other to elect “one of their peers.” Before the redistricting, Vana’s district included parts of six counties, one of them 77 miles away from where he lives. After the redistricting, he only shares his district with one county adjacent to his.
In the 14th district election, four candidates, Bibiana Boerio, Tom Prigg, Adam Sedlock and Robert Solomon, are running for the Democrat
primary, and two, Guy Reschenthaler and Rick Saccone, are running in the Republican primaries, according to Ballotpedia.
“Since Rick Saccone has already established a name for himself in this area, he should undoubtedly win the primary unless his opponent, Guy Reschenthaler, steps up his campaigning,” Vana said.
As for the Democrat primary, Vana said Boerio, former managing director of Jaguar Cars and previous interim president of Seton Hill University, has a good chance.
“She has a platform that appeals to moderate Democrats and she is well-integrated in her community,” he said.
Mangan said Boerio’s native-status, familiarity with the economy and legislative policy, administrative positions with the Ford Motor Company and experience with former PA representative Joe Sestak could make her a strong pick for the Democrats.
“Her focus on healthcare and the environment could give her trouble in the general election, especially amongst a particularly Republican district,” he said.
Boerio’s dedication to the 14th district and her experience, Mangan added, could easily combat this.
Vana said if Saccone and Boerio are the nominees in the general election, Saccone has to focus less on advertisement-based campaigning than he did in the special election in order to win.
“Voters want a candidate who knocks on doors and holds town halls, it does not matter if they have a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ next to their name,” he said.
Vana said he saw this first-hand when he volunteered as a solicitor for Connor Lamb, who won the special election.
That campaign “showed the revival of grassroots campaigning” – a style that Democrat candidates Boerio and Solomon seem to be taking an initiative with, he said.
Mangan had advice for voters.
Voters in the primaries, he said, should keep in mind their candidate of choice’s character, experience, and most importantly, policies they plan to enact.
In the general election, he said voters need to remember it is not about what party they belong to, but about who is the best candidate.
“I want not only what’s best for me, but my fellow Americans as well,” he said.
He also commented on voting in general.
“Every election is important,” Mangan said. “It might sound like an overstatement, but the power of the vote is the definition of self-government.”
At the Honors Convocation on April 18, Boerio received the Presidential Medal of Honor.
Br. Norman Hipps O.S.B., president of SVC, spoke before awarding Boerio and cited how she lead a taskforce in planning the library’s expansion and renovation.
“Bibby, for being this trusted friend, dogged administrator and wise advisor, I present you the medal of honor,” he said.
The convocation concluded with a fifteen-minute speech from Boerio.
“You never know what might come next,” she said, “you never know how some piece of your life can serve as the next building block that opens up the next new phase.”
Boerio ended her speech discussing her bid for Congress.
“One of the questions I am being asked lately is about the loss of civility in political discourse,” she said. “I remind them that I grew up in Mr. Rogers’ real neighborhood, and I want him to be proud of the little girl who grew up learning to swim in the pool named after his grandparents.”
Photos: SVC Flickr, pacourts.us, SVC Flickr