This week’s #5in5 trip from Pittsburgh to Cleveland includes stops in districts represented by longtime lawmakers backed by seasoned political consultants and well-funded campaigns.
But we’ll also meet two first-time candidates, who felt compelled to launch long-shot campaigns in hopes of ending the partisan gridlock in Washington.
The first rookie candidate is Missa Eaton, a former assistant professor of psychology at Penn State Shenango, who launched her campaign against Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) because she feels he’s too partisan for Pennsylvania’s 3rd Congressional District.
2chambers spoke with Eaton last week in between calls to voters from her campaign office in Sharpsville, Pa. The interview is edited for length and clarity.
2chambers: You’re a first-time candidate and an academic by training. Why did you want to run for Congress?
Eaton: I’m a believer in good government and I don’t see us getting that. I don’t see our current congressman doing much to represent our district. I thought it was time for someone who was smart, and for someone who thinks about issues in complex ways.
I’ve been a single mom, going back to college, I’ve run my own business, I’ve helped to, I was a coowner of a stock car race track. I worked for other people, where I’ve worried where my next paycheck was coming from. Worried about the solvency of my company
Are you suggesting that Mike Kelly isn’t smart?
I’m suggesting that Mr. Kelly has a set of dogmatic strategies that he’s not willing to stray from. He is very hard-line and has taken very hard-to-the-right, hard-line voters and taken hardline stances that show me that he doesn’t understand where other people are.
We’re heavily union, heavily religious, with all kinds of interests and interests of tourism in the north part and the south part, we have lots of energy concerns everywhere, but what I see is a current representative who’s not even speaking really pro-actively about the businesses and he goes on and on about how he’s a businessman, but he’s not even helping our businesses at a time when they could use help.
He wants to move $2 trillion into the military budget. He supported Paul Ryan’s views on Medicare twice with his vote on that Ryan budget and his district is aging. So how in the world would his district survive if they were suddenly move into a vouchering system for Medicare? I don’t see that he is even thinking about his district and the people who live here.
He came to our community just a couple of months into his term and said he wasn’t going to help us do anything, because the federal government wasn’t going to help solve our problems. Well, the federal government has some role to play. He also said he wasn’t going to take any earmarks. But those types of appropriations are the way that those federal tax dollars get back to our district. That’s wrong. It seems like we’re paying him to do nothing for us, and that doesn’t seem like a good business move to me. I don’t think he’d employ someone who wasn’t going to do anything for him for very long.
Who is your favorite Republican?
Olympia Snowe. She is a moderate, she is pro-women, she is very fair and she is not someone who votes her party line. She’s bipartisan and willing to work with people across the aisle to get things done. It’s sad to me that this very far-to-the-right ideology has driven her from her public service.
How about your favorite Pennsylvania Republican?
Do I have one of those? I honestly cannot tell you that I have a favorite Pennsylvania Republican.
You’re a professor right now?
I was through the end of June. I did not renew my contract with Penn State, because sadly enough it’s difficult to run for office at this level and keep a full-time job. I did that in the Spring, and it nearly did me in.
So how do you support yourself?
It’s a back and forth. My husband started his own business there years ago, and I supported us, and now he’s returning the favor.
Now that you’re a few months into this, how would you advise other wannabe first-time congressional candidates?
You can talk to everybody possible and you’ll never understand what it’s like to run for public office until you do it.
My true advice would be to surround yourself with experts on various parts of a campaign early and figure out if you want to run as early as possible. Talk to someone who’s held that particular position before, and really get an honest accounting of what it means. I did that and I’m so thankful that I did, because I have gone into this with pretty open eyes and not disillusioned that I would get a lot of support and a lot of continued support from state or national organizations and I’m happy to have it, when it comes along, but you can’t count on it, because they have too many irons in the fire and yours isn’t necessarily their favorite all the time.
Who did you speak with?
I talked to Kathy Dahlkemper and I had worked on both of her campaigns as a volunteer. And being a volunteer is very different than being on the inside of the campaign. She was very honest with me about what it would mean for me and my husband.
What did she tell you about your family?
That I wouldn’t be around as much. I have grown children, so I don’t have children at home, so that’s more helpful to me, that’s probably a very good thng. I totally admire women and men who do this when their children are at home, because I saw my husband for an hour and a half yesterday and that’s a Sunday. It can get pretty hairy when I leave home early and don’t get back until late at night. He would not make that decision for me, but we discussed whether we would have a marriage in November, and we decided that we would. If you’re used to having a 50-50 marriage like we do, but when you’re doing this, it can be really difficult.
I totally understand why women particularly are deterred by this work.
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