By Max Sano || Contributing Writer
As of right now there are no women representing the Keystone State. Jess King is the Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s 11th Congressional District, a.k.a. the area in and around Franklin and Marshall, and she hopes to change that.
King grew up in the farmlands of Leola, a small town in Lancaster county. She attended Lancaster Mennonite High School and Eastern Mennonite University, and went to Bard College for her MBA. She grew up in a Mennonite family, which is part of a community that center their lives around unpaid, voluntary service.
She demonstrates her dedication to community service in both her personal and professional lives. After graduating from college, she moved to Pittsburgh’s East End and served as the founding Executive Director of the Union Project—a historic church which provides space for “grassroots entrepreneurs, artists, non-profits, and people of all faiths.”
In 2007, after her husband accepted a position as a Mennonite pastor, she moved to Lancaster and began working with locals seeking to start up their own businesses. In 2010, she became the Executive Director of ASSETS–an economic assistance program that is part of a larger microenterprise initiative led by MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates), an international organization dedicated to “creating business solutions to poverty”. Underneath her leadership, King and her team expanded ASSETS from serving 150 business leaders a year in 2010 to 1,500 last year.
Jess King represents the Bernie Sanders faction of the Democratic Party. In a motivational and honest video on her campaign website, she calls for Medicare-for-All “so people in the richest country in the world don’t have to fear losing everything just because they got sick.” Much to the tone of the Vermont septuagenarian, King is incredibly skeptical of corporate interest in politics. “We’re talking to voters every day about building an America that truly works for all of us, not just the corporate CEOs and lobbyists,” she said. “We’re not paying consultants in D.C to tell us what to say. We’re investing in a volunteer-driven campaign, and we’re building a movement of working people that can win.”
In January, The Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the state’s congressional map due to political gerrymandering and established a new, fairer one. This endeavor started in 2012 when the Court stuck down a prospective legislative map that Republicans in the state legislature established the year before. The effects of political gerrymandering were obnoxiously obvious; Republicans won an overwhelming majority in the State Senate in 2016, even though the state was split evenly between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Democratic Governor Tom Wolf won his seat in 2014 by 10% of the vote, yet gerrymandered maps allowed for more Republicans to win control of both chambers of the state legislature.
Lancaster County, including the city of Lancaster, fell underneath the purview of the 16th District. That seat was won by Representative Lloyd Smucker in 2016. Under the new congressional map, Lancaster and sections of York County make up the 11th District. Rep. Smucker graduated Lancaster Mennonite High School in 1981, the same year as Jess King. Both lived similar upbringings, as Smucker grew up in Lancaster and led his family’s construction company: Smucker Company. On the other hand, Smucker has been active in state politics since 2009 when he was elected to the Pennsylvania Senate.
In her own words, “We’ve got a chance to bring our voices, and the voices of all working people, to Congress next year.”
First-year Max Sano is a Contributing Writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org