Dems seek to rise from grassroots

PUNXSUTAWNEY — During their fall banquet Wednesday at the Eagles Club, county Democrats said they’re starting from the ground up in order to raise their candidates to higher levels of government.

“We need to start supporting our local candidates,” such as those running for council, mayor, school board or township board of supervisors, said county party Chairman Dennis Peck. “This is where our part has to start.

“We need to fill those seats with Democrats,” he said. “That’s our goal.”
A Brookville attorney seeking a seat on the Brookville Area School Board, Kerith Strano Taylor, also said candidates across the board — locally and nationally — need to feel what it’s like to govern when big financial backers are not looming over them.

Taylor, the attorney who represents all children who come through the county Department of Children & Youth, described working with a statewide group called the Children’s Roundtable, a group of people gathered from all sectors of children and youth to find ways to better serve disadvantaged children who are deemed no longer safe in their own homes.

Since 2009, the numbers have gotten better: In Pennsylvania, the number of out-of-home placements have fallen 20 percent, and local, since 2008, out-of-home placements have fallen 40 percent, Taylor said. That means, “A child doesn’t have to live with strangers,” but instead, can live with an aunt, a neighbor or a nanny — someone the child knows — who is fit to help that child in his or her home.

During the roundtable meetings, Taylor acknowledged that it took some time for those taking part to stop saying, “We’re great,” and noting that the system needed attention.

But once the stake-holders could examine their own systematic issues, they could debate and compromise and come up with solutions to best serve children.

“It’s amazing what you can so without the influence of money,” and that’s what needs to happen nationally.

“I wonder if we could do that in Washington,” Taylor added. “We’ve been filling our government with people who are adept at raising money. I don’t want a really good fund-raiser representing me; I want a really good legislator.”

In his remarks, Common Pleas Judge John Foradora, a Democrat recalled a period in 1993, when friends from his hometown of Brockway and Democrats from around the county wanted him to run for district attorney.

He didn’t win, coming 200 votes shy of a victory, he said, but added considering where he is in his career now, “I wouldn’t be here if not for them and you.”

Foradora, first elected in November 2001, will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot for retention, or another 10 years to serve as judge.

“Everybody in this room has worked hard — hard as could be — to get me in that office,” he said.

“I never planned to get into politics, but you all saw something in me,” Foradora said. “We need to remember: Together with people, we need to get out there and spread the message, and the message is, we love people, and we love to serve people.”

He said he recalled advice he received before he was sworn in as judge 10 years ago: “When you zip up that robe, it’s an entirely different feeling. Now, you have the complete decision of these people’s lives in your hands.”

Also offering remarks Wednesday were Douglas Chambers, who cross-filed for another term as district judge in southern Jefferson County; incumbent Sheriff Carl Gotwald, who received write-in votes from Democrats in the spring primary; incumbent auditor and party Vice-Chair Brenda Scarantine; incumbent Commissioner Jeff Pisarcik, and his challenger Patrick McFall; and Beth Ammerman Gerg, a candidate for the district judge post in western Jefferson County.

Democrats also saluted Nicholas Gianvito, of Punxsy, with its annual Chairman’s Award for going above and beyond the call of duty for the local party.