Tarah Probst’s 2018 Campaign & Election – Thanks & Thoughts

Tarah Probst Featured, News

Thanks, takeaways, and the future

I want to thank everyone who supported me throughout this campaign and say THANK YOU for everything!  I can’t describe in words the overwhelming feeling I have towards each and every one of you.  I am humbled by the support I had in my senate run.  I have made lifelong friends because of this journey and it puts my faith in people now more than ever.

I’ve spent these past two weeks reflecting on our campaign and planning for the future. I have received a tremendous amount of support and encouragement over the past week, as well as throughout the campaign. I am very excited to continue to pursue more public service.

There are many positive outcomes from the campaign and the election. Just over 65,000 votes were cast in this election 4 years ago. We anticipated a significant increase in voter turnout and we worked to achieve a win number of 40,000 votes. I received nearly 42,000 votes, and for that I am extremely proud.

Voter turnout increased 48% and over 96,000 voters came out in this election. This midterm election saw the highest turnout in the past 50 years, and I am very pleased so many people chose to be a part of the process. We also had an unprecedented increase in new voter registrations. As more people become involved in the process, it will always be better for democracy.

We had over 60 volunteers help with our ballot petition signing campaign early in the year and collected over 1,200 signatures, far surpassing the requirement of 500. Those volunteers, along with volunteers from the Pennsylvania Democratic Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, helped us to canvass over 60,000 voters.

I am very happy that Governor Wolf and Senator Casey were both re-elected by wide margins. Due to the congressional redistricting that was done earlier this year by our state Supreme Court, Democrats picked up 4 seats in our congressional delegation, balancing our representation with 9 Democrats and 9 Republicans. In our state senatorial district, Matt Cartwright was re-elected by a wide margin, and Susan Wild was elected as our new freshman congresswoman, also by a wide margin. After an all-male congressional delegation, Pennsylvania voters are sending a record-setting four women to Congress in January.

In the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Democrats picked up 5 seats in the Senate and 11 seats in the House. Republicans retained a smaller majority of 29 to 21 in the Senate and 110 to 93 in the House. Our lone Democratic House member in the district, Maureen Madden, won her race with over 60% of the vote. We had 5 other State House representative candidates within the 40th Senate District who all ran great campaigns and made strong showings against longstanding incumbents. 52 women were elected to the House, and 11 women were elected to the Senate, far surpassing the previous high of 49 women in the legislature. While women now make up 25% of our representatives, it is still far from the 50% that would represent gender parity and is below the 30% threshold where many social scientists say we begin to see the positive benefits of having diversity. We are making progress, but there is more to do.

I have long been aware that Pennsylvanians have been underserved by our state government for a long time. Over the past few years, I have learned more and more just how many problems we face. Our state legislature has lacked the political courage to act on many issues that have overwhelming popular support.

Pennsylvania is near the bottom for state funding for education and our school funding fairness is the worst in the country. We are the only state that does not take a severance tax from gas drillers for education, despite our state constitution stating that “Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people” and that “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.”

We have one of the most unfair tax systems in the country, where, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the middle 60% of families pay 11% of their income in state taxes, the top 1% pays 6%, and the poorest 20% pay 13.8%. Pennsylvania is one of the 5 worst states to start a business, where we rank #48 for businesses coming into our state, #46 for new business survivorship past 5 years, #50 in entrepreneurship, and #40 in industry variety. Pennsylvania has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the country which inhibits investment in our state. We are also subject to the “Delaware loophole”, where 80% of corporations pay no corporate net income tax, leaving small and mid-sized businesses to foot the bill. Closing the loophole will enhance job growth, protect small and mid-sized businesses, and ensure that taxpayers are not footing the bill for larger corporations. We are also facing a severe crisis with our unfunded pension liability, and we have a long way to go in cutting waste in Harrisburg.

We need to do more with sentencing guidelines and prison reform, to protect victims and extend the statute of limitations on victims of abuse, and to make stronger efforts to address the opioid crisis.

We are facing significant environmental threats in Pennsylvania, including the use of toxic sewage sludge as fertilizer on our farmlands. Dumping of out-of-state construction debris is another serious threat that has poor regulation and little oversight. We have Exceptional Value streams that are under threat from development.

One of the most critical issues in Pennsylvania is the fact that we are one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. Not only does this issue mean that our citizens are not fairly represented, but that our legislators answer to their parties, rather than to their constituents. Consequently, many of our representatives often work in the interest of their parties, and not in the best public interest.

There is also good news in that under the Governor Wolf administration, a $2.5 billion deficit was turned into a surplus, and the elimination of government inefficiencies resulted in $373 million in savings in the past 2 years. Unemployment rates have decreased, and workforce development opportunities have been developed. More transparency in government and strengthened restrictions for lobbyists and special interests have been developed. Additionally, there have been substantial investments by the state in education and this year's state budget included a historic $60 million investment in school safety. We have seen great progress in criminal justice reform and have made significant investments and progress in combating the opioid epidemic. Legislation was passed that expands Medicaid and protects the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

I am very proud of the clean and vigorous campaign we ran. We won in many areas of the district and had a good showing in many others. Nearly 42,000 people voted for change and let my opponent know we expect real and positive action. We accomplished a great deal and brought attention to many of the serious issues we face, along with ideas for real and practical solutions.

Since I became mayor of Stroudsburg, I have embraced my calling to public service. I know we have many opportunities to improve the lives of the people of our region and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I will always act in the best public interest. While I understand there is no such thing as perfection, we must continually strive for progress.

On a final note, I will be back to run for office again, and I will never let you down. I will continue to be the Mayor of Stroudsburg and will continue my fight for people in Pennsylvania.  Thank you again for everything you did from volunteering, putting out yard signs, hosting house parties, contributing to our campaign, voting, and encouraging others to vote. YOU ALL MADE A DIFFERENCE!

With sincere thanks and gratitude,
Tarah Probst