Keegan running for PA 139

Prioritizes environment, healthcare and education

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 5/15/22

Marian Keegan, forester, scientist and director of community conservation at Hemlock Farms in Pike County for nearly 20 years, is running for the Democratic Party nomination for PA’s 139th legislative district.

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Keegan running for PA 139

Prioritizes environment, healthcare and education

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PENNSYLVANIA’S 139TH DISTRICT — Marian Keegan, forester, scientist and director of community conservation at Hemlock Farms in Pike County for nearly 20 years, is running for the Democratic Party nomination for PA’s 139th legislative district. Covering parts of Wayne and Pike counties, the district has long been represented by Republican Rep. Mike Peifer, who is not seeking re-election this year.

Keegan challenged Peifer in the General Election in 2020. She discussed her candidacy with River Reporter over the phone several days before this year’s primary, on Tuesday, May 17. Keegan is facing legal professional and educator Meghan Rosenfeld. On the Republican ticket, Wayne County Commissioner Joe Adams, media owner Robert Beierle, and Pike County resident Elefterie Balu are running.

In the past when you’ve run for this office, you were facing an incumbent. Now that there’s no incumbent in the race, do you feel the people of Wayne and Pike counties could go for an environmentally minded Democrat such as yourself?

Well, I certainly think the Democrats are energized that the incumbent retired, and they’re very interested in this primary race and the candidates who are running. I have name recognition in Wayne and Pike counties from my 2020 run, which gives me a bit of an advantage. And I’ve been capitalizing on that by getting out to events and talking with people and understanding what’s important to them and their concerns. 

Their concerns are changing. Everybody’s a little worried and uncertain about our future because of the COVID-19 crisis and, of course, climate change is going to bring big changes. And I think people are looking for a leader who can represent them in state government and can find that path. I think they’re very interested in my candidacy.

I also believe that there are, what I would call, disaffected Republicans who are looking for a new type of leadership, and I think that will position me well in the General Election.

In 2020, you said that as a representative, you would oppose fracking in Pennsylvania. A number of PA lawmakers—including Jonathan Fritz who represents the other portion of Wayne County—are actively working to expand fracking and fossil fuels in general. Is this something you would work against if you were elected to office?

Yes, that was a platform I ran on: to ban fracking in the Delaware River Basin. And a few months after the General Election—in 2021—the Delaware River Basin [Commission] indeed did ban fracking. And that was a hard-fought battle that a lot of people supported, and they still do. So when the Republicans and Jonathan Fritz try to introduce legislation to change the very nature of the Delaware River Basin Commission, I think that’s a waste of legislative resources. I don’t think the state legislature has that power, try as they might to redefine it. I think they do so at the peril of the protection of our drinking water. So yes, this continues to be an important issue for me, and for the people in the 139th and who live along the Delaware River Basin.

With such a tumultuous couple of years since you last ran, what are some of the top issues in your mind that inspired you to run in 2022?

Some of the issues in 2020 were healthcare: the facilities, urgent cares were leaving the county, and our ambulance service was very poor. Since then, the Pike County Commissioners have worked out a way to fund additional ambulance service through the townships, and that’s working out well. And they are also, as I understand it—and I’ve been attending some of their meetings and talking with the commissioners—they are getting some urgent care facilities to move back.

Nonetheless, the healthcare facilities do need attention here in Pike County, though Wayne Memorial Hospital [in Wayne County] is very good with some of their outreach. They have community health centers in Pike County, and they have training opportunities for healthcare workers. And we know from COVID-19, that the healthcare workers have been on the frontline, and we owe them a lot.

Most of our demographics are aging or retirees. So it’s important that we have the kinds of healthcare services that they need. That is important. And getting low-cost prescription drugs. 

Since COVID-19, we’ve seen a number of opportunities. Our roads and our bridges have always been an issue, and money’s coming down through the federal government to fund some of that. Of course, the Republican legislature was siphoning off some of that road and bridge money to other agencies: That needs to stop. We have to keep our road and bridge money where it belongs, and then fund the improvements in each county of the 139th district.

For the first time in decades, our state government has a surplus. So money is available, and we have to make it available to our rural districts that really need it. 

[Other important issues include] quality education and childcare. 

I’ve talked to a number of young mothers who find that affordable housing is an issue, and then you add on healthcare. Just getting help with healthcare would help them tremendously to stay in the workforce, and also take care of their children.

The learning and care of children is a big issue with people in the 139th. Fair funding formulas used for school districts are important. The Republican-led legislature has been reducing the state’s share of funding. It used to be 50 percent, but now it’s much less. That needs to be restored so that it takes a little pressure off of property taxes, which is an important issue with our seniors and their pensions.

I grew up in Wayne County and never got to Pike County a whole lot. And I don’t know many Pike County residents who got over to Wayne County a whole lot. Do you feel you’ve been able to cover ground in both counties and make connections in the two communities?

I have, and that’s been a hallmark of my campaign: to connect communities in both counties. This is one district, it’s a rural district. What’s happening in Pike is more about tourism, what’s happening in Wayne is more about agriculture. But there’s construction and real estate that connects the two, and there’s been an influx of people moving in from both areas, and that affects our properties and the building trades.

So, I’ve been talking to a lot of people about the issues… These issues cross counties, some of them are unique [to one or the other], and I’ve got my finger on the pulse of both. Bringing together all those community voices in my campaign, it’s inclusive and equal representation. If I am elected, I will provide constituent services to all people in the 139th in both counties.

To give you an example of how I’ve done that: At Grey Towers Heritage Association [in Milford], when I was president I reached out to bring in board members from Wayne County as well as Pike County, and still keep that focus local as well as reaching out to other communities. So this is very important to me, to represent all people equally in our rural district.

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