What Fresh Hell Is This?

January 29, 2008

Meet The Candidate: Beth Hafer

Ok, so I went to this meet and greet thing with Beth Hafer this evening at the Shadow Lounge. A more than respectable number of what I assumed to be mostly eastside progressives tucked into a dark room just across the street from the East Liberty Presbyterian Church.

The room was half dark and half not - the floor-space illuminated candles on each table and the stage-space spotlighted to a warm rosy glow. Steely Dan on the sound system signing about the wonders of static-free FM.

Bram was there. So was Char.

City Councilman Bill Peduto hosted the event and before it began, I asked him about his connection to Beth Hafer's campaign. He said he was there to offer her support and to help out networking with some of the leaders of Pittsburgh's progressive community. Matt Merriman-Preston, late of Peduto's mayoral campaign, was there as was Dan Gilman, Peduto's chief-of-staff.

In his intro to the crowd, Peduto said he's looking to continue this series next month with a "meet and greet" with Rob McCord, candidate for State Treasurer. Or possibly a candidates forum for some local candidates for the State House.

After those few words by Peduto, Sadie Sterner, of the McCord campaign, spoke for a little bit about McCord. No doubt we'll learn more next month.

Peduto then introduced Beth Hafer. He said he was impressed that while she came from a political family, she wasn't all that political. She made a life for herself outside of politics. And while the 18th Congressional District isn't really all that close to East Liberty, he wants to regain that seat for the Democrats. As he supports Representative Altmire and Representative Doyle, he really wants to see a Democrat representing that district.

That's our seat, he said later.

Beth Hafer said that a year ago, she would not have would have thought of running for Congress. She had a calm life. 3rd generation in the same house in Mt Lebanon. But she realized that government had lost its way. Its representatives were more interested in the privilege of the position than in the privilege of serving their constituents (a phrase she would use twice this evening). The country, she said, is in need of a significant change.

Once elected, she promised that she'd work every single day to bring the troops home. On the state of health care in this country, the fact that 47 million Americans are without insurance is, in her words, unacceptable and immoral. As a former 7th grade science teacher, she finds fault with the Bush Administration's "No Child Left Behind". As it's test-centered, it isn't educating as well as it should be. As it's underfunded, yet mandated, it's up to the states to pick up the slack - which means higher taxes for the rest of us. In a question as to how she'd deal with her Republican opponent's "lock" on the district's pro-life voters, she pointed out her position on Abortion. She said it should be (as we've all heard many others say by now) safe, legal and rare. The emphasis should be on prevention, she added.

When I asked about her reaction last night's State of the Union Address, she said it was just "more of the same." Her favorite part was watching Speaker Pelosi's facial reactions to the speech. Bush hadn't offered any apologies for the war or the debt. No recognition that he's the one who put the country on the self-destructive path. He's the one who's presided over the outrageous spending.

It was just very frustrating for me, she said.

On the race, she said she was optimistic she could win it. There are more Democrats than Republicans in the district. And a sizeable number of independents. She's got a union endorsement: The Communications Workers Union. Going door-to-door she said she learned that even Republicans are upset with the way things are going. It's winnable, she said.

Afterwards, I asked her a few more questions. How does she set herself apart from the other 4 Democrats in the race? She said she relates to the voters better, has a broader appeal - an appeal that would be necessary to win. Since she was a former 7th grade science teacher, I had to ask her position on Evolution/Intelligent Design. She said that evolution seems the most reasonable position. It's a part of the state standards, "but I'll listen to any theory."

No static at all.


Richmond K. Turner said...

I know that I shouldn't automatically dislike her without listening to her, but can't we -- just once -- talk about electing someone whose parents were never in political office? The family legacies in Western Pennsylvania politics are simply dizzying in scope, and they haven't served us very well.

You can't tell me that there isn't someone else in that district who wouldn't be just as qualified. In fact, the only real qualification this young lady seems to have is the last name "Hafer". Surely we can do better than that.

All that being said, I'd take a trained (or even untrained) kangaroo over Murphy.

Schultz said...

Schultz now lives in that district!!! lol

I have yet to meet any of the Democratic candidates but I do plan to interview Ms. Hafer for my Green blog, to get a better understanding of her positions on energy and environmental policy, issues where Congressman Tim Murphy is a complete disaster.

Speaking of disasters, yesterday I received a direct mail piece from my Representative, Mr. Murphy. The first page stated that the US could be energy independent if those darn treehuggers just let us drill for oil throughout all of our coastal areas. I may post an image of the map that was on the page. Mr Murphy was kind enough to point out where all the oil is - just offshore of the continental US. It's great to know that my Representative holds is a certified geo-scientist!

To RTK's point, I was wondering why Beth would use her maiden name. Is she using Hafer instead of her husband's name so she can capitalize on her mother's name recognition or has she always gone by her maiden name? Its not uncommon for women to not take their husband's last name.

Murphy's demise this November is not a given. Despite the 18th having 70,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, it will take a high turnout of Dems to unseat Murphy.

Fortunately, there are candidates like Obama out there who are energizing Republicans, Independents, and those who are not registered to vote to register as a Democrat in our district and the other congressional districts throughout the state. I know this because myself and others have already convinced a number of these individuals to register as Democrats and vote for Barack Obama in our April 22nd primary.


Not to nitpick, but Bill's CoS is Dan Gilman with an "i". I normally wouldn't mention the mispelling but we all love that cute little redhead and wanna make sure his name is spelled correctly!

dayvoe said...


Sorry, Dan!

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more that we need new names to vote for...but much of the problem is related to the way we elect people. Since it is so expensive, instant name recognition gives any candidate an immediate leg-up over an unknown. Instead of spending x-number of dollars building name recognition with the electorate, they can jump immediately into more important issues when they start to advertise.


Bram Reichbaum said...

Not a bad point about name recognition, but in the case of offspring there's flip side to that coin. You're immediately perceived wrong, like you're trying to make hay on your forebearer's name. A lot probably depends on that name. Hopefully, a lot more depends on the individual ... and the issues.

Anonymous said...

Name recognition matters... its a simple fact. Unknowns don't like it but its a reality. I saw hafer twice... she looks like she'll be a good candidate. To respond to the "political family legacies" question and wanting a new candidate... the PA-18 democrats had that last time in chad kluko and it didn't work out so well did it? Duh... And thats too bad because I thought chad was an excellent candidate and I supported him. Hafer is our best chance in this election...

Real said...

I have seen Hafer a number of times and have never been impressed with the way she presents herself. Living in the 18th congressional district this election means something to me. I have never been able to vote for a reasonable candidate against Tim Murphy and if Beth Hafer is the nominee, I will once again have to begrudgingly vote for a weak Democratic candidate. I don’t plan on voting for Hafer in the primary and don’t expect her to win it. People are going to have a problem with the fact that she was an elected Republican Committee woman in Mt. Lebo in 2000… at least I have a problem with it. That tells me that she helped people like Rick Santorum, George Bush, and Tim Murphy himself get elected. Don’t misunderstand me, if there is a qualified Republican that I feel is/or will do a good job I'll have no problem voting for them. (Something we very recently experienced in Pittsburgh’s mayoral race)
To be elected as a Republican and then run for Congress as a Democrat seems a little odd.