A University of Pennsylvania administrator from Prospect Park will run against state Rep. Alex Charlton, R-165, of Springfield, in a bid to capture that seat.
Jennifer O’Mara, 28, of Springfield, said her past plays a large part in her desire to be a state representative as she launched her campaign for the 165th legislative district on Friday night in Radnor.
O’Mara was born in Southwest Philadelphia and moved to Prospect Park after her dad, a career firefighter killed himself with a gun when she was 13 years old. She was one of three children and her mom got a union job driving a bus for Upper Darby schools.
“We got to where we got because we had public schools,” she said. “The services that we used and that many families have to use, those things need to be protected. I think regular people need a voice in Harrisburg.”
O’Mara said she was a first-generation college student who worked three part-time jobs while obtaining her degree. She works at the University of Pennsylvania as an assistant director of University Stewardship Events and is also a certified social studies teacher in Pennsylvania, although she’s not currently teaching.
She said she chose to run for this position because she wanted to make positive changes and she felt she was qualified for this level of government.
O’Mara spoke of her support for public schools and her emphasis on health care, in particular to coincide with the opioid epidemic.
She is married to Brad Bitting, a two Purple Heart recipient who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan.
“I wanna really make sure that people in Delaware County, regular people and working families, have a voice in Harrisburg,” she said. “I understand the things that everybody is going through.”
Charlton welcomes her addition to the race.
“This is the democratic system at work,” the representative said. “Everybody has the opportunity to run for the position.”
Charlton said he welcomes the civil exchange of ideas and discourse on what is the best for the district constituents.
“At the end of the day, my focus is the constituents and what I am doing for them,” he said.
Charlton began serving in the legislative capacity this year, following the retirement of former state Rep. Bill Adolph, who held the position for 27 years.
Charlton said he felt advances were being made in Harrisburg, including no tax increases in the most recent budget, reforms to the pension system that don’t hurt the employees but take some of the burden off the constituency and protections for people with special needs and disabilities, an issue close to him as his daughter has a spinal cord injury that requires the use of a wheelchair.
“There’s been times I’ve had to go against my party,” he said of his advocacy stance for people with disabilities.
Charlton added, “I’m going to continue with that advocacy and focus on what’s best for the district.”