A Pennsylvania House Seat is Sought by Gwen Stoltz

Gwen Stoltz with her family. (Photo by Tony Oppenheim)

Gwen Stoltz, 47, is a married mother of three children: a 14-year-old son and two daughters, 12 and eight. The Plumstead Township resident is also a contract medical writer for physicians and educational organizations.

She likes her life and could easily just live it.

Instead, she wants to do more.

The daughter of a Jewish single mother is running for the seat representing District 143 in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

With support from the Bucks County Democratic Committee, Stoltz is the presumptive candidate for the November general election. Her likely task? Beating the incumbent representative from 143, Republican Shelby Labs.

PA 143 includes the townships of Plumstead, Bedminster, Hilltown, New Britain and Tinicum, as well as the boroughs of Dublin, Perkasie, Sellersville and Silverdale. The territory of more than 65,000 residents can go either way, according to Bill Ritter, the Democratic Party chair for the area.

Stoltz wants to flip the seat because she claims that Labs is not responsive to constituents.

“I have heard from people who say they feel let down by her constituent services,” Stoltz said. “That’s a huge part of being a state rep.”

Pennsylvania is one of 10 U.S. states with a full-time legislature. If Stoltz wins, she will take on a job that pays more than $90,000 a year but requires her to be in Harrisburg, the state capital, for extended periods.

Stoltz is putting a requirement on herself to be available to constituents. The office of her home region’s state senator, Steve Santarsiero, upholds a promise to get back to callers within 24 hours.

Stoltz may stretch that to 48 hours, but she will require her office to maintain a similar standard. She plans to hire people who get back to people, she said.

All of that will be a lot of work. But Stoltz said she is ready for it.

“The people in the district are feeling let down,” she said. “That’s why I’m running.”

Stoltz’s family is used to balancing work and home lives, too, the mom explains.

Her husband, Frank Stoltz, is an estimator in the construction industry, so they understand what it takes to manage a two-income family with three kids. He’s also supportive and willing to pick up the slack when Gwen is away.

Earlier in her career, Stoltz worked on a contract for the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The agreement covered land in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia. Stoltz could not span that many states without taking on some distant overnights.

Politics will be similar, she said.

“We’ll balance it like any other job,” she added, saying it’s worth the balancing act.

Ritter believes the seat is winnable. After the 2020 U.S. Census, Pennsylvania redistricted, and 143 is no longer a Republican district, he explained.

If you combine Democrats and independents in those Bucks County towns, they outnumber Republicans, he said. To win, Stoltz needs to turn out the base and convince enough nonpartisans to support her.

As of mid-April, the candidate seems capable of doing that, Ritter said. He called her “indefatigable” in the way she campaigns.

“She’s been out there at the doors nonstop, talking to voters,” he said. “The best way to convince somebody to come out to vote for your candidate is to do it in person.”

Gwen Stoltz with her aunt, mother and sister during a campaign effort to gather signatures from community members. (Photo by Det Ansinn)

Once voters answer their doors, too, they meet a woman who understands their concerns, according to Ritter. Stoltz grew up in Bucks County and is raising her children there. The issues she cares about, like supporting small businesses, working moms and the environment, are issues she sees from a resident’s perspective.

As Det Ansinn, Stoltz’s brother-in-law and the chair of her campaign, explained it, she didn’t have to talk to a bunch of consultants to formulate her positions.

“When my wife and I knocked on doors to get petition signatures, we were startled by how many people knew her already,” Ansinn said. “She’s a part of the community.”

Stoltz, a longtime party activist, decided to run last summer after calling fellow voters and asking what they thought. Her neighbors were excited, and they remain excited.

The candidate needed 300 signatures to get on the ballot; she collected more than 1,000. She also had to raise money since she wasn’t self-funding her campaign; she raised more than $70,000.

And while the candidate didn’t grow up religious, her Jewish grandmother made sure she never forgot her identity. It’s a lesson Stoltz carries with her on the trail.

“I get excited about trying to address problems,” she said. JE

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