Out and about the other night, I ran into Makayla Alicea, President of the Erie County Young Dems. Chit chat ensued, politics on tap, and a question: who do you consider your chief demographic.

It was a good question, but one I wasn’t quite prepared for, in part because I’d like to say, everyone. That’s the ideal, of course, but it’s already clear that (shocker!) there are people who will not only not support my candidacy, but actually loathe everything I stand for. So there’s that.

But to answer the question about my chief demographic: people who have been left out of the conversation.

I describe my candidacy as an effort to change the conversation, because I’ve heard for too long the same old (non)ideas from the same old sorts of people in Western PA politics. Unimaginative. Looking away from our real problems. Committed, really, to maintaining the system we’re stuck with, even when it isn’t working. Because…well…that’s never quite clear. Probably because it benefits them in some way, or the deep pockets that back them.

I also know that when you grow up in rural Western Pennsylvania, you actually aren’t really ever part of the conversation when it comes to statewide politics. Rural people rarely matter, in these contexts. Which is something we have to refuse to accept. And when you’re a liberal resident of rural Western Pennsylvania, well that you really aren’t part of the conversation. You can watch the news, or read the comments on various social media posts (but really: never read the comments!) and it’s clear who gets to speak. Half of it seems to be that’s the way it’s always been and the other half seems to be insults from the trolls going after anyone who tries to push against the way it’s always been.

Well, hello…my name’s Matt Ferrence, and I’m running the for the PA House because I’m tired of that conversation. And I want to have new conversations with all the members of our community that usually find themselves shouted down, ignored, or condescended to. All the people who have been getting a raw deal, who have been made to feel like they don’t count, or aren’t welcome, or have to defer to the wisdom of the power that’s always been framed as the way it is.

Let me add a wrinkle, referring back to the status of rural Pennsylvania: if you live in District 6, then you really haven’t been allowed into the conversation. Not really. This is the long history of the Rust Belt and Appalachia (and we’re in both of those regions here). Even our own politicians back laws and regulations that are far more likely to hurt us than help us, then expect us to side with them, and then thank the people doing the hurt. After voting for them again.

That’s a conversation we have to change. And we have to do it by adding voices into the mix that many don’t imagine are here. LGBTQ+ voices. Non-white voices. Immigrant voices. Female voices. Poor voices. Compassionate voices. Green voices. Young Dem voices, gathering together to declare that this is their future we’re talking about, and they love this place, and we’re all in this together. Our voices. Voices that really want to see a different future here in Crawford and Erie Counties, in all of Pennsylvania, who are ready to change the conversation and transform from a political culture of perpetual austerity to one of human prosperity and care, for everyone. Because yeah, still, that’s my real chief demographic.

#Want to talk about this and other things affecting NWPA? How about hosting a meet&chat? I’d love to come and hang out, have some conversation about the 6th. I’d love to speak to interested civic organizations, too.#

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