Lebanon Daily News, 4/11/17 - Air Force vet challenges Rep. Ryan Costello
By John Lattimer
An Air Force veteran with an accomplished background in business has announced she is running for Pennsylvania’s Sixth Congressional District seat.
Chrissy Houlahan formerly unveiled her campaign on Monday, launching a website (chrissyhoulahanforcongress.com) and wasting no time in blasting second-term Republican incumbent Ryan Costello for his support of President Donald Trump's policies.
“As a veteran and business leader, I cannot stand by while President Trump inflicts damage to our nation," she said. "Unfortunately, Representative Ryan Costello has shown an eagerness to rubber-stamp this Administration’s dangerous social, economic, educational, and military policies.”
A resident of Chester County and the married mother of two grown daughters, the 49-year-old was raised in a military household. Her father left Poland at the age of four to escape the Holocaust and later entered the Navy, she said. After a youth spent moving from one naval base to another, in 1989 Houlahan earned a degree in industrial engineering from Stanford University, where she attended on an ROTC scholarship.
Upon graduation Houlahan entered the Air Force where she served on active duty as a project manager for three years, followed by 13 years in the Air Force Reserve. After completing her active duty, she attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she earned a Masters Degree in technology and policy.
Houlahan's career experience includes working for the basketball apparel company, And1, rising to become its Chief Operating Officer during a 10-year span in which its sales grew from $4 million to $250 million and its workforce grew by 200.
After the sale of And1, Houlahan entered the non-profit sector working most recently as president of Springboard Collaborative, a Philadelphia-based company that promotes early childhood literacy for low-income, inner-city students. Houlahan also took a year to work with Teach for America, as a chemistry instructor at Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia.
It is the combination of her 30-years experience that has prepared her for Congress, Houlahan said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
"I think the thing I’m most proud of is, all of those have in common a service to our community," she said.
Her experience and interests also form the foundation of campaign.
Houlahan listed creating jobs, promoting public education to prepare students for the jobs of the future, and improving support for veterans as three of the four cornerstones of her platform.
The fourth would be focusing on women's issues, including supporting reproductive rights and equal pay for women.
Although she worked as a volunteer for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, making phone calls and canvasing door-to-door, this is Houlahan's first run for public office.
She said she felt compelled to run for Congress by a combination of factors, including her experience organizing a bus trip and attending the Women's March in Washington D.C. on Jan. 21.
"That was a real catalyzing moment for me," she said. "It kind of pulled together all of those things that are passions of mine."
Staking her ground as a political outsider, Houlahan labeled Costello a "career politician" and calling him and his record of support for Trump "dangerous."
"Right now, business as usual in Washington isn’t sustainable," she said. "Our representative in the form of Ryan Costello is dangerous. At a minimum he is lazy and at a maximum he is dangerous, advancing an agenda that I don’t think is the agenda of most of those who live in the district."
On Monday, while visiting Lebanon, Costello did not specifically address Houlahan's candidacy but said he expected a strong challenge next year.
"My expectation is it will be a competitive election and there will continue to be a lot of outreach by voters who either didn’t support me or may not have voted last time but may not necessarily see eye-to-eye with the president," he said. "And they will be looking to me to see how did my votes sort of line up with the president’s agenda, or not line up. I will just continue to take that bit-by-bit, step-by-step and let voters evaluate what direction I am headed."
Before Houlahan gets her shot at Costello, she will have to win a Democratic primary that is more than a year away but is already shaping up to be a competitive one.
Chester County businessman Bob Dettore, an engineer and executive in the construction industry, told the Daily Local on Monday that he plans to run for office and others are rumored to be considering running for the district.
The national Democratic Party has already targeted Costello for defeat as it works to regain a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Although Costello comfortably won reelection in November, Pennsylvania's Sixth District was just one of 23 across the country that voted for Hillary Clinton while electing a Republican representative. In addition to parts of Lebanon County, including most of the city, the district represents portions of Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties.