Lebanon Daily News, 8/10/17 - Democratic congressional candidate sees spirit of success in visit to Lebanon
By John Latimer
Democrat Chrissy Houlahan, who hopes to unseat Republican Congressman Ryan Costello in 2018, came to Lebanon on Thursday to visit several small businesses.
She left impressed with the spirit and energy of its small business owners.
Having helped to start four business, including the successful And1 basketball apparel company, Houlahan said she felt at home meeting the city's entrepreneurs.
"Fundamentally at my core, in addition to a career of service, I believe myself to be an entrepreneur and I see an enormous amount of entrepreneurial spirit in Lebanon and it excites me," she said. "In each of the businesses we walked into, inevitably you see the passion of the entrepreneur. The opportunity that they perceive, whether there business is haircuts or T-shirts, the ideas and energy they have is just invigorating."
A U.S. Air Force veteran, Houlahan announced her candidacy in April, saying she was inspired by the January Women's March protest in Washington D.C.
"People are looking for a different kind of leader and they are looking for somebody who has that real-world experience," Houlahan said. "Somebody who’s done the kinds of things that they are being challenged to do every day. Whether its serving in the military, whether its building businesses, whether its educating their children, all of those are the things that people are crying out for in a leader."
Houlahan, who holds an engineering degree from Stanford University and a master's degree in Technology and Policy from MIT, resides in Chester County, which is also the home of Costello. The county is in the Pennsylvania's Sixth Congressional District which also includes portions of Lebanon, Berks and Montgomery counties.
Houlahan has been critical of her Republican opponent for his political stances on issues ranging from a committee vote in favor of the GOP health care plan to his support of the Financial Choice Act, which repealed portions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Because of her accomplished business and military background, Democratic Party leaders say they are optimistic Houlahan will claim the congressional seat which has been held by Costello for the past three years and for many years before that by Republican Jim Gerlach.
Political pundits from both parties expect it to be one of the most competitive and closely watched races next year.
Houlahan's tour of Lebanon was guided by Lebanon County Democratic Committee member Cesar F. Liriano and City Councilman Cornell Wilson. It included businesses in both downtown Lebanon and on the city's northside, many of them owned by Latinos.
Houlahan said some of the businesses she visited Thursday reminded her of a gift shop her grandmother operated in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, where she worked at the counter as a little girl.
"There is clearly a spirit of energy and hope here," she said.
The walking tour started off at the La Placita restaurant at 922 Cumberland where she chatted with husband-and-wife owners Guadalupe Barba and Sergio Uraga.
Afterward, Barba said she was impressed by Houlahan and felt she understands the challenges that immigrants face in establishing a business in the U.S. because her father's family left Poland when he was a boy to escape the Holocaust.
"My impression is that she is a good person and she understand the situation of Hispanics and other people who come to this county, like her," Barba said. "I think she sets a good example."
Houlahan also dropped by The Connect, a combination electronics and fashion store at 7 Eighth St. owned by George Rodriguez.
Costello also dropped into Rodriguez's shop in April, when he took a walking tour of Lebanon.
Houlahan and Rodriguez chatted briefly about the importance of education. A topic they have in common because she most recently worked as president of Springboard Collaborative, a Philadelphia-based company that promotes early childhood literacy for low-income, inner-city students and Rodriguez mentors troubled teens, helping them to stay in high school and running the Sweep the Streets Basketball Tournament.
Although impressed by both Costello and Houlahan, Rodriguez said he was attracted to the interest she showed in his mentoring program, including wanting to meet some of the kids. He said they exchanged emails to stay in touch.
"I liked that it was not just about the politics, it was more about the hands on and the problems in the inner-city and urban areas. And she understood that and addressed me that he really wants to be involved," he said. "In politics everybody gets caught up in the paperwork and one gets hands on. I like hands on."
Houlahan also got a sneak peak at Lebanon's newest night club, Mama Juana, in the former Orioles Club at 39 N. Ninth St. She complimented owner Esmailin Pena on the sophisticated decor.
"I hope you do well here and open many others. You can start a franchise," she said.
For more information about Houlahan visit her website, chrissyhoulahanforcongress.com.