Daily Local News, 4/24/18 - Houlahan, in West Chester visit, speaks to small business owners

By Michael Rellahan

WEST CHESTER >> Democratic congressional candidate Chrissy Houlahan paid a brief visit to small businesses in the downtown business district Tuesday, encouraged by the endorsement of state Rep. Carolyn Comitta, the former borough mayor who escorted her throughout town.

Houlahan stopped at two restaurants — Saloon 151 on West Gay Street and Spence cafe on North High Street — as well as the Visual Expansion Gallery — to introduce herself and let owners know her experience in and support of the type of operations they run.

She speaks from experience, she said, having worked for a shoe manufacturer in Paoli, And 1, that grew from a mid-sized business to a $250 million operation while she was chief operating officer. She was also instrumental in the creation of B-Lab, an organization that promotes socially responsible and profitable businesses.

“I have a pretty good heritage in terms of building and developing small and mid-sized businesses, and so what I am hoping to bring as a message is an understanding of what it takes to grow and build and grow and nurture small businesses,” Houlahan told a reporter during a break in her visit. “You can do that, create good businesses, while also being respectful of the community and the environment and your employees. I think that is something I have a lot of experience with.”

She said that although the recent tax legislation promoted by Republicans in Washington, D.C. and signed into law by President Donald Trump had some advantages for small business owners, the bill favored businesses and people who did not need the assistance, she said.

“There certainly are pieces of the bill that are favorable for small businesses and mid-sized businesses,” she said. “But the vast majority of it is a very cynically constructed bill that favors the big and large-sized businesses, and frankly people who are well-resourced individuals over middle-income people and working-class people. I think it is unfair and inappropriate. To me that is something that needs to be addressed.”

Houlahan, 50, of Easttown, is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for the 6th Congressional District, which was recently redrawn by the state Supreme Court to include all of Chester County, plus a sliver of Berks County including the city of Reading. She had been poised to face off against incumbent U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, but he decided against a re-election bid late last month, joining a host of other Republican legislators who have announced plans to leave their seats at the end of this year, or earlier.

In a brief interview with a reporter at Spence Cafe, Houlahan touched on the subject of small business support, but also commented on recent demonstrations by students against gun violence, the failure of redistricting changes in Harrisburg, and her improved chances with Costello out of the race and the Republicans represented by newcomer Greg McCauley, the Chadds Ford tax attorney and businessman who will appear alone on the May primary ballot.

Addressing the gun issue, she said she supported the efforts of students in the county to stand up for what they see as a public policy priority.

“I think it has long been time for us as a responsible group of leaders to address these issues, and I think the kids are right. I think they are leading appropriately,” she said.

“I have a heritage of having served in the military, third generation military,” speaking of her years in the U.S. Air Force. “I obviously respect the Second Amendment. But because I served in the military I know that there is a time and a place for certain kinds of weapons. The kinds of weapons we are talking about — high capacity assault weapons — there is no place for them in my opinion in our community.”

She said she would support legislation involving universal background checks, expanded funding of mental health programs to target those with special needs, and research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention into gun violence, stances she said she thinks those in the district overwhelmingly favor.

“I think we need common sense gun safety,” she said. “I think that the vast majority of us in our community believe that these are common sense. Even people who are gun owners in many cases believe there are common sense things that we can do to keep our children safe and our community safe.”

The endorsement from Comitta, D-156, of West Chester is the latest in a string of nods that have been given to Houlahan on a state and national basis. She has been able to raise more than $1 million for campaign purposes, and has seen her chances raised from toss-up to one favoring the Democrat. Still, she stressed, her confidence does not mean complacency.

“One thing about me is that I am not a complacent person,” she said. “I’ve spent my life working and fighting hard for all the things that I think are important. I thought the opportunity for me to serve was a winnable opportunity before Rep. Costello got out, before redistricting, before Connor Lamb’s race (in western Pennsylvania). This was a district I thought that needed a person like me with the experience that I have.

“I headed into this more than a year ago with the firm intent that I have the opportunity to serve,” she said. “I still believe that I have that opportunity, but I have to fight for it. I know have to fight for it. I am by no mans complacent, nor do I take anything for granted.”

To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.


Campaign Staff