This is the first in a series of interviews with candidates for Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District. All candidates were given the opportunity to speak with the Midweek Wire before the April 26 primary.
In many ways, Shaughnessy Naughton’s campaign for Congress began in 2013.
Now, she’s almost two years removed from a narrow loss in the Democratic primary in the 8th Congressional District. Her opponent, Kevin Strouse, was handily defeated in the general election by incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick.
“It’s really hard to put yourself out there and come up short,” Naughton said. “I obviously wasn’t expecting to lose.”
The morning after her defeat, phone calls of encouragement poured in from local party leaders. Current U.S. Senate candidates Joe Sestak and Katie McGinty called. Former Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz called. Former Gov. Ed Rendell called. Even Steve Santarsiero, her primary opponent, called, she said.
“You did good, kid,” Naughton said, quoting Rendell. “We’ll get ‘em in 2016.”
In Naughton’s eyes, little has changed. The issues she spoke about in 2013 and 2014 still exist to varying degrees. She is hoping that with this election, voters give her the chance to take action.
“Running against an incumbent like Mike Fitzpatrick was always going to be tough. We knew we were in this for 2016,” she said. “The problems facing people trying to make it into the middle class and beyond are still there. Dysfunction in Washington is still there. So, we’re trying again.”
Naughton was born, raised and still resides in Point Pleasant. She has a degree in chemistry from Bryn Mawr College, which led to a career as an infectious disease researcher. In 2003, she stepped in to steady her family’s struggling publishing business, and continued to run it in the years that followed.
Two aspects of her experience separate her from the usual field of Pennsylvania’s congressional hopefuls. The first is that she never held any type of political office. The second is that she is a woman in a state that currently has none in the U.S. House of Representatives.
These perspectives, coupled with her experiences in scientific research and running a family business, contribute heavily to the message of her campaign.
“When I talk about the struggles of the middle class, I’m not talking about it in the abstract,” Naughton said. “[My family] made it into the middle class, which was fortunate, but that’s becoming increasingly difficult to do.”
Naughton pointed to the rising costs of higher education and insufficient funding for public schools as impediments to lower and middle-class families.
She also supports an “Apollo-level” investment in science and technology to help spur domestic job growth, deal with climate change, and promote energy independence. That kind of investment, in her view, would inspire people to go into scientific fields and promote high-tech manufacturing.
“We’re falling behind because we’re not making a serious investment in clean technology,” she said. “It’s an issue that, Democrats and Republicans, we should be able to find some common ground with because we all want to create jobs.”
Naughton has hosted a series of town halls across the district as a way to connect with voters on hyperlocal issues. She wants to know their needs and how she can serve local constituents from a federal office.
“Things are different in Hatfield than they are in most of Bensalem,” Naughton said, but one issue needs to be addressed throughout the county. “Our failure to invest in our infrastructure is really hurting families and small businesses.”
In her second run, Naughton hopes voters see how her positions reflect their needs and the needs of Bucks County.
“It’s most important to have representatives that are clear on their positions,” Naughton said. “I’m not a politician, so you’re going to know where I stand on the issues. I think that’s really important.”