This is the second 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.
Steve Santarsiero never envisioned a career in politics when working as an attorney for a North Jersey law firm in the early 2000s.
“Running for office was the furthest thing from my mind,” Santarsiero said. “But these events happen sometimes in your life that put you on a different path.”
For him, one of those events was the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
“The weeks and months that followed, I was thinking about what I was doing,” he said. “I had a real growing desire to go into public service.”
Santarsiero decided teaching would be a good fit for him. He enrolled at Holy Family College in fall 2002, taking classes at night. By spring 2004, he was placed in a student-teaching position at Bensalem High School, where he became a full-time social studies teacher.
Almost 15 years after making the decision to go into public service, Santarsiero is running for U.S. Congress.
The former chairman of the Lower Makefield Board of Supervisors and current state representative for Pennsylvania’s 31st District believes his legislative experience and commitment to improving Bucks County make him the right candidate for its citizens.
“I’m going to be a very strong advocate for our communities,” Santarsiero said.
In recent years, however, the Republican-controlled state House has been a tough place to fight for Democratic issues.
“If you want to have an impact, you’ve got to lose your pride a bit,” Santarsiero said. “If you have a good idea, you have to go to the other side of the aisle.”
His seven years in the state House, he said, have taught him the legislative process — how to cooperate with opposition, use the amendment process, build relationships and understand the dynamics of leadership.
If elected to Congress, Santarsiero will use these skills to zero in on his most important issues.
“You have to decide a handful of issues that you really want,” he said. “You have to have your priorities.”
He cited early childhood education, affordability of higher education, transportation infrastructure, environmental protection and gun safety as issues he would focus on.
Locally, Santarsiero would create what he calls the “Community Support Office,” with at least one staff person responsible for staying connected with local municipalities, counties and state government. This office would also be the homebase for ordinary constituent service.
This is something he wished existed while he was a teacher and saw families struggling to afford college, or when, before he was a Lower Makefield supervisor, he organized the effort to block a big-box shopping center in his hometown, or now as he helps coordinate opposition to the proposed Elcon facility in Falls Township.
“The 8th district is fortunate in its location and in the fact that it has highly educated workers. It is a place that I think is ripe for investment and ultimately more jobs,” Santarsiero said, noting that infrastructure investment will help it grow even more.
Santarsiero has lived in Lower Makefield Township with his wife, Ronni, a lawyer, for 20 years. They have three children — Nancy, Billy and Johnny.
“We moved to Bucks County because we heard what a beautiful place it was,” Santarsiero said. “Regardless of what happens with this election, we’re going to be living in our house and raising our kids here.”