When PA State Senator Amanda Cappelletti was an undergraduate at Chestnut Hill College more than a decade ago, she had no plans to seek public office as a career.
When Amanda Cappelletti, 34, was an undergraduate at Chestnut Hill College more than a decade ago, she had no plans to seek public office as a career. She went to Temple Law School, then became a Fellow with the American Civil Liberties Union and Director of Policy with Planned Parenthood. (She insists she never received criticism from anyone connected with her alma mater, despite the fact that she worked as a strong abortion rights advocate.)
In 2016, after becoming involved in social issues with her work at the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, Cappelletti reached out to a friend who was politically active and asked if she could get involved. “It was never my intention to run for office, but I was asked if I would run for my local board of supervisors. I didn't initially say yes. After much discussion, I realized that it was worth taking the chance.”
As a result, Cappelletti became vice-chair of the East Norriton Board of Supervisors. At the time, State Sen. Daylin Leach, of the 17th District, which spans parts of Montgomery and Delaware Counties, had held the seat since 2009. However, although he had a high profile and progressive voting record, he began to lose support among Democrats after female former staffers accused him publicly of inappropriate touching and making sexualized jokes.
As often happens in such scandals, more accusers came forward until Leach became pretty much persona non grata in the Democratic caucus. And before the Democratic primary election in June of last year, Cappelletti was endorsed by party officials including Gov. Tom Wolf, Lt. Gov John Fetterman, 12 state lawmakers and members of Congress, and even U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
In the primary election, Cappelletti easily defeated Leach, winning 61 percent of the vote in what many regarded as a #MeToo victory. In the November general election against Republican Ellen Fisher, Cappelletti won by an even greater margin, 66 percent.
When asked by the Local last week why she agreed to run against Leach, whose progressive positions on issues were very close to hers, Cappelletti replied, “It is not enough for our elected officials to vote for progressive policies. They must live them every day through their actions ... If we as elected officials do not do this, then we are part of the problem. I ran because I expect more of my elected officials, and I expect more of myself.”
And Cappelletti said she’s proud to be joining a recent wave of women who have been elected to office in Congress and the state legislature from the Philadelphia suburbs.
A native of Boyertown, Cappelletti said she chose Chestnut Hill College for her undergraduate education because “it provided an opportunity to be a part of a community where professors know and care about you. They also offered a unique degree in International Business, Language and Culture. After having spent a year studying abroad in Italy, the idea of marrying those topics into one degree was incredibly appealing.”
Since becoming a State Senator, Cappelletti has worked on such issues as a higher minimum wage, a longer waiting period on gun purchases and closing the gender gap in income. All have gone nowhere in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. So then, why keep pushing these issues?
”We have incredible advocates in the State Senate,”she insisted. ”Senator Tartaglione was an important voice the last time we raised the minimum wage and continues to be that person. I can only hope that her long standing relationships in the State Senate will help us achieve another increase and move us towards a living wage for all Pennsylvanians.”
Regarding rational gun control legislation, “Unfortunately, I don't know what it will take for legislation like this to move. If it didn't happen after Sandy Hook Elementary, I just don't know when it will become a priority for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle.”
Cappelletti has also become passionate about the climate change crisis: “Given the increased natural disasters occurring in our area and other threats to public health, we absolutely must fight climate change. If we don't act swiftly and decisively, floods like we saw with Hurricane Ida will happen more and more often. State Sen. Katie Muth (who represents parts of Berks, Chester and Montgomery Counties) and I are introducing legislation to take Pennsylvania to 100% green, renewable energy by 2050. Rep. Christopher Rabb (who represents Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy) is introducing companion legislation in the State House.
“My time at Chestnut Hill College greatly influenced my view on climate change. Sister Cecelia Cavanaugh said something that has stuck with me. She called it 'global weirding' instead of 'global warming.' She was expressing that our weather patterns were going to change in 'weird' or different ways. We would see natural disasters, increased hurricanes, blizzards, flooding and the like with more frequency.”
Long-time Penn State football fans are bound to wonder if Cappelletti is related to John Cappelletti, who won the Heisman Trophy as the best college football player in the U.S. in 1973 while at Penn State. ”This is a question I have gotten my entire life,” she replied. “I am sad to say there is no direct relation.”
Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com
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