The former executive director of the Lebanon County Bar Association hopes she can persuade local voters to put a Democrat in the state House.

Catherine “Cavi” Miller of Cornwall has announced her candidacy for the 101st legislative district. The seat is currently held by Republican state Rep. Frank Ryan, who announced earlier this year he will not seek re-election to a fourth term.

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Miller cited “the need for change” and making the government “more responsive to the people” as driving forces behind her decision to run.

“When I meet people, I try to impress upon them that if elected, I will be serving them,” she told LebTown.” I will prioritize their needs, and not steamroll into Harrisburg with my own ideals, values, and plan. Over the course of the next several months, it will be my goal to learn as much as I can about what people think, what is lacking, and what needs to change. Without the input of our residents there can be no real and meaningful platform.”

After redistricting, the 101st House district includes Lebanon City, Cornwall Borough, and North Cornwall, North Lebanon, South Lebanon, West Cornwall, West Lebanon townships.

Another Cornwall resident, John Schlegel, is seeking the Republican nomination for the seat. Schlegel, 67, is a former administrator in the Lebanon, Palmyra and Cornwall-Lebanon school districts and was a teacher and coach at Northern Lebanon High School.

Miller, 39, is currently the only Democrat seeking the nomination. If no other candidates join the race before the May 17 primary election, it is likely Miller and Schlegel will vie for the seat come November.

The mother of two children, Miller ran last year for the Cornwall mayor, earning nearly 47 percent of the popular vote.

“I lost by a very slim margin,” Miller said. “While I was upset at the loss, this afforded me the opportunity to think about how I could make a difference on a much larger scale.”

Background information

A graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Miller has an undergraduate degree in aerospace studies with minors in aviation psychology, aviation safety, and aeronautical science. She received a master’s degree in safety science.

Before helming the county bar association, she worked as a chef, a welder, a forensic engineer, and an occupational health and safety contractor for the commonwealth. She has performed with the Lebanon County Choral Society and served as a volunteer at Cornwall Elementary School, Cornwall Iron Furnace, and Habitat for Humanity. She is on the boards of the Cornwall Iron Furnace Associates, the Domestic Violence Intervention Board, and the Lebanon Valley Conservancy. A licensed pilot, she has flown fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters and jets, and has performed aerobatics.

“I am both a natural leader and a team player,” Miller told LebTown. “My life experiences and the jobs that I’ve held over the years have helped me to develop those skills.

“As a pilot, I know that when it comes to flying, many situations force you take decisive actions quickly to act alone keeping in mind the lives of those on board. It is a great responsibility. Conversely, my time spent in forensic engineering afforded me the chance to learn to have patience, work as a team, and methodically and carefully execute whatever task was at hand.”

She is also an avid shooter, and Miller says in her press materials that she “believes in responsible gun ownership, and the right for all citizens to be able to protect their families.” She also says she “believes in science, equality, and a small, effective, and transparent government. As state representative, she intends to focus on quality public education, prioritizing the needs of the increasing aging population of our district, and the rights of all residents of the 101st district, regardless of race, religion, gender, or socioeconomic status.”

Political priorities

Miller says her campaign has two top priorities: the “Silver Tsunami” wave of aging residents is increasing and is putting a heavier burden on the state’s healthcare system, and increasing state support of public education.

On the former issue, she said Pennsylvania needs to increase the minimum allowance for daily care, which “hasn’t increased in nearly 25 years, even as the typical nursing home resident has become sicker and frailer.” State coverage, she added, “under funds nursing home care by an average of $9,000 per Medicaid resident per year. We need to ensure that the aging residents of our district are being taken care of in a sensible and fiscally responsible way.”

On the latter, Miller said she has a “strong interest in quality education for all children” but noted that Pennsylvania “ranks 47th among the states in the percentage of K-12 education dollars that comes from the state as opposed to local districts, resulting in some of the widest spending gaps between rich and poor districts in the country.”

Voters, she said, “need to realize that one of the main reasons for high school taxes is the fact that the state does not pay it fair portion of tax dollars to schools.”

Another thing on her plate, she said, is healing the rift between parties.

“The saddest part about the current state of affairs is fear,” Miller explained. “Fear of each other, fear of the unknown, and a fear of working together, such that a party may lose their base if they’re not Republican or Democrat enough.

“I think now, more than ever, people are tired of fighting across the aisle. We’ve seen both on state and federal levels that not much work can get done when the parties cannot work together. … I firmly believe that elected officials should be in Harrisburg to work for the people, not their own party.”

Her varied work experience will help her to foster more cooperation, she said. Miller also noted that, during her campaign to be mayor of Cornwall, “I focused my campaign on transparency of local government, accountability, and working together to achieve the goals of the borough.”

She said she does not want to address only the topics that bring in donations from single-issue supporters, however.

“I think that when many people run for office, they typically focus on nationally recognized hot-button topics (second amendment, abortion, etc) which enables them to secure funding from larger donors/PACs,” Miller said. “My goal is to focus on what really matters to the voters of the 101st District, and to try to affect change both where I see it needed, and where the constituents see it needed.”

To learn more about the needs of Lebanon County, Miller said she plans on “getting out as much as I possibly can, and meeting with as many of the voters as I can. Whether this means going door-to-door, or making rounds at events, it’s important, as a newcomer to politics, to let people know that I’m running, and that I’d be a good fit to represent them in Harrisburg.”


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Tom Knapp

Tom has been a professional journalist for nearly four decades. In his spare time, he plays fiddle with the Irish band Fire in the Glen, and he reviews music, books and movies for Rambles.NET. He lives with his wife, Michelle, and has four children: Vinnie, Molly, Annabelle and Wolf.