By Nick HIldebrand
Herald News Editor/Weekends
NORTHWEST PA. —
Missa Eaton says she wants to be an advocate for the Third District and a voice of moderation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
As the Sharon Democrat sees it, that’s what the people of northwestern Pennsylvania need and haven’t been getting from the man she hopes to defeat at the polls Tuesday, Republican incumbent Mike Kelly.
Kelly is “the poster child for putting forth the far right ideals of his party,” she said recently. “He’s gotten a lot of press ... he’s on television all the time. I don’t see any of that helping us,” Eaton said.
“I want to work with people who are willing to come to solutions for our country and want to make sure the Third District prosper,” she said.
A key to that, she said, is having a representative who is interested in making sure the district gets something back.
“We send a lot of money to Washington, you and I, we send our tax money to D.C.,” she said. “I think our area at least deserves to get that back, at least some of them.”
Eaton, 49, is a Texas native who came to the Shenango Valley in 2004 to teach psychology at Penn State Shenango, a job she left earlier this year to pursue her campaign.
She has built that campaign around a policy plan she says is tailored to the needs and desires of the district, criticism of Kelly’s tenure – and tenor – and a relentless grassroots effort to introduce herself to voters in the sprawling district, which includes all or parts of seven counties.
She’s knocked on hundreds of doors and volunteers working out of her Sharpsville campaign office have logged thousands of calls in an attempt to counter Kelly’s financial advantage – he’s raised more than $1 million she’s pulled in just under $225,000 – and his high profile. Eaton accepts her status as the underdog.
“Not a bad place to be,” she said.
Eaton describes herself as a moderate-left Democrat.
“I feel that we have to be financially responsible but we have to also make sure we don’t trample on people to do that.” she said.
She said she’s anti-abortion but favors keeping the procedure safe and legal. “I think every time an abortion is performed it’s a bad thing. But it’s not my business as a politician to get in between a woman’s decision with her doctor about what’s best for her,” she said.
An NRA member, Eaton said she’s “pro-Second Amendment.”
The central issues that people she talks to on the campaign trail are concerned about are jobs and the economy. Where Kelly sees government policy as a major stumbling block to addressing the problem, Eaton sees it as part of the solution.
“There is a role for government to play. It’s not a sole role, but it’s a supporting role,” she said.
Her jobs plan includes a laundry list of tax credits and public investments for new and existing businesses, entrepreneurs, training and retraining workers and retooling manufacturing infrastructure for new, high tech industries that she sees as the future of the district.
In an era when a lot of politicians are talking austerity, Eaton acknowledges that her plans will cost money and doesn’t shy away from the likelihood that taxes will have to go up, for some, to address the jobs crisis and the debt and deficit problem.
She calls for “fair taxation” that puts the onus on those who can, and she argues, should pay more.
“People at highest income levels have had undue influence in setting the laws, and in particular tax policy, so that they pay less as a percentage of their taxes than do the middle class individuals who have less power and influence,” she said.
Eaton advocates taxing capital gains that make up much of the typical one-percenter’s income taxed at the same rate that the wages of the average Joe are. She also thinks that corporations need to pay more for the service that government renders.
“If the American military makes the world safe for American capitalism then the American capitalist should probably foot a little bit of that bill.”
More revenue isn’t the only answer to the financial bind the government is in, and Eaton said that spending has to be cut as well. She said that there are no sacred cows as far as she is concerned, save for Social Security and Medicare, which are both funded by taxes levied specifically for the programs.
She’s not opposed to tweaking either of those programs to ensure they remain solvent, but it “depends on the tweaking.” She draws the line at the Republican plan to voucherize Medicare, which she described as “saddling seniors for $6,000 or more out of the measly amount of Social Security they’re getting.”
Eaton, like Kelly, believes that the energy resources available in western Pennsylvania will play a big role in reviving the region. Where her opponent focuses only on fossil fuels like natural gas and coal, Eaton looks to renewable energy. She said building wind farms in Lake Erie would provide jobs, cheaper energy close to home and foster new industry in the district.
Eaton said it was “wonderful” that the region is part of what’s been called the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, but said she’s concerned about exemptions from environmental regulations that the industry has been granted.
“I would hate to see our country go back to the early 1970s in terms of our environment and what companies were doing in the name of industrial progress. I also think that there’s probably too much regulation ... I think we constantly need to revisit our regulation, not because regulation in and of itself is a good or a bad thing, but because they may be changing. The necessity for certain regulation may not even be there anymore,” she said.
With no record to run on, Eaton offers up pieces of her biography to let voters know where she’s coming from. She spent time as a single mother, working to make ends meet in a series of jobs including selling real estate and managing a stock car racetrack. She went back to school, earned her doctorate and joined the ranks of academia.
Her experiences, she says, provide her with empathy for the middle class.