The 149th District of Pennsylvania, which includes part of Lower Merion, Bridgeport, Upper Merion Township and West Conshohocken, has been represented by Tim Briggs (D-Montgomery) since 2009.
This month, Patch spoke with both Briggs and Republican Perry Hamilton, who is running against Briggs in November, about their background, stance on the issues and thoughts on their opponents. Read Patch's interview with Perry Hamilton here.
Born in Norristown, Briggs went to public school there, before moving to the Midwest. He returned to southeastern Pennsylvania when he was 18, and attended Montgomery County Community College, West Chester University, and then Temple Law School.
“I committed, when I graduated from college, to make a difference in issues I cared about,” he said.
After graduating West Chester, Briggs worked for former State Rep. Connie Williams and U.S. Rep. Joe Hoeffel. He later attended Temple Law at night while working full time.
"I committed, when I graduated from college, to make a difference in issues I cared about." - Tim Briggs
Briggs decided to run for office himself in 2008.
“After a long consultation with my wife and kids, they were fully supportive, so long as I was representing issues they cared about,” Briggs said. “My kids were six and eight—so they cared about the school, the environment ... things that I've always been focused on making a difference regarding.”
Briggs said he went into office wanting to be positive and focused on progressive issues, trying to make a difference in the lives of his kids.
Asked what he considered his three biggest accomplishments in office, Briggs named his communication with constituents and the Safety In Youth Sports Act, a bill authored by Briggs in an effort to better educate and protect young athletes about head injuries.
He also highlighted some endorsements he has received: being named as a top environmental legislator in Pennsylvania by the Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Chapter, one of the “2011 Legislative Heroes” by Keystone Progress, and a recipient of the Freedom Keepers Award from Planned Parenthood.
“Those endorsements mean a lot to me," Briggs said. "Fighting for progressive values is important.”
Briggs sees jobs, the economy and education as the biggest issues facing Pennsylvanians today.
“The best way to get Pennsylvanians back to work has to be everyone’s top issue,” Briggs said.
In Pennsylvania specifically, Marcellus shale has the ability to provide a lot of jobs and direct the state toward energy independence, Briggs said. “I strongly advocated for a tax on Marcellus shale, and there should be enough regulations that any drilling be done safely and responsibly,” he said.
Education “has always been consistently my top issue that I’ve worked on in Harrisburg,” he added. Investing in people, both teachers and students, investing in early childhood education, providing more technical training in high school, and providing more funding for Montgomery County Community College and state universities are all aspects of that commitment—and funding education means raising taxes, Briggs said.
Briggs vs. Hamilton
“These days, politicians get such a bad rap," Briggs said. "... It’s a great career path.”
“When it comes to my commitment to community outreach and constituent services, I couldn’t see that being replaced by someone else.” - Tim Briggs
In an interview earlier this week, Briggs’ opponent, Republican candidate Perry Hamilton, branded Briggs a career politician and said his own business experience sets him apart. He also emphasized the importance of term limits for politicians.
When asked to respond to Hamilton's remarks, Briggs said he wouldn’t put term limits on a job as a legislator. As a person holding political office, “you’re a representative—voters should send you back home when they feel like you’re not doing a good enough job.”
Plus, Briggs added, much of what happens in politics is driven by seniority.
“If your representative is always a first- or second-term back-bencher, it’s leaving your district at a disadvantage," Briggs said. "I think service comes in a lot of different forms, and elected office is one that has been a great experience: I’ve been able to help thousands of people in our community by having a strong voice for issues.”
That commitment to transparency and dialogue with his constituents, Briggs said, is part of what sets him apart.
“Whether it be visiting door to door or having a lot of town hall meetings, I keep residents fully apprised of events that are going on, of issues we’re tackling in Harrisburg, and I think my dialogue with constituents is bar none compared to anyone I’ve encountered in the state,” he said. “When it comes to my commitment to community outreach and constituent services, I couldn’t see that being replaced by someone else.”
As Hamilton said in a recent interview, he believes it would be possible for Briggs to win reelection with only the Democratic vote.
But, Briggs said on Wednesday, “There are only two ways to run: you run unopposed, or you run the race of your life. I’m working hard to get reelected, and I don’t take anything for granted. I’ve knocked on 5,000 doors since Labor Day, people ask me questions and I ask them for their vote—and that’s what I plan on doing for the next 13 days.”