Democracy Defenders Ready To Safeguard Our Elections in Pennsylvania

Run for Something
13 min readMay 15, 2023

Today, Run for Something (RFS) is proud to support 16 Democracy Defenders in Pennsylvania who are committed to upholding election integrity and ensuring free, fair elections. These candidates are running for election administration positions that are crucial in protecting our democracy, and they are ready to support their communities.

All 16 are up for election in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 — learn more about these badass Defenders by reading more below!

Tanya Bamford
Montgomery County Commissioner

Tanya Bamford is a proud Democrat, a passionate public servant, and a resident of Montgomery Township (and has been for 20+ years!),

She has served on the Montgomery Township Board of Supervisors since 2018 and was instrumental in flipping that board from Red to Blue for the first time in history. On the County level, she serves on the Foundation Board for Montgomery County Community College, on the Democratic State Committee, and is a fundraising chair for the county Democratic Committee.

She’s an accomplished business woman, and was awarded the Small Business of the Year Award by the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Montgomery County. She is seeking to build on her leadership success by serving Montco on the Board of Commissioners. Tanya’s accomplishments include passing a non-discrimination ordinance and establishing a Human Relations Commission; enhancing pedestrian safety and accessibility, improving communications, banning vaping and smoking in public parks, preserving open space, and maintaining the Township’s AAA bond rating.

Michael Bilchar Jr.
Lehigh County Commissioner At-Large

Michael Blichar Jr is running for Lehigh County Commissioner At-Large because he believes it is time for the next generation to step up to lead. Throughout his career, he has been a passionate advocate on issues of social justice, LGBTQ rights, voter rights, community engagement, and government transparency. He is passionate about ensuring elections are accessible and that voters have the necessary information and resources to make informed decisions when they go to the polls.

In 2018 and 2020, Michael ran for State Representative in PAs 187th House District. He is a proud alum of Kutztown University with degrees in Political Science and Higher Education Administration. Currently, he serves as Chair of the Allentown Human Relations Commission and heads leadership development programs for students at Northampton Community College.

Janet Diaz
Lancaster City Council

In 2017, Janet made history by being the first Latina elected to the Lancaster City Council. Today, she hopes to make history again by being the first person of Latino heritage to serve as County Commissioner.

When Janet and her family moved to Lancaster, they were homeless. They found safe accommodations wherever they could. Sometimes that meant a park bench. There were nights when the family could not put food on the table. Despite language barriers, her mother found a minimum wage job paying $3.35/hour at a local nursing home. It would take the family over 20 years to earn a living wage. Janet overcame these challenges to build an 20-year career in healthcare and currently works as a medical analyst at Lancaster General Health. She also worked as a billing manager at a private physician’s office. Janet also served as a sexual assault counselor at YWCA and is a former IBEW union member.

Her priorities in Lancaster are the implementation of a department of health, justices for the mentally ill homeless victims, support farming business, justice for elderly from neglect in nursing homes, and protecting our wildlife, water and air. Janet knows what it is like to navigate a system that is built for the powerful. She knows how to fix the community’s problems because she lived with them. She fights for those without a voice regardless of their background.

Justin Douglas
Dauphin County Commissioner

Justin Douglas has seventeen years of leadership experience in nonprofit communities as a pastor, where he offered managerial experience in organizations with 3,000+ members and over 50 staff, as well as developed grassroots communities from the ground up.

Justin is equipped with a formidable blend of managerial experience, team building acumen, community service background, and entrepreneurial understanding. He is a principled community leader committed to equity who took a stand for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the faith space, which resulted in the removal of his license. Justin went on to launch an inclusive community that continues to grow and exceed expectations.

Sara Innamorato
Allegheny County Executive

Sara Innamorato knows we can build a county for all of us, and she is the bold, resilient, and creative leader to get us there. A native of Ross Township, Sara overcame the destabilizing impact of the opioid epidemic on her family, graduating Magna Cum Laude from Pitt.

As a nonprofit professional, she rooted her work in the community, ultimately leading to her winning an underdog race for State Representative. Sara introduced dozens of bills supporting working families, culminating with the historic $125 million Whole Home Repairs legislation. Sara has directed millions of dollars to our communities as a State Representative and board member of the Urban Redevelopment Authority + Allegheny County Housing Authority. Sara is running for County Executive because she loves our county, but too many are left behind. Sara is the leader who will bridge gaps and unite people to create good jobs, address housing affordability, and improve air quality.

Isamac Torres-Figueroa
Berks County Commissioner

A lifelong resident of Berks County, Isamac grew up in the southwest side of Reading with her parents, sisters, and brother in a small row home where her mother still lives. Isamac graduated from Reading High School and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Albright College — she had a quality educational experience from elementary school through college graduation.

Isamac and her husband chose to raise their family in Berks County where the cost of living is affordable, buying their first home was possible, a career path was accessible, and where she could be close to her extended family.

Bethany Hallam
Allegheny County Councilwoman, At-Large

Bethany is a formerly incarcerated person in long-term recovery from opioid use disorder. In 2019, she beat a 20-year incumbent to become the youngest person ever elected county-wide in Allegheny County, representing 1.2 million people. In Bethany’s first term, she fought for fair pay for county employees and won paid sick leave for everyone in Allegheny County. She helped pass a fracking ban in county parks and increased funding for lead remediation in homes. Bethany created a civilian police review board and passed a conversion therapy ban. She championed the effort to amend the budget to give additional funding to community colleges and the Housing Court Help Desk.

If elected to a second term, Bethany hopes to institute a $20/hr minimum wage for county employees, achieve funding parity for the public defenders and district attorneys offices, increase access to and the reliability of public transportation, and implement tenants’ rights to counsel. She plans to continue being an unapologetic voice against the violence perpetuated by the criminal legal system and the Allegheny County Jail, and will continue the first of its kind $100 monthly stipend for incarcerated individuals, which she implemented in early 2020 to help them afford phone calls with their families and purchase hygiene products and other necessities from commissary.

Jon Irons
Lehigh County Commissioner

Jon Irons is a Data Manager and progressive organizer who has worked to increase political education and build working class power in Lehigh County. He is running for Lehigh County Commissioner to continue building a community that puts people first. Following a commitment to evidence-based decision making, he will position the county to better address the affordable housing crisis, end mass incarceration, and strengthen social and community services across the county.

Jon was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador and was adopted as an infant. He grew up in Oak Park, Illinois. He has a Bachelor’s degree from Butler University and a Master’s degree from the University of British Columbia, both in Anthropology. He currently works for Communities in Schools of Eastern Pennsylvania where he manages data integrity, training, and outcome analysis for over 40 school sites across 12 districts. He is an avid bird-watcher and musician and enjoys walking his dog, Dingo, in his Bethlehem neighborhood.

Kelly Keegan
Northampton County Council District 2

Kelly Keegan is running for Northampton County Council District 2 because she cares. Kelly is a Certified School Nurse in Easton Area School District who helps her students and their families find resources they need within the county. District 2 is diverse on many different levels and she wants to bring her voice to the county level to help even more people’s lives better.

Kelly was elected in 2019 as a Forks Township Supervisor and is working towards an Open Space Program and other options because she vehemently supports smart, sustainable growth. Her constituents voiced their concerns about warehouse proliferation and she heard them loud and clear. She is an elected official who cares about her constituents and works for them.

As a nurse, Kelly cares not only about the residents, but about the healthcare workers who are employed there. Kelly understands District 2’s needs and the financial hardships of rising taxes, and for that reason she is committed to fiscal responsibility.

Noah Marlier
Montgomery County Commissioner

Noah Marlier grew up in Montgomery County, attending Jenkintown Public Schools. His parents instilled in him progressive values: a dedication to service of others who may be less fortunate than he and an appreciation for diversity of life experiences.

In college at James Madison University, Noah joined 1 in 4, a group of male students who educated peers on how to help a sexual assault survivor. 1 in 4 was a galvanizing force in his life, deepening his desire to make a tangible difference in the lives of others.

After teaching United States history in a public school in Virginia, Noah joined the Peace Corps in Malawi, Africa, where he served as a teacher and teacher trainer for over two years. He taught local teachers better teaching practices with an emphasis on treating girl and boy students equally. After returning from Malawi and graduating from Rutgers Law School, Noah moved back to his home County to be an Assistant District Attorney, prosecuting all types of cases, including sexual assault cases and economic crimes against the elderly. For the last eight years, as a municipal attorney, he has represented and appeared in court often on behalf of towns throughout Montgomery County, and he is an associate at the firm Hamburg Rubin.

For the last three years, Noah has served as the Montgomery County Prothonotary, focusing on making the office operations more effective and efficient for residents and supporting those in his community that are most vulnerable. Noah lives in Springfield with his wife, Lindsay, who is a nurse, and two boys.

Josh Maxwell
Chester County Commissioner

In 2020, Josh made history once again as part of the first-ever Democratic majority to win the Chester County Board of Commissioners. Since then, Josh has worked tirelessly to live out progressive values every day of his leadership. Having grown up in the heart of a working-class community, Josh has always been a dedicated advocate for working families and made initiatives such as additional housing projects, greater community development, and more resources for survivors of domestic violence a priority as Commissioner.

With a deep respect for the natural beauty of Chester County, as well as a keen awareness that climate interventions must happen urgently and at every level of government, Josh has worked to preserve and protect the environment, including implementing the county’s Climate Action Plan, creating an Environmental and Energy Advisory Board, and activating a clean energy financing program. He also created the first employee group for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

During some of the most critical contested elections in Chester County history, Josh stepped up as Chair of the County Board of Elections and ensured that Chester County’s electoral procedures were fair, equitable, transparent, and thoroughly accurate. He remains a strong advocate for the safety and security of poll and election workers.

Josh is a proud graduate of West Chester University and the University of Pennsylvania. He serves on numerous boards and commissions throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and is proud to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Chester County’s own storied HBCU, Lincoln University.

Omar Sabir
Philadelphia County Commissioner

Vice Chairman Commissioner Omar Sabir was elected on November 5, 2019 and sworn in as City Commissioner of the County of Philadelphia on January 6, 2020. Commissioner Sabir’s primary goal is to empower and enable all Philadelphians to participate in voting by addressing voter apathy and educating communities about the importance of civic engagement. Prior to his election, Commissioner Sabir focused his career on community advocacy. He served as a senior staffer in the Office of Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes and held senior roles at the Nathaniel Sabir Memorial Scholarship Fund, Citizens for State Representative Louise Williams Bishop, and the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania.

Elaine Schaefer
Delaware County Commissioner

In addition to serving on County Council, Elaine Schaefer is the Executive Director of Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area, a non-profit organization headquartered in Pottstown with the mission of connecting the community to the Schuylkill River and the Schuylkill River Trail. She is an attorney with a background and experience in open space, trail development and natural resource protection with a passion for connecting communities with nature. In addition to her position at SRG, Elaine served as a Township Commissioner in Radnor, PA for eight years and ran for Pennsylvania State Representative in 2015. Elaine received her B.A. from Boston College and her J.D. from William and Mary Law School. She has three adult children and she lives in Radnor with her husband and Labrador Retriever, Biggie Smalls.

Jarrett Smith
Philadelphia City Commissioner

Jarrett is running because as a young, queer, biracial person, he understands what is personally at stake in every election and, as an organizer, is deeply devoted to building a multi-racial and inclusive voter base in Philly that has the power to elect candidates who truly represent the needs and priorities of working families.

Jarrett is the Legislative Director of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, representing 40,000 union members across the state in homecare, nursing homes, and hospitals. As a government relations professional in labor, Jarrett is responsible for advancing the policy goals of caregivers and working families and engaging rank and file members in political action. In 2022, Jarrett coordinated advocacy efforts to win safe-staffing ratios for nursing home staff and over 600 million dollars in recurring medicaid funding for bedside care.

Prior to joining SEIU, Jarrett led a statewide youth voter engagement program with NextGen America. Jarrett is passionate about housing justice and successfully led a tenant-driven campaign for good cause eviction protection legislation that passed in Philadelphia City Council in 2018.

Jarrett also serves on the board of Young Involved Philadelphia as the co-programming chair, planning and facilitating events to foster civic engagement among young people.

Jamila Winder
Montgomery County Commissioner

Jamila Winder is a graduate of Norristown Area public schools and has an undergraduate degree from The Pennsylvania State University and MBA from Eastern University.

She has been an executive in the private sector for more than 20 years at organizations such as Drexel University, Laureate Education, Catapult Learning and Lecturio. Over the course of two decades, she’s had the privilege of leading teams through organizational change, implemented technological improvements, developed DE&I strategies, managed multi-million-dollar budgets, established strategic partnerships, and hired the brightest talent all to meet business goals and objectives.

Jamila has also served her party and community in several elected capacities including as School Director on the Norristown Area School Board and as Chair of the East Norriton Board of Supervisors. She also sits on the MCDC Executive Committee as Corresponding Secretary and is a Committee Person in East Norriton.

Her track record personally and professionally includes a commitment to public schools and serving Norristown’s most vulnerable youth, making East Norriton a place that honors diversity and a safe place to raise a family.

Alice Yoder
Lancaster County Commissioner

Alice is a public health administrator and proven problem solver. She has worked on tough problems in our community for over three decades, tackling things such as mental health care, COVID-19 vaccine equity, lead abatement, maternal health, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, refugee health care access, and much more. She is dedicated to bringing people together to improve Lancaster County and help everyone to live a healthy life.

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