Several weeks ago, Debbie Wachspress stepped down from her two-year role as director of relationship development at the Langhorne nonprofit The Peace Center, which promotes social justice in the community. To be clear, Wachspress’ resignation didn’t occur because she was unhappy at the organization – she wanted to dedicate her time to something bigger.
On Wednesday, July 10, dozens gathered in the backyard of Wachspress’ Yardley home as the wife, mother of three and Pennsbury school board director announced her candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives 1st Congressional District on the Democratic ballot. The 1st District, which encompasses all of Bucks County and a section of Montgomery County, is currently represented by Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick.
At 6 p.m., Wachspress stepped up to the podium to address the crowd, her husband Dan, and sons Jacob (22) and Ben (17) standing behind her.
“On Nov. 9, 2016, I woke up feeling like I was kicked in the stomach. And I know many of you felt the same way. Months of attacks on everyone – immigrants, people of color, women, Muslims, a Gold Star Family, the press, the truth. Especially the truth,” she said. “What planet were we now living on? Watching this kind of bad reality show really shook me to the core.”
Wachspress outlined her campaign and all that she would fight for if given the chance to go to Washington, D.C. First, she discussed her position on the environment, explaining how she began her career with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. Here, she worked to protect safe drinking water and clean air, which she said remain concerns both nationally and locally.
“Yes, global warming is real and it’s getting worse every day. We risk continued catastrophic natural disasters and refugee crises unlike anything we have ever seen if we don’t recognize the urgency of drastically minimizing greenhouse gas emissions,” she said, adding how she supports a transition to clean, renewable energies that’s done fairly without leaving anyone behind. “I support the creation of millions of new jobs by incentivizing the retrofitting of existing buildings with energy-efficient upgrades.”
Next, Wachspress addressed her stance on healthcare. She shared how when her father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 56, her mother landed a full-time secretarial job with benefits. According to Wachspress, her mother talked about these benefits, rather than the salary, like they were gold.
“I believe universal, affordable, quality health care is a basic human right. No one should lose their life savings or suffer with an untreated illness because health insurance is unaffordable,” she said, expressing her support of building upon the Affordable Care Act and keeping contraceptive services readily available. “Roe v. Wade must remain the law of the land because without control of our bodies, there is no equality.”
Lastly, Wachspress talked about gun safety. If elected, she said she would fight for universal background checks for all gun purchases, and support legislation to rid streets of weapons that fire large rounds of ammunition.
In her opinion, children shouldn’t have to fear getting shot while at school. After witnessing the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, Wachspress became a statewide coordinator for the Million Mom March. Over the span of nine months, she recruited anyone interested in fighting for stronger gun laws to participate in a Mother’s Day rally in Washington, D.C. in 2000.
It’s been 20 years, and Wachspress said these mass shootings are still an epidemic, with incidences taking place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Pulse NightClub and an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“It’s time for gun manufacturers to stop having their way with our children and our families,” she said. “We’ve cried enough tears and sent too many prayers.”
In addition to joining the Million Mom March, Wachspress co-founded Lower Bucks Indivisible, which is part of a national grassroots movement to “elect progressive leaders, realize bold progressive policies, rebuild our democracy and defeat the Trump agenda.”
Before concluding her speech, Wachspress said a few final words.
“We need a representative that will be a strong and reliable voice in Washington, a voice you can count on. I can’t sit around and I can’t be silent because silence is complicity,” she said. “We can do better and we must do better. We must govern by standing up and speaking out for what is right. Because what we’re living through right now feels anything but right, and is wreaking havoc on the soul of America. These times call for a love of humanity that strengthens us rather than divides us.” ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com