Republican Jake Corman has served as state senator for Pennsylvania’s 34th District since 1998, but now, a new competitor announced his candidacy. Democrat Robert Zeigler, current president of Millheim’s Borough Council, will compete against Corman for the seat in 2022.
Zeigler said he announced his campaign “pretty early” because Corman has “over a 20-year head start” on him for the 34th seat, which represents Centre, Mifflin, Juniata and part of Huntingdon counties.
Currently, Zeigler serves as the chair for the PA United campaign slate, which he said inspired him to run “to keep the momentum going.”
The slate is sponsored by Pennsylvania United’s Political Action Committee, which supports candidates’ “people-powered, people-funded” campaigns through donations and grassroot organizations, according to its website.
Zeigler graduated from Penn State in 2005 with a degree in political science and later earned his master’s degree from the University of Phoenix. He currently volunteers for the nonprofit organization We The People — a non-partisan, issue advocacy campaign in support of middle and working class Pennsylvania families and marginalized communities.
In Millheim borough, Zeigler helped to bring broadband internet access to the area this spring and solar panels to the municipality last year.
“At no expense to the taxpayers, we were able to work with Atlantic Broadband to expand broadband internet access to all of the parts of the borough and the township for easier accessibility,” he said.
The solar electric system was activated last August to bring electricity to the municipal building and sewer plant because of his support, he said. The system will decrease energy expenses greatly, according to Zeigler.
For his campaign, Zeigler said he wants to address a “wide range” of issues and be “as transparent as possible.”
“I call my campaign the ‘art’ platform, which stands for accountability, responsibility and transparency,” Zeigler said. “I look at that and think how we can apply it to environmental issues, wage issues, reform, education and all other aspects the government is involved in.”
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Zeigler said he supports an increased minimum wage and the legalization and taxation of marijuana like alcohol and cigarettes in order to “use the tax to support mental health and addiction resources.”
“We need to invest in the people again,” he said. “At the very least, raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour with the goal of getting it to $15 is a step in the right direction.”
Zeigler also said he supports a “more monitored” gift-giving process for government representatives and campaign finance reform.
“Obviously, I don’t want to get rid of fruit basket donations,” he said. “But when legislators are given tickets to the 50-yard line at the Eagles game, there are certain lines crossed.”
Jenna Henry met Zeigler through the PA United campaign slate, where she currently serves as one of the election coordinators. She has been a lifelong resident of State College and involved in political activism in the area since 2017.
Henry said she has seen many different issues progress in the State College area, but she said she believes Zeigler will help to resolve those issues locally.
“He gets things done, [and he’s] one of the most dependable people that I’ve ever worked with,” Henry said. “Anything that needs to get done, gets done, which is hard to find in people.”
Henry said Zeigler is “straightforward,” which she believes will help with his campaign.
“He’s not going to sell out on who he is to make people like him,” Henry said. “In this particular race, he couldn’t be any more different than the person he’s running against.”
Henry said she is “excited” for the campaign to follow the trend of candidates in the PA United slate, which consists of community members, not politicians.
“I’m really excited to see this trend of regular people running for office continuing. If we ever want anything to change in Harrisburg, we have to change who we’re sending there,” Henry said. “No matter what party you align with, most people can agree that the little guy gets left behind in favor of corporations and the rich and wealthy.”
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Erin Wise is the head of Zeigler’s campaign fundraising team and works as an associate at MFStrategies — a progressive campaign organizing team that focuses on funding, voter engagement and strategic consulting, according to its website. She also graduated from Penn State in 2011 with a political science degree.
Wise said she believes Zeigler would be “more open” to working with constituents to solve issues than “previous and current legislators.”
“Zeigler has a way to speak to rural Pennsylvanians about issues that are affecting us the most, whether it is access to more broadband, healthcare or increased minimum wage,” Wise said. “It isn’t scary because he’s approachable and an everyday person — not a lifelong politician.”
Wise worked for Sen. Bob Casey and Rep. Scott Conklin in the past and for fundraising campaigns since 2019. She said she is “looking forward to raising a lot of money against Sen. Corman.”
“This is my job, this is what I love to do,” Wise said. “It is fun to raise money against leadership because it is an uphill battle.”
Zeigler said his goal is to work for the people — regardless of their political party — and work together “to make the area stronger.”
“The more transparent the government and legislation is, the more trust the people have in it,” he said. “Ego and pride gets in the way of progress, which is why we need a change.”
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