Former White House adviser mounts run against Perry
In August 2016, Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson took time away from her busy job in Washington, D.C., to speak at the Rotary Club of York, telling her story of perseverance to the club’s members.
At the time, she was working at the White House’s Management and Budget Office under President Barack Obama, a significant leap from the foster home she lived in during her formative years.
Now, about a year removed from that job and a year into the Trump administration, Corbin-Johnson, 26, is mounting a Democratic bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, a move she says is in part fueled by “the current situation the U.S. is facing” with the new chief executive.
‘Service gene’: Corbin-Johnson said her move to run falls in line with service in her family. Her grandmother is a minister who has worked with prison inmates for more than 35 years; her late-grandfather was a World War II veteran.
“I always had some sort of service gene," she said.
If elected, Corbin-Johnson would be the youngest person and the first black woman to represent a Pennsylvania district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Corbin-Johnson said some people have asked her why she doesn’t “do something more womanly” such as settling down and starting a family instead of running to join the presently all-male Pennsylvania U.S. House delegation.
“I am committed,” she said, “to the residents of this district.”
Corbin-Johnson also doesn’t see her youth as a negative attribute. In fact, quite the opposite.
“I think it’s beneficial,” she said.
Fresh ideas and new energy are just what Capitol Hill needs, Corbin-Johnson said.
York born, D.C. educated: Her dive into public service is a full-circle experience after the federal services she benefited from early in life.
From ages 2 to 10, Corbin-Johnson moved around, living with her parents, then in a foster home, and later she lived with her grandparents.
Corbin-Johnson credits Social Security with keeping her grandmother’s finances afloat so she could gain custody of her granddaughter and raise her.
The program’s effect on her life is why she says she will fight tooth and nail to increase funding for it.
Corbin-Johnson attended Leader Heights Elementary School in Dallastown before obtaining a scholarship in sixth grade to attend York Country Day School.
She went on to graduate from Georgetown University with a bachelor’s degree in foreign service and international affairs, hoping she’d one day become a public servant.
During her sophomore year in college, she attended an event on campus that featured Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.
Knowing she had a thirst for public service, she calmly approached Casey and introduced herself.
"Hi, senator, you don’t know me but I’m a first-generation college student from York, Pennsylvania, and I want to intern for you," she recalls saying, to which Casey replied, "OK."
She successfully completed an internship with Casey’s office in the spring of 2012 and later obtained a full-time job at his office as a staff assistant.
In 2015, after Casey “put in a good word” for her, Corbin-Johnson was hired at the White House Office of Management and Budget, an office in which she assisted and advised the office director.
“Growing up in York City on the poverty line, sometimes below the poverty line ... (to go on to being in) control of the $4.1 trillion budget used to run the United States of America is something that I never (saw) happening,” she said.
Issues: The biggest issues for Corbin-Johnson are Social Security, education, health care and job creation.
On the education front, she said she’s looking to increase support for public schools, which she adds have decreased in performance and are below average compared with other developed countries.
“I want to make sure that we up our standards,” she said.
On health care, Corbin-Johnson said she is pushing for Medicare and health care affordability to assist those old and young.
“As a young person, I have injured myself, but I knew I couldn’t afford to go to the hospital to get taken care of. But imagine if you’re an older person?” she said. “It can be a life-or-death situation for you.”
She'd also like to continue job creation in the district, something she says she worked hard to advance at the federal level when she worked at the White House.
Primary: While she has her eyes on Perry, Corbin-Johnson will have a primary challenger in Dillsburg pastor George Scott, who announced his bid last August.
Corbin-Johnson said she has not spoken about policy with Scott but added she would be an unwavering supporter of LGBT rights and women’s rights.
Despite the recent state Supreme Court decision ruling the state’s congressional map unconstitutional, Corbin-Johnson said she doesn’t see much change occurring in the 4th District but said that won’t change her commitment to voters.
“I’m as committed to the race as I was (from) day one, and whatever the lines are going to be, I’m happy to represent the constituents of my district,” she said.
Campaign launch: Corbin-Johnson will host her congressional campaign launch party on Tuesday, Jan. 30, at the Holy Hound Taproom in York City. The event will run from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
More information on the event, as well as her stances on issues, can be found on her website, www.corbinjohnson4congress.com.