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Democrat O'Rourke aims to fix I-83 in run for Phillips-Hill seat
Democratic ambitions in Pennsylvania's 93rd House District have been missing for several years — a Democrat didn't even try to challenge Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill in 2016 — but a Seven Valleys resident sees an opportunity.
On Jan. 27, Meggan O'Rourke, 37, announced her campaign for the Democratic nomination to succeed Phillips-Hill, who is making a run for the state Senate seat being vacated by gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner.
A self-declared "East Coast brat," O'Rourke grew up in a military family and moved up and down the Atlantic before settling for several years in the Beltway region, where she worked as a consultant for large-scale development projects that aimed to revitalize neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington.
Recently, much of her work has been in developing food halls in those regions, something akin to York City's Central Market.
O'Rourke said her expertise in development, job creation and negotiation would serve her well in getting things done for her constituents in Harrisburg.
For the kids: Though much of her work is based out of Baltimore, O'Rourke said she and her husband, Nick Onofrio, began looking elsewhere for a place to call home. They wanted to raise their two children — 7-year-old Fiona and 20-month-old Beaux — in a place where they could have the same friends starting in preschool, something she didn't have as the child of a military family.
An excellent public school district was their top priority when house hunting, and the couple settled in the Dallastown Area School District in 2012.
Fiona, a second-grader at Loganville-Springfield Elementary School, has been flourishing in her classes from the start, O'Rourke said.
"A month after she started school she knew how to read," she said. "I was shocked."
Although much of her campaign is focused on economic issues, O'Rourke said she is a staunch supporter of public education and increased support for military families.
Issues: The 93rd District hasn't elected a Democratic representative in 45 years, but O'Rourke said she thinks her message and stance as a moderate Dem will resonate with voters.
The first issue O'Rourke vowed to work on is a road thousands of commuters face everyday: Interstate 83.
She said the consistent traffic jams, road deterioration and crashes are impacting the local economy and quality of life for residents.
O'Rourke pointed to the nearly 15-year-old headache that is the Mount Rose Avenue Interchange project at Interstate 83 as an example of inefficiencies in infrastructure repair.
She also cited the Exit 4 interchange in Shrewsbury as a classic example of repair delays that "slow down opportunities for growth" in York County.
A study on the interchange was conducted in 2015, and a best-case scenario points to construction beginning in 2019 and completion in 2021, O'Rourke said.
"The (four) years it takes to begin a project needs to be drastically reduced," she added.
PennDOT needs to be funded at levels she says will "allow for quicker implementation of projects," and a task force composed of residents and local business leaders should be created to examine the project process and find improvements.
"If we fix 83, we fix a lot of issues in York County," she said.
Along with roads, O'Rourke seeks to remove the "bureaucratic red tape" in York County to foster more green energy investment.
York County has untapped potential in renewable energy such as wind and solar, she said, but "to get (the business started) is a big headache" because of the often lengthy permit process for building or converting existing factories, many which lie dormant in York.
According to O'Rourke, an expansion of the state e-Permitting program and permit-issuing power to agencies would streamline the process to help turn around factories quickly.
She said she hopes her ideas will appeal to both sides, as she aims to make bipartisanship an anchor of her agenda.
"I appreciate diversity of thought," she said. "We aren't as divided as we think we are."
While O'Rourke does not yet have a Democratic challenger in the 93rd District primary, there are at least two declared candidates seeking the Republican nomination: businessman Mike Jones and former Spring Grove Area school board member Matthew Jansen.
O'Rourke said she is looking forward to an "issue-based debate" she'll have with her challenger come the general election.
With all the issues that might spring up in the campaign, she vows never to resort to personal attacks.
"I'm an extremely positive person," O'Rourke said. "You don't get anywhere with mud-slinging."
More information: O'Rourke said updates will be forthcoming on her official campaign website and campaign Facebook page. O'Rourke, an Irish-American, will be part of the York St. Patrick's Day Parade on Saturday, March 17.
A campaign after party will follow her participation in the parade at Iron Horse York.