28th District Senate race profile: Higgins vs. Phillips-Hill

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Judith Higgins, candidate for the PA Senate District 28, talks with a group during a meet and greet event at Seven Sports Bar and Grille in New Freedom Tuesday, July 17, 2018. The Democrat is facing Republican Kristin Phillips-Hill in the November midterm election. Bill Kalina photo

No matter what, the 28th District Senate seat will be held by a woman for the first time. It's now up to voters to choose whether she will be Republican or Democrat.

Democrat Judith Higgins, a newcomer to state politics, is facing off against Republican Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill for a seat that was vacated by Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner.

Wagner announced he was stepping down earlier this year to pursue his run for governor against incumbent Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf, leaving open the district that encompasses most of York County except for the northern municipalities and Penn and West Manheim townships.

Although this is Higgins' first time running for a seat in the state Legislature, the Maryland Air National Guard veteran isn't a new face in York County.

More:OPED: We need Higgins in Harrisburg

She is the owner of a small jewelry business and an adjunct professor of management courses at Penn State York, and she served on the Eastern York school board for 17 years.

But she said that after Wagner's resignation, Republicans believed they had a clear shot at retaking the seat — which has remained red for 23 years — and her response was: "Not on my watch."

Higgins' platform consists of "common-sense" gun reform, women's rights and pay equality, livable wages and universal health care. 

She also supports increased investment in public education and infrastructure and timely, effective budgets, she said. 

What's most important, she said, is reflecting the value of all of those in the commonwealth, especially minorities. Members of the local nonprofit Latino advocacy organization Latinos Unidos of York have vocally supported her campaign.

"There needs to be recognition that the people of the commonwealth have value," she said. "They need to be taken into consideration rather than corporations."

Her opponent, Phillips-Hill, has a background with some similarities.

State representative Kristin Phillips-Hill addresses administrative judges during a prehearing conference regarding Transource Energy powerline applications Monday, July 9, 2018, at the Commonwealth Keystone Building in the Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex in Harrisburg. Transource Energy is asking the state to consolidate its two applications into one case in order to receive approval to construct new overhead power lines in Franklin and York counties. Bill Kalina photo

The representative also has experience in education as a member of the Dallastown Area school board and is a former owner of an antiques and collectibles business.

More:Kristin Phillips-Hill talks about women in politics

Phillips-Hill was first elected to the House in 2014, but this year will mark her first run for the Legislature with an opponent in the general election.

She is also a very familiar face in Republican politics, often seen attending events with Wagner, who supports her Senate run.

Phillips-Hill said she is running on the record she built during her two terms in the 93rd District House seat, which largely consists of policies focused on the economy.

"I think you can look at the record of what I have done in the House," Phillips-Hill said. "That's what I will continue to do in the Senate; to be a strong voice for fiscal responsibility and common-sense political reform in Harrisburg." 

Phillips-Hill's platform consists of backing fiscally responsible budgets that don't raise taxes, reforming business taxes and regulations and improving education statewide.

28th District Senate map

No Democrat has held the 28th District seat since Mike Bortner left office in 1994, but Higgins anticipates a "blue wave" sweeping her into the Senate. 

Phillips-Hill acknowledged that Democratic enthusiasm is evident in 2018, but she doesn't think it will make a difference on Nov. 6.

"Actions speak louder than words," she said. "You have to look at a person's record and not just the rhetoric you’re going to hear out there."

Editor's note: The story has been changed to reflect that while members of Latinos Unidos of York have given vocal support to Judith Higgins, as a nonprofit, they cannot formally endorse a candidate.