NORRISTOWN — Citing the lack of strong current representation by incumbent Daylin Leach, Norristown Area School Board President and Montgomery County resident Shae Ashe announced his candidacy for State Senate in the 17th District.
He will challenge Leach in the next Democratic primary. While he knows unseating a two-term senator in what might be a crowded field of challengers as an uphill climb, the 29-year-old is up to the task.
“I view it as a good thing,” he said of his age. “The decisions that are made now affect the future. I plan on staying (in the area) for a long time and look forward to representing my family, friends and others. It’s an advantage for me. I’m someone who is young and who will bring not only energy, but also ideas.”
“It’s something I looked at for a while. I talked to the right people, and I weighed it for the last couple of months.”
The way he sees it, the time has come for positive change and a breath of fresh air.
“This district deserves better representation than what it has been getting,” said Ashe, whose campaign will have a kickoff fundraiser next month. “That’s my main reason for entering the race. I can produce results in Harrisburg without distractions.”
Ashe graduated from Norristown Area High School in 2008. While attending college at Norfolk University, from which he graduated in 2014 with a degree in Finance, he interned for The Walt Disney Company. That stint turned into a five-year career with various divisions of the company in Florida and Pennsylvania.
Upon returning to Norristown in 2013, Shae founded The Norristown Project, a community organization focused on community cleanups.
He entered politics in 2017, when he was elected as NASD School Board Director. A year later, he was Board President.
“I’m an elected official,” he said. “I know what it takes. It has given me a lot of experience, and I have insight into what is needed.”
While many issues are high on his agenda list, none is bigger than what he sees as an unfair education system against both urban and suburban districts, as opposed to the more rural ones across the state.
“In the 17th District, we all understand that Pennsylvania does not have a fairly funded system for our schools,” said the son of Montgomery County OIC CEO and Executive Director Denise Ashe, adding that cyber charter reform and unfunded mandates “cripples certain school districts based on their zip codes.”
The 17th District is diverse, but he sees Lower Merion – along Upper Merion, Colonial and other districts within the 17th’s boundaries -- in the same boat.
“Lower Merion is on the other side of the district, but it is significantly underfunded as well,” he said, adding that Leach “serves on the education committee (in Harrisburg) and has produced no results.”
Ashe has also earned valuable experience working in constituent services for Madeleine Dean (D-4th Dist.).
“It has given me a lot of knowledge,” said Ashe, who listed workforce expansion through apprenticeship programs and re-entry training for those on parole as other issues that he in passionate about.
He also stressed that the topics debated on the national stage of presidential hopefuls – climate change, health care, gun control, etc. – can also be handled by passionate legislators on the state level.
“What would I tell a voter in state senate race? If they haven’t done their job on the national level, we can do it here in Pennsylvania,” he said. “That’s what they need to understand.”
Ashe also seeks to make potential voters understand that, while Norristown is his home, he is seeking to represent the whole district.
“The reality is that these issues affect everybody,” he added. “They are not just Norristown-centric. Everybody has these needs. Everybody wants great schools. That’s why I’m out here now. I have the energy for it, and I’ve already started reaching out.”
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