The battle lines have been drawn in the 165th state House race, where incumbent Democrat Jen O'Mara will face a Republican challenger in her bid for a second term
O’Mara, D-165, of Springfield and Republican challenger Robert Smythe Jr. will face off for the right to represent the district in Harrisburg.
Last week, the Springfield Republican Party announced that Smythe, of Springfield, received the party’s nomination for the 165th race.
“Bob Smythe has spent his life putting his community first,” said Michael V. Puppio Jr., the 165th District Republican leader and Springfield GOP chairman. “He’s a classroom teacher and a second-generation first responder and has been a member of the Springfield Fire Company since he was just 16 years old. Today, he serves as captain.”
O’Mara, a former non-profit administrator from the University of Pennsylvania, is completing her first term in Harrisburg, having won her seat from former Republican state Rep. Alex Charlton in 2018. She and her three brothers moved to Prospect Park after her dad, a career firefighter, killed himself with a gun when she was 13 years old. Her mom then got a union job driving a school bus for Upper Darby schools.
“I’m looking forward to campaign season and getting a chance to talk to all of my constituents about my record after my first year in office,” she said. “I’m proud of the work I’ve done for the people of the 165th.”
O'Mara noted her bipartisan work to bring more than $3.5 million in grants back to the district, her passage of a bill to expand funding for the Veterans’ Trust Fund, the expansion of resources and benefits for emergency services personnel as well as her service on the statewide suicide prevention task force with a special focus on preventing first responder suicides.
She also held more than 28 events and four town halls. She highlighted that she was named one of the country’s most accessible state legislators.
“I’m committed to being your representative,” O’Mara said. “While we’ve accomplished much together, there is so much more work to be done for our schools, our communities and our state. I’m running for re-election to continue taking on the status quo and fighting to improve the lives of working families across the district. I look forward to continuing to engage with all of my constituents and discuss ways to reform Harrisburg.”
Smythe likewise is proud to announce his candidacy.
“As a second generation first responder, I have a first-hand understanding of the issues that plague our communities and which attributes are necessary to lead the 165th into the next decade,” he said. “Innovation, inclusion and the willingness to restore the government to an entity that is closely connected to those it serves is essential to our progress.”
Some of his top concerns are the public education system, the opioid epidemic, the absenteeism of volunteers to fill the ranks of our first responder units and the stigma attached to mental health services.
A teacher in the William Penn School District, Smythe said collaboration was critical for positive results.
“As a firefighter, and a classroom teacher that has served many of our most needy communities, my life has been dedicated to understanding the context of a variety of situations and the composition of a strategic plan to ensure success,” he said. “For our efforts to be successful, we will need to put forth a collaborative effort to develop and restore relationships through listening instead of waiting to speak, and by demonstrating a willingness to collaborate with those that might not agree, and by remembering that actions always speak louder than words.”
The 165th legislative district includes Morton and parts of Springfield, Marple and Radnor.