NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, Pa. (WLVT) - After five terms and a decade in office, State Representative Marcia Hahn will retire in November. Vying for her 138th House district seat in Harrisburg are two Republicans who are new to the political arena: Ann Flood of Moore Township and Tony Tarsi of Lower Nazareth Township.
The House district covers the boroughs of Bath, Chapman, Pen Argyl and Wind Gap, as well as the townships of Bethlehem (partially), Bushkill, East Allen, Hanover (Northampton Co.), Lower Nazareth, Moore (partially) and Plainfield.
Flood grew up in Wind Gap and graduated from Pen Argyl High School and Moravian College in Bethlehem. She's the founder and president of Lauren's Hope Foundation, a nonprofit that helps families with children who have brain injuries.
Flood's daughter Lauren was born with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and died in her sleep from a seizure at the age of four and a half.
"Her passing really made me sit back and reflect on the profound life lessons that she had taught me," Flood said. "If I can leave somebody a little better than when I first met them, I feel like my job is done, and that's how I approach life. I've approached that with such passion with my foundation, and that's how I'm approaching this election and running for this seat."
Flood is also president of the Greater Bath Chamber of Commerce and serves on the board of governors of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber pf Commerce. She said supporting local businesses, especially right now, is a top priority.
"If elected into this position, I would work with the SBA [Small Business Association] and the chamber to really help these businesses get the exposure and the support that they need to get back up and running again, as well as opportunities for new businesses to come in and be able to not just survive, but thrive," she said.
Tarsi grew up in Wilson Borough and moved to Nazareth with his family. He’s been the principal of Wilson Area Intermediate School since it opened in 2011. Before that, he worked as a manager of Laneco supermarkets, coached wrestling, and taught history and social studies. Tarsi said he has "tremendous respect" for the Founding Fathers and the Constitution.
"No nation on earth has been blessed to the level that the United States has been, and I just fear that we're moving away from it," he said. "I've always talked about running. I've always talked about it, and when this seat opened up, and I happen to be living in the 138th [House district], I said, 'This is the time.'"
Tarsi said the country was founded on the concept of limited government and getting rid of red tape.
"This experience during the pandemic really has exposed what the government is willing to do," he said. "It's unfortunate what's happened in Pennsylvania."
He said the Keystone State is in poorer shape than other states because of the lack of leadership -- and that Governor Tom Wolf’s reopening plan doesnt work.
"He hasn't talked to business leaders. [The Office of] Open Records has been closed. We need to be open. We need to talk to the people who it impacts, and that's not being done. In the meantime, we're sitting here. As we sit today, we're still destroying our economy," he said.
When it comes to the economy, both candidates call for eliminating property taxes. They both champion conservative values and support the Second Amendment. While their platforms appear similar on paper, the candidates say their backgrounds set them apart.
"I would say it's my experience and my connection to the community to really know and be in tune to what the people really, really want," Flood said. "It's not so much nationalism as much as it's what's important right here in our district."
"I've left wherever I was better than what I found it, and I'm goal-oriented," Tarsi said. "I have a record of leadership and positive change that anybody can look into."
Before the pandemic, both candidates connected with voters in person. Now that they can’t do that, they’ve reached out on social media, in Zoom meetings and over the phone.
"That's been something that I really have built strong relationships in a very short time," said Tarsi, who's given out his cell phone number to voters.
"I just made the best with what I had and had to get more creative with making sure I get my message out there," Flood said.
While some voters will cast ballots in person, others plan to vote by mail. Both candidates say they respect the latter option for the medically vulnerable and for those who don’t feel comfortable voting in person right now, but they’re concerned about the process in general.
Flood said some voters have gotten ballots for the wrong district, and Tarsi said corruption is likely if Pennsylvania ever made the mail-in process mandatory.
The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Tara Zrinski, a Northampton County councilwoman, in November's general election. Both say they're ready to represent the district.
“I really am passionate about making sure that the voices of this community are heard, and I will fight for them," Flood said.
"I am very open, and I've been transparent from Day 1," Tarsi said. "I'm here to serve the people, and I want people to know that."
Primary Day is Tuesday, June 2. For a list of polling locations, click HERE.