News & Media

Big crowd comes out for 85th District debate

Rick Dandes

The Daily Item – Oct. 9, 2018


LEWISBURG — The debate between incumbent Pennsylvania House Rep. Fred Keller, a Republican representing the 85th District and Democratic challenger Jennifer Rager-Kay drew a standing-room-only crowd comprised of more than 325 area residents, local politicians and party operatives.

The 90-minute debate took place at Monday night’s Susquehanna Valley Conservatives regular monthly meeting at the Best Western Country Cupboard conference room.

Rager-Kay and Keller sparred over several topics brought up by debate moderators and the audience, including opioid funding and the aptness of corporate campaign contributions.

But when asked how they differed most from their opponent, Rager-Kay, of Selinsgrove, said that she would work across the aisle and not necessarily vote a straight party line before thoroughly researching issues. Keller disagreed with the implication, and pointed to several Democrats who were endorsing his campaign.

“I do work across party lines,” he said.

On the issue of opioid addiction, Rager-Kay, who is a doctor, said that Keller, of Kreamer, had voted for budget cuts in a proposed line item funding an addiction program; Keller shot back that he had voted for a final budget that increased funding by 18 percent. Not as much as another proposal but certainly an increase.

Both Keller and Rager-Kay agreed that opioid addiction had to be treated as a disease. Keller said opioid addiction is not a character flaw. It should be attacked through education. And he supported the idea of drug courts. Rager-Kay explained how addiction changes the brain, and called for increased funding and “new ideas. Cutting millions of dollars from addiction program funding is not an answer.”

One question asked if being a state House representative is a full-time job. Keller said it is, and is in fact “a six-day-a-week job. When I began as representative in 2011 I quit my full-time job to devote my time to representing my constituents.”

Rager-Kay agreed that it is a full-time job, and said that demonstrably, she has campaigned, knocked on doors, attended meetings and was still able to maintain her medical practice. “I can do two jobs,” she said.

Other points of contention were focused on campaign contributions: Rager Kay is against corporation PACs and said she is proud of the more than 350 individual contributors to her campaign; Keller said that people who contribute through PACs still don’t get favored treatment. “I decide my vote based on the issue and what the people I represent think is best,” he said.

On LGBT issues, Rager-Kay flat out said she was for the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, which barred any kind of discrimination based on sexual preference. Keller noted that in his business practices he never asked any potential employee about who they loved. “It was more like who fit into the team to get things done,” he said.

“In my practice,” added Rager-Kay, “I never once asked a potential employee if he was a Democrat or Republican.”

“One of the biggest things I want to get across this evening,” she said, given a free few minutes to discuss anything she wished. “I am not in this to do mud-slinging or to talk bad about anybody. I did not opt to do oppositional research. No, absolutely not. I respect my opponent, but the issue goes beyond that when it comes down to who would best represent you.”

She ended by vowing to work hard for the people of the district.

Keller, from the start of the debate, emphasized how he was bringing the values of his constituency to Harrisburg and would continue to do so. “It’s your district,” he said.


State Rep. Keller declines League debate

Rick Dandes

The Daily Item – Sept. 18, 2018


LEWISBURG — Pa. House Rep. Fred Keller, R-85, Kreamer, has declined an invitation by the Lewisburg Area League of Women Voters to participate in a candidates night with his November opponent, Democrat Jenn Rager Kay, of Selinsgrove.

“I wish I knew why he declined,” said Mary Zimmerman, president, League of Women Voters of the Lewisburg Area, on Tuesday. “We were dealing with his campaign manager, not Fred directly. We suggested several dates, but all were declined, and were given no explanation.”

Keller said it was a matter of logistics. “I’ve already participated in two public forums with doctor Jenn. One sponsored by the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce, and then we had one with retirees earlier this month.”

Since then, Keller said, he has had two more offers to debate: one from the Susquehanna Valley Conservatives and another from the League. “We looked at both of those and decided to do the one with the conservatives because the logistics worked out a little better.”

The SVC forum is scheduled for Oct. 8, Keller said.

Rager Kay on Tuesday night said it was “unfortunate ” that Keller has turned down the League and several other debate opportunities, “but I’ll meet him wherever. He’s been in office eight years. I think it’s important to have a conversation about his record.”

We’re just really sorry,” Zimmerman said, “because this is by far the best way for voters to get information. We’re looking at other options, and we’ve put out the Voter’s Guide but candidates night is the only way that the voters can directly question the candidates themselves.

“We are extremely sorry that this did not work,” she said.

The League has yet to schedule a pre-election event, which would likely be called a meet-and-greet instead of a candidates night if only one of the candidates appears



“But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement.”  ~ Sen. John McCain

Free CommUNITY Cookout

A celebration of good food, great music, and fellowship designed to bring our district together!

Hosted by Dr. Jennifer Rager-Kay, Candidate for the 85th District, PA House of Representatives

Putting People First!

When:       Saturday, October 13, 2018  11:00am-2:00pm

Where:       R.B. Winter State Park Pavilions 1 and 2

                   7879, 17215 Buffalo Rd. Mifflinburg, PA 17844

Special guests include Grammy-nominated musician Billy Kelly, Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, and world-renowned paleontologist and owner of Prehistoric Journeys Barry and April James

* Please RSVP by October 6 to or       570-534-0074

Paid for by Friends of Jennifer Rager-Kay




Saturday, October 6, 2018



2346 N. Susquehanna Trail

Selinsgrove, PA 17870


Instructor:  Jeffery M. Miller SPS, DTI

Self-Defense and Street Survival Expert, Former Member of the United States Army Military Police Corps, Former Police Officer and Undercover Investigator,

and a 13th degree black belt master teacher in martial arts


Hosted by: Dr. Jennifer Rager-Kay

Candidate for PA District 85 State Representative


Whether you are a new shooter, or just want to brush up on the fundamentals, gun safety is more important than ever in America. From protecting loved ones to maintaining traditions of hunting and recreational shooting, we want to do our part to promote safe sensible gun ownership.

During this FREE Introduction to Handgun Safety Program, you will learn:


  • responsible ownership and applications of a handgun
  • firearm safety for the home, workplace and vehicle
  • safety concerns while training and carrying a firearm
  • safe use and handling of firearms
  • locking devices and techniques to prevent unauthorized access
  • components and operation of modern handguns
  • types, components and purposes of modern ammunition
  • applicable laws relating to possession, transportation and storage
  • loading and unloading
  • fundamentals of basic shooting

(Additional lessons, including live target shooting, available upon interest)


* Must be 18 years or older to participate*                  *No loaded weapons will be permitted on-site*


RSVP by October 1, 2018 to or 570-534-0074





Dr. Jenn Rager-Kay Continues Listening Tour to Hear Voters’ Concerns


SELINSGROVE, PA (July 29, 2018) – Dr. Jenn Rager-Kay, a candidate for State Representative in the 85th Legislative District, will continue her district-wide listening tour in Hartley Township on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018, at 7 p.m., where she will visit with residents and elected officials and to find out what local issues concern them the most. On Thursday, Aug. 2, she will appear LIVE on WKOK 1070-AM to discuss the tour and other issues with Mark Lawrence, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

The ongoing tour began in July, and will continue through Election Day as she makes stops in every municipality in the 85th Legislative District.

“I think it’s important for elected officials to listen to all the constituents they represent, no matter what their point of view or political affiliation. It’s the only way to represent them effectively,” said Dr. Rager-Kay. “My goal has always been to put people over politics. That is why I am running for office.”

Dr. Rager-Kay of Selinsgrove, a physician at UPMC in Sunbury and a Democrat running to unseat Republican incumbent Fred Keller, plans to make several stops around the 85th district over the next few months. Her goal is to meet as many people as possible and to assure them that, if elected, she will voice their concerns as she tries to heal Harrisburg.

All events are free and open to the public. Upcoming dates include:

  • Beaver Township; Beavertown Borough Office, 111 W. Walnut St., Tuesday Aug. 7, 7:30-8:30 p.m.
  • Lewisburg Borough Council Meeting; 55. S. 5th, Lewisburg, Tuesday Aug. 21, 6-7:30 p.m.
  • Kelly Township Supervisor’s Meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 6:30-7:30 p.m., 551 Ziegler Rd., Lewisburg.

Endorsed by 314 Action, The Central PA Building & Construction Trades Council, Pennsylvania National Organization for Women, Moms Demand Action, and now Equality PA, Dr. Jenn Rager-Kay promises to put partisan politics aside and fight for what is right, not what is expected. For more information on upcoming events, refer to our EVENTS page.



In Light of the Janus v. AFSCME Decision,

Dr. Jenn Rager-Kay Pledges Support for Workers’ Rights


Selinsgrove, PA (June 30, 2018) – In a landmark 5-4 decision Tuesday, The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that exempt public sector employees can no longer be charged fees that fund collective bargaining efforts for their unionized co-workers. The decision dealt a huge blow to organized labor by severely limiting the revenue streams that help working people fight for fair wages and better benefits.

Dr. Jenn Rager-Kay, a candidate for State Representative in the 85th Legislative District, feels strongly that the Court erred in its ruling. The decision, she said, will continue to undermine the rights that have been consistently disappearing from workplaces everywhere. The case overturns the ruling in the 1977 case, Abood v. the Detroit Board of Education, which ruled that “fair share fees” were constitutional because they covered collective bargaining but excluded political advocacy.

“I am incredibly disappointed in SCOTUS today,” said Dr. Rager-Kay. “This is just the latest blow in a long line of sustained attacks against unions, and by extension working people in general. If I am elected to the State House I will do everything I can to fight for workers’ rights because everyone deserves the dignity of a living wage. Our elected leadership has shown, time and again, that they care more about the organizations they represent than the people who work for those organizations. That has to change.”

The case in question originated from Mark Janus, an employee at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. He felt the $45 monthly agency fee he paid to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union was unconstitutional because it violated his First Amendment rights. Contract negotiations with the government could be considered a form of political advocacy, he argued. Even though Mr. Janus directly benefited from AFSCME’s efforts on behalf of its members, the Supreme Court agreed.

Dr. Rager-Kay, a physician at UPMC in Sunbury and a Democrat running to unseat Republican incumbent Fred Keller, has long been an advocate for worker’s rights. Her candidacy was recently endorsed by the Central Pennsylvania Building & Construction Trades Council.

“The Central Pa Building and Construction Trades Council knows that I am deeply committed to the causes they care about,” she added. “That’s why I am so proud to have their support.”

For more information about Dr. Jenn Rager-Kay, visit



Candidates Agree Broadband,


Training Vital to Improve Business


Rick Dandes
May 3, 2018
DANVILLE — Ten candidates on the primary ballot — ranging from U.S. Congressional hopefuls, to state representatives were on hand Thursday night at the Pine Barn Inn for a candidates’ night sponsored by two regional Chambers of commerce.
Each candidate was given two minutes to address the proposition: How would you improve business in Pennsylvania? To a surprising degree all of the candidates, Republicans and Democrats, agreed that workforce development and building a broadband infrastructure was key to attracting new business and keeping established organizations thriving in a global economy.
Attending the meeting, co-sponsored by the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce were Congressional District 9 Republican candidates George Halcovage, Dan Meuser, and Scott Uehlinger; the Democratic candidates present were Laura Quick and Denny Wolff. A third Democrat, Gary Wegman, was unable to attend.
Halcovage stressed job training as a way of preparing people for work that was moving into the area, a way to keep the workforce from moving out of the region; Meuser stressed deregulation as a way of freeing up and attracting businesses. Uehlinger also noted that over-regulation is a burden and was a weight on the economy that has to be modified.
Democrats Quick and Wolff talked about the need to train a workforce. Wolff said that in his talks with company officials the biggest challenge they had was not having a skilled workforce to fill job openings. Quick suggested creating at the federal level a way to be small business friendly. Both Quick and Wolff thought some kind of a public-private partnership would be a good thing.
Candidates vying to represent the 85th, 107th and 108th state House districts each offered views on growing business.
Pa. House Rep. Fred Keller, R-85, of Kreamer, said he is a strong proponent of keeping government’s hands off how a business runs as much as possible. Democrat Jennifer Rager-Kay, who is running unopposed to be the nominee for the 85th district said she hails from a western Pa. coal mining family, said training and promoting education will lead to opportunities for jobs and help businesses grow. She joined with others in saying bringing broadband technology to the region was essential.
The 107th district races have candidates each running unopposed for their party’s nomination, incumbent Kurt Masser, the Republican, and Democrat Sarah Donnelly. Masser said that as a businessman he came to Harrisburg to ease the burden on the small businessman through easing of regulations; Donnelly talked about inclusion in the workforce as something to work for, and that upgraded technology was essential to attracting and keeping business.
Lynda Schlegel-Culver, the incumbent Republican representing the 108th district is running unopposed. She said that in her discussion with businesses people wanted deregulation, workforce development, infrastructure improvement, and better, affordable health care.
Send comments to Follow Dandes on Twitter @rdandes.


Letter To The Editor: Hands-On




By Samantha Pearson l Letter to the Editor l Apr 29, 2018

I both organize and participate in multiple community cleanups every year. A wide variety of people participate in the cleanups, but I have to say I found it very gratifying to be working side by side with a candidate for the PA House of Representatives during a highway cleanup a couple weeks ago.

Dr. Jenn Rager-Kay was out there in the median with us during a recent Sierra Club cleanup along Route 15. She was there getting her hands dirty (or at least her gloves) and managed to fit it in on a Sunday morning before heading off to teach Sunday school at her church. It would be great to see Dr. Rager-Kay bring that same level of hands-on engagement to the position of State Representative for the 85th District.

And while I’m in the business of making cleanup-related plugs for other people, I’d like to call everyone’s attention to a great cleanup put on by the Susquehanna River Cleanup Project coming up on Saturday, May 5, at 9 a.m., along the river in Sunbury. You can sign up and get details at (case sensitive).

Samantha Pearson,



Letter To The Editor: Support Kinship Act


By Jan Boyer | Letter to the Editor | Apr 24, 2018

Having received a call 11 years ago asking me to take custody of my grandchildren, I didn’t hesitate.

They didn’t ask to be brought into this world. They did, however, suffer from being separated from their parents. We were not the ideal age to raise young children, but the foster care system was out

of the question. Often we didn’t know where to go for guidance, but gave the security of a loving home.

More can be done to help grandparents care for their grandchildren. One measure just passed the Pennsylvania House (HB 2133): The Kinship Navigator Act. This law, which Gov. Tom Wolf will sign if it passes the Senate, will help grandparents like us access resources.

In Pennsylvania, 85,000 grandparents have become guardians for their grandkids. There are many reasons this can happen, one being the horrifying consequences of drug abuse, especially opioids.

If grandparents don’t step in, the children may become wards of the state. That means foster care and separation. Foster care is more expensive, and worse for kids. I can’t understand why our representative, Fred Keller, voted against such services, which will help grandparents keep families together. He did this twice, first as the only vote against the bill in committee, then this week, before the House. Nobody wants to waste money, like Keller said. This law is a good idea that will help kids and save money by keeping them out of foster care.

I hope the Senate cares more about helping grandkids than Rep. Fred Keller.

Jan Boyer,

New Berlin


Valley Women Part of a National Wave


Selinsgrove, PA (April 23, 2018)

Rick Dandes, The Daily Item


The “blue wave” of first-time women candidates running for national, state and local offices across the nation has extended its reach into the Susquehanna Valley, where three Democrats are running for state House and Congressional seats.


With about three weeks to go before the May 15 Pennsylvania primaries, three women who have never run for office are seeking to win elective seats currently held by Republicans.


Sarah Donnelly, of Shamokin, is running unopposed to challenge for Pennsylvania House district 107 — a seat now held by Kurt Masser, of Elysburg. Jennifer Rager-Kay, of Selinsgrove, is also running unopposed in the 85th District primary. She will take on Fred Keller, of Kreamer, in the general election. Judy Herschel, of Bradford County, is in a contested race vs. Marc Freidenberg for the Democratic nomination in the newly created Congressional District 12. The winner of that primary will face either incumbent Tom Marino or his primary challenger, Doug McClinko, in November.


All three women have been impacted by the 2016 election, they said in separate interviews with the Daily Item.


Jennifer Rager-Kay, a physician, said, “after the presidential election I had issues with the direction the country was going. Getting into politics was not something I aspired to do, but a necessity to do, at first.”


“The choice for me,” Rager-Kay said, “was to sit back and complain about things or get involved and do something about our problems myself. And when I learned that our current representative, Fred Keller, was running uncontested, I thought here is my chance if I really want to make a difference for my community.”


Women typically have taken a back seat in Pennsylvania politics, she said. “But when we don’t feel we are being represented as women, as mothers, as family caregivers … I think that’s why we are seeing this tremendous increase in women stepping forward to take on political responsibility.”


That’s also how Sarah Donnelly, of Shamokin, first got involved.


“I saw problems arising from defending the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “I decided to find places to go and voice my opinion. I got involved with the county’s Democratic party. The more I got involved, the more I wanted to get involved. Things snowballed and I found myself getting signatures on my nomination petition and now I’m on the ballot.”


A semi-retired accountant, Donnelly, 61, thought she’d be heading toward the retirement phase of her life. Instead, she’s launching off into something much more interesting and very energizing, she said.


Judy Herschel, 41, said her decision to run for Congress was “absolutely” impacted by the results of the 2016 election.


“After that I did a lot of soul-searching,” she said.


Running “is something I always wanted to do, but it was never the right time,” Herschel said. “But after the Women’s March in January, I made a decision that I would run for Congress. The energy of the women and their messages resonated with the things I believe in. I felt something amazing was going on, so that gave me the push to decide to run.”


Herschel, a drug counselor, said once she made that decision her family got behind her 100 percent. “When I told my husband what I planned on doing, his response to me was — ‘what do we need to do?’ I couldn’t do this without the complete support of my husband and children.”


That was a common refrain among all the women candidates, where partners have bonded together in support of their spouses.


Running for office has been a lifestyle change in many ways, Herschel said, “but my husband, my kids and I have remained very balanced. I’ve explained to my children what I’m doing and the importance of it and I frequently remind them that they are the reason I am doing what I’m doing. They’ve adjusted well.”


Rager-Kay said getting into the race was a hard decision. “I’m a boots-on-the-ground, I’ll-do-the-dirty-work, just-give-me-an-assignment-type person,” she said. “I’ve always been active in my community, but never politically.” Once she got involved, her husband and young son formed a team and are “all in” on the campaign.


“My son is my inspiration,” she said. “I want him to grow up in the same environment I did. Faith, family, and future are my hallmark issues.”


Meanwhile, Donnelly, who is gay, said her wife has become her campaign manager.


Both Donnelly and Rager-Kay say they have adjusted well to the rigors of a campaign.


“Speaking in public is not a problem for me,” Rager-Kay said. Not so for Donnelly, who said she finds it difficult, but is getting better at it.


Herschel said getting into elective politics, was harder than anticipated.


“Much harder,” she said. “I don’t think anything could ever prepare anyone for what I am doing right now. There are many challenges, one of which is the division politically on Main Street. People are very angry. There are a lot of polarizing topics, but on the flip side, I put myself purposely in situations and around people with differing views because I believe a representative should listen to and represent everyone. I found that no matter where I have been, Perry County, Bradford or Union, we have a lot more in common than we have difference.”


Bridging that gap is something she aims to do, Herschel said.


“I think in these times it would be more difficult for me to be doing nothing than what I am doing now,” she said. “Meeting the people in this district has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. There is something positive going on. There are a lot of people standing up, doing things and actively getting involved where they haven’t before. In this crazy time we live in, I believe there is positive change coming. This is a very pivotal time right now and I want to be part of the solution to our problems.


“I get stronger every day,” she said. “When I set out to do something that I believe in, I don’t give up.”


Among Democrats, 98 women have registered to run for the state House, while 13 are running for the state Senate. On the Republican side of the aisle, 47 women are running in legislative races and one in a Congressional race. Pennsylvania also has a woman governor candidate to vote for in the primary — Laura Ellsworth.