Lisa reached out to me to ask for inclusion in this series. She made me realize that my call-for-Q&As should specify that it is not limited to Pittsburgh. I was struck by her passion for progressive solutions in our rural communities. Lisa grew up in Pittsburgh, moved away for her adult life, and has since retired to Mercer County. PA State House District 8 is currently represented by Republican Tedd Nesbit. The district is outlined below.
Your Name: Lisa Boeving-Learned
Your Pronouns: She, her
How do you describe your identity? Female, Lesbian
Tell us about the first LGBTQ person you met and what impact they had on your life? The first LGBTQ person I was aware of meeting was a friend I made as a student at an Army training school. She and her small circle of friends took me in as a part of the group. This was pre-DADT, a time when LGBTQ members of the military were extremely closeted and vulnerable. Military regulations were explicitly anti-gay, and I knew people who were physically arrested and others who quietly were removed from the ranks. In this climate of fear, LGBTQ soldiers formed very close-knit, but secretive bonds. My new friends gave me my first awareness of my sexual orientation and provided me with a small sense of community during my military service.
Please tell me about your familiarity with the LGBTQ community in your district and the region. The LGBTQ community in my district is small and very quiet. I have met a few people, but there is not an active or visible presence in the rural parts of the area. I recently reached out to a local college democratic group and found a wonderful group of young LGBTQ students who have adopted me as a sort of mentor/member of their ranks. They blew me away by inviting me to participate in a panel to speak openly about LGBTQ individuals. Over 100 students showed up to listen and ask questions. The students who organized and moderated the panel are my heroes. I could never have been that brave at 19 or 20 years old.
Also, I’ve been canvassing and speaking throughout my district and my bio includes my family and my wife, and overall I must say, I have gotten a positive response to my candidacy and myself as a person. I believe people respond to honesty and a message that lets them know we have much more in common than our differences. The honesty says that if I’m willing to share those details about my life, they can trust what I’m telling them in everything.
Based on this, what do you understand to be our top LGBTQ concerns and priorities for the General Assembly? How will you respond to those priorities? My top priorities are Universal Healthcare, living wages, and ending Gerrymandering. I believe that what’s happened in our politics is that division and scapegoating has taken the place of civility and compromise that is necessary for a democratic process. Rather than rolling up their sleeves and doing the work to solve problems that affect people’s lives, too many of our leaders have instead chosen to sling insults and deal in hateful rhetoric. So, nothing gets done. Even the reps who aren’t overtly doing this, like some of the more well known examples (Metcalfe), are still guilty of enabling this destructive behavior, because they don’t call out the bad behavior and mostly vote in lock-step. That’s how Gerrymandering gets a foothold and why our system has become so dysfunctional. Most voters I talk to, of any party, are really tired of this. I want to go to Harrisburg to change the conversation and get some progress going for the people of my district and the Commonwealth.
How does intersectionality inform your work? Intersectionality is me, in a nutshell. I’m a former soldier and career cop. Both of these identities are associated with conservative thinking overall. However, my identity as a woman and member of the LGBTQ community give me a different social perspective that tempers the rigid ideologies associated with my career choices. For example, I believe in the Second Amendment, but also believe we need to get smarter about safety issues. Universal, 100% background checks are necessary. We need to have a standard system for firearm safety training as a prerequisite to any license to carry. And as a military/law enforcement veteran, I believe weapons of war have no place in civilian society. I don’t advocate seizing them, but again, registration and a few more safety guardrails are needed.
Beyond that, my support of social justice moves me to understand the need for police reform and training. I believe I can say Blue Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter without contradiction. We simply must have the courage to stop shouting *at* each other and start listening *to* each other. Our friends on both sides are dying while we bicker. I have no tolerance for that.
The threats of ‘religious liberty’ laws and exemptions target both LGBTQ rights and women’s rights. How does the General Assembly navigate this equivalency of personal religious freedom with systemic oppression and control of underserved people? Well, first we have to get the members of the Assembly who are not the extremists to tell the others to knock it off. I’m talking to Democrats and Republicans here. We have to call it out. Call it what it is: Excuse for bigotry and sexism. This is another example of the fixation on vilifying “others” and failure to get real work done for the good of our citizens. The voters I talk to want infrastructure projects, good schools, living wages and healthcare. They are tired of hearing about lost opportunities on federal grants or business opportunities for our state, while their representatives push bills on social issues that really don’t have any affect on their every day lives. Every moment our representatives waste doing some special interest group’s bidding, is time we should have been spending working to make our Commonwealth the next green energy technology center.
Your district is north of Pittsburgh, south of Erie, and a region filled with small towns and rural communities. What’s unique about the progressive agenda in this key part of Western Pennsylvania? What I find interesting and sad is that people in this region are sort of left out of the conversation when you hear about development and job creation. But I look at our area as ripe for possibility. We sit an hour in any direction to major metropolitan centers. Erie, Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Cleveland. To me, this makes it the perfect location for progress. I drive from my home toward Mercer and right at the apex of I79/I80 is big, open space that would be perfect for some kind of industry, warehouse, or any number of ventures. Trucks wouldn’t even have to go through towns to get in and out, just hop on the highway.
In Butler County, which is the southern part of my district, they’re already planning for future development. They boast University, Community College, and a state of the art Union Training Center, the Steamfitters facility. All of these institutions have a common goal: Training for high tech jobs of the future. That’s what our area needs. There’s no reason Mercer can’t do the same.
I see the role of State Representative as being proactive and a conduit between federal and local governments, with the primary goal of bringing all stakeholders together to grow our community.
On your website, you want Pennsylvania to become a green energy technology center. What sorts of specific opportunities do you see in your district to pursue? I sort of started on this in the last answer. Right now, the region has been getting jobs from the gas industry. It’s better for the environment than coal, but I see it as a temporary stepping stone to a future of clean energy. While I see the need for jobs, we must be mindful of our environment. We need strong environmental regulations, not weaker ones. Beyond that, I see no reason why we can’t invest in a program to attract solar and wind industries to our area. I’d love to see other technologies flourish here, too. We partner with our institutions of higher learning and outstanding trade schools to offer courses in those industries. Companies come to places where people want to live. This means well trained work forces, good schools, transportation, and vibrant communities. We already have a great location, the educational facilities, beautiful state parks and rich cultural centers within a short drive. Now, we need leaders to put together the rest of the puzzle with a bold plan to put our area front and center in the conversation. I know more than a few of the candidates for state house share my vision for this future. Our Commonwealth is on the verge of transformation with the new leaders emerging this cycle. I’m excited.
Political dynasties are rampant in Western Pennsylvania politics – including the Costas, Wagners, (the Ravenstahls) etc. Two other Democratic members of the State House, Markosek and Hanna, are retiring because their sons are going to run, unopposed, for their seats. Some of these are ‘good guys’ but their ascent to power is not truly democratic. Why is it important to disrupt this legacy of political dynasties? Change and infusion of new blood and ideas is almost always a good thing. Although I don’t think just change for the sake of change is necessarily helpful, as we see nationally today. I think it may be as important for perception that we interrupt these so-called dynasties. When I talk to voters, there is a sense that nobody is listening to them anymore. I think that the problems in our system, be it dynasties, gerrymandering, or dark money, are all parts of the erosion of trust we are experiencing today. We need citizens to step up and brave the wilderness to take back our politics. Fresh faces, integrity, and caring about our citizens has to be what public service is about, or else we’re in real trouble.
Tell me about your other endorsements and supporters. Most endorsements are held off by various organizations until after the May primary. However, I am proud to have earned the endorsement of Equality Pennsylvania and Indivisible Mercer County thus far. Both of these organizations stand for human dignity and equality and are champions of progressive causes near to my heart. I have received the endorsement and support of Judy Hines, our state committee woman, who ran for this seat previously. I have received positive feedback from various progressive organizations, union groups, and LGBTQ organizations, as well. I look forward to their formal endorsements after the primary.
Where can readers find your campaign on social media?
You can find our campaign and sign on to Team LBL here:
Thank you for the opportunity.
This series now includes: Aerion Andrew Abney (D19), Summer Lee (D34), Sara Innamorato (D21), William Anderson (D24) as well as Kareem Kandill (D30). I’ve reached out to Dr. Honora Rockar (D12), Daniel Smith, Jr (D12) and responded to others asking to be included – I’ll publish responses if/as they come in. Let me know if I should reach out to someone else. I’ve also interviewed Amber I Sloan who is running for Allegheny County Democratic Committee.
I strongly urge you to read each post in this series and learn about the people stepping forward to resist.