They Started in Erie
By Ginny Tonkin staff blogger
They Started in Erie celebrates those successful stars who've lived and started out in our big, little town.   Read more about this blog.
 Phone: 814-870-1915
Posted: August 31st, 2010
Congressional freshman runs for a second term

A fellow guest at a dinner party planted the first seed.

“You should run for congress.”

Surprised, she was further stunned when her husband replied, “I agree.” Then, she couldn’t get the idea out of her head.

Since 2007, this businesswoman-turned-politician has been engaged in Erie’s political scene since she campaigned for Pennsylvania’s 3rd congressional District, defeating an incumbent of 14 years in 2008.

Now in 2010, she’s once again campaigning, this time with two years of Capitol Hill experience under her belt.

Kathy Dahlkemper, represetning PA's 3rd congressional district

Kathy Dahlkemper, representing PA's 3rd congressional district

Who’s who: Kathy Dahlkemper

Why care: The congresswomen has represented Pennsylvania’s 3rd District as a Democrat since her oath in January 2009, and during her first two years, this political newbie passed more pieces of legislation than any other freshman of the 111th United States Congress.

Erie link: A graduate of Edinboro State College, now Edinboro University, Dahlkemper originally worked as a dietitian, then later helped her husband, Dan, run the family business, Dahlkemper Landscape Architects & Contractors. She and her husband, Dan, raised their family of five children, Aron, Gretchen, Linden, Tricia, and Nathan, in Erie.

Erie landmarks: Dahlkemper and her husband founded LEAF, the Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park. The non-profit is Dan’s brainchild, and as co-founder and director, the congresswoman said it was running this organization which helped provide experience as a public figure.

Initial motivation: “I was unhappy with the direction of the country, and I felt English was out of touch,” said Dahlkemper, who defeated seven-term incumbent Republican Phil English in the 2008 election.

#1 issue for campaign 2010: “Jobs, jobs, jobs. It’s always been about jobs. 15 years ago it was about jobs.”

Challenges: As a congressional newcomer, Dahlkemper said experiencing the legislative process was challenging at first. She said learning to take advantage of house procedures is an “art over time.”

Proudest moments: Legislatively, the congresswoman says she is most proud of her achievements regarding the passage of the health care bill, particularly her work extending coverage to young people on their parents’ plans up to their 26th birthday.

Vision for the region: Taking advantage of Erie’s resources and connections to provide the climate for economic growth in the region. “Making this region a place where young people can find a good job” is the biggest item on her agenda.

Success is: “Knowing I’ve contributed to people I’ve been in contact with.”

Get educated: Learn more about Dahlkemper and her positions at her campaign website. Find out more about her Republican opponent Mike Kelly on his. Follow campaign coverage on GoErie’s Campaign 10 blog. Find unbiased information on America’s elected officials at Project Vote Smart.

Who do you want to see? Let me know who you want to see next in They Started in Erie at

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