Marni Snyder Says She Would Be Tough on LGBT Hate Crimes

The criminal justice advocate and state Rep. candidate in the 182nd District believes she is more equipped to address LGBT hate crimes than her opponents are.

Marni Snyder is running in a highly contested race for State Representative of the 182nd District.

Marni Snyder is running in a highly contested race for the 182nd District.

This 182nd District seat is highly contested, with a competitive second-term incumbent. Why should voters consider you the more viable choice?
I’ve knocked on over a thousand doors the past few weeks and I’ve spoken to hundreds of voters. I’ve shared with them my vision for stronger representation in Harrisburg, and the response has been tremendous. The people who live in this district want someone with my experience and my skill set. I’ve been inside every single school in the [182nd legislative] district. I’m an experienced advocate who fights hard for others every single day, and it’s something that they want and that we need in Harrisburg.

You’re the only woman running for the seat. What has that meant for your campaign so far?
The Philadelphia region sends 53 representatives and senators to Harrisburg, and only nine are women. Nine. That’s troubling to me in 2016. In terms of running for office, it really hasn’t been any different than being a female solo-practitioner attorney. There are still men who bypass me to speak to my male campaign manager. There are still people who question why I’m not married and raising kids. But the most troubling part of this process has not come from me being a woman — our district is incredibly progressive and it’s one of the reasons I love living here. The real challenge has been that I’m not a political insider. It’s hard enough for anyone to run for office, but it’s especially hard in a system that is so opposed to newcomers and new ideas.

Your ballot petition signatures are currently being challenged by an opponent in the race. What do you think of the allegations, and what has that experience been like on the campaign trail?
I understand that this is part of the political process, but it’s a shame that instead of focusing on the issues that matter, Lou [Lanni] chose to attack my integrity and that of my supporters and neighbors. The challenges won’t succeed, and I continue to be excited to talk to people about the advocacy I want to bring to Harrisburg on behalf of them, their children, their schools, our seniors, and our city.

The broader issue that needs to be addressed is how open the process is for people who are concerned about their representation. We should be fighting for easier access to voting, trying to make it easier to run for office, and working hard to make sure that our General Assembly is truly representative by getting rid of gerrymandered districts. These are the issues I want to talk about, not whether my neighbor Ken should have signed his name “Ken” or “Kenneth” on a petition.

The 182nd District has been in the forefront of local pro-LGBT advocacy. How do you plan to improve on this while going up against an openly gay incumbent?
I have tremendous respect and admiration for Brian Sims as a trailblazer. But the fact remains that at the end of three-and-a-half years, he hasn’t gotten a single piece of legislation with his name on it signed into law. I’ve spoken to hundreds of voters from across the district, and the message I hear from them is the same: We want a champion in Harrisburg who will fight for us and deliver.

I have advocated for clients who identify as LGBT, and it’s given me insight and experience into how the criminal justice system impacts people in the community. None of the other candidates, including Brian, have that experience. Philadelphia has a horrifying problem with violence against the transgender community. We need hate crimes legislation and public safety initiatives to prevent these crimes, but we also need better police training to ensure that we can get justice for people like Keisha Jenkins and Maya Young. I want to strongly push for funding for more comprehensive police training across the board, especially when it comes to interacting with members of minority groups and victims of sexual assault.

How does your platform compare with those of the other candidates?
It’s a Democratic primary — there isn’t a big difference in any of our platforms. The big choice that voters will have on April 26th is, “Do we want more of the same or do we want a new perspective?” Harrisburg is broken and is not working for Philadelphia. Both Ben and Brian have both been a part of that for years, and Lou was a Republican ward leader in Philadelphia. At the end of the day, the men just aren’t getting the job done.

Being a Democrat representative in Pennsylvania’s legislature is like taking the progressive agenda to court. I have experience being an attorney, in defending the interests of the underdog in a challenging system. The Republicans in Harrisburg make up a system of bias against our interests. My experience working in such institutions makes me more qualified and capable of working toward our goals than my opponents. And I’m incredibly excited to earn the opportunity to advocate for my constituents in Harrisburg.