SELINSGROVE — Democratic conferees in Pennsylvania’s 85th legislative district on Thursday evening chose Dr. Jennifer Rager-Kay to be their nominee in the Aug. 20 special election to fill the seat vacated by Fred Keller, who is now representing Congressional District 12 in the U.S. House.
Rager-Kay won a first ballot vote, garnering 17 of a possible 27 votes. The winner only needed 50 percent plus 1 to take the candidacy, or 14 votes.
The other eligible Democratic nominees were Bonnie Hamilton, David Heayn and Adam Rosinski.
Rager-Kay's name will now be sent to the state Democratic committee for final approval, said Ryan Smith, a representative with the state party.
This is Rager-Kay's second attempt to win Pa-85. Then incumbent Fred Keller defeated her in the general election on Nov. 6, 2018, by about 7,000 votes.
She will now face Republican David Rowe in an Aug. 20 special election.
The Democratic nominating conference was open to the public and more than 50 people filled a room at B.J.'s Market Street Tavern, in Selinsgrove, to support their favorite candidates or to simply be there to watch the process.
After the four candidates were placed into nomination, each had five minutes to address conferees and make a case for their vote.
Rager-Kay made an electability argument. Besides her knowledge, as a doctor, of health care issues, she noted that name recognition would help in a campaign against her Republican opponent. "We really have an opportunity to win this election if we all work together." Noting that she had pulled a significant number of Republicans to vote for her in the Keller election in 2018, she said that the issues she is most drawn to cross the line: health care, the environment, dealing with the opioid epidemic.
"I have the campaign structure in place," she said. "We can win this."
Hamilton, the mayor of New Berlin, said her focus was on education and bringing people together around their local needs; Adam Rosinski, stressed his knowledge of health care and business acumen, as founder of Cypress Communities, which provides personal care to individuals with disabilities; and David Heayn, who was not at the conference, but made a statement via phone, talked about his focus on creating educational opportunities.
Rager-Kay, after the meeting broke up, said she ready to unveil the "fighting Jenn Rager-Kay. We're not going up against an incumbent this time. I think the people of this district are worth fighting for and helping. That's what I want to do and why I decided to run."