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Gabriella Mendez: Young and Eager to Serve Her Community

At 23 years old, Gabriella Mendez would be among the youngest people elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives if she wins, but not the very youngest.

That honor goes to Rep. Alec Runcavage (R-Luzerene), who was just 21 when he was elected two years ago. Before that, former Blair County Rep. Michael Cassidy, a Democrat elected in 1977, was the youngest at 22, according to House archives.

Mendez, a Republican running against Democratic incumbent Rep. David Delloso in the 162nd District, told DVJournal that people are surprised when she comes to their door to ask for their vote.

“A lot of voters were very surprised to see a young face,” said Mendez, who grew up in Prospect Park. “Especially, a lot of parents with children in high school or college were enthusiastic to see somebody near their kids’ age who is able to run for office.

“I’m not a union boss. I’m not a rich business owner. This campaign is going to be run on good policy, hard work, and a good pair of sneakers,” said Mendez. “Everyone’s been very supportive and very happy to see a young new face.”

Mendez majored in political science at West Chester University but did not run for student government because she had to work to pay her tuition and expenses. “I was involved with the College Republicans a bit,” she said. “I’ve worked my whole life. There wasn’t a lot of time for extracurriculars.”

Her mother, Carla Hayes, passed away from ovarian cancer at 45 when Mendez was 14 and in eighth grade. Her father was never in the picture. An aunt and uncle stepped in and raised her, she said.

“It was obviously a hard time,” said Mendez. “But it was great to have family and the community, friends, teachers, everyone kind of rallied around me to put me on the path where I am today.”

Mendez worked for the county GOP and even spent two months as its executive director when the previous person left. She then worked in communications for the state House Republican Campaign Committee. She’s now starting her own social media and communications business.

An Interboro High School graduate, she’s a big supporter of public education.

She also supports abortion rights and wants to keep the law in Pennsylvania, where the procedure is legal up to 23 weeks.

“That gives moms and doctors enough time to make a decision,” said Mendez. “And be comfortable with your decision and understand what that decision means.”

Delaware County Republican Committee Chairman Frank Agovino said, “Gabriella Mendez may be young, but she has seen firsthand because of her employment with the Delco GOP and now the HRCC not only what it takes to execute a campaign but, more importantly, the issues that are top of mind for residents of the 162 legislative district.

“Additionally, as a young female, she can connect with other young females on the matter of abortion,” Agovino said. “Democrats have falsely framed Republicans as extreme on the issue when the reality is Gabby has a position that 80 percent of Dems and Republicans agree. Very few people are supportive of abortions at nine months, although every elected Democratic state rep running for reelection, including Gabby’s opponent, are supportive of late-term abortion.”

“I think it’s important for young women voters to know (my position) going into the November election,” Mendez said. She attended a recent Log Cabin Republican reception for Senate candidate Dave McCormick and also supports LGBTQ rights.

“I’m fiscally conservative, but I resonate in the middle (on social issues),” Mendez said. “Republicans need to get on board with social issues that impact young people’s day-to-day lives.”

The Democratic Party is “so far to the left, it’s gone,” Mendez said. Although many of her friends are Democrats, they plan to vote for her.

She’s also alarmed by HB1773, the Fair Share Tax Plan, being pushed by “Philadelphia Democrats,” which would increase the taxes on small businesses from 3 percent to 12 percent.

“I looked at it and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this not only affects me, but it affects 80,000 other small businesses in Pennsylvania,’” said Mendez. “And it affects the millions of workers they employ. This bill would quadruple the business tax, and it almost runs counter to Gov. Shapiro’s budget. He wants to make the commonwealth more economically competitive and attract more businesses to Pennsylvania.”

“Right now, we aren’t growing any businesses here,” she said. “Businesses are leaving and going to states with better tax opportunities.”

“They forgot to consider that a lot of these LLCs and S corporations are sole proprietors. They’re obviously paying business insurance on top of what they’re paying out of pocket for healthcare. So you’re quadrupling their business tax, but you’re also going to have people without health insurance because they can’t afford it because of this tax. I’ve talked to business owners, and they’re scared that they may have to go out of business,” she said.

A “good portion of McDade Boulevard and Chester Pike in my district were once prosperous when I was a kid. There were restaurants, small businesses, flower shops, and different kinds of businesses down there. And if you drive down these roads now, there are a lot of buildings up for sale because the property taxes are too high. And they don’t have tenants to fill those businesses,” she said.

“I’m a normal, working-class person looking for an opportunity to represent my community. And I have their best interests at heart,” she said. “I’ve lived in the 162nd District my whole life.”


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It’s Mattus Versus Delloso for the PA House 162nd District

Once upon a time, Michelle Mattus was a Democrat, shaking hands with former President Bill Clinton. She was in her 20s, living in Manhattan with Rudy Giuliani as mayor when she switched sides.

She liked Giuliani’s policies, which made her feel safe to walk in what were the once-dangerous streets of the Big Apple. Under Giuliani’s Democratic successors, those New York streets became dangerous again.

Republicans care about public safety, police, and other first responders.

“Show me a Republican that doesn’t care about first responders. Every Republican cares about that. That’s not unique about me or my campaign,” said the 48-year-old Mattus, a graduate of Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, who has spent the past couple of decades as a registered Republican.

Rep. David Delloso

She believes she is the best choice for the 162nd District and would take the views of her constituents to Harrisburg.

“It’s a personal decision who you’re voting for in November. (Voters) need to be able to trust the person who’s representing their voice. It’s not the Michelle Mattus show,” she said.

Mattus, a Ridley Park Borough councilwoman, is running against incumbent state Rep David Delloso.

Delloso did not respond to the DVJournal’s repeated requests for an interview.

However, during an hour-long interview, Mattus talked candidly about her upbringing and platform.

She is the daughter of a physicist and an English teacher. She is treating the campaign as a job interview with the voters. And though she doesn’t have much time for it anymore, she has an undying love for art, having designed her campaign literature.

“Arts were valued just as highly as sciences in my home,” Mattus said. “It was actually something that my father, an incredibly intelligent man, felt like of all the problems he could solve. Creating out of nothing is not something he could do. It wasn’t seen as less than or frivolous. I like the problem-solving of art. Looking at things holistically and then digging in,”

Mattus’ professional career is as diverse as her politics. She bounced from art to working for nonprofits before marrying into a family that worked in the insurance industry.

Naturally, she switched over to that.

And then she entered the world of politics, where she saw firsthand that the problems faced by constituents during the COVID-19 pandemic weren’t abstract.

Lockdowns shuttered businesses across the country, and many that survived are still recovering. Kids were out of school for almost two years, and their test scores plummeted. Ridley Park wasn’t immune from the ills of the pandemic.

Mattus, who has worked in risk management, witnessed the struggles of mom-and-pop businesses to stay afloat in trying times. Many of the same clients she helped as an insurance risk advisor.

Sweeping state mandates tied local officials’ hands, so sometimes all Mattus could offer was a sympathetic ear.

“I have hugged them as they cried, not seeing any end in sight to the ever-changing restrictions destroying their livelihood,” she said on her website.

“I will never forget facing that fear, uncertainty, and frustration with our business owners.”

Now she wants to craft legislation that makes a difference for her community that, like much of the nation, is suffering from inflation and high property taxes.

Residents whose families lived in the area for generations are being priced out of the area.

“That’s just not right,” she said.

And yet it is still hard to get Democrats and Republicans to agree on much of anything these days.

But Mattus said she hopes to do her part to mend that divide. And she might have the credentials to do it, having once had a stake in both parties.

She has split her ticket before as a voter and said she is not afraid to do that in the legislature. Whoever presents the best ideas and proposes common-sense measures gets her vote if elected, regardless of party, Mattus pledged.

“There’s too much fighting in politics. Everything is so ugly. Act like adults in office and know why we’re there,” Mattus said.

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