Name: Representative Justin J. Simmons
Date Elected: December 1st, 2010
What made you decide to run for the House/Senate?
Well, I was in a unique situation. I decided to challenge an incumbent of my own party. Now, you may be asking, why did I do this? As someone who grew up in the 131st district, I knew the incumbent of my own party that I was challenging was completely out of touch with the district and a total Harrisburg insider. As a young person, I’m passionate about reforming our Commonwealth. After I shocked the establishment and beat the incumbent in the primary by over 10 points, I started to lead. For instance, I don’t take the pension, per diems, state car, cell phone, and mileage. I have also been a leader in the House on these issues. Two of the most important things I believe we can do to reform Harrisburg is to reduce the size of the legislature and move public employees into a defined contribution system like 90% of the private sector participates in. I will continue to fight for this.
What do you find most rewarding about being a state legislator?
Helping people. Nothing satisfies me more than when my district office can solve a problem for a constituent. I’m passionate about making a difference in peoples lives.
Whom do you admire in politics?
Well, going back, Ronald Reagan. My wife and I actually had our first daughter a week ago and named her Reagan. I truly believe the man was brilliant and knew how to build consensus. When was the last national candidate to win 49 states? Enough said!
What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting involved in politics?
First, know what you believe in. You have to truly believe what you’re espousing or you will be a failure. Second, work extremely hard. When I first ran, nobody believed in me. But, I knocked on over 18,000 doors and won by over 14% points in a district that was Democrat +8 on registration in the general election. I truly believe in retail politics and getting to know your constituents. Nothing else is more important.
What is your proudest political accomplishment in elective office so far?
Well, I’m proud to have had two bills signed into law in each session I’ve been elected to. It’s amazing to me that some members have been in the House of Representatives for over 14 years and haven’t had one bill signed into law! My first bill, HB 1857, allowed county home rule charter counties to include referendum requirements for local government borrowing in addition to any currently contained in the Local Government Unit Debt Act. This was a victory for taxpayers. In my home county of Lehigh, when voters were given this option, they voted 74%-26% in favor of having this option.
My second bill, Act 143 of 2014, was signed into law by Governor Corbett in 2014. I’m extremely passionate about children and I’m so proud that this bill passed. Prior to this legislation, each year in the Commonwealth, an estimated 6,000 infants and toddlers were considered to be homeless. Some live in shelters, others are in temporary housing, or they move from place to place with a single mother. What my legislation did was to qualify homeless youngsters under age 3 for tracking that allows them to receive critical early intervention services from the Commonwealth. Not only does this look out for children, but by intervening early in a homeless child’s life, we will save money for the taxpayer. It’s a win win situation.
Who is your favorite character in a television show, movie or book? And is it someone you relate to, admire or strive to be?
My favorite character in a movie is Bruce Willis’s character in DieHard, John McLane. I always pull for the scrappy, no- nonsense underdog. I’ve always been an underdog and scrappy so I very much relate to that character. I don’t necessarily strive to be him but John McLane is definitely my favorite character in movies.