Challenger: Barrar’s focus ‘incredibly narrow’

Political newcomer Whitney Hoffman said state Rep. Stephen Barrar’s focus is too narrow. Hoffman, 48, of Kennett Township, is the Democrat challenging Barrar to represent the 160th Legislative District in the November election.

Whitney Hoffman

Whitney Hoffman

“I think Steve has done a very good job in terms of constituent service, but I think his focus has been incredibly narrow. It’s been largely dedicated to veterans’ affairs and to first-responder issues. He’s done an excellent job with both of those, but I don’t think he’s done particularly well with regard to education,” Hoffman said.

She also said the nine-term incumbent Republican has continued to vote against transportation bills that could have improved Route 322, despite having many hearings on the matter over the years.

“It runs through the heart of his district…The initial date to finally fix that monstrosity — that is largely a traffic and death trap — was originally supposed to be in 2008. It is now out to 2017 and potentially beyond that. I don’t think PennDOT has any additional incentive when the major legislator, whose district this goes through…is the one holdout in all of Delaware County who votes against it routinely,” she added.

Hoffman got involved in seeking elected office after being asked to run earlier in the year because of the new district lines, but said her motivation is for improving education.

“The reason I want to go to Harrisburg has to do with improving education. There are a lot of things that happen where there are mandates from the state that aren’t funded,” she said.

“Money just isn’t going to the classroom,” she said, acknowledging that both the Corbett and Rendell administrations have added to the situation because there’s been no pension reform.

She said the state has been shutting down various classes that used to give students the chance to tinker, such as shop and home economics. Those types of classes, she said, allow students the chance to explore things they otherwise wouldn’t, giving them a chance to be creative in different ways.

Hoffman was involved with education before considering running for office. She’s tutored students on several subjects in the Kennett Consolidated School District and is a parent representative on three committees in KCSD, she said.

Hoffman, a mother of two teenage sons who runs her own business — Hoffman Digital Media — accepts the fact that she’s a political newbie in a newly redistricted area and has some major obstacles to overcome to defeat an entrenched incumbent.

The first is just to get her name out so people know she’s a candidate.

“My primary focus is to get elected…I’ve been knocking on lots and lots of doors and am getting ready to do mail and everything else. I’m using digital media as a platform,” she said.

She’s also getting advice from other, former first-term legislators such as Tom Houghton and Barbara McIlvaine Smith on what it’s like to be a state representative.

“Having those folks in my corner to make my transition better will be helpful,” she said. “My concern is to get up and going as soon as possible. I understand there’s going to be a learning curve.”

Hoffman — who moved into Kennett Township from Delaware in 2004 — also has a law degree and has helped develop legislation in the past. She said she’s dealt with legislation regarding the ticketing for NFL games with regard to the Americans with Disabilities Act and worked with the National Football League in dealing with ticketing for fans with disabilities.

Yet, she sees much of what a legislator does as customer service and that’s something with which she said she’s very familiar.

“That’s something I do with my clients. I learned that during my summer jobs in college. But the big part of this job [as a state representative] is helping as many people as possible navigate a complex system while working very hard to understand as much as possible about what’s going on and to make good decisions,” Hoffman said.

“When it comes right down to it, I’m about trying to provide very practical and cost-effective solutions to problems, as best as possible. We have a lot to do with improving infrastructure, whether it’s roads, digital infrastructure or schools,” she said.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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