At Temple Law, students don’t wait for graduation to start chasing their dreams and building their careers. Currently a third-year law student, Maggie Borski is running to represent the 177th District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She and her campaign manager, fellow 3L Nick Elia, sat down with Temple Law for a Q&A last month during finals to share their experiences so far.
Temple Law: What made you decide that you wanted to run for district representative?
Maggie Borski: I actually did an internship with State Representative Donna Bullock last spring and it was wonderful. I got to know her pretty well, and her staff. I had mentioned to her that, maybe down the line, pursuing public service, public office, would be something I’d be interested in. When the semester began, literally the second week of classes, I get a Facebook message from Donna and it was an article saying my representative, John Taylor, was not seeking reelection. It was kind of like a light bulb went off, you know, if there’s ever a time to do it maybe now is the time. It’s kind of crazy with school but it’s third year. I’m already credits ahead from doing the Law and Public Policy Program. I wanted to talk to my parents about it and we were kind of like, let’s think about it. That same day I actually texted Nick and said you know, if this is something I’m going to do, I want you in. We met, literally the first day of school, just kind of hit it off as friends and both did the DC program, took a lot of the same classes. Nick right away was like, I’m in! So a lot of the past semester has been more of like, alright, if we were going to do this what would we do, how are we going to go about it and then we were kind of like, alright if we’re going to do this, we want to announce early December, so I picked up an extra day in court to get my hours in to finish up the clinical and then we just kind of hit the ground running.
TL: How were you prepared to announce that you were going to do this? Where did you start?
MB: So I benefit greatly from my gene pool. My father, Bob Borski, served in the state house for a couple terms and did ten terms as a US congressman, so I kind of grew up having this role model and already seeing how things are supposed to be done, so I relied heavily on my mom and dad. My mom’s very politically involved too and my brother actually works for State Treasurer Joe Torsella right now and he’s worked on several campaigns Allyson Schwartz for both Congress and for her run at Governor. Nick has a little experience with campaigns too.
Nick Elia: I was an intern for one campaign in DC two years ago, an Attorney General campaign.
MB: We’re both very new at this. We have an excellent support system. Professor Knauer was one of the first people we both spoke to about our interest in pursuing this and she’s been very helpful with helping to get the background work done. I’m switching to part time for the spring semester. I’m still on pace to graduate because of earning to credits [through the Law & Public Policy Program] but she’s just helpful with, almost being a liaison for us and the educational side of things,and what classes we would take, and how to keep our schedule as flexible as possible so we could do this 110%.
TL: What’s happening right now?
MB: Actually, today marks one week since we’ve kicked it off. At about five o’clock pm last Thursday we were on first floor of Klein and we launched the social media aspect announcing on Facebook and Twitter . Nick designed the entire website and took all the pictures. Every photo was shot on an iPhone. We couldn’t do any fundraising while I was [doing my clinical] in the DA’s office so we had to do everything as low cost as possible. My first campaign kickoff event was at Richmond Hall, which is in Port Richmond and it was fantastic. We had about seventy to eighty people show up and it was a really nice night. We got a lot of energy and excitement and the Facebook’s already been doing phenomenal.
TL: What does your campaign strategy look like?
MB: It’s very grassroots. It’s going to be a lot of asking volunteers and knocking on doors. There’s a couple trainings we’ll attend. There’s a petition training in the beginning of February, but really the mission is just hopefully getting enough volunteers, hopefully getting some fellow law students to come out on a Saturday. A lot of our classmates are in a similar position as us, where their next semester is not as intense as it would have been the first year of law school, so most of it will just be holding events, getting press releases out there, getting our message out there as best we can.
TL: What about law school prepared you for this?
MB: Well, I’d have to say that I think it’s very valuable for lawmakers to understand laws, understanding the constitutionality of things and what actually can be done. I think the most fascinating part about coming to law school is, I mean, I’m the first person in my immediate family to go. My parents aren’t lawyers, so coming in I thought everything was going to be cut and dry – here’s the law, here’s how it’s applied – but it’s very fascinating how a lot is weighed in. There’s the public policy aspect, and how society is supposed to function and along with that, doing the L&PP Program, having the internships I’ve completed, I just think it’s given me a little bit of a background into how to go about things and how to understand government and how to work with people and understand their issues and their problems as well.
NE: I think another aspect which is mainly my job is campaign finance and reporting laws, so I think without a legal background or any experience you probably wouldn’t even know where to look. I still have no experience with it but a lot of my job has been to just figure out what exists. I started on Day 1 and didn’t even know what was out there so I just needed to find things as we go.
TL: Looking forward, is politics where you want to go?
MB: I’ve always wanted to serve people. I’ve always wanted to help people. I’d like to help as many people as possible and in terms of, if this just a getting started point then I think it’s an excellent way to start. It’s not about just serving those who voted for you and not helping those who voted against you, you just want to help the community. I think, in terms of moving forward, if that’s ever an opportunity, it’s more to help more people. It expands to helping more of the city, whatever it might be, State Senate or moving up in the federal government that way. For right now, the focus is let’s help Philadelphia. Let’s help the 177th District as best we can.
NE: I’ve always been interested in politics and policy. Now that we’re a week in I can say I’m probably glad that she’s the one running for office and I’m the one who isn’t.
MB: I have to say, I wouldn’t want to be doing what he’s doing. I think we balance each other out. He’s been so dependable. It’s been able to help me focus just on what I have to do. That first event, I basically just had to go talk to people and say my little four minute speech and get it done that way.
TL: So what is your four minute speech?
MB: State Representative John Taylor has given 34 years of his life to serving the people of this district and he’s done an excellent job. Republican, Democrat – he just did an excellent job of being the voice for the people and being available and helping to fix their problems. That would be a tradition I would definitely want to continue. On every level, government is broken. No one wants to cross the aisle and talk and hear others. It’s become strict party lines and I think Nick and I both agree, it’s not party first. It’s people first. You should want to do the best for your constituents and for the betterment of the community as a whole. I think the best way to fix that are new voices and new energy. PA as a whole is pretty abysmal with women in government. We don’t have a single female representative on our federal level. In terms of getting that change and getting new ideas, you either want woman, or people who are going to support women. A lot of our concerns are what’s put on the backburner. Certain things have just been forgotten. Even minimum wage, a majority of the people who receive minimum wage are women. These are issues that are women’s issues even though it doesn’t seem like it.
TL: Was there anything else about this process that you found surprising?
MB: When we initially posted about it on Facebook I was not expecting the amazing response, to be perfectly honest. I figured people would like and be like, “Congratulations! Good for you!” – typical social media stuff, but there were some people I have not spoken to or seen in over five years that were sharing our page and being like “Maggie’s an old friend. She’s great! Go support her.” That to me, was unbelievable. It was just really heartwarming to see and kind of made me be like we are doing the right thing. There was so much anxiety going into like, “Alright, we’re posting now. Are we ready? Are we sure?” Just to have gotten the response and reception, it’s been amazing. [to Nick] You said to me you were surprised how on the ball we were as opposed to some other candidates.
NE: That’s true. It seems like going into this, at least from the perception of the public it seems like we’re the most prepared. We’re the most prepared to get out and meet people and talk about policy and do all of the important things our representatives should do. It seems like we’re the most prepared to do that.
TL: What issues do you plan to address?
MB: As of right now, we just have three major areas. Number one being the constant budget impasse that keeps happening in Harrisburg. I went to Bloomsburg University and now I’m at Temple Law and when we can’t pass a budget it not only hurts Pennsylvania, it especially hurts education. The best way I can put it is, you hire someone to paint your house, and you don’t pay them until the job is done. We have all these politicians in Harrisburg and they voted right away on how to do the spending but to bring in the money, it’s oh no, we can’t do that, we can’t tax this. That’s your major job that you’re elected and put into this position to do and I just think it’s unfair that people just keep putting it off and saying no, no, no. It just hurts Pennsylvania as a whole. And education, from K to 12, and even higher education, there’s been an attack on public education and it’s a real problem. How well you’re taught shouldn’t have to be based upon where you stand in your socioeconomic status. All kids should have the opportunity to be in a safe learning environment. It’s important for the state government to give funds to the school districts in areas that need more support and even with higher education, it should be an affordable option. Once again, it shouldn’t be a matter of “Oh, I can’t afford it, so I shouldn’t go.” Those who are capable of going should be able to go. Last is obviously the opioid crisis. It’s terrible. Obviously what we’ve been doing just isn’t working. We need to be more proactive in not only stopping it from expanding but helping and treating the people that need the help.
For more information about Maggie’s campaign visit her website.
[Note: This Q&A has been edited and condensed for clarity.]