Candidate Profiles allow candidates to speak directly to their constituency and answer questions specifically related to the offices they are running for. All candidates listed on Lebanon County ballots have been contacted for an interview. In addition, candidates who do not live in Lebanon may reach out independently for an interview.
Yesenia Rodriguez is a candidate running for State Representative in the 116th District. I will break this article into two parts: 1) background information and 2) her candidacy for State Representative.
Yesenia Rodriguez was born in the Dominican Republic, and she moved to the United States when she was 14 years old. She has lived in Pennsylvania since 2004; she is a mother of six children and a small business owner in Hazelton, PA.
Rodriguez studied Business at Medgar Evers College.
Rodriguez said that she started her business, a family bakery, during the pandemic in December of 2020 – where she currently works as the head baker and runs the business.
When asked why she initially chose to run for public office, Rodriguez said she first ran for school board in 2019 and 2021 because she was concerned about the quality of education for children in her district.
While she did not get elected in either 2019 or 2021, Rodriguez said she decided to run for State Representative now, under the newly redrawn district lines, because she believes that she can offer a unique insight as someone who has lived and worked in the area for years.
Rodriguez said that she currently sits on the Board of Directors of Luzerne Community College, she is a foster parent (three of her children are adopted), and she sits on the Board of Directors of Phoenix Rises, an organization that gives food to the poor and homeless.
Candidacy for State Representative:
The primary staple of Yesenia Rodriguez’s platform is education reform. She said, if elected, she plans to work towards developing partnerships with various groups to establish recreational centers or areas for youth so young people can be in safe and facilitated environments.
Rodriguez also said that economic development is a critical element of her campaign. As a small business owner, she understands the struggles that businesses are experiencing, and she believes that starting a business during the pandemic has given her a unique understanding of the plights and needs of business owners today.
Rodriguez said that she wants to help people understand the processes of registering their business and give them the tools they need to be successful. If elected, Rodriguez said she will spend time focusing on helping small businesses find grant opportunities that can help them stay operational.
Additionally, Rodriguez said healthcare is essential to her. She firmly believes everyone needs access to quality, accessible healthcare, and we need healthcare reform in Pennsylvania.
Additionally, Rodriguez believes healthcare costs are especially burdensome for the elderly population in Pennsylvania because many are on fixed incomes and already struggling to afford high property taxes.
Rodriguez said that three legislative items that are key to her campaign are:
- Education Reform
- Accessible Healthcare
- Economic Development, including Tax Reform
While Rodriguez is running through the primary unopposed, when asked what separates her from other Democrats running for office across the state, she said that she believes she has a practical understanding and connection with her constituency that is unique.
She said, “I think I am more than capable of representing my community just because I understand the struggles. I come from the same background, being a small business owner, and knowing everything that has impacted our area.”
Rodriguez also believes that not being an established politician helps her stand apart from other candidates around the state.
When asked what she would like to accomplish if she could only accomplish one thing, Yesinia Rodriguez said that while she wants to accomplish many things, she wants to make sure that small businesses have the support they need to thrive and flourish in the state.
Considering how prominent agriculture is in Pennsylvania, Rodriguez also added that she believes all children should have better access to agricultural education opportunities.
Rodriguez said the State Assembly needs to redirect its focus and begin working to pass legislation that positively affects people’s lives. In addition, she believes the Assembly needs to change the procedure it follows to review and pass legislative initiatives.
If she could pass just one legislative item without any hurdles, Yesenia Rodriguez said she would pass education spending reform legislation. She believes we need to follow the fair funding formula to equip schools better financially.
Yesenia Rodriguez said she does not support transitioning education funding away from property taxes; she said she does not believe we can afford to eliminate school funding from property taxes at this time. However, Rodriguez said we do need property tax reform, and she believes that the elderly population in the state should be able to get more tax break incentives.
When asked what she would like to say directly to her constituents, she said: “I get what you go through every day. I am not just another community leader, but I am a person who understands your struggles because I go through them every day just like you do. I want to do what is best for my community, which is why I decided to run for State House.”