Two new candidates, one with a very familiar name, are facing off for the 12th District State Senate seat long held by retiring Republican Stewart Greenleaf. 

Stewart Greenleaf Jr. is squaring off against Democrat Maria Collett for a four-year term in Harrisburg. The 12th District is located in parts of both Bucks and Montgomery counties and includes parts of Upper Southampton, Warminster and Warrington Townships in Bucks County and Franconia, Hatfield, Horsham, Lower Gwynedd, Lower Moreland, Montgomery, Upper Gwynedd and Upper Moreland Townships and Ambler, Bryn Athyn, Hatboro, Hatfield, North Wales, Souderton and Telford Boroughs.

Both candidates were asked the same questions, and below are their answers.


Describe your background, and why you are running.

I have spent my career fighting for and serving people. First as an attorney representing the interests of children victimized by abuse and neglect as a Deputy Attorney General in Camden County, New Jersey, and then as a nurse working at the bedside as a Level I trauma nurse, in pediatric home health, in long-term care working with aging adults and as a nurse educator helping nurses understand how to administer Medicaid programs. 

In order to be successful in each of these roles, I learned the importance of operating with conviction AND compassion. I am running because Harrisburg is broken and we need new voices who will fight for the interests of the people instead of special interests.

I will work hard to make affordable, quality healthcare accessible; to ensure our economy works for all Pennsylvanians; to make sure our communities have access to clean, safe drinking water; to support common sense gun safety legislation; and to support our great public schools. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves in Harrisburg and doing the hard work necessary to make sure that our Legislature represents all of us.

What makes your background and experience different from your opponent?

I am not a career politician. I am not from a family of politicians. My father is an immigrant. My mother grew up in poverty. I was taught the values of education and hard work from a very young age. As an attorney, I defended children victimized by abuse and neglect while my opponent went to work for his father’s law firm, often defending corporations against the little guy.

I then transitioned to a career in nursing, where I continued serving people and fighting to improve their quality of life. As a nurse, I’m trained to treat problems through observation and diagnostic reasoning and advocate for evidence-based solutions. When someone calls a code in a hospital, nurses drop everything and run to it. For years now, many people have been calling a code in Harrisburg and I’m ready to run to it and implement the solutions our leaders have failed to find for too many years. With my background and experience, I will bring a new voice and perspective to the legislature.

Which main issues have been raised the most by residents? Your position or views on those?

The concerns we hear most frequently are about our environment, health care, and gun safety. One of the most pressing issues facing this district is the water contamination at local military bases. Harrisburg has been gutting our state’s DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) to the point it doesn’t have the resources to enforce its own clean water standards. I am proud to be endorsed by the Sierra Club and Conservation Voters of PA and will fight to stop gutting our DEP, expand DOH (Department of Health) resources for residents concerned about exposure, and pressure the federal government to act more swiftly and pay its fair share.

With respect to healthcare, there is a lot we can do at the state level, including continuing to exercise the Medicaid expansion under the ACA (Affordable Care Act) and renegotiating contracts to get the best treatment and services at the best rates. We can also outlaw “gag orders” that prohibit healthcare professionals from disclosing cost factors of prescription drugs with patients.

I am proud to be endorsed by Ceasefire PA and have the Moms Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate distinction. As a nurse, I recognize gun violence for the public health epidemic it is. I believe we need a proactive, multi-pronged approach to address it while also respecting the constitutional right of Pennsylvanians to bear arms.

How would you handle or address the state's ongoing budget issues?

Our legislature has not acted responsibly with our money. It's repeatedly failed to balance the budget, mismanaged public pensions, and allowed our state's credit rating to be downgraded six times. We need better management and greater transparency.

We need to explore new revenue streams. It is unacceptable that Pennsylvania remains the only major natural gas producing state without a severance tax. We need to increase the minimum wage. Even a modest increase would add nearly $1 billion into workers’ paychecks and boost our economy.

We need to offer incentives for people to pursue technical education and job training programs that will enable them to compete in today’s modern workforce and attract new businesses (including green and renewable energy, new technology and modern manufacturing businesses) to Pennsylvania.

And we need to close corporate tax loopholes and ensure that large corporations pay their fair share. Right now, the tax rate on small and mid-sized businesses is very high while the tax on large corporations is next to nothing. This is unfair and hurts small business owners and everyday Pennsylvanians. Nearly three-quarters of Pennsylvania’s companies pay no income tax and 80 percent pay less than the average family of four.

Transportation and infrastructure — what new approach or tactic would you use to fund repairs and projects that have been neglected?

Keeping our infrastructure well maintained is critical to fostering safe communities and a strong economy that works for all of us. There is no reason that much-needed road repairs and improvement projects like the 309 connector route continue to be overlooked by our legislators. The current system of funding infrastructure primarily through gas tax revenues must be reevaluated as more people move toward energy-efficient vehicles.

Alternative sources to fund infrastructure, such as a severance tax, are needed. Pennsylvania is the only natural gas producing state without a severance tax and we need to be sure the oil and gas industries pay their fair share.

Do you see the national political climate impacting your local race? If so, why or why not?

We hear a lot of concerns from voters about what is happening nationally — from hyperpartisan bickering and empty promises to concerns about the administration’s policies and how they will affect us here in Pennsylvania. I share voters’ concerns about the national climate. I also know that there is a lot to do — and a lot that can be done — right here in Pennsylvania to improve our communities and build a better future for our families, regardless of what is happening in Washington. I look forward to bringing my personal sense of civility, common sense, compromise and hard work to Harrisburg.

As an attorney and a nurse, I’ve learned how to listen and collaborate while deliberating issues and identifying solutions. In the state Senate, I will build relationships on both sides of the aisle and with officials at all levels to affect results that best serve the residents of my district.

Your website and/or social media channels.


Describe your background, and why you are running.

I am running for state Senate because, as a fourth-generation member of our community, raising a fifth generation here, I want to help our community prosper. 

Born and raised in Upper Moreland, I attended local schools before college and law school.  I returned home and became involved in the community, volunteering my time as an attorney for child victims of abuse, serving on the board of Legal Aid to provide legal help to underprivileged families, and volunteering with my local parks and library boards.

In 2011, I was elected Montgomery County’s Controller. There I worked with Democrats and Republicans to uncover fraud and ethical violations, save tax dollars, and fix an office that — until my tenure — had lost the public’s confidence. Having kept my promise to restore the office to its role as “fiscal watchdog” in my first term, I chose not to run for re-election and returned to the private sector to practice law and continue my volunteer efforts.

My experiences as an elected official, an attorney, and a community volunteer have shown me how to bridge differences, look at all sides of an issue and build consensus. As senator, I will do the same.

What makes your background and experience different from your opponent?

As a former County Controller, I am a proven elected official with a record of governing independently to protect taxpayers, listening to constituents, developing solutions for complex problems, and leading by example.  I have also been an active and engaged citizen — on issues like the water quality at Willow Grove and fighting for neighborhood needs.  My opponent never involved herself in any of these things until she became a candidate for office; in fact, she didn’t even vote in 66 percent of the elections since moving to our community in 2012. More importantly, I am independent. My support comes from citizens across our community who have known me for years; my opponent is supported by special interests whose radical agenda doesn’t match our interests.

Finally, county governments are often the conduit for legislative policies enacted in Harrisburg, including human services, criminal justice measures and fiscal policies.  As Controller, I experienced first-hand the implementation of those policies and their human and fiscal impacts.  My record as Controller, my work as a community volunteer, and my understanding of the challenges our families face as a husband and father provide me with the understanding of the issues necessary to represent the 12th Senate District.

Which main issues have been raised the most by residents? Your position or views on those?

The need for fiscal discipline is the most pressing challenge facing Pennsylvania and the issue I hear most consistently from residents as I have personally knocked on more than 12,000 doors during this campaign.  Solving that fiscal challenge requires that we get our priorities straight. We must make education funding and infrastructure the top budget priorities and end corporate welfare, such as sports stadium subsidies and transfers to the horse-racing industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and use that money for education and fixing the pension shortfall.  We must better control costs on things like corrections, which takes too much money away from priorities. “Smart on crime” reforms can keep our neighborhoods safe, reduce the cost to taxpayers and reduce the collateral damage to families, which ultimately results in higher social welfare and criminal justice costs for the taxpayer in the long run.

How would you handle or address the state's ongoing budget issues?

Again, to control costs we must first get our budgetary priorities, like education and infrastructure, straight. We must address the massive pension shortfall. Personally, I refused a pension as controller and will do so as senator. The changes already made to the system that introduced a 401(k) type system should be allowed to take effect, but, in the near term, we should consolidate the myriad municipal pension plans in Pennsylvania — which number more than those in all other states combined — to save millions on administrative fees.

On the revenue side, Pennsylvania is one of the least attractive states to do business in due to a corporate tax among the highest in the nation and an unpredictable regulatory structure. I will promote a plan of smart tax reform and regulatory reform that protects our communities while still encouraging economic and resulting tax revenue growth.

Transportation and infrastructure — what new approach or tactic would you use to fund repairs and projects that have been neglected?

We must end the practice of using infrastructure user fees for everything but infrastructure.  For example, we cannot continue to pilfer toll revenue from the Turnpike and expect to have the funds necessary to maintain and repair the Turnpike.  Moreover, the revenue from the Act 89 gas tax should be used only for its intended purpose, infrastructure projects and repairs. We have to be fiscally responsible with the revenue from user fees and special use taxes, instead of spending it on an array of unrelated projects, to avoid continually looking to the taxpayers for even more.

Do you see the national political climate impacting your local race? If so, why or why not?

No.  The vast majority of voters in Montgomery and Bucks Counties have always voted independently — making their choice on the candidates rather than on political party. They also know the difference between Washington and Harrisburg.  Local voters choose their legislators based on the experience, qualifications and ideas of the individual candidates.  I have personally knocked on more than 12,000 doors during this campaign and I hear time and again, from independents, Democrats and Republicans alike, that they will vote for the candidate, not political party alone.

Your website and/or social media channels.


Facebook: @StewartGreenleaf

Twitter: @StewGreenleaf