Dr. Jessica Rothchild, an LGBTQ advocate and out lesbian, has declared her candidacy for a seat on Scranton City Council.
Rothchild, 29, is a Democrat and will be running for a four-year term. If elected, she will be the first out lesbian serving on the council.
The Scranton resident has been active for years at the local and state levels, working to advance LGBTQ equality. She has served on various boards and committees and believes there is a need for more LGBTQ representatives.
“That definitely motivated me to run, seeing the disparity there, both in women and LGBTQ people being represented in office, especially in the Northeast Pennsylvania region,” Rothchild said. “I felt like it was my duty to step up and show other women and LGBTQ people that it is possible to run and win.”
The city council is currently comprised of four Democrats and one Republican. Mayor Bill Courtwright is also a Democrat. Rothchild is seeking one of two available seats in 2019. Incumbents Tim Perry (D) and Wayne Evans (R) will be up for re-election.
The first day to file nomination petitions is Feb. 19. Primary elections will be May 21, and the municipal election will be Nov. 5.
“There are quite a few things specific to Scranton in our area that I really want to work on, like running on transparency. A lot of people I’ve spoken with don’t think there has been enough transparency,” said Rothchild, who has been married to her wife, Bridget McIntyre, for a little more than three years.
Rothchild added there is a need to encourage and reach the local youth.
“When I came here for school, I noticed we were not retaining enough college graduates or young professionals, and I want to start by helping bring in younger people. That can help drive an economic growth and add to people buying homes, supporting our local businesses or starting local businesses,” Rothchild said.
Originally from Hazlet, Pa., Rothchild attended the University of Scranton where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science in 2011. She continued her education there, earning her Doctor of Physical Therapy in 2014. She works as a physical therapist in an outpatient clinic for the Lehigh Valley Health Network.
During her time as a student, Rothchild founded the university’s first LGBTQ organization. Then, a network of LGBTQ student groups was created through her work with local universities and colleges.
“It totally changed me,” Rothchild said of her time with the student organization.
“When I got involved with that group, getting it started and running it for a few years, it really showed me ways I could help people and impact their lives. Even if it was small, having a group allowed people to fit in. It helped me grow into the leader I am today,” Rothchild said.
Her involvement with the university’s student organization led to a continued passion for public service, and she joined the board of Equality Pennsylvania, even serving as board president for three years.
Adrian Shanker, founder and executive director of Allentown’s Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, served as Equality Pennsylvania board president when Rothchild initially came to the board.
“Jessica joined when she was in college and she was a very passionate board member and also incredibly effective at bringing resources into the organization, inspiring new generations of activists and understanding what messages would resonate, with especially young girls and LGBT people who live in Northeast Pennsylvania,” Shanker said.
Equality Pennsylvania works to advocate for rights for the LGBT community.
Rothchild was appointed to the Pennsylvania Commission for Women and was later appointed to the Scranton Human Relations Commission in 2017. She was also elected to a four-year term on the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee in 2018 and became the secretary for the LGBT Caucus of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. She was also a board member of the Victory Fund Campaign, a national organization focused on electing out LGBTQ candidates.
Additionally, Rothchild served on the board of Action Together NEPA, a grassroots activist organization started in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election.
Rothchild said she hopes her experience and passion will strengthen Scranton.
“It’s about the people of Scranton. There is a great need for a new voice and a new vision. I feel like I’m that person who can help make that possible and help the area grow,” said Rothchild.