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A Conversation With: Shavonnia Corbin-JohnsonFormer Democratic congressional candidate in Pa.

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Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson, former Democratic congressional candidate in Pa.
Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson, former Democratic congressional candidate in Pa. - (Photo / )

Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson, 27, ran as a Democratic candidate in the primary election for Congress in Pennsylvania's 10th district.

A York native, Corbin-Johnson worked as an assistant to the director of budget and management under President Obama and for U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania. She holds a master’s degree in U.S. foreign policy in India, Pakistan and the Middle East from George Washington University and bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University.

She lives in York.

Q: What has life been like since the election?

A: People stop you on the streets or wave to you, or some people just stare, and they kind of recognize you, but they’re not exactly sure who you are. But it’s great. Everyone who I’ve met in person has always been really friendly. One woman stopped me in the rain for 10 minutes once and was literally talking to me in the pouring rain. And she just said, “I just love you so much!”

Why did you want to run?

I’ve always considered running for office. My family members didn’t have a college education, but my grandparents, who eventually started raising me after I left the foster home, were very involved with politics. My grandmother would always say that it’s important to know what’s happening in your neighborhood and also around the world.

But I had a really traditional mindset: I had to be 40 years old, married with two kids and a dog. Then the resistance and women’s movements in recent years took off, and I said now’s the time to launch. Now’s the time to try to use my skillset to benefit my community. Everyone has a way they want to give back to their area. For me, it’s running for office.

I encouraged many young people and older people who were just so discouraged by the Democratic Party that that’s all the more reason to be involved to make sure we can actually make the Democratic Party what it’s supposed to be. I was extremely proud to have a diverse range of young professionals working on my team.

What kind of challenges did you face along the way, being young, a woman and a minority?

What kind of challenges did I not face? Being young, people think you’re inexperienced. Being African-American in this area, there are a lot of people who said: My policies are great, but we’re not sure a black woman can win in this area. I would get asked, being a woman running: “Why don’t you do something more womanly? We see you’re not committed to someone.” I’m not married, but I’m committed to the people of York, Cumberland and Dauphin counties.

Now that the election is over, what are you up to?

I’m looking for a job, mostly in the area. I am staying involved in the community, working with students and criminal justice and recidivism, fighting for those with felonies and making sure they can get acclimated back into society. I’m looking to see where the gaps are and where the need is. Maybe we’ll run again. I’m not sure if 2020 is the year or farther down the line, but I loved running for office. I definitely want to stay in the district.

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Becca Oken-Tatum

Becca Oken-Tatum

Becca Oken-Tatum is the web editor for the Central Penn Business Journal. She also coordinates and writes for CPBJ's monthly Young Professionals e-newsletter. Email her questions, comments and tips at btatum@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter at @becca0t.

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