Click Here to Read the Article on the Reading Eagle
Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz has built her political career on helping people.
As the owner of a restaurant, she has seen the challenges faced by local small business owners. As a resident of Reading, she has learned about the needs of her neighbors. And as a member of City Council, she has had a hand in revitalizing a struggling metropolis.
Now, Cepeda-Freytiz wants to take her people-focused perspective to the next level.
The 48-year-old is scheduled to kick off her campaign for a seat in the state House of Representatives at an event tonight at the Wyomissing Family Restaurant & Bakery. She will be running for the Democratic nomination to represent the 129th District.
“As a council member, I understand the importance of getting input from my constituents before I make a decision because I know those decisions will impact the outcome of our communities,” she said. “That way the focus remains on the people, ensuring that their voices are heard. So, I would be doing the exact same thing but at the state level.”
The district has been represented by Spring Township Republican Jim Cox for the past 14 years.
But new legislative maps recently approved by the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission have altered the district to include part of Reading, where Cepeda-Freytiz lives. The change was made deliberately on advice from voting rights experts hired by House Democrats to see where Pennsylvania could enhance its minority representation in Harrisburg.
Cepeda-Freytiz said she is grateful for the change that was made.
“There are only a handful of Latina women serving across the commonwealth, so I think my campaign is an important opportunity for those voices to be heard,” she said. “There is a cultural divide that exists, and I want to be part of breaking down some of those barriers to ensure that all levels of government include more people of color across the board.”
Cepeda-Freytiz said the redrawn district also presents a unique opportunity to make the communities of southern Reading, West Reading, Wyomissing, Sinking Spring and parts of Spring Township more cohesive under a single representative. While these communities may seem diverse, she said the problems facing residents across the district are similar.
Wanting to find solutions to those problems, she said, was the motivation driving her campaign for higher office.
Cepeda-Freytiz said she wants to address the senseless acts of violence being committed with guns by advocating for laws that make it harder for young people to access firearms. The issue is personal for her, seeing a close friend struggle with the loss of her 17-year-old son to gun violence.
Two other priorities for Cepeda-Freytiz are the elderly and education.
She said more needs to be done to make sure older Pennsylvanians have financial security, in part by addressing the issue of property taxes.
“As they are trying to live in retirement, some of them are being forced to go back to work because they can’t afford their homes,” she said. “So, we want to look at limiting any potential property increase.”
When it comes to education, Cepeda-Freytiz said she sees a wide disparity between wealthy and poor school districts. That’s something that needs to be changed, she said.
“We need to figure out how to bridge that gap between school districts and use that to bond communities,” she said. “We need to ensure that resources and opportunities are as equal as possible to the best of our abilities.”
Cepeda-Freytiz said those are the issues that are heavy in her heart, and a change needs to take place to fix them.
“I think there is this humongous fight over political power in Harrisburg versus fighting for the needs of our people,” she said, adding that she’s willing to take on that fight. “I have a passion to serve. I’m so adamant about connecting and uniting people regardless of where they come from or what party they belong to.”
Cepeda-Freytiz promised to put people ahead of partisanship.
“I will be fighting for people versus fighting for power,” she said. “We have to be able to compromise. We can’t make everyone happy, but we need to make decisions to meet the needs of the majority.”
Cepeda-Freytiz will run against Reading School Board member Mark Detterline for the Democratic nomination to represent the 129th District in the May 17 primary.
State representatives serve a two-year term and receive an annual salary of $95,432.
Meet the candidate
Candidate: Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz, 48, Reading.
Position sought: State representative for the 129th District, which includes parts of Reading and Spring Township as well as Sinking Spring, West Reading and Wyomissing.
Current salary for position: $95,432.
Background: Cepeda-Freytiz has served on Reading City Council since 2019 and is the owner of Mi Casa Su Casa in downtown Reading. She has a bachelor’s degree in French from the State University of New York at New Paltz College and a master’s degree in education from Long Island University. She serves of the board of directors of for the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance and Centro Hispano.