Election Day on Nov. 3 was a whirlwind, but when the dust settled on Nov. 4, Erie County received the news that Senator Dan Laughlin won re-election. He will represent Erie County in Pennsylvania’s State Senate for a second four-year term.
Laughlin is a Republican hailing from nearby Millcreek Township. He won reelection by a significant margin over Democratic opponent Julie Slomski. In addition to representing Pennsylvania’s Forty-Ninth Senatorial District, Laughlin serves on six State Senate committees.
He is the chairman of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee and maintains a position as vice chairman of the Banking and Insurance Committee. Additionally, Laughlin sits on the committees for Community, Economic and Recreational Development, Appropriations, Urban Affairs and Housing and Intergovernmental Operations. Laughlin also advises the Erie Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home as the Home’s senate representative.
Laughlin was born and raised in Erie. He grew up in a family of six and, prior to entering the political realm, owned and operated several small businesses, including Laughlin Builders construction firm and Laughlin Properties rental company, in partnership with his brother.
Because of his background in small business ownership, Laughlin has championed himself as a defender of the working-class and of small business owners. He has professed a desire to make state government more accessible to the everyday citizen.
Laughlin also has sought to reform the government and increase transparency. For example, in May 2018, Laughlin introduced a bill to the Senate that would require the state Department of Insurance to provide detailed information about its spending on outside contractors.
Though the bill was approved in the Senate, it stalled in the state House. Laughlin has also supported outdoorsmanship and successfully advocated for expanding hunting to Sunday. Laughlin developed Senate Bill 147, which provided for hunting on three Sundays throughout the hunting season. In 2019, Governor Wolf signed the bill into law.
During his 2020 State Senate campaign, he reminded voters of his support for a 2017 bill that increased funding for Erie’s public schools. His campaign claimed that he was the primary force behind the bill’s success, although opponent Julie Slomski disputed this claim and said that the bill was the result of a team effort.
The 2017 bill in question secured an additional $14 million in annual funding for Erie’s public schools, and the revisiting of this bill in 2020 made school funding a key issue of the race. Laughlin’s support for the bipartisan Family Care Act was a defining feature of his first term as state senator.
In 2019, he partnered with Democratic Senator Maria Collett of Pennsylvania’s 12th District to introduce Senate Bill 580, also known as the Family Care Act. This bill would create a statewide Family and Medical Leave insurance program, enabling working parents to receive benefits while caring for a sick or new child or an elderly relative. In a statement following his election victory, Laughlin reiterated his commitment to serving Pennsylvanians.
“I promise to be a representative of every citizen, regardless of their politics,” Laughlin said. As for his agenda in his second term, he stated several key priorities. “We need jobs, growth and optimism,” Laughlin said, adding that the coming months would be challenging due to the ongoing pandemic and economic troubles caused by it.
“My agenda for the coming term is at once plain and difficult,” Laughlin said.
He named two priorities: a City Revitalization Zone for Erie to create jobs and to revitalize struggling neighborhoods and the passage of the Family Care Act. Laughlin will begin his second term on Dec. 1. He will take the oath of office on Jan. 5.