Mike Cammisa’s story sounds like that of many area residents.
The Hazleton man went away for college and graduate school but returned thanks to strong family ties and yearns to make the region a better place. Unlike most, Cammisa is looking to take that mission a significant step farther: The 24-year-old Republican is running for Congress.
“This is where I grew up. We’re hardworking, we’re blue collar, we’re down to earth. That’s the type of environment I wanted to be in. My family has been here for generations,” Cammisa said. “I moved back and got involved in the family business, thought I could make a difference, change the things that initially helped drive me away.”
Cammisa, who turns 25 in June (the minimum age to serve in the House) is among six Republicans who have announced a bid to secure their party’s nomination to run in the 8th Congressional District. The seat currently is held by four-term incumbent Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic.
The primary election is April 28, and the general election is Nov. 3.
Other Republicans in the race are Jim Bognet, 44, of Hazle Township; Mike Marsicano, 71 of Hazleton; Earl Granville, 36 of Scott Township; Luzerne County Councilman Harry Haas, 44 of Kingston; and Teddy Daniels, 44, of Wyoming.
Cammisa announced his run last month, but this is his first interview with the Times Leader. Each of the other Republicans has been interviewed. No Democrats have announced a primary challenge against Cartwright, who will be featured in a future pre-primary article.
“I look at our congressman now and I see northeastern Pennsylvania being left behind. We’re not being represented,” said Cammisa, adding that he believes Cartwright’s values and votes are out of step with those of the five-county district’s residents and more in line with those of liberal Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nanci Pelosi, D.-Calif.
One example? Cartwright’s House vote in favor of impeaching President Donald Trump.
“He could have voted with his district, and he didn’t. I think that’s a slap in the face,” Cammisa said.
(Cartwright explained his views on impeachment in a column that can be found at timesleader.com.)
Cammisa holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from DeSales University and a master’s degree in international affairs from The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. While a student, he worked in the Washington D.C. office of then-U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta.
He also is a former Eagle Scout who went on to found Boy Scout Troop 109 in Allentown, serving as an assistant scoutmaster for three years.
His father, Joe Cammisa, is owner of Citizen Publishing Company, a family-run printing business that dates back to 1912. Cammisa is still involved at the print shop, and previously helped manage another family business, Bottlenecks Bar & Grill, but now is focused on campaigning full time, launching an intensive door-to-door effort.
His policy priorities: Tackling the opioid epidemic and high drug prices, job creation, investing in infrastructure and education. Cammisa also said he feels there were some good ideas involved in the crafting of Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, but that the legislation as passed has priced too many consumers out of the market. “We need to inject free market principles into the marketplace to drive prices down,” Cammisa said.
“I support the president. I always tell people that whether you like him or not, whether you agree with his tweets, you cannot deny that we are better off today than we were three years ago,” he added, praising Trump’s handling of the economy, border security and cutting corporate taxes.
“I’m a Republican because I believe solutions can be found in small government,” he said. “Taxes and regulations hurt local economies. The smaller the government, the better off we are.”