For the past 35 years, Doris Smith-Ribner has worked in public service in Pennsylvania. In the May Democratic Primary she will battle for her next public service position, as Lieutenant-Governor.
DORIS SMITH RIBNER
“I felt the Lt.-Governor position would give me a bully pulpit, if you will, to advocate for our people,” Smith-Ribner said. “I’ve spent many years in public service. It’s something I love and I feel I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve loved my career and I feel I can do even more.”
Her opponents are Philadelphia City Controller Jon Saidel, who received the Pennsylvania State Democratic Committee endorsement, Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty and State Rep. Joshua Shapiro of Abington.
Smith-Ribner, of Philadelphia, said what sets her apart from her opponents is her background and experience. Her resume includes time spent as a state appeals court judge, Allegheny County controller solicitor, trial lawyer and Supreme Court designee.
One of her most influential cases was a lawsuit filed by the Philadelphia Human Relations Committee that called for an increase in busing of Black students to White schools. Smith-Ribner’s ultimate decision was to deny the request and instead focus on improving the achievement of the racially-isolated schools.
“We remember all the cases dealing with buses, integration, but there were none dealing with achievement. It wasn’t an easy decision to make,” Smith-Ribner said. “I spoke to educators who said I did the right things. I shifted from integration and busing to achievement.”
Smith-Ribner’s decision has contributed to her personal focus on quality education and has made an impact on education policy across the nation. Among the best practices is mandatory full-day Kindergarten and standardized curriculum.
“Many of the initiatives coming out of the government offices are based on the decision I made,” Smith-Ribner said. “Now all over the nation there’s a push for smaller class sizes and better teachers. It’s something that as a state and a nation we must recognize education is key.”
Another priority for Smith-Ribner is ensuring protections for veterans, an issue particularly close to her heart due to the many veterans in her family. Her increased concern for veteran needs and the unique plight of women veterans was amplified during a conference where she heard first-hand testimony.
“I listened to them talk about the medical issues they face. It just made me that much more aware of a population that we’ve forgotten,” Smith-Ribner said. “More and more women are going into the service. We’re not protecting the people who are protecting us. I’ll tell you the things that these women veterans are going through will break your heart.”
On the issue of healthcare, which has recently shifted focus to reform at the state level, Smith-Ribner has been a supporter of a single-payers system that will ensure all Pennsylvanians have healthcare. She is also in support of necessary reforms to reduce healthcare costs.
“Those people who are involved have said we don’t have to wait for D.C. Will we get healthcare from Washington this year? Hopefully, but there are people saying we can be the front-runners,” Smith-Ribner said. “Of course you’re going to need reforms because you have to absorb the influx, but the bottom line is we can do this.”
If she wins she will be only the second Black woman to serve as Lt. Governor. C. Deloris Tucker was the first.