In November, Congressman Tim Holden (D-17) will have competition in the upcoming general election.Toni Gilhooley, a 25-year Pennsylvania state trooper veteran and PA human relations commissioner, has announced her candidacy for the seat in Congress.

The 17th District covers Berks, Dauphin, Lebanon, Perry and Schuylkill counties, and has been represented for the last five years by Holden.

Congressman Holden was not available for comment late Wednesday afternoon.

"I know how to hold my own, to speak my mind," said Gilhooley, in a phone interview while visiting the Reading area. "My tenacity and integrity as a trooper should show people that I mean what I say. Someone has to stand up and say 'enough.'"

The presently unopposed Republican candidate has been busy visiting local politicians in Berks County.

"I'll be needing all the help I can get," she said, explaining her campaign was not founded with an established budget. "That's really what this is about; grass roots politics."

Making her rounds to the other counties, she said she will be visiting Pike County in the near future.

Her tour of the counties in the 17th Congressional District started late last year.

"One of the biggest issues is tax reduction," she said. "We have been paying and paying. We don't know where the money is going."

The way how the government has been spending money, she said, is out of control.

"No one knows what's happening to it," she said.

"Congressman Holden voted for two of the biggest tax increases in history, and then voted against the 01 and 03 tax cuts," Gilhooley said. "To me, this is huge. We need to get money back in the pockets of people."

Gilhooley said she is all for smaller, more efficient government spending.

Adding that she is pro second amendment, Gilhooley is a member of the National Rifle Association and a charter member of the Second Amendment Sisters.

"I'm also very supportive of life. I know Congressman Holden is, but he voted for embryonic stem cell research," she said. "You can't have it both ways."

Gilhooley is a Dauphin County resident, living there for most of her life.

She retired from the Pennsylvania State Police ten years ago, ending a 25-year career.

"I was appointed in 2002 by Governor Mark Schweiker as a commissioner on the PA Human Relations Commission," she added. "I resigned in November to concentrate on my campaign."

While a trooper for the Pennsylvania State Police, Gilhooley worked out of the Lancaster barracks and in various undercover roles.

She was also the first female staff instructor in the early 1980's at the barracks academy, teaching the young cadets.

Contact editor Matthew Reichl at 610-367-6041, ext. 240 or mreichl @berksmontnews.com.

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