PHILADELPHIA – Erin McClelland came to one of the country's largest urban centers with a small-town message for other Democrats: Do a better job understanding the concerns of rural voters.

The party's nominee in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District, north and east of Pittsburgh, said the disconnect is negatively affecting the party.

“Message wise, we're really talking about rural voters,” she said at this week's convention in Philadelphia. “I'm really concerned that the Democratic Party has really started to disengage rural voters. And it has been for some time."

McClelland said she hopes to help educate some Democrats, especially from large cities, about small-town issues.

“Their love for the Constitution, their love for the Second Amendment, it's not a bad thing,” she said. “It's actually something that's very passionate and very pure, and should be embraced by my party and should be inspiring our policies.

"And it's not something that we should be rejecting," she said.

McClelland, who has specialized in addiction treatment and prevention, is looking to unseat Rep. Keith Rothfus, a Republican lawyer elected to Congress in 2012 and who defeated her in the 2014 general election with 59 percent of the vote.

McClelland will be on this year's Democratic ticket with presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Pennsylvania Senate candidate Katie McGinty.

“I'm unbelievably excited,” she said about seeing three women running together for the White House, Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. “I don't know that I'll ever see that again.”

"It's real progress for us," she said.

Dave Sutor writes for the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat. Follow him @Dave_Sutor on Twitter

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