Erin McClelland

Erin McClelland, nominee in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District, listens to a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday, July 25, 2016.

PHILADELPHIA – Erin McClelland came to one of the country's largest urban centers for the Democratic National Convention, bringing a message for members of her own party: do a better job of understanding the beliefs and concerns of rural voters.

The Democrats' nominee in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District feels that disconnect is negatively affecting the party.

“Message-wise, we're really talking about rural voters,” McClelland said. “I'm really concerned that the Democratic Party has really started to disengage rural voters. And it has been for some time. So I'm really worried about that. That's something that I've been taking around to any of the leaders in the party that I'm talking to, make sure that you're really looking at the issues that are facing people in sort of the middle of the state and areas like Cambria, and Somerset, and Westmoreland, and even northern Beaver.”

She hopes her efforts can help educate some Democrats, especially those from large cities, about small-town issues.

“Their love for the Constitution, their love for the Second Amendment, it's not a bad thing,” McClelland 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.”

This year, she is looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, who defeated her in the 2014 general election.

McClelland will be on the Democratic ticket with presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Senate candidate Katie McGinty. “I'm unbelievably excited,” McClelland said about seeing three females running together for the White House, Senate and House. “I don't know that I'll ever see that again.”

She concluded: “It's real progress for us.”

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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