Recent Dickinson Graduate Runs for Congress


For Tom Brier ‘14, Pennsylvania’s 10th district is not new territory. Brier is running for the Democratic nomination for 10th Congressional District. The district includes Brier’s hometown, Hershey and Carlisle, where he lived while attending Dickinson and Penn State — Dickinson Law. 

At Dickinson Brier majored in English and Philosophy. “Classical Liberal arts,” he joked. Studying various philosophies, and “where others come from and why they hold certain ideas … sort of coalesced into how I approach politics, which is to really focus on what we have in common,” Brier said. “Dickinson,” he said, “taught me how to think.” 

And Brier has been thinking plenty since his time at Dickinson – he went to law school, authored the book “While Reason Slept,” and has volunteered pro bono legal services with the Pennsylvania Bar Association and SeniorLAW.

 He had been working at a law firm in Philadelphia until last spring when he made the decision to run for office. For Brier, the decision to run for office “was honestly, kind of overnight” to decide to run for Congress. Previously he “had a long-term plan in mind of what a career in public service look liked.” That changed though. “I woke up one day and I couldn’t run from this feeling of urgency,” Brier said.

That sense of urgency comes from two sources. Brier had a personal motive, after seeing three friends die due to opioids. “Pennsylvania has the most opioid deaths per day in the country,” Brier said. However, the election is more than just the opioid crisis for Brier. Brier said “2020 will define our generation. If I don’t act now, then I think that five to ten years from now I would be looking back at regret.” Brier has been campaigning full-time since April, hiring staff and fundraising.

Brier wants to “do public service the right way.” As part of that commitment he’s not accepting corporate donations. It also means being honest,” he said, “Trusting voters to be brave enough to be told the truth. So not shying away from issues that conventional wisdom would say are too delicate to touch in a swing district, whether it’s impeachment or guns or climate change.” Brier also wants to tackle student loan debt. He has a six-figure debt and understands how young people must put their lives on hold to address the debt.

Brier does not shy away from questions about climate change. “It’s the defining question of our time,” he said. “If the scientists are saying [action on the climate is necessary] then we have to. It requires all necessary resources,” Brier said. While he supports the central ideas of the Green New Deal, proposed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others, he favors the proposal of Washington Governor Jay Inslee. Inslee’s proposals were a more fleshed out version of the Green New Deal, which included plans to mandate all electric vehicles by 2030 and phase out fossil fuels. 

But Brier’s learned more than the liberal arts and sustainability at Dickinson. Brier played basketball at both Hershey and Dickinson. At Dickinson he was part of Coach Alan Seretti’s first recruiting class. The team had only won a few games the year before he came, but “by the time I left the team had won the league and went to the NCAA playoffs.” Brier said that Coach Seretti’s legal background and discipline shaped his politics. Brier carried those basketball experience to his campaign. “I sponsored a Brier for Congress Basketball team. We got 100 people registered to vote. It was a great way to make inroads with people in the district,” he said. 

That attitude has led several Dickinson students to join Brier’s campaign. Brier spoke to a meeting of the College Democrats during the Spring semester. Maya Peck ’22 said she appreciated that he is from the area and that he is not taking any corporate money. Carolina Celedona ’22 was impressed with Brier’s plan to decriminalize marijuana. Both Peck and Celedona are Fellows with the campaign. Fellows are coordinating campaign events at Dickinson, “as well as trying to increase the amount of youth and college students that go to the polls,” Claudia Bonaccorsi ’20 said. She is also Part of those plans include canvassing and voter registration efforts. 

The most recent event the campaign held at Dickinson was Brier on Britton. The campaign set up on Britton Plaza and gave students the chance to speak with Brier over ice cream, as well as meet Brier’s dog. “It was a huge hit,” Celedona said. She also works for the Clarke Forum for Contemporary issues and said, “I proposed a town hall with all the candidates.”

Brier’s opponent, Eugene DePasquale, is the Pennsylvania Auditor General, and has the endorsement of the Democratic party and is running a traditional campaign. However, Brier said, “We don’t need an establishment democrat, who’s taken corporate money his whole career, who voted to Gerrymander our district, who didn’t want the job a few months ago and had to be coaxed into doing this.” “I’m not looking for the endorsement of the party, I’m looking for the endorsement of the people of the district,” Brier said. He will have to wait until the Primary next April to find out if the people endorse him.