Erie County Democrat Kristy Gnibus is announcing her plans to run for U.S. Congress in the sprawling 16th district for the seat now held by Butler County Republican Mike Kelly.

Gnibus, 35, is a young mother with a story to tell.  She is a cancer survivor, and a high school family and consumer sciences teacher who put herself through college, earned a masters degree, a principal's certificate, and is working on her PhD in organizational leadership.  Now she plans to add congressional candidate to her busy life.

In the Family and Consumer Sciences Department, Gnibus teaches culinary arts and sports nutrition at McDowell Intermediate High School.

A single mother raising daughters Josephine, 11, and Zoey, 14, said her life experiences through the health care system and supporting her family make her just like the people in the district.

"When I was 20 years old...pregnant with my oldest daughter, I found out that I had a tumor on my right ovary that ended up being cancerous, so I have navigated health care, being on my mother's, not having it and having government health care. I’m a lot like everyone else in this district and I think that’s what these people want is true representation," Gnibus said.

She grew up in Wattsburg, becoming the Erie County Fair Queen, and returned to teach in her home school district for seven years after earning her degree at Mercyhurst University. She says that foundation gives her a deep understanding of the rural parts of the 16th Congressional district.

"We grew up on 100 acres of land, my mom and my sister, my neighbors were farmers, I understand the mindset of a rural community," she said.

In the 2018 election, Erie County democrat Ron DiNicola, a seasoned campaigner challenged Mike Kelly and lost. We asked Gnibus why she believes her candidacy will have more appeal to voters.

"I think I’m more relatable to the constituents of this district," Gnibus said, adding, "I'm also starting months and months earlier than Ron did."

Gnibus said she has often had to work more than one job to make ends meet and keep a good roof over the heads of her family, and if she's struggling, she knows others in the district are too, so that will be her top concern.

"Our economy - making sure that people have jobs that they can thrive in that they can sustain their families and I think that also ties to other things, being able to afford your medications, your prescriptions," the candidate said.

She joins Cranberry Township Democrat Daniel Smith, who announced his primary run in July. Should she prevail, she believes she can convince Mike Kelly supporters to believe in her.

"A lot of people maybe think that they’re being represented by Mike Kelly, but in terms of the majority, I don’t think that they really know him...uh I really want to create a relationship with everyone here all the way down to Butler."

Full interview with Gnibus