The 40-year-old mother of four’s message of understanding the real-life challenges of working class families resonated with Montgomery County voters, who ultimately put her over the top in the newly redrawn 151st District by 58 votes.
It was an uphill battle for Democrat Melissa Cerrato, but after a nail-biting nine days of uncertainty over the outcome, she’s headed to Harrisburg to represent Pennsylvania’s 151st District, which includes part of Montgomery County, in the state House of Representatives. Cerrato’s narrow victory turned the state House blue for the first time in more than a decade.
The 40-year-old mother of four’s message of understanding the real-life challenges of working class families resonated with voters, who ultimately put her over the top in the newly redrawn district by 58 votes.
“We knew it would be a very close, tight race, but never has it been so true that every single vote counted,” she said.
For five seemingly endless days after the election, “there was no update whatsoever; that was amazingly nerve wracking,” said the Horsham Twp. resident. As the Montgomery County Board of Elections counted absentee and military ballots and worked to cure 50 ballots (those either missing signatures or with a discrepancy in the signature), Cerrato and her team went door-to-door to reach as many of the “cured voters” as they could.
But, it wasn’t until Nov. 16, when she was boarding a plane with her family for a long-awaited trip to Universal Orlando that Cerrato got the call telling her she was victorious. “It was an excitement I can’t even describe…then having to shut my phone off for three hours and not be able to talk to a living soul was an interesting scenario,” she said with a big grin.
As she prepares to be sworn in on Jan. 3, Cerrato said, she’s “thrilled” to begin working for her constituents and be the legislator to bring a Democratic majority to the House. Her four-member staff is “ready to go,” and she’s hoping to gain seats on a number of committees, including children and youth, education, and human services.
We spoke to Cerrato at her Horsham Twp. home about the extended wait to learn the election results, the support she received from her family and friends, and plans for her first legislative session in Harrisburg.
This conversation was edited for clarity and length.
You had to wait more than a week to have your race called, a race that flipped the state House to the Democrats for the first time in 12 years. What was that like?
“I was down by 26 votes on Election Night, but then we waited nine days for all the absentee and military ballots to be counted; it was hard and very nerve wracking for everyone. But, I told my kids, ‘win or lose we are going to get away.’ That was my promise to them. So, on Nov. 16, we left for Florida, and I literally got the call when we were boarding the plane. It was very exciting. But, I couldn’t make a phone call for three hours! My parents and my little sister came down and surprised me the next day.
“Being the official 102nd (Democrat) was thrilling. It was a huge part of my reason for running—to be a part of work being done for Pennsylvanians. It is a little bit of pressure, too.”
How has the reaction been from your family and friends?
“I think my family is relieved it’s over. Life can be more flexible now. Mommy worked very hard and now we can celebrate. When I told my husband I was asked to run and I wanted to, his response was, ‘That’s a lot.’ After we discussed it, he became my biggest supporter. He stepped up in ways I never imagined. It was a very big change for us. I couldn’t do it without his support.”
What was the concession call with Todd Stephens like?
“He called on Nov. 17—I was walking in the middle of Universal Studios. It was a very pleasant call, about five minutes. He said he was happy it was me because of my experience in constituent services.” (Cerrato was district director for state Rep. Liz Hanbridge before running for office.)
What do you and your family like to do for fun?
“My husband is an incredible Philly sports fan. When I got to go to the World Series no-hitter game, he laughed and said, ‘Why shouldn’t I vote for Todd?’ Baseball’s my favorite sport.
“We all like to spend time together. We have a small manufactured home in Delaware on the bay; we go there when we can.”
When you were a single mom, working as a nanny, Uber driver, and cleaning houses, did you ever think you’d be a state legislator?
“People are calling me Rep.-elect, but I’m just Missy or Melissa. I’m the same person I was three weeks ago. I just get to uplift the voices of my community. I try to treat everyone with respect. I never looked down on myself. It’s what’s on the inside that matters. It took hundreds of people to get me elected.”
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