Past:State Representative—District 36
Candidate for: State Representative—District 36
Jessica Benham is running as a Democrat for state representative in Pennsylvania House District 36.
Jessica is the Director of Development for the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy (PCAA), a grassroots self-advocacy project run by Autistic people for Autistic people. After moving back home to Pittsburgh following college, she co-founded PCAA, which is the only LGBTQ Autistic-led advocacy organization in the Greater Pittsburgh Area. Jessica is an advocate for Autistic rights, interested in creating sensory-friendly spaces, increasing access to Individual Education and 504 Plans for Autistic children in public schools, helping parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals better understand Autistic people, and reducing barriers to employment for Autistic adults.
Through her work at PCAA and elsewhere, Jessica has worked to ensure that individuals with disabilities are treated fairly in the legislative process. She has provided feedback and consultation for legislation as varied as Pittsburgh City Council’s recent gun legislation, healthcare efforts at the state level, and the effort to create autism designations on license plates and driver’s licenses. Even in these cases where she may not entirely agree with a piece of legislation, Jessica has worked to ensure that the rights of individuals with disabilities are not taken away. She advocated strongly for Paul’s Law, which states that an individual can’t be deemed ineligible for an organ transplant simply because of a disability and was signed into law in Pennsylvania in 2018.
As a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, Jessica has been involved in the efforts to organize a union of graduate student workers, facilitating meetings, phone banking, and serving as editor-in-chief of the organizing committee newsletter, among other responsibilities. Jessica knows firsthand the importance of organizing and the power that collective bargaining can have.
In addition to her work and academic career, Jessica is also a deeply and actively engaged community member in District 36. She has been a member of the Zone 3 Public Safety Council since 2016, serving in a number of leadership roles over the past several years and attending community meetings throughout the Zone, which covers much of District 36. She is an active community volunteer, doing everything from greeting attendees at South Side Park’s Goat Fest to serving as co-captain of the East Slopes Block Watch. Jessica was elected and has served as Judge of Elections since 2018.
Jessica has B.A. degrees in Political Science and Communication Studies from Bethel University, an M.A. in Communication from Minnesota State University, and an M.A. in Bioethics from the University of Pittsburgh. She lives in the Southside Slopes with her husband, Karl, their two cats, Ravi and Neal, and their dog, Winston.