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Birthdate: July 1, 1950
Birth Place: Wilkes-Barre, PA, United States
Residence: Harrisburg, PA
Gene Stilp was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and resides outside of Harrisburg. He earned a bachelor's from Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, and a law degree from the George Mason University School of Law.
He worked as a lawyer in Virginia in the 1980s and as a bill drafter in the Pennsylvania House from 1987 to 1994, and again from 2000 to 2001.
Stilp is best known as a citizen activist who files lawsuits and organizes rallies to draw public attention to what he regards as illegal or unethical actions by state officials.
He ran for the state House in 2010 and the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in 2006. In 1986, he won the Democratic nod in the 17th Congressional District, but dropped out of the race before the general election.
Stilp and his wife, Judith, live in a rural township north of Harrisburg.
Gene Stilp was trained as a lawyer, but he is known around Pennsylvania's capital as a self-appointed government watchdog and perennial thorn in the side of the state's political establishment.
Stilp practiced law in Virginia during the 1980s after gradating from the George Mason University School of Law and then worked as a bill drafter in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for about 10 years.
But activism was his true calling. His involvement in the anti-nuclear movement following the partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in 1979 launched his career as an activist on behalf of an array of causes ranging from the environment to ethics in government.
Stilp, who often injects humor into his political messages, is also the creator of many oddball visual effects that have helped amplify the messages of cash-strapped advocacy groups.
Probably his best-known prop is an inflatable 25-foot pink pig that became the backdrop for raucous protest rallies following lawmakers' 2005 vote to award themselves fat pay raises. A public outcry prompted the Legislature to repeal the raises a few months later, but the fallout lasted for years _ extending the pig's usefulness as a symbol of greed in government.
Stilp also directed construction of a scaled-down Statue of Liberty replica that was installed in the Susquehanna River north of Harrisburg where it has been turning heads along U.S. Route 322 since 1986. When the first statue was blown down in a storm six years later, he built a sturdier replacement.
Stilp has run for office three times, but has never been elected. In 2010, he was the Democratic nominee in the state House's 104th District, but lost to a Republican incumbent by barely 300 votes. In 2006, he finished last in a four-way race for lieutenant governor. In 1986, he won the Democratic nomination in the 17th Congressional District but dropped out in time for the party to appoint a replacement candidate for the general election.
He is challenging in 2012 a re-election bid by freshman Republican Rep. Lou Barletta, a former Hazleton mayor whose get-tough policies on illegal immigrant catapulted him into the national limelight.
Source: Associated Press
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