Two women gave honest presentations before a standing room crowd of at least 60 this afternoon, Aug. 2, as to where they stood on the issues facing Pennsylvania, while the endorsed Republican hid like, well, a little girl.
The forum sponsored by Delco Debates was held in the Swarthmore council meeting hall and concerned Tuesday’s special election for the vacant 161st District State House seat.
The participants were Democrat Leanne Krueger-Braneky and write-in Republican Lisa Esler. A empty chair was placed for Paul Mullen, the county AFL-CIO president who was tapped by the GOP. Several invitations were sent to Mullen who never responded.
Mrs. Krueger-Braneky of Swarthmore, described herself as business consultant, a mother of a three year old and a person of faith. She said she supported legalization of medical marijuana, a taxpayer bailout of the state’s pension funds, and a severance tax on natural gas drillers.
She also said she supported Gov. Wolf’s proposed tax plans and more money for education.
She said Pennsylvania had the most unequal funding for schools in the nation.
“I want good schools,” she said. “I want good schools for kids in Philadelphia. I want good schools for kids in Chester.
She said she opposed the sale of Pennsylvania’s publicly owned liquor stores, as they make money for the state.
She said that during holidays, people from Delaware and New Jersey sometimes shop for liquor in Pennsylvania due to that state-regulated pricing.
That claim drew murmurs of skepticism from the crowd.
She said she opposed school vouchers and a 401K-type plan for state workers.
She said she supported adding pre-school education.
Mrs. Esler, of Aston, who has described herself as a wife, mother, grandmother, certified optician, and Penn Delco school board director, and who makes her driver listen to K-LOVE, said she opposed a severance tax on natural gas drillers as long as the state’s corporate tax was 9.9 percent as she feared driving them out. She noted she would reconsider if the state were to cut the corporate tax to the rates of states that charge a high severance tax.
She said she supported privatizing the state stores.
She said she supported school vouchers.
“I don’t think any child should go to school in fear of his life,” she said. “I’m more concerned about the child than the government (agency).”
She noted that the pension crisis was drastically driving up property taxes and supported moving state workers and legislators to a 401-K type plan as most private businesses have. She pledged not to take a pension if elected.
She said she had not thought much about medical marijuana before entering the race in June and has heard pros and cons during her campaigning. She promised to keep an open mind.
In a question regarding more funding for public transportation, Mrs. Krueger-Braneky praised the gasoline tax increase passed by the legislature in 2013 and said she supported more funding for SEPTA while Mrs. Esler did the opposite. Mrs. Krueger-Braneky said public transportation was good for the environment while Mrs. Esler noted that people who have to use their cars are already hurting.
Neither candidate was familiar with a plan to have sewer treatment plants handle fracking and mine waste but both thought the idea was pretty disgusting.
In a question concerning the state’s policy of life without parole for certain crimes, Mrs. Esler thought those who committed heinous murders deserved it while Mrs. Krueger-Braneky was open to the idea of reform.
With regard to easing the state’s recently found-to-be unconstitutional rules for minor party ballot access, Mrs. Krueger-Braneky appeared to feel they shouldn’t be eased much while Mrs. Esler thought they should be.
“The two-party system is broken,” she said.
Both candidates express dislike for the property tax. Mrs. Krueger-Braneky supported the reforms proposed by Gov. Wolf. Mrs. Esler said she supported eliminating it but expressed concerns about existing legislation as it would punish school districts that had been fiscally responsible while rewarding those otherwise.
Mrs. Esler said spending reforms were the best solution. She noted that simply ending the prevailing wage mandate would have saved the Penn Delco School District $8 million in recent construction costs.
Mrs. Krueger-Braneky supported more education spending. Mrs. Esler noted that in the last 14 years, the state’s student population has dropped by 35,000 while school employees have increased by the same number.
Mrs. Esler said waste was rampant in Harrisburg. She said there was $2.2 billion in unemployment fraud during the last four years and between $2 billion and $4 billion in welfare fraud.
In a response to a question regarding the repeal of the “temporary” Johnstown Food tax of 1936 that to this day adds 18 percent to the sale of booze in Pennsylvania, Mrs. Esler pointed out that the taxes being sought by Gov. Wolf would be “temporary” in the same way while the property tax relief would soon end.
Regarding Mullen who was hiding, it was twice noted during the course of the forum that he actually ran away from questioners during his door to door campaigning.
Lisa, Leanne Debate, Paul Mullen Hides