Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Deely DeRails at DeSales
Yesterday, I witnessed something you don't see every day. I saw a high school English teacher at a loss for words. I saw a teachers' union advocate schooled in the cost of government. I saw the S.S. Deely, in a race rated among the top ten by PoliticsPA, hit the Simmons iceberg. You'll be able to see it too, when a debate between incumbent State Representative Justin Simmons and Easton High School teacher Kevin Deely is aired on WFMZ-TV69's Business Matters,, hosted by Tony Iannelli. It's scheduled for Monday, October 22, at 7:30 PM.
This debate, taped at the DeSales University Center before a pro-Simmons crowd of about fifty people, is focused on the question whether Simmons should continue to represent the hodgepodge known as the 131st legislative district, or whether he should let Kevin Deely give it a whirl. If this fiery debate is any indication, Simmons will be back. If I were in Deely's camp, I would have thrown in the towel after about five minutes.
Justin Simmons is a freshman who defeated a fellow Republican, Karen Beyer, to win the seat two years ago in a hotly contested primary. At the time, some of us, including me, questioned his youth and inexperience. He proved us wrong, not only at the polls, but in his subsequent record in the House. Unlike most pols, he refuses per diems and a state-owned vehicle. He has declined to participate in a state pension plan. He has pledged that he will only serve three terms. He wants to reduce the size of the state legislature, which he believes should be part-time. As he explains it, "we need to change the way the system works in Harrisburg."
His opponent, Kevin Deely, is a 12-year Easton High School teacher who moved into the district about two years ago. In 2005, students named him "Most Inspiring Teacher." He's also an ardent advocate for the teachers' union, where he served as president in Easton.
Deely claimed he's running for the state house, even though he loves teaching, because our current state legislature is "stealing the future from our kids." As an example, he pointed to a Spanish teacher in Allentown who must educate 40 kids in a school cafeteria. He noted that funding there is $5.6 million less than the year before.
Simmons countered that the state has actually poured $26 billion into public education, about double what it was in 2000. He noted that Allentown asks for $4 million in distressed funding, but can somehow spend $1 million to replace a field.
Deely insisted schools have been gutted, and then Simmons turned it on. "They've been gutted because of the organization you represent," he charged, noting that Deely has just received $12,000 from the teachers' union and $36,000 in total from public sector unions.
"Who are you going to represent?" asked Simmons. "You're going to represent the unions," he said, answering his own question.
Deely insisted he would be representing "the working man," and quickly changed the subject to Voter ID, insisting there is no voter fraud.
"Do you believe in the tooth fairy, too?" asked Simmons.
Simmons wondered how Deely could represent the district when he just moved into it. "You have no connection to this local community." Deely claimed he moved here to raise his children. But in response to a question from Simmons, he acknowledged they don't live here.
Tony Iannelli asked both candidates about the quarry issue in Lower Milford, a hot local topic. Simmons is opposed, but Deely said he's "currently uninformed on that issue."
"That''s why you shouldn't have run," noted Simmons.
While Deely was proud of his work as a union president in Easton, Simmons had a different take. "In the Easton School District, where you were the teacher union president, property taxes went up 16% and the buget contract you negotiated blew a $12.9 million hole in the budget. You did such a good job that you didn't even run for re-election as a teacher union president. Instead, you moved here, to run against me, to be a representative of the PSEA." All Deely could do is laugh.
His supporters looked like they were crying.
Noon Update: Express Times Endorses Simmons! "The battle for Pennsylvania’s 131st District House seat comes down to a freshman lawmaker who is familiar with most issues and willing to take stands vs. a newcomer who is spending most of his energy on one subject."