Though represented by a Republican, Democrats have a registration edge in this District, and a competitive race can be expected.
Five candidates - two Democrats and three Republicans - submitted nomination papers for this seat. But as a result of successful challenges, only three candidates - two Republicans and one Democrat - remain on the ballot. Republicans include Cindy Miller, Lehigh Township Supervisor and field representative to State Senator Mario Scavello; and Zach Mako, a combat veteran and helicopter pilot in the National Guard. The sole Democrat is Phillips Armstrong, a Whitehall Township Commissioner who spent 40 years as an educator and coach in the Whitehall-Coplay School District.
All three candidates were invited to the tea party debate, but Armstrong sent his regrets as a result of an unexpected family emergency.
Mako, dressed in a suit that obviously made him feel uncomfortable, carried an assortment of index cards that he consulted regularly, even during his opening statement. At one point, he drew some laughter when he was stumped by a question and began looking over Miller's shoulder to see what she was writing. "As you can tell, I am not a politician and this is not my bag," he explained. He said he would be an "independent" voice who would "stand up to special interests and career politicians." He vowed he would oppose the "radical tax and spend policy"of Governor Tom Wolf.
Miller told the audience she grew up in Walnutport and attended Slatington High School before it became Northern Lehigh. She said her background - "98% of which is in the private sector" - is business and health care.
In stark contrast to the debate between Coyle and Simmons, in which candidates used every second of their time, Miller and Mako kept their answers short.
Reducing size of state legislature. - Both agreed on reducing the size of the state legislature. "It is way too big," said Miller. "My only concern is constituent services," said Mako. "As long as that is not diminished, I'd be absolutely fo shrinking the size of the legislature."
Will they take pension? - Mako said he thinks he is required to take it but would turn it down if he could. "I actually like that 401k that they're planning, and think that would be great, especially for a young guy like myself," he said. "I might not stay in government." Miller would not take the pension, but admitted she is participating in one as a member of Senator Scavello's staff. "It needs to start in the House," she said.
Per diems. Neither candidate would accept per diems ($165 per day), but would instead turn in receipts for actual expenses.
Mandatory retirement age for judges. - Both favor keeping the age at 70. "Anything over 70 is just increasing the pension crisis in Pennsylvania," said Miller.
HB 76 and Property Tax Elimination. - In over 1,600 phone calls Mako has made over the past two weeks, the predominate concern he has heard is the need for property tax relief. Miller stated that, in Lehigh Township, she has been able to stave off a tax hike. "I looked at our budget, we reformed out budget; I was instrumental in implementing a capital improvement plan; we renegotiated our contracts, especially pensions."
Second Amendment rights. - "I can tell you I fully believe in the protection of the Second Amendment and I actually have my license to carry, so now you know I'm not a liberal in nay way," said Miller. "I also have a concealed carry permit and have a Smith and Wesson Bodyguard that I carry every day," added Mako.
Pension Reform. - Miller found that in Lehigh Township, taxpayers were paying more for pensions than the employees who benefit from them. She claims the union now matches what the Township pays in. She would replace the current pension system with 401ks, "I feel that is something that should be able to be done immediately," she said. "I don't see why it should just be for new employees." Mako added that pensions have gone away in the business world, and should be abolished in the public sector as well.
Sharia law. - Both candidates would support a ban on the use of Sharia law, an Islamic legal framework used in some Arabic countries. "I have seen what that does," said Mako. "I've been in places where it's running rampant."
Economic development. - Miller stated that, in Lehigh Township, "We have developers that have found us." She said that as a result of expanding commercial zoning, "We have a developer coming in who is going to take care of one of our worst intersections." She also spoke of developer David Jaindl's plans to convert a 285-acre seminary into a "mixed use zone." She agreed about a lack of development in Slatington. "The problem wth Slatington, unfortunately, is that there's no infrastructure, there's no parking, there's no nothing. That all has to get addressed if you want businesses."
Mako called small business "the backbone of America" and said leaders should be more "proactive."
Paycheck protection. - Mako was unfamiliar with a "payback protection" bill, which would prevent government from deducting union dues from wages and transmitting the funds directly to labor organizations. Miller supports the bill, stating she has friends and family in education who resent seeking their dues collected out of their paychecks.