|Joe Capozzolo, Mark Aurand, Scott Parsons|
|Jesus is not running. He forgot to register.|
Scott Parsons, a quarry worker, is a member of Northampton County Council and has served as president of Wind Gap Borough Council. Capozzolo, a clothing manufacturer, is the Mayor of Bangor and served as an appointee on Northampton County Council. Aurand is an attorney practicing in Allentown, and has been an activist for the past six years.
Though Jesus was in the background, he played no role in the debate. It was hosted by the Northampton County League of Women Voters. I love to tease them, but I'm very thankful for their efforts. Lafayette College's John Kincaid served as moderator. He posed questions, and gave the candidates an opportunity to ask one question of each other.
As might be expected, all three Democrats oppose the Voter ID law. Aurand called it a "solution to made up problem." Even Governor Corbett has vowed to take no appeal of a ruling that found the new law to be unconstitutional. All three support early voting.
|About 50 attendees|
There are slight differences between their stances on this topic. Parsons supports a moratorium for fracking on publicly owned land, as well as a 5% severance tax. But he supports fracking. "We need the natural gas," he argued,
Capozzolo and Aurand, by contrast, support a complete moratorium on fracking, whether it is on public or private land. "We need to protect our water," said Capozzolo. He supports a 7.5% severance tax, and noted several times during the evening that Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that imposes no severance tax.
Aurand called fracking an example of a "big money interests" that "have come into Pennsylvania and have been able to get what they wish." He pledged to stand up for the people, and wants a severance tax as close to 10% as possible.
All three Democrats support the recently enacted transportation bill, but all three are displeased about the rise in gas taxes to pay for it. Aurand suggested that an infrastructure bank be set up that could provide low interest loans. Parsons stressed more uniform bridge designs that would reduce costs significantly. Capozzolo would pay for the transportation bill with the severance tax. In fact, he proposed the severance tax as the source for just about all new spending he supported throughout the night.
Capozzolo would impose a moratorium on charter school applications, complaining that the funding formula is unfair. Parsons added that it is the state's obligation to fund 50% of a school district's needs, and argued that charter schools and similar programs should be incorporated into vo-tech schools. Aurand stated "there's a place" for charter schools, but noted that the Corbett administration drastically cut spending. "We need to reverse that," he noted, adding that he recently discovered that schools in Stroudsburg only get 23% of their funding from the state.
Capozzolo noted that every election cycle, there is a proposal to eliminate property taxes, often accompanied by a patriotic-sounding name like HB 1776. Holding up a dollar bill, he asked if anyone wanted to bet whether it would be enacted. "It's not going to pass," he predicted. "It's not going to see the light of day."
Parsons complained that the proposal is unworkable because it creates a sales tax that will hurt seniors, and an income tax that will disproportionately hurt low and middle income workers.
Aurand called the proposal "well intentioned," a "response to pleas of the people." But the chief problem in his view is that all the money would go to the state. "Local people aren't going to have any say," he observed. He also noted the bill would actually help places like Wal Mart, which would have no property tax. "We need to find a better way to deal with this problem" he concluded.
All three Democrats support Medicaid expansion in contrast to the Governor's proposal to create a private market option for 520,000 Pennsylvanians in need of health care coverage. "Our Governor decided for political reasons not to participate," complained Aurand. Cappozzolo would pay for it, like everything else, with the severance tax. But Aurand had another source. He noted that Republicans have cut business and corporate taxes by $1.2 billion. Parsons added that the expansion, which would help people in the gap, would also create between 35-39,000 jobs.
Parsons supports the 2d Amendment, adding that "criminals aren't going to abide" by tighter laws. Capozzolo said everyone in his family is a hunter, and he supports both the 2d Amendment and "more stringent background checks." Aurand stated he respects the right of people to have guns, but not those with mental health issues or who engage in domestic violence.
When it was time for candidates to question each other, Capozzolo gave a speech about being positive and then demanded Parsons to name all the municipalities in Monroe County. Parsons started and was up to about 12 when his time ran out. Aurand rejected the question. "It's more important that I talk to the people than that I know the name of the municipality.'
Parsons asked Capozzolo why some of his campaign literature lacks the union bug. Capozzolo answered it was done by a local Bethlehem business.
Aurand was asked why he never ran for anything, and is suddenly running for state senate. Aurand noted he has been an activist and later stated that he is an attorney who advocates and negotiates."It seems to me that's pretty good training to be a lawmaker," he reasoned.
Though most of the crowd were in one of the three camps, there were a few undecided voters present, like Helen and Aaron Newman, from Bushkill Township. They are concerned about negative campaigning by Democrats in the Governor's race.
There were also Republicans in the House.
"What's the enemy doing here?" I asked Republican Ben Hedrick, who was with County Council member Hayden Phillips. "I'm here to listen to both sides," he told me.
As I was leaving, I asked Gracedale Administrator Dee Freeman about why the Chapel seems to be set up exclusively for Christian services. He turned into Samuel L. Jackson.
"And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."
All right, all right. .
I'm guessing a Menorah is out of the question.