Monday, April 25, 2016
Armstrong Shines in State House Debate
Long time State Rep. Julie Harhart has decided to retire at the end of her term this year in the gerrymandered 183rd, which twists and turns from part of South Whitehall to Northampton and Slatington and over to Lehigh Township and points east.
The LV Tea Party has already hosted one debate featuring Republicans Cindy Miller and Zach Mako. Unfortunately, Democrat Phillips Armstrong was unable to attend that debate because of a family emergency. But he was free for a second debate at Fellowship Hall last week. You can watch the video above and reach your own conclusions. I consider Armstrong a very impressive candidate, the best I've seen in some time.
A little bit about each candidate.
Mako is a helicopter mechanic turned pilot after making it through two years of flight training. He claimed that Julie Harhart "has been helping me out, keeping me motivated along the way.". A candidate who accepted money from other Republican State Reps, laundered through State Rep. mark Mustio, claimed he would be an "independent voice."
Miller, who claims to have spent 98% of her career in the private sector. She took credit for many of the satellite facilities that Lehigh Valley Hospital plants like dandelions.She has been a Lehigh Township Supervisor for five years, has been a Planning Commissioner there for 14 years and also works for and has accepted contributions from State Senator Mario Scavello. Miller has a Master's degree from Wilkes in health care and is a certified paralegal.
Phillips is retired after 40 years as a social studies teacher at Whitehall High School. He also has a master's degree. While teaching, he was also a tour bus driver for 38 years "I totally enjoyed that," he said. After retiring, he decided to continue public service in local government. He is currently the President of Whitehall Township's Board of Commissioners. He also is involved in CTC (Community that Cares). He wants to go to Harrisburg "to make a difference." "I don't want a job,. I don't want a career," he said. His campaign finance reveals heavy union support. The root of all evil in state government, according to him, is gerrymandering. "We don't vote for our representatives. They vote for themselves. We can't do that anymore.
State Police Funding Shortfall.- Mako was stumped by the very first question of the debate, demonstrating for a second time that he really is clueless. You can make your own call. Miller said it's time for municipalities with no local police coverage to be assessed. Phillips called for more regional police departments, which he claimed would solve the financial dilemma of state police while allowing for a greater "police presence."
Medical Marijuana. - Miller is opposed, claiming it would be difficult for those who need to be drug tested for jobs or for police who stop drivers suspected of impaired driving. Armstrong disagreed noting that the bill passed into law already contains "numerous regulations." He doubts that people will be able to get it for recreational use. He suggested we should look "at all the children and all the people suffering from diseases who will be helped by this." Mako agreed with Armstrong, noting that the benefits and revenue outweigh Miller's concerns.
Privatization of state liquor stores. - Phillips would support privatization if Prohibition were just ending now, but he said that solution is impractical st this time. It would lead to one-time revenue as licenses are sold, not the steady stream received from state stores. He pointed to the possibility of some 18 year-old clerk selling hard liquor to her underage friends. He argued that the state generally has lower prices because it purchases in bulk. "Just like Wal Mart, the more you buy, the cheaper you can sell."
Mako was unable to pronounce the word "privatization," but said it would be beneficial for the state. "That is all," he said as he handed the mike to Miller. She expressed concerns about auctioning off licenses, which would lead to a few chain stores ruining small businesses. But she supports privatization anyway.
Bipartisanship.- Mako claimed the state legislature is already bi-partisan, but the Governor has been an obstacle. Miller added that the Governor has retaliated against Democrats who compromised. But she agreed there should be more cooperation on pension reform, privatization and education reform.
Armstrong blames this lack of dialogue on gerrymandering. He noted that if a legislative district is made up of all kinds of people, state representatives would have to represent everybody. He noted that, fortunately, the 183rd is one of the few split districts left.
"This country was formed on compromise," he said. "Something that I think the legislature has forgotten, and maybe even the Governor. We have to be able to compromise. Some of the biggest decisions in American history came because two sides differed, but were statesmen, not politicians."
Term limits.- All three candidates agreed there should be term limits.