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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, April 11, 2016

Who Should Succeed Harhart?

Cindy Miller
Republican Julie Harhart, State Representative for the 183rd legislative district, has decided to call it quits this year after eleven terms in office. Her successor will represent a hodge podge of the northern Lehigh Valley. It includes parts of Whitehall and even South Whitehall Townships, extends north through Northampton and Catasauqua to Slatington and Walnutport, and then east to Moore Township. The race for this seat is one of just three competitive primaries within the Lehigh Valley, and was one of the contests featured in a packed debate hosted by the Lehigh Valley Tea Party on April 7 at the Se-Wy-Co Banquet Hall in Lower Saucon Township

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.

Zach Mako
Term limits - Mako believes the term limit is at the ballot box. "If you're doing a good job and people like what you're doing, you stay in. If not, you're gone," he explained. Miller disagrees. "We have too many legislators who've been in too long," she argued. "We say that we leave it up to the people to make the decision, and a lot of times the uneducated choices are being made at the poll." She would like to lengthen terms of office to four years "because you're running every year for office and you're not dedicating your time to constituents or in your legislative duties."

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.


Anonymous said...

The democratic candidate was an educator for 40 years disqualifies him immediately, no tax reform, more money for teachers, and administrators, no more educators in government.

Anonymous said...

Why does that disqualify him? For all you know he may be against what you mentioned because he hasn't stated a position on it yet.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'd say that both Miller and Mako have already disqualified themselves, at least in my mind. Miller is the candidate who forced Grammes out of the race. Her views on the people were quite telling. "We say that we leave it up to the people to make the decision, and a lot of times the uneducated choices are being made at the poll," she complained. That is a slap across the face of every voter and at democracy itself. Her view of Slatington. "The problem with Slatington, unfortunately, is that there's no infrastructure, there's no parking, there's no nothing."

These quotations are accurate and have been saved.

Someone with such disdain for the people in her district expects them to vote for her?

Mako is just clueless. I question whether he should even be allowed inside a helicopter after listening to him. Completely unprepared and an empty suit if I ever saw one.

By default, I'd have to support Armstrong. He is the only one left who has not managed to make an idiot out of himself.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, Miller is giving the new Republican argument they use against Democrats. Their argument is that the "uneducated and indoctrinated" voted for Obama and his ilk. Of course part of that is a trop for not saying "ethnic" voters are uneducated.
This is a scary time for the Republican Party. Intolerance, arrogance with a touch of racism.

Lauren Ganser said...

I agree with Bernie O'Hare, how can we vote for someone who has disrespected our rights as voters. My candidate of choice was and is Marc Grammes. And is anyone truly aware of the ridiculous reason he was striked from the ballot? He filed all of his paperwork ( with the most signatures of our voting district) and Milllers cronies who must've had an inside source filed a frivolous lawsuit to remove him charging that he did not physically walk one of the papers over to the ethics office, where by the way the paperwork was shared to by the original filing and produced and revealed on line immediately, not giving Marc any advantage at all. The lawsuit was appealed and the Supreme Court just rubber stamped the lower courts decision without even looking further into the bogus charges. At this point If Marc Grammes doesn't do a write in I feel that since the Republican Party turned a blind eye to this railroading effort that they deserve to lose the seat. The despicable character of all of these politicians makes me sick. Miller only is in this for herself she doesn't care about her constituents, if she did she would have had the lawsuit withdrawn. Obviously she knew this was the only way she stood a chance by removing the more popular and ethical candidate. Who by the way chose to take the high road when he notices a magnitude of mistakes on Mrs. Milllers petition and felt that allowing the people to choose was the more honorable option. Shame the feeling of Miller was not the same.

c said...

If trends prove correct, Cindy Miller will win the Northwestern Tier by a 60% margin in the general election.

Anonymous said...

The gerrymandered layout of this district is a fucking joke.

c said...

2:39 I don't like it at all.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'd like to see Armstrong or an independent win.

Chris Amato said...
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Chris Amato said...
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C said...

The political hierarchy needs a little shakeup.

Lauren Ganser said...

Agreed and the way to shake it up is to write In Marc Grammes to show the political bullies we will not stand down! Imagine the uproar and chaos this would inflame! I think History needs to be made and who better to do it than the people who care enough about not being pushed around?