A Primary Primer: A Look at the April 24 Races

April 1, 2012
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Judging by the blistering criticism of our elected officials, you’d think the Lycoming County primary election ballot would be overcrowded. Not so. Other than the race for president (I’ll leave that to the major media), the only office for which both parties have more than one candidate is United States Senator. Many offices are uncontested.

Most people may be sitting this one out. But don’t—too much is at stake. When I volunteered to write this, I had heard of fewer than half of these people. I decided to approach it with the “I-Search” method, starting with the name and following the trail.

Read on and you will see that many candidates are in “lala land.” Have they ever spoken with anyone except their handlers and friends? Isn’t it amazing that they believe we Americans will never have to suck it up, lower our expectations, sacrifice anything? Have they ever realized what a wonderful country we have and how many of our problems could actually be solved if only we would approach them realistically?

US SENATE

For the Democrats, the incumbent, Bob Casey, Jr. is running on his record. He favors creating financial security for PA families by supporting a tax credit for employers who hire workers, extending unemployment insurance, and helping small businesses by providing tax cuts and access to capital. He supports Obama’s health care plan, stating that all people, especially children, have a fundamental right to proper health care. He serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is committed to maintaining our safety and fostering respect for America so our children can grow up in a peaceful world. He supports environmental regulations that restrict hydraulic fracturing in a way that protects the health of all people and also allows for the natural gas industry to move forward so we are less dependent on foreign oil.

His opponent, Joseph John Vodvarka, a small business owner who has never held public office, is another story. He opposes corporate bailouts, wants to repeal Obamacare, and feels just having jobs will solve every single one of our country’s problems. He also wants to make English the national language, protect the Second Amendment, build a complete fence on our southern border, drill for more oil, have no inheritance taxes, and make schools teach the Constitution. “As a Senator I would serve one term in office and go back to making springs at my shop and fish more often!”

On the Republican side, the field is more crowded. Five men, who would all find a friend in the Democrat J. J. Vodvarka, are challenging Bob Casey. All echo the war cry, “Let’s restore freedom and opportunity to America!” All, with some slight variations, are conservatives who seek to “safeguard the American Dream,” allow the free market to create jobs, oppose tax hikes, cut spending, support gas exploration, repeal Obamacare, oppose any attempt to limit the Second Amendment, secure our borders, institute term limits, and prohibit abortion under any circumstances.

Tom Smith, a farmer from Armstrong County
Sam Rohrer, a nine-term representative in the PA House from Berks County
David Alan Christian, a Vietnam veteran from Doylestown
Steven D. Welch, an entrepreneur in the tech industry from Malvern
Marc D. Scaringi, a lawyer from Camp Hill

US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

No choices here. In the 5th District, Glenn Thompson is unopposed on the Republican side as is Charles Dumas for the Democrats. In the 10th district, the Republican Thomas Marino and the Democrat Philip Scollo are both unopposed.

PA STATE OFFICES

Attorney General

The Republican candidate, David Reed, has no challengers. Two Democrats are running. Kathleen G. Kane from Clark’s Summit is an Assistant Attorney for Lackawanna County. As an experienced prosecutor, she has handled all kinds of cases, concentrating on the most vulnerable, children and the elderly. She is an advocate for prevention, not just prosecution, and has helped establish programs like the County’s Mental Health Court to solve problems through collaboration with other groups.

Another democrat, Patrick J. Murphy of Bristol, a former police officer who volunteered for combat in Iraq after 9/11, is now a partner in a Philadelphia law firm. In Bosnia and Iraq he had experience both as a soldier and a prosecutor trying criminal cases in the military court. He feels the Attorney General should, rather than just being the top state lawyer, be a leader in reestablishing faith in our government by enforcing laws fairly and working to make communities safe.

Auditor General
The Democrat, Eugene A. Depasquale, has no challengers, but two Republicans are running. Both are last-minute entries, so not much information is available. John Maher, the Republican Representative to the PA House from Alleghany County, is a CPA who has been in the legislature since 1997. He chairs the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. Frank A. Pinto, from Dauphin County, has a variety of job experiences in academia, real estate, and small business. A holder of numerous offices in Harrisburg and the Republican Party, he supports Rick Santorum for President.

STATE SENATE

In Senate District 23, the Democrat, Luana Cleveland of Williamsport, has no primary challenger. She is concerned about two issues: the recently signed Act 13 which strips self- governing rights from local communities, and the Republican determination to undermine public education in favor of private and cyber schools.

On the Republican side, the incumbent, Gene Yaw, is up for reelection. According to Project Vote Smart, a public information website, “Gene Yaw repeatedly refused to provide any responses to citizens on the issues.” He does have a monthly e-newsletter about state and local issues which he sends to constituents registered on his website. The February 17 issue deals with legislative updates, the governor’s budget address, a DCNR conservation program,  a road project in Montrose, tax rebates for eligible persons, the Manure Management Plan, and his visit to Albright Life Center.

His opponent David A Huffman, Jr., has made numerous runs for public office. He was a member of the Williamsport Area School Board for one term, during which he voted “no” to almost every measure except, perhaps, the motion to adjourn the meeting. He has run for State Representative and lost, then for City Prothonotary and lost, and now is trying to become a State Senator. Perhaps his name is so familiar that the usual sources of information are unnecessary. No information about his positions is available.

STATE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

In District 83 the Democrat Rick Mirabito is unopposed in the primary. As the incumbent, he has an excellent record representing the diverse viewpoints of people in the district.

On the Republican ballot, two men are running. The Republican, Christopher Bain, is an Iraqi veteran who wants to send the message that “Pennsylvania is open for business.” To do this, he would lower the corporate income tax. He would also change the state pension plans for legislators, enable wounded veterans to get cheaper health care, eliminate school taxes by increasing the state sales tax, expand Head Start programs for children, bring state money back to local police departments, and support Second Amendment rights. He does not address how these costly improvements would happen with less tax money. Perhaps by cutting the welfare costs. He states: “Another issue is Welfare Abuse. Bain believes in a hand up not hand out and supports the mandatory random drug tests for Welfare recipients.”

Harry J. Rogers, Jr., from Duboistown is the Intensive Supervised Bail/Release Program Coordinator at the Lycoming County Prison. He wants to see a balanced budget that supports quality education and environmental concerns for all Pennsylvanians. He also wants government to be accountable and to see that we here in Central PA get our share.

In District 84, Republican Garth D. Everett is unopposed.

There it is, and for those of you who want more information, do as the candidates told me to do—go to their websites. Just Google the name and the PA office. For the latest listing of the ballot and all other information to do with elections, the League of Women Voters of PA Citizens Education Fund does an excellent job at:    http://www.smartvoter.org/2012/04/24/pa/ly/ballot.html

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