2012 Campaign Trail Analysis: PA House Candidates Face Public

Candidates, from left: Patty Kim, Karl Singleton, Roy Crist, Gloria Martin-Roberts

2 of 4 Candidates against Same-sex Marriage
By Frank Pizzoli

Packing the house with 150 people at Harrisburg’s Midtown Scholar Bookstore seems routine when Harrisburg Hope offers the public a microphone.

Four candidates for the 103rd State House seated held by Rep. Ron Buxton assembled at the midtown bookstore tonight (March 1) to field questions from the public.

Selected Grand Marshall of the 2010 PrideFest Unity Parade, Buxton is not seeking re-election. Recently, he’s been criticized for not playing a stronger role in protecting the city’s interests as the city’s fiscal dilemmas unfolded.

Buxton was in the audience, as were many other elected city officials along with openly-gay Kelly McEntee, running for 105th District State Representative seat in Dauphin County and Chris Dietz, who is campaigning for the 104th District State Representative seat in Dauphin County (if his district boundaries remain the same), and possibly Lebanon County if boundaries change.

103rd District candidates present were Harrisburg City Councilwoman Patty Kim, former Harrisburg Council President Gloria Martin-Roberts, former Harrisburg School Board President Roy Christ, and charter school administrator Karl Singleton.

The 103rd legislative district includes the Harrisburg City, Swatara Township (part), Steelton Borough, Highspire Borough, and the Central Dauphin, Harrisburg City, Steelton-Highspire school districts, as well as Harrisburg Area Community College, Harrisburg University, Penn State-Harrisburg.

Harrisburg Hope’s Alan Kennedy-Shaffer moderated the panel with his usual panache and established pattern of asking three questions before turning the microphone over to the public.

Against Same-sex Marriage
The most significant statements made regarding lgbt civil rights came from former Council President Gloria Martin-Roberts and charter school administrator Karl Singleton.

When asked if they would support same-sex marriage by openly-gay Harrisburg City Treasurer John Campbell, representing Equality Pennsylvania, Martin-Roberts said, “I do not support” such measures. Singleton said he also does not support the unions, clarifying that although he wouldn’t work for such legislation neither would he work against it.

Crist brought a round of laughter from the crowd when he said, “If you don’t agree with same-sex marriage, then don’t marry someone of the same sex.”

Kim said she thought all citizens should have the same civil rights in every way possible.

Anti-discrimination Laws Okay
When Josh Appleman, representing the LGBT Community Center Coalition, asked the candidates if they would support anti-discrimination legislation regarding employment and other public accommodations, all four candidates agreed they would support such measures. “I’d be honored to support such legislation,” Kim said.

Other Issues
There were familiar themes flavoring the evening’s public discussion.

As might be expected with three failing school districts in the legislative district, all four candidates favor educational reforms. None of the candidates support tuition vouchers.

Environmental issues and “greening” properties was on their list too as a way to recover blighted areas scarring the landscape all over the district. Martin-Roberts made special mention of access to health care services noting that “nothing else matters” if you don’t have your health and insurance coverage.

Marcellus Shale drilling and the way the Corbett administration has fought off taxation irked all four panelists. Like a chorus singing from the same book, they called for drilling taxes. Singleton reminded the audience of the history of the Coal Barons in Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Coal Region. “Drive not too far north of here and it looks like the ground was bombed with what they left behind,” he said.

As is the Harrisburg Hope custom, Kennedy-Shaffer presented each candidate with a Civility Award signifying the non-partisan organization’s goal of promoting civility in the public arena.

Next Opportunities
The next opportunity for public comment on the city and region’s state of affairs is March 8, 6 p.m. at the bookstore. Then Pa. Senate candidates, both Democrats and Republicans assemble to address the public. Invited candidates for the 15th District Senate seat are Rob Teplitz, Alvin Taylor, Josh First, John McNally, and Bill Seeds. Sen. Jeff Piccola is not seeking re-election and is the legislative architect of legislation that has, among other things, eliminated until June 30, 2012 the ability of the city to petition the court for bankruptcy.

March 15, 6 p.m. Kennedy-Shaffer and Harrisburg Hope hosts Receiver Unkovic, Harrisburg’s Mayor Thompson, City Council Vice President Eugenia Smith.

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