2012 Campaign Trail Analysis: Pa. Senate Primary Race Heats Up

From left: Teplitz, First, Seeds.


Not your father’s Republican

By Frank Pizzoli
March 9, 2010

March 8 more than 100 people made the ceremonial trek to Harrisburg’s Midtown Scholar Bookstore, the city’s crossroads of community involvement, to hear three of the five announced Senate candidates plead their case.

Democratic candidate Rob Teplitz, chief counsel to Auditor General Jack Wagner; Harrisburg businessman and Republican Josh First, and Lower Paxton Township Supervisor and Republican Bill Seeds addressed the crowd. Invited but not attending were Alvin Q. Taylor, former county commissioner candidate, and John McNally, former Dauphin County Republican Committee chairman.

Following custom, Harrisburg Hope’s Alan Kennedy-Shaffer offered his initial broad-based questions before turning the microphone over to the public.

Moderate Republicans?
One theme for sure is that First and Seeds are not your father’s Republican. They are more like what used to be called a Rockefeller Republican, a GOP faction who held moderate to liberal views. The term today is “moderate Republican.” Modern Rockefeller Republicans are typically center-right, reject far-right policies, and are culturally liberal. Many espouse government and private investments in environmentalism, healthcare and higher education as necessities for the nation’s growth, in the tradition of Nelson Rockefeller, Alexander Hamilton and Theodore Roosevelt.

For example, Richard Nixon, a moderate, establishment Republican founded the Environmental Protection Agency, cooled tensions with China and the Soviet Union, and in 1971 announced he was a Keynesian, meaning government can and should stimulate the economy when needed. Rockefeller Republicans were very common in the New England, West Coast, and the Middle Atlantic States, where there historically existed larger liberal constituencies.

Discrimination
Both First and Seeds think any form of discrimination is wrong without the usual weasel-out caveat that they exclude include lgbt voters. Both would support House Bill 300 that would make it illegal in Pennsylvania to fire someone for being gay, among other public accommodation protections. The measure has been introduced many times without success. Teplitz would co-sponsor such a measure.

Drilling tax
One couldn’t have started a fight on this issue if he tried. All three candidates think the Corbett administration has mishandled the situation by allowing Marcellus Shale drilling to damage the environment without extracting dollars to pay for that damage. First disclosed that he is an investor in land sites that have drillable gas and in land without gas underneath and even he wasn’t happy with the situation.

Pay fair share
All three candidates think that Harrisburg, in serving as the state’s capital, is forced to provide services yet the state has never adequately provided for what the city looses in tax revenue. The Capital Complex, related state-owned properties, and many nonprofit parcels are not taxable.

State workers and others essentially double the city’s population daily, using roads, bridges, water and sewage, and other city resources for what amounts to a free ride. As a group, the amount of money they may spend on lunch, dinner or happy hour – which represent discretionary expenditures – in no way comes close to the level of regular grind they apply to the city.

Schools
All three candidates agree that the current educational system – locally and nationally – is broken. In one form or another they favor charter schools, public and/or private school vouchers, and deep reform. Seeds stressed, and the two others amplified, how basing education on real estate taxes is an antiquated way to run the system.

Impressions
I think the term limits question provides a way to further evaluate these three candidates.

My impressions are that Teplitz is a ready-made machine candidate. The fact that he said “I’m not going to commit” when asked about term limits was revealing. He did say that he thought term limits should apply to the executive branch because they set the tone, as if entrenched members of an assembly do not.

First stated for the record he would not seek more than three, four-year Senate terms, would not accept a state pension, car or perks. Seeds committed to no more than two terms.

If elected, Seeds would leave after two terms.

Next Opportunity
The next opportunity for public comment on the city and region’s state of affairs is March 15, 6 p.m. Kennedy-Shaffer and Harrisburg Hope hosts Receiver David Unkovic, Harrisburg’s Mayor Thompson, City Council Vice President Eugenia Smith.

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