This post is one I have been working on for months and having a devil of a time with it. Why so difficult you ask? Several reasons. The initial intent was to look at the record of Sen. Robert M. “Tommy” Tomlinson, the incumbent Republican in the 6th state senate seat. I have been written several posts about his Democratic challenger, Paul Lang, and wanted to get a better feel for who Lang is running against. This proved tricky. Voting records at the state level, as you know, are difficult to get. Tomlinson did vote against last year’s pay raise and did not take advantage of the unvouchered expenses. So he has that in his favor.
One common tactic is to review newspaper articles. A library near me has access to a good newspaper database that includes, among others, The Bucks County Courier Times, the Intelligencer and the two Philadelphia papers. Tomlinson is difficult to search for because of the variant uses of his first name; some papers use Robert others Tommy. To make matters worse there is a Tomlinson Road in the area and a number of other people with that last name. My initial search brought up over 900 articles. To be sure many are duplicates in sister papers but, still, that’s a lot of reading. I started slogging through but many of them were about slots and I’m not interested in gambling so it made for dull reading.
I decided on a more subject oriented approach. The Inquirer recently endorsed Tomlinson and noted his work in special education. I did find articles to back up that assertion. Looking for more local issues, though, proved challenging. Tomlinson is on the Transportation and Appropriations committees (vice chair of appropriations). This puts him in a good position to bring home some bacon. His district has traffic congestion problems and relies heavily on public transportation. However, when I searched for Tomlinson and SEPTA I didn’t find much. Here is one quote:
As if only motivated by impending doom, the Legislature has seen fit to put the whole issue of transportation on a back burner, or maybe off the stove altogether. Bucks County state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, who serves on the Transportation Committee, said he sees no movement on the problem from either the administration or legislative leaders. "I think everybody's decided this is not going to be an issue in this year's budget," Tomlinson said. That budget is due June 30. (Source: "Transit or highways? Lawmakers must decide which is more important," Intelligencer, June 7, 2005
Another transportation related issue very important to his district is the I-95 / Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange, which has been proposed for years but never really gotten anywhere. Other than one article discussing a public meeting that did not seem very effective, I didn’t find much (Matt Coughlin, “Turnpike Meeting Doesn’t Appease Angry Residents, Bucks County Courier Times 2/03/06). There was a lot of information, however, on a proposed Turnpike exit on Street Road to make it easier for people to get to the racetrack where slot machines are slated to go in.
Looking at broader issues, I found this quote from the 2002 election on his views on abortion:
Tomlinson: While he has called himself pro-life and is endorsed by the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Coalition, said Sunday that he is in favor of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act, which allows abortion in the first two trimesters. (“Tomlinson vs. Kostmayer: Issue by issue,” by Rick Martinez, Intelligencer, November 27, 2002)
I looked for information on his involvement in finding a new use for the old Dial Soap building. There wasn’t anything. I looked for information on revitalization. There were a few articles on state grants that he had procured for Penndel, Bensalem, and Bristol . One state grant is slated to expire because few businesses or homeowners applied to use it. Another met with mixed reactions because small businesses were worried that the wider road would hinder customers. So that is a mixed bag. Looking for his involvement in small businesses generally I found an article form this past July on a summit to help small businesses find their way through the paperwork to be involved in slots-related opportunities. (Crissa Shoemaker, “Looking at the Big Picture,” Bucks County Courier Times 7/20/06)
In short I didn’t come up with much other than slots slots slots. There I hit the jackpot. There are hundreds of articles on Tomlinson and Philadelphia Park and gambling. One of the other big attractions in his district is Sesame Place. No articles discuss him in conjunction with that. Ditto with two large retail areas in the district, Oxford Valley Mall and Neshaminy Mall. I supposed we cannot be too surprised when he answered a 2005 question on his agenda with this:
Top agenda items for 2005 (many others spoke about septa or education, etc.)
Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, R-6
Implementation of the landmark gambling legislation, which legalizes slot machines at racetracks and parlors. A new gambling commission staff and executive director must be assembled, and they will move towards issuing the first licenses in 18 months. Tomlinson will monitor the commission's development and also oversee "tweaks" to the law, including rescinding the provision that allows lawmakers to own 1 percent of gambling companies. Also, establishing a dedicated funding stream for public transit.
("Top agendas for 2005," Bucks County Courier Times, January 7, 2005
Shifting gears to the Internet I looked at issue oriented websites for candidates. At www.vote-smart.org there was no information for him, although his opponent had listed positions on a number of issues. His campaign website gives a nice list of endorsements but no issues information. The Pennsylvania League of Conservation Voters gave him a 67% rating on environmental issues.
All in all it was hard to find out exactly where Sen. Tomlinson stands on any of the issues. The two things he seems to be known for are special education and gambling. The first is admirable, the second not so much. There are a lot of economic possibilities in the 6th state senate district, yet he seems to hang his hat on gambling. Personally I wish the state had not okayed slot machines or casinos; it is likely to bring as many or more social ills as the money it raises will solve. Nonetheless that seems to be the one topic Sen.Tomlinson is willing to speak out on.