Yesterday, on Tuesday, April 10th, the League of Women Voters held a debate between the two candidates for the special election / primary in the 153rd state house district. Democrat Madeleine Dean and Republican Nick Mattiacci are running to fill out Josh Shapiro’s term, and as their party's primary candidates for general election the November.
I attended the debate and took notes. This is not intended to be a full transcript. Voters and other interested parties should research the candidates or contact the campaigns for clarification. I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions.
Due to a directional mishap I missed the introductory comments and the first part of Madeleine Dean’s opening statement. Comments later in the evening indicated that some questions were distributed to the candidates in advance and others were taken from the audience.
MD: I am a mother, former small business owner, teacher. Concerns are education, economic environment and the elderly.
NM: Asks how many LWV members are in the audience. Asks how many are registered Republicans. [Mattiaci is told by the moderator that this is an inappropriate question as the LWV is a bipartisan organization.] I’ve knocked on 4,000 doors. People want good jobs, good schools, good government. Not running to be a Republican representative but happen to be a Republican. Don’t agree with all Republican ideas. Disagree with cuts to education. Reduce corporate tax rate from 9.99 to 6.99.
Q1: Campaign finance reform, references campaign contributions in previous elections from Marcellus Shale industry and educational voucher supporters
NM: Polls show that Pennsylvanians favored Marcellus Shale drilling and vouchers but candidates and officials should not pander to special interests.
MD: Campaigns are expensive. Candidates are required to report large contributions from special interests. Would like to see something like federal limits, but these do not limit outside organizations like superpacs.
Q2: privatizing services, for example the Turnpike, prisons, schools, should there be referendums on this?
MD: Government has a role to play in some areas, references the Luzerne “kids for cash” scandal. Shouldn’t privatize prisons. State liquor stores brought in $100 million and PA has a low rate of underage drinking.
NM: Privatization is not the solution, just a quick fix. References privatization of Chicago Parking Authority. Government regulation is warranted.
Q3: Public education, 3 most important things you would want to improve.
MD: As a teacher and a mother, education central to who our children become. Corbett slashed education. We need to wisely spend. Restoring strong nutrition program, strong pre-K program, and full day kindergarten. Bottom up review of education funding, not top down. Funding right kinds of programs. We have good schools.
NM: We have good schools here because we care. Accountability. Education is 30% of the state budget. Against Corbett cuts. As a Republican and part of the majority I could make sure we get our fair share. Cuts are because Gov. Rendell didn’t fund the pension fund. Champion special education. Teacher accountability. Student accountability. Challenge our children.
Q4: Environmental protection
NM: State has responsibility for clear air, and water and open space. Studies show Marcellus Shale drilling has not negative impact on drinking water. Concern about lack of transparency with fracking chemicals. Since this involves interstate commerce the federal government could get involved.
MD: Very concerned about fracking. Foolish to think slurry chemicals, not revealed, not having an impact. Corbett signed Act 13 which includes a gag order for doctors – they can’t tell patients an illness could have been caused by natural gas drilling. Clean air and water in the PA Constitution.
Q5: Voter ID. Anticipate challenge.
NM: There will be a challenge and that is our right in a democracy. Integrity of voter right is important. Don’t believe it will disenfranchise voters. References case of someone impersonating Eric Holder and voting.
MD: Eric Holder case – person didn’t not sign in and could not vote. There is a practice run for voter ID at the special election / primary. Fully in place in November. Zero cases prosecuted by Corbett. Student IDs without expiration dates can’t vote. Fewer than 10 cases in 10 years documented. Elderly widows who don’t drive have to get birth certificate and marriage license to get proper ID.
NM: PA not the first state to do this. No study shows that this disenfranchises voters. Ten cases is ten too many.
Moderator: Eight counties don’t have DMV offices.
NM: I will personally take care of this.
MD: System not broken.
Q6: If you had a magic want what legislation would you want signed?
MD: Look at what has passed. I would be the opposite of the current majority. I would reverse a lot of it.
NM: I do have a magic wand so if you want a representative with a magic wand you should elect me. I would lower the corporate tax rate. Close Delaware loophole. Tax Marcellus Shale to hold line on school taxes for the elderly.
MD: Corporate tax and real estate tax required a Constitutional change.
Q7: Women’s right to choose, yes or no
NM: Can’t give a yes or no. Need to move away from this as a way to judge candidates.
MD: Like C. Everett Koop I believe an abortion is a failure, but I believe in a women’s right to choose.
Q8: Stand your ground laws
NM: Believe in the Castle Doctrine. Haven’t read Stand Your Ground.
MD: PA has one more layer than Florida. Only entitled to self-defense if opponent has a gun or other weapon. Disagree with this legislation.
Q9: School vouchers
MD: I teach college freshman and see students prepared and not so prepared. Went to Abington Public Schools. Want full funding for public schools, not in favor of vouchers.
NM: Oppose. Vouchers would take money away from public schools. However, there are bills that would take voucher money out of the general fund and only for lower performing schools.
Q10: casino gambling
NM: Doesn’t have the negative impact we thought. Saves seniors money.
MD: It is here. Used for property tax relief.
Q11: Fracking before impact understood
NM: More needs to be done to assure it is okay. Studies have not shown any conclusive proof.
Q12: Act 13, nominal tax on fracking, municipal rights
MD: Can’t have just local control, but strong state oversight. Legislation is troubling because reduces local oversight.
NM: Wastewater – state needs to get more involved.
Q13: Madeleine Dean, will you resign from Abington Township Board of Commissioners?
MD: I’m the commissioner for Ward 7, enjoy that. If you’d told me a year ago that I would be running for state rep I wouldn’t have believed you. I don’t know when I’d resign. Would not want any conflict of interest to arise.
Q14: Abington Township passed a proclamation urging state to pass non-discrimination, HB 300. Should the township pass such a law?
MD: In favor of HB 300. Basic question of human rights.
NM: Discrimination should not be allowed. Would support this on a state level not a township level. Discussion has not shown any instance of discrimination on the local level.
MD: State has failed to pass it.
Q15: Salary of legislative body is 2nd highest in country. Should we have a part time legislature?
NM: Salary is what it is. I don’t know what it is. Just to run had to give up job and benefits. Have 2 young kids. Gave up so much because committed to this job and this job only. No longer has dental insurance and wife broke a tooth.
MD: Reform of our state legislature. Are we overstaffing our state legislature? It is a full time job.
Q17: Support dissolving state liquor board?
Q18: Nick, where have you been? Why getting involved now?
NM: Got law degree, then job in Philly Parking Authority, got a masters degree in [missed this], with my wife for 13 years, 2 sons, ages two and a half and almost one. Getting involved now because want to represent interests of district. Won’t toe party line.
Q19: Madeleine, why declare candidacy just days after winning commissioner’s seat.
MD: Wasn’t only days. Not opportunistic but seizing an opportunity.
NM: Dean always giving party line answers. My candidacy is independent of ideology or party.
MD: Lived here for 52 years, raised children here. Honored for this chance to serve.