Monday, March 24, 2014

Notes from PA Progressive Summit Governor Candidate's Debate

On Friday, February 28th, the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit hosted a debate for the Democratic candidates for governor.  I wasn't there in person but taped the debate as it was broadcast on PCN.  Later I watched it and took rough notes.  This is not intended as a formal transcript -- it is just notes I took while watching.  Interested readers should visit the candidates' websites and investigate further on their own.

Mike Morrill introduces Eileen Connelly who will moderate. 

2 minutes each for opening and closing statements, order alphabetical in opening and reverse in closing.  The initial questions from organizations that are part of conference organizing team, other questions from audience.  One minute, 30 second answers, rebuttals for 30 seconds.  Order of answers rotates. 

John Hanger (Mr. Hanger  has withdrawn from the race since the debate was held)
Jo Ellen Litz
Katie McGinty
Allyson Schwartz
Rob McCord

Opening Statements

JH:  We do need a Democrat as governor but we also need bold progressive change.  Summed up in one sentence jobs not jails, schools not jails, legalized marijuana not jails.  Plan to let all students attend community college and one year at a state university with no debt.  Raise minimum wage, rebuild unions.  Time for Democrats to stand with unions, tell people to join a union.  Seize our energy opportunities.  I have unique energy experience.  Stand against oil and gas when water contaminated.  Toughest set of regulatory proposals, wrote moratorium on state forest drilling.  Increase solar by 10x, wind by 4x.  For single payer health insurance.

JL:  county commissioner in Lebanon Co.  also owned and operated an auto body shop for 20 years, also done commercial rentals, on water commission board to help clean water, head of MPO, head of election board, on prison board, on board of county home.  Campaign is about roads and bridges, water and sewers, economy building jobs that support families.  These are the things our workers want.  It’s about jobs, solid jobs that will be around for a long time.

RM:  Thank Eileen, thank friends on dais and in audience.  Many of you are thought leaders who will examine plans.  Mom went through tough divorce, moved from NY to PA for public schools, dropped from middle class, public schools discovered my dyslexia, pa public education helped get me into Harvard, help generate thousands of job, go to Wharton, elected to office, fiscal watchdog.  Other kids won’t be able to live their dreams if Corbett in office.  Need to defeat and evict Tom Corbett.

KM:  Thanks to everyone for fighting for our values.  I’m driven by that shared sense of meaning and values.  Ninth of 10 kids, dad worked for 35 years as police officer.  Union looked out for him, and allowed all 10 kids to have a shot at the dream Rob talked about.  Mom took care of house and then had job as a hostess at a restaurant.  Worked to build a better home and a better family.  So when we talk about the issues we are concerned about.  I will work for pension and retirement, that was dignity for my dad.  I will work for benefits and wages for restaurant workers.  Education was my ticket, I was first in my family to go to college.  At 29 I was an advisor to president of US.

AS:  I’m running because we cannot afford 4 more years of Tom Corbett.  Need a governor that will take on state governor and stalled government.  Need a governor with record of accomplishment.  We need a woman governor, will change politics in Harrisburg forever.  Time to defy expectations and do this together.  Every child needs quality education.  Every Pennsylvanian needs access to health care.  I’m the only woman in PA congressional delegation.  I can be tough.  I can take on big challenges and can get things done.  You might know me for getting CHIP program done, would not have gotten done without my work in the state senate.  Became model for CHIP program in all 50 states.  We took on a challenge, got a smart solution.

TW:  Thanks.  Running because we need to move in a different direction, need a different kind of governor.  Grew up in small town, went to Peace Corps, got PhD, got into family business, drove a forklift and a truck.   Bought the business with two cousins, built in into one of the largest building supply businesses in the US.  Offer employees outstanding benefits.  Sold business and joined Rendell cabinet.  Company was tanking, bought it back, turned it around.  Need to move in a new direction. 

Q1:  Affordable Care Act, support single payer?

JL:  I was running for governor, didn’t think it would be an issue.  We have a system in place and it’s the law.  At public meetings there were several comments and questions.  Learned about problems, like not bidding out pharmacy goods.  There is room for improvement.  Open to moving towards single payer.  Important that people have medical coverage.  Our local hospital was a community hospital, everyone got care, everyone picked up the tab.  We have two different clinics, one for working poor, one for unemployed.

RM:  A sign that Corbett has declined to accept Medicare expansion.  When rich people do something criminal they are seldom held accountable.  Would like to work with others to develop plans for continuous improvement.  Words single payer are catnip to this audience.  I want the hearts and minds of people who are progressives and pragmatists.  Expand and protect Medicare.  Will live with law as it exists.  Will innovate continuously.

KM:  Many issues that a governor would face that are very hard.  Expanding Medicare is not hard.  People have paid for this already with their taxes.  Need to go further.  Whole series of issues where consumer beware.  Governor needs to set up.  Example, with governor blaming consumers for rising electricity rates.  With health care also need disclosure of costs.  With single payer the way to drive down costs is to increase pool of those covered.

AS:  Only one in the state to have spent many many hours working to pass ACA.  We finally found a way to get health coverage to every America.  Proud to be a part of that, make sure preexisting conditions in children covered, protect Medicare and Medicaid.  As PA governor I would absolutely take Medicaid expansion.  Should not leave 500,000 Pennsylvanians without coverage.  I would change that on day one.  We can do this and we should.

TW:  Expand Medicaid so 500,000 will be covered, set up state exchanges, do what we can to make ACA work.  Figure out how to make affordable health care available to all Pennsylvanians.  Single payer is something we should consider. 

JH:  Compliment Allyson Schwartz for work in healthcare.  I would not have served on PA Utility commission without her supports.  Single payer absolutely.  Health care is a human right.  Medicaid expansion is a partial answer.  I believe in what is said in Matthew, what you did to the least of these you did unto me.:  For moral reasons I support single payer.  My wife is a physician.  Single payer is good for business.  We won’t rebirth manufacturing if we don’t have single payer. 

Q2:  Possible that $100 Million will be spent on this race.  Does this distort democracy?  Do you support campaign finance reform, public financing?

RM:  Yes and yes.  Would love to have series of Lincoln Douglass debates

KM:  Yes, spending 80% of my time on fundraising, feel 0% good about that.  We need to change that.  When I was working at the White House with Clinton, people would say aren’t all politics corrupt.  Never saw what people’s stereotypic view of corruption is, but did see corruption of people’s efforts to keep paying the meter.  I had tons of authority because others had to spend so much time fundraising.  Should be spending time getting things done and making it happen. 

AS:  Support campaign finance reform, should be limits on gifts, should be disclosure, is a challenge for non-self-funders.  9,000 people have made contributions to my campaign, average contribution is about $250.  From people who believe in change, believe I can lead, believe in my vision, appreciate what they are doing. 

TW:  I have a special perspective, having put $10 million of my own money into the race.  Lament that money distorts race.  I put my own money in because I don’t have too many other advantages in this race.  Television allows me to tell my story.  I’m playing by the rules of the game as they exist now.  If elected would do everything I could to change the rules.

JH:  Was for public financing and campaign finance reform before it was cool.  Asked for people running to agree to $5 million limit.  No one took me up on it.  Money distorts democracy.  Its’ a big money game.  I have not spent time raising money but talking to people.  Gov Cuomo in NY is making public financing of campaigns a major legislative issue.  Hope candidates are sincere about changing it

JL:  yes and yes.  Running a grassroots campaign. 

Q3:  Pennsylvania cyber charter schools an abject failure.  What will you do to stop them?

KM:  Priority #1 is to pay us a severance tax with all of it going to Corbett cuts that have eviscerated educated.  After school tutoring has been cut, classrooms overcrowded, too many requirements for teachers, draining creativity from classroom, this is the end of economic prosperity.  Charter schools top to bottom need to be reformed.  Need to have openness and transparency in what we are paying.  Makes no sense for cyber charter to charge the same as a brick and mortar school.

AS:  cyber charter have a simple answer, stop funding them, $375 million dollars, not evidence of helping children learn.  Draining money from public schools.  Need to demand accountability from charters, some very good, some very bad.  Close public schools that are failing, make local school districts accountability.  Fund public schools, restore cuts, make sure children start school ready to learn, universal pre-k and full day kindergarten.  My kids when to Philly public schools.

TW:  Believe that cyber charters need to be accountable.  Find fair way to fund them, not take money from public schools.  Where do cyber charters come from?  From cronyism, friends of people in high places, function of people looking at education as a private not a public good.  Everyone benefits from good public education.  If we understand that then funding public education is a self-interest.  We all share in funding of bad public education too. 

JH:  cyber charters when you look at reading and math scores and grad rates are terrible.  Only thing they do is put up big billboards.  It’s a scam.  Stealing money from Pennsylvanians.  Make it accountable.  Not opposed to all charter schools.  Poor performing charters – opposed to your tax money going to those.  That money coming from public school budgets.  Not an accident – there is a real effort to privatize public education.  Should not be turned into a profit center.  Shame on Corbett and legislature. 

JL:  support public schools, teachers are to be honored and revered.  Children are out precious resource for the future.  I do believe that cyber chargers should be associated with a school district and should boards have oversight, follow same rules as public schools.  Not a level playing field, two sets of rules.  We have a public schools for a reason, lets us them. 

RM:  one of many ripoffs of crony capitalism of current administration.  Almost villainous.  I’ve been in the arena fighting Corbett more than anybody.  One example of a pure ripoff.  Remember to speak in plain terms.  Corbett talked about a “spend number.”  Watch out for words used.  They will blame the victim, blame teachers.  Not just the what but the who and the how.  I can and will win this fight.


RB:  we cannot afford to put all eggs in one basket, not just severance tax, but look at tax loopholes.

JH:  legalize and tax marijuana and put money into schools.

Q4: Payday loans have interest rates that make it almost impossible to repay.  There are efforts to make it easier to get payday loans.  Do you support this?

AS:  I worked to make sure consumers had more protections against payday loans and other types of protections, such as credit cards, and Wall St predators.  I would stand on the side of consumers.

TW:  We have a history of the government intervening when consumers are harmed by practices in the market.  It is fully appropriate for the government to interfere here.  Strong on consumer protection and payday loans.  Make sure playing field is level, make sure worst abuses controlled.

JH:  This issue is quite personal to me.  I’m an immigrant to this country.  Immigrants are often targeted by loansharks.  Worked as an attorney in Pennsylvania and saw how poorly regulated payday loans were.   Not a service useful to capitalist system.  Absolutely regulated or outlawed.

JL :  Payday loans prey upon the poor.  Reverse of Robin Hood.  If they want to do it right they would lend the money at a reasonable rate.  Agree they are loansharks.

RM:  At Treasury we were part of Good Choice [missed this word] Program, working with credit unions.  Effective compound interest rate of 400%, worked with credit unions to provide options.  Mom was worried I would make my life too much about money.  Democrats had a lot of lawyers but not enough people with MBAs to help not just job creators and entrepreneurs but hard working people

KM:  pure and simple preying on the poor.  Consumer protection.  There are people on the verge of losing their home or business because they signed up for electricity plans when after a year of cheap rates flipped over to ballooning rates.  Gov. Corbett says it’s the consumer’s fault.  Need to go further in protecting the consumer in health care costs.  About making it so people don’t have to grovel and beg to make a living.  Increase minimum wage.  Defined benefits.  Not doubling down on Wall Street and hedge fund managers. 

Q5: PA Womens Health Caucus.  In December launched an agenda.  Corbett administration proposal to cut benefits for people on Medicaid

TW:  We need to reverse the war on women.  Much if not all of what the right is doing is to disempower women.  Women need to be able to fully participate in workforce, have a full seat at the table.  Make sure state is open for business to everybody.

JH:  Start with Medicaid expansion.  In Oct 2013 our campaign looked at Gov. Cuomo’s agenda for women in NY.  We made it our own.  We need to make sure increasing number of health practitioners who can work with women, nurse practitioners, midwives, better health care in their homes, health care often delivered by women. 

JL:  In Lebanon County we have a couple of non-profit groups that share quarters.  Used to be in less than desirable buildings.  Vision of community now next to community college in beautiful quarters.  That is to be emulated throughout Pennsylvania.  Domestic violence intervention shelters.  Important that we have these sorts of facilities and support local non-profits.  We can do a lot more on state and national levels. 

RM:  We should be backing bicameral bipartisan support in women’s health network.  Alarmingly high fraction of women abused and feel they have to keep it secret.  Protect women from violence and harassment.  Pro-choice.  I’ve spent years telling people women are 3 x more likely than men to drop poverty after age 60.  Support an increased minimum wage of $10 / hour. 

KM:  I look forward to being your first female governor.  Prochoice, will fight for women every day, for pay equity.  Food assistance.  This governor has made it harder for families to eat.  Women having to work two and three jobs, leave kids at home, to make ends meet.  80% of those receiving minimum wage are over 20 years old, 60% are moms. 

AS:  Dedicated my public life and private sector wok to standing up for families.  When I was 26 years old, I started a women’s health center in Philadelphia, allowed women to have access to a full range of health services, helped protect women, prenatal care, out of hospital birth center, first term abortions.  I would not forget the needs of women, we’ll know what to do.


JL:  rebut Rob, as a small business person, need to make it more lucrative to work tan be on welfare, need to raise minimum wage a dollar a year, so not to bankrupt small business.

RM:  In a year my proposal would put $5200 dollars a year in a single mom’s paycheck.  Economists thought it would hurt small business but it did not.  WalMart and McDonalds can afford this.

Q6:  How can we work with law abiding gun owners for sensible gun regulations?

JH:  This is an important substantive question, issue of individual liberty, gun safety in homes.  A lot of independent voters and GOP voters won’t vote for a Democratic governor candidate because they think we don’t respect gun ownership.  I do respect gun owners and the second amendment.  You have to start there and then you will have some credibility and can then talk about sensible gun safety measures.  Outrageous that we don’t have comprehensive background checks.  Mentally ill, people with psychotic issues should not be able to get guns.

JL: I’m pro 2nd amendment with background checks.  As a girl we ate well because of hunting, rabbit, venison.  It should be possible anywhere to do a background check.

RM:  you can be pro 2nd amendment and pro background check.  Fight the good fight and expand the conversation.  Invest a lot of respect with this conversation.  People do defend themselves in remote rural areas, 1 in 3 households in Pennsylvania are hunting households.  The real good work we can get done quickly, invest in police in high density high crime areas.  If we invest in public education and job education in the right way we will reduce violence.

KM:  This is an issue we can take up and can find common ground on it, close loopholes on background checks, take on violence and criminals, bring sportsmen together to pursue this common sense agenda.  Looking at the experience of the candidates, have you sat on the hot seat on the issues, find those winning issues.  When I came into office people said we are a coal state and I wouldn’t be able to do environmental issues, but I brought people together and we were number one on wind energy.  Newt Gingrich came to town with Contract with America but it was under his leadership that I was able to get things done.

AS:  I too respect 2nd amendment and law abiding citizens use guns for self-defense and sport.  I have voted for sensible gun safety laws, background checks.  Many of the gun owners I talk to agree.  They don’t’ want criminals to have guns.  Protect our law enforcement officers.  Been to funerals where police outgunned on our streets.  Work with DAs to get illegal guns off our streets. 

TW:  common ground is what we need.  In my area the first day of hunting season is a school holiday.  But gun violence is epidemic.  Balance rights of legal gun owners with sensible regulations, reasonable background checks, straw purchases, ban on assault weapons.

Q7:  Libertarian, Green, and independent candidates face difficult ballot access.  Support level playing field?

JL:  This question has really intrigued me.  Sitting on the election board I have noticed that a Libertarian candidate can set up a flea market and get anyone to sign their petition and they have more time to do it and they are not standing out in the snow and ice like we are.  Why wouldn’t they get more signatures than we have to.  They are looking for sympathy but look what we are having to do in this weather.

RM:  I applaud your answers but I would honestly say no.  Focus and passion is a huge part of what you actually have to invest to get things done.  If we run this campaign saying we will do everything for everyone we won’t succeed.  I am running on education and job creation.  Tom and I can sit around and talk about constitutional issues for days.  What we should probably do is talk about popular vote so people are truly represented in every state, blue, red or purple.

KM:  Our political process gotten bogged down.  If the US is to lead again, this is killing us as a country.  Each party should be able to put up the candidate they want to be their representative.  We need to shake things up folks.  It is time for changes, to enable people who are passionate and care to be involved.  Disgrace of governor’s effort to keep people away from voter booth.  Had 3 years to come up with a single case of voter fraud and he hasn’t.  I would work hard to engage citizens to be involved, to care and make a difference.

AS:  I would not change the rules on this.  The issue here is really to engage more voters in voting; the issue is voting rights.  We see fewer people coming ot the polls not more.  Voter id law completely made up to keep fewer Democratic voters to come out.  How outrageous and undemocratic is that.  I would make it easier to register to vote.   Early voting and vote by mail.  Make it easier for people with busy lives to vote. 

TW:  We need to get more people out to vote make our two party system stronger, do something about gerrymandering, encourage more people to come out to vote, do things to bring people together not fragment. 

JH:  I stronger support these changes.  Lack of confidence in Republican and Democratic parties, let more people on the ballot, bring them on.  The GOP wants fewer people to vote.  Proud to be a Democrat for many reasons.  Democrats want all people to vote, even more Republicans.  People don’t vote because we don’t offer them real bold change.  If you want more young people to vote should get behind legalization of marijuana. 


RM:  Do not believe government gridlock is because of too few people on the ballot.  People want an engaged governor, want government to work again.

TW:  I’m not that big of a geek, Rob.

JH:  One reason our democracy is not working that money has too much influence.

Q8:  Dept of Corrections housed 9420 people at end of 1981, at end of 1991 housed 23,405.  End of 2001 housed 37,995, end of 2011 51,???, [missed this number] increase of over 400% while violent crime is down in same period.  What will you do to reduce number of people in prison?

RM:  change school to prison pipeline, look at sentencing guidelines, dot no incarcerate people for life for some of these crimes.  Do what we can and should to fight crime, protect corrections officers, spend more on schools.  I am endorsed by corrections officers.  Do more to protect people without abusing people who work in corrections.  Corbett couldn’t find money for schools but found for prisons.

KM:  these numbers are so absolutely outrageous and heartbreaking, families destroyed because mom and dad not at home, change sentencing guidelines, addiction services, work with members of the legislature, let young people who get out of prison and stay out of trouble need a second chance.  Restore public education, invest beyond k-12 in skills development, make it affordable.

AS:  numbers staggering, not news to us or governor and general assembly.  Failed system.   Spending so much money on a system that doesn’t work.   Incarcerate people who are a danger and have committed crimes, but sentencing guidelines for minor crimes needs to change.  Do something for first offenders, especially of minor crimes.  Do more for ex-offenders. 

TW:  behind the numbers is the destruction of lives. My companies gives second chances to people who have been accused and committed of minor crimes.  Most companies don’t do that.  People who did something when very young destroys their entire lives. 

JH:  I got off a septa trolley in Philly and next thing I knew I was on the ground with a gun to my head.  People intervened.  So I take violent crime very seriously.  I know the difference between the people who had a gun to my head and people arrested for marijuana.  African Americans arrested for marijuana more than whites.  Need affordable college, lets those re-entering from prison to get back on their feet.

JL:  all counties are charged with having a prison for providing sentencing rooms for their people.  At Lebanon County our prison population is around 500, many have mental illnesses or addiction, many are also veterans, need veterans courts, ankle bracelet monitoring.  There are other options out there. 

RM:  as opposed to putting more people on the ballot, prisoners count as head count in GOP head counting [I didn’t get this down correctly – something to do with prisoners counting as residents when drawing political districts but they can’t vote.]  That’s like 3/5 of a person.  There is no excuse for that in the next redistricting.

Q9:  support Pennsylvania Democratic party’s call for moratorium on new fracking wells?

KM:  yes in public parks and forests, against companies that break laws, support shale tax.  We have to do much more to ensure against environmental damage in the development of our resources, would push hard to water quality, need to take on issue of greenhouse gases in natural gas

AS:  support moratorium in state parks and forests.  Demand and expect high standards from drillers.  Make sure it is done responsibly and enforce that.  Severance tax of 5%, reinvest in econ growth across the state.  Use some of the money to invest in green energy.

TW:  share the frustration and concern, support the moratorium on state lands and private land where owners don’t want fracking.  Should do it responsibly, agree on 5% severance tax.  Gives us hundreds of millions of dollars to schools, for local governments

JH:  wrote moratorium for state forests in 2010.  Support keeping it out parks.  Support policy of Delaware River Basin Commission, overturn Act 13 so local governments have right to separate residential and industrial activity.  Require new inspectors, protect citizens who have drilling complaints.

JL:  ban on fracking in parks and forest.  Need extraction tax, 6%.  Local control of zoning in important, conservation districts should inspect sites, pull licenses of those who break laws.

RM:  agree with KM and JH.  I disagree with state committee.  I’m not, like Corbett, owned by JR Ewing wing of industries.  Create thousands of stem related jobs can earn back public trust.

Q10:  very little difference in your answers, how would you differ yourself form other candidates, why should progressives vote for you

AS:  Pennsylvania ready for progressive and big ideas, can do big things again.  Need a governor that also embraces that notion.  I have a record showing I know how to get things done.  Time when we can defy expectations.  Make Pennsylvania great again.  Have great assets, great opportunities.  Third woman in state senate, only woman in congressional delegation.  People want to see me be first woman governor of Pennsylvania. 

TW:  what makes me different is breadth of life experiences that no one else in this group has.  I actually know that the things we all believe in as progressives, understand that they are not only right but they are smart.  Idea that we can make this world fair.  That’s why I share profits with workers.  They are right but they actually work.  I understand how the real work works.

JH:  there are real differences.  I’m for single payer, legalizing and taxing marijuana.  You can’t take in mass incarceration if you don’t decriminalize marijuana.  Plan to let people go to 2 years of community college and one year of state college with no debt.  I wrote the climate action plan.  Immigrant, public services attorney, not beholden to big money.

JL:  my motto is people above politics. Boots on the ground of local government.  have experience of unfunded mandates. Been to 67 counties, how much we are the same.  We all want the same things, good paying jobs, for our children to be successful.  I’m 62, not playing games.  I’m in this to win this.  I can do it with you help.  I will serve you with honesty and integrity. 

RM:  I would celebrate the question.  This is a little bit of a job interview.  Consider experience.  Most voters, certainly most Democrats.  Of candidates spent most time in the arena, fighting and defeating Corbett.  We’ve fought him and we’ve beat him.  I’ve run three times in a contested primary, a self made business guy not a career guy but someone who knows how Harrisburg works. Hope this is a team of rivals.

KM:  the things you stand for are worth fighting for.  Have been on the hot seat on some of these issues for 25 years.  Just stopping bad things from happening isn’t enough, must work on progressive agenda.  When I was Secretary of Energy we were a national leader.   We brought all kinds of building materials companies here.  When Newt Gingrich said no regulation is a good regulation we passed water quality laws.

Closing Statement: 

TW:  thanks.  I want to do this.  I recognize I am an unconventional candidate.  You have to bring people together not pull them apart.  Fairness actually matters to human beings.  I want to take Pennsylvania to the kind of future we all want and deserve

AS:  I’m running to take on those stale politics in Harrisburg.  You need someone that not only shares your vision but can get things done.  I can get things done.  I was told that I’m awfully nice but damned determined.  They were right, I’m very determined. 

KM:  proud daughter of a hard working family, to work for hard working families.  I will be your standard bearer of those values that invest in our children and in jobs that will pay a decent living wage.  Not a career politician but it won’t be on the job training in the governor’s office, 25 years experience helping us to grow, believes deeply in Pennsylvania

RM:  thanks.  Not a career politician, but head of revenue, increased productivity by 62%, repaired tuition program.  Motivation.  I love people.  I love people and know how to be warm.  But I also know how to fight.  Remember what my mom went through.  My wife’s uncle died because he wasn’t allowed in a whites only emergency room.  I will fight.

JL:  about turning Pennsylvania around.  This is my vision.  Vote for it.

JH:  I came to the US from Ireland in 1970.  Something’s gone very badly wrong with our economy.  We need bold progressive change.  We need a governor who will take those bold progressive changes.  Jobs not jails, schools not jails.  I’m the only candidate up here who has carried a union card.  Serious about a new birth of freedom, woman’s right to choose, marriage equality, legalize marijuana. 

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