On Thursday, April 24, contenders for the 115th Pennsylvania House of Representatives District Republican primary race squared off during a debate at East Stroudsburg University’s Beers Lecture Hall. The debate was sponsored by ESU’s political science department, the College Republicans, and the American Democracy Project.
The event began with a brief explanation of the format by Dr. Jeffrey Weber, chair of ESU’s political science department. Dr. Weber hosted the debate alongside assistant professor Dr. Adam McGlynn, American Democracy Project coordinator.
After the brief introduction, the floor was given to the candidates for opening statements. There were four debaters in all: David Parker, Jackie Leonard, Pete Begley, and Dr. Anthony Diecidue. Parker is the manager of the Mt. Pocono branch of Cramer’s Home Building Centers, and is a member of the Greater Pocono Chamber of Commerce; Leonard is a Senior Lab Analyst at Sanofi Pasteur and currently serves as a School Board Director for the Pocono Mountain School District; Begley serves on the Borough Council of East Stroudsburg, and is also the alternate delegate for the Stroud Region Open Space Commission, and; Diecidue founded theEye Associates of Monroe County and previously served as the president of the Pennsylvania Optometric Association.
The program consisted of six questions regarding current policy issues. The first was “Would you support the elimination of property taxes and, if so, how would you fund K-12 education?” The candidates unanimously favored cutting property taxes, and generally supported HB/SB 76, or the Property Tax Independence Act, which proposes to replace school property taxes by raising both the personal income and sales taxes.
The next question focused on Common Core, which is essentially a set of curriculum standards that dictates what students will be taught throughout their K-12 education. Leonard was the first to respond, voicing her opposition to the curriculum guidelines. She claims that Common Core was not designed by teachers, and that the program ultimately fails because “not every child is the same.” She also expressed concerns over the United Nations’ Agenda 21, which she called “socialist” and part of a move to create a “one world government.”
The other three candidates were also opposed, with Begley claiming that American students in the 1940s and 1950s were the best in the world, but that Common Core would not restore the current generation to that past standard of excellence. He called for a renewed discipline, morality, and love of learning among students, sentiments which he echoed throughout the debate.
The final question of the night involved current open space laws. The EPA defines open space as “any open piece of land that is undeveloped (has no buildings or other built structures) and is accessible to the public.” The moderator’s question specifically asked if candidates would be in favor of an initiative that supports open space and, if so, how they would balance this with economic development.
Parker expressed his conviction that “counties should be sovereign,” recalling an instance in which voters decided to convert a golf course into open space. He was personally opposed to the measure, he said, but conceded to the “will of the people.” Diecidue echoed the statement to serve the will of the people, but came out more strongly in favor of open space. He asked, “Do we need another strip mall?” He complained that too often new development (such as new strip malls) results only in low-paying retail jobs, which does little to bolster the economy.
In total, the debate ran for slightly longer than an hour and was well attended. For more information regarding the Republican candidates currently in the running, visit www.monroecountygop.com. For upcoming events at ESU, check out www4.esu.edu/events.