Candidate Forums

51st District candidates talk gridlock, pending legislation in forum

By Mike Tony

Published 10:32 AM EDT

LEMONT FURNACE — The two candidates running for state representative in the 51st Legislative District also discussed at a recent forum approaches to politically driven issues, such as gridlock in Harrisburg, per diems and the presidential election.

Incumbent Tim Mahoney, D-South Union Township, said he can work with Republicans, citing the fact that he spearheaded legislation in bipartisan fashion to expand the state Right-to-Know Law as the prime sponsor of the House version of the bill.

His Republican challenger, Matthew Dowling, though, said Mahoney was “part of the issue of not allowing us to have a bipartisan solution on the budget last year.”

Mahoney countered by distancing himself from Gov. Tom Wolf, something he did often throughout the evening.

“I’m probably Gov. Wolf’s number one nemesis in the House as a Democrat,” Mahoney said. “I voted against the budget. I was a leader of the 11 Democrats that voted against the budget. We ended the crisis.”

Mahoney was one of the House Democrats who voted for the Republican-backed $6.6 billion supplemental 2015-16 budget which Wolf allowed to become law without his signature in March, ending a nine-month-long budget impasse which hampered social services and schools. In October 2015, Mahoney was one of nine House Democrats — all from southwestern Pennsylvania — to vote against Wolf’s proposal to increase the personal income tax and impose a severance tax on natural gas drilling at a time when the budget impasse was three months running.

In other topics addressed at the forum, Mahoney said he takes per diems and is enrolled in the state pension fund, while Dowling said he doesn’t intend to take per diems but will enroll in the state pension fund.

Both candidates said they supported a joint resolution to reduce the size of the General Assembly from the current 203 representative districts to 151, and both candidates also said they supported the idea that an independent citizens commission be created to draw legislative and congressional maps to address gerrymandering.

The men also opened up about who they felt would best lead the country.

Dowling said he would be voting for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in the presidential election, which he said gave him “great pause” because of “the things that he has said (and) the way he has acted.” Dowling said he thought Trump’s policies were in the best interest of the area and that he worried about where Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “would go” in her four or eight years in office.

Mahoney said he didn’t know who he was going to vote for yet.

“To have our country run by either one of those individuals is scary to me,” Mahoney said.

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