Davidson, Siddiqui square off in 164th District race

By John Kopp, Delaware County Daily Times

State Rep. Margo Davidson has held the 164th Legislative District seat for four years, serving as the first African-American and woman to represent a district that has become increasingly Democratic.

Her opponent in the general election, Republican Saud Siddiqui, insists the GOP can regain the seat, which Delaware County Vice Chairman Mario Civera held for decades until retiring from Harrisburg.

“I’m daring,” Siddiqui said. “I’m outspoken, bold, blunt. I can go stand up on the podium and fight for rights.”

Davidson, a Democrat from Upper Darby, seeks her third term in Harrisburg. Like many Democrats, she is campaigning on a platform that seeks an extraction tax on natural gas drillers to restore education funding slashed in 2011. She also seeks a fair funding formula to allocate state education dollars.

Davidson said an extraction tax could become a reality if Democrat Tom Wolf is elected governor, even if the state Legislature remains in the control of Republicans. Many suburban Republicans also support an extraction tax.

“I think we may be able to cobble together enough support out of the Southeast for that tax,” said Davidson, who has introduced legislation to tax Marcellus Shale drillers.

Most of that revenue, if not all, should be dedicated to education funding, Davidson said. She said early childhood education programs particularly need more funding.

“That’s a proven strategy to improve education outcomes,” she said.

Davidson touted the additional $2.7 million she and state Rep. Nick Micozzie, R-163, of Upper Darby, secured for the Upper Darby School District in 2012 when its stories arts program nearly was eliminated. She also emphasized her efforts to revitalize the 69th Street Corridor, beautify Long Lane and meet the needs of constituents.

Siddiqui, a transportation worker with a background in journalism, has made immigration a focal point of his campaign. He seeks to implement programs that would help immigrants better transition into American life.

Siddiqui came to the United States in 1994 with just $100 and not knowing anyone. He said many immigrants are afraid, struggle with the language barrier and are unaware of how to succeed within American culture.

He runs the Upper Darby Caring Foundation, an organization that attempts to bridge those gaps.

“We need to put some effort into new immigrants to make them fruitful citizens,” Siddiqui said. “When they come here they are lost. They try to find some odd jobs. ... We are not utilizing them.”

Siddiqui also stressed that Upper Darby needs more technical education opportunities. He said businesses should be asked to contribute the public school system, saying better educated students are good for local business.

Despite running in a district in which registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 3-to-1 ratio, Siddiqui said he is confident because he has the support of the immigrant communities.

“I’m going to win this race,” Siddiqui said. “And I’m going to win with Democratic votes.”

He said there is disconnect between Davidson and voters, pointing to the results from the Democratic primary. Facing criticism regarding her voting record on vouchers and women’s rights, Davidson beat Billy Smith and Dafan Zhang by 11 points.

“I just want to thank my supporters for coming out in great numbers during the primary,” Davidson said. “I need them to come out and support me in the general election and also to make sure that Tom Wolf is the next governor.”

Prior to serving in Harrisburg, Davidson founded a marketing and advertising company and a pair of nonprofit organizations. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Temple University.

Siddiqui said he moved to Upper Darby from New York about 12 years ago. He previously ran a weekly newspaper in New York and a retail store on West Chester Pike in Upper Darby. He earned a bachelor’s degree while living in Pakistan.