Editorial: Voters face choices in races for state House and Congress

Delaware County Daily Times Editorial Board

 

In five days, voters in the 163rd Legislative District will be confronted by something they have not seen in more than 30 years.

A ballot without the name Micozzie on it.

Fortunately, they will have two strong candidates to pick from as they attempt to do the impossible, fill the imposing legacy left by Republican state Rep. Nick Micozzie.

Unfortunately, Democrat Vince Rongione and Republican Jamie Santora have spent an inordinate amount of time taking personal shots at each other and questioning who has strong ties to the community, including their residency.

Rongione brings a strong background, including a stint as an aide to ex-U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7 of Edgmont. Santora has served constituents well as a member of Upper Darby council.

Both have zeroed in on education as the No. 1 issue in this campaign. Upper Darby was hard hit by cuts under Gov. Tom Corbett; The public was in revolt until Micozzie  worked his magic and found $2.7 million to east the pain. Rongione sees himself carrying on Micozzie's legacy from the other side of the aisle. He's also identified the other factor involved in education funding, the basic inequity of using property taxes to fund public education and the deleterious effect it's had on so many home owners, in particular senior citizens and those on fixed incomes. He backs a push by state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester to freeze property taxes for seniors. Santora knows first-hand the challenges of serving a community that speaks 78 languages and boasts of his constituent service as a councilman.

Both candidates would back an extraction tax on natural gas drillers to add revenue for education.

We wish Rongione had spent less time trying to link Santora to incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett; likewise we wish Santora and the Delco GOP had not hammered away incessantly on Rongione's residency.

In a very close race between two solid candidates, the Daily Times endorses Vince Rongione for the 163rd state House race.

There are several other high-profile races for the state Legislature in the county this year. Here's how we look at them.

In the 161st District, a strong new challenger has emerged on the scene as Democrat Leanne Krueger-Braneky is facing off against incumbent Republican Rep. Joe Hackett.

Krueger-Braneky is fairly new to the area, moving to Swarthmore a few years ago. Unlike the Republican regime, we don't hold that against her. She has a solid background in boosting local business as a former executive director of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia and now director of fellowship and alumni a the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.

She blasts Hackett for his consistent record of voting with Gov. Corbett, votes "that are not good for Delaware County."

Unfortunately, she does not mention Hackett also is responsible for one of the most important pieces of legislation enacted this year. That would be his amendment that, starting this week, will put the drug Nalaxone in the hands of first responders dealing with heroin overdoses. Hackett was one of the first in the county to recognize the virulent spike in heroin use, and took action to get this drug, which can reverse the effects of an OD, on the street. It will without question save lives. Some of his other votes, in particular Hackett's backing of a recent bill that would give the National Rifle Association legal standing in challenging local gun laws, are disappointing. But that pales next to his work on heroin, one of the biggest issues facing local law enforcement.

The Daily Times endorses Hackett in a great race, and we certainly hope Krueger-Braneky stays active in local politics. She's a keeper.

Perhaps no one in the state is more identified with the controversial, hold-the-line, no tax hike budgets than Springfield state Rep. Bill Adolph, R-165. That's what happens when you're the majority chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. That point has been hammered home by his surprise challenger in this race, Democrat Chuck Hadley, a venture capitalist who specializes in startups. He drew fire from the GOP as the last-minute fill-in for Jeremy Fearn. And he quickly returned it in a spirited attack on Adolph. Hadley makes his belief clear: Harrisburg is broken and Adolph is part of the problem.

But he's also an important figure who carries clout that he wields to deliver funding and services to Delaware County. We're not yet ready to toss aside that kind of experience. We endorse Adolph for another two years in Harrisburg.

In the 164th District race, there is an easier call. Democratic state Rep. Margo Davidson has proven an effective replacement for Mario Civera, delivering key services and teaming with Micozzie to bail out the embattled Upper Darby School District in their time of crisis. She even managed to effectively fend off a strong challenge in her own party's primary. She's the clear choice over energetic Upper Darby businessman, Republican Saud Siddiqui.

There are several other state House races being contested, and we urge voters to learn about those candidates and the issues, and vote accordingly.

For Congress, there is one clear choice and one closer call in the two districts that represent Delaware County.

Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan is being challenged in the 7th District by Democrat Mary Ellen Balchunis.

Meehan, a former county district attorney and U.S. attorney, has a puzzling tendency to sound moderate while campaigning, then return to D.C. and vote with the right-wing block there. His votes against the Affordable Care Act and one that led to the government shutdown are proof of that. But he was also one of the keys in salvaging local refineries that stood on the abyss, and his vision of the area as a possible energy hub are dynamic.

Balchunis is a political science professor at La Salle who is running to end exactly the kind of dysfunction that Meehan too often represented in Washington.

Meehan's vision of Delaware County's waterfront as the mecca for a new energy center is too tantalizing to pass up. He deserves two more years to put it into action. Balchunis wins plaudits for her efforts in what is decidedly an uphill race, made even more so by the almost incomprehensible gerrymandering that remade the 7th District into something almost unimaginable. The district now extends from the Delaware River to Berks County.

For those living in the portion of the 1st Congressional District, a sliver along that same waterfront, the choice is clear.

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, perhaps more than any one other person, is responsible for saving those refineries. His fingerprints are usually on every major labor deal in the region. He has the ear of those in power in Washington - and they listen.

He's a clear choice over his Republican challenger, Megan Rath, a sales consultant.

TOMORROW: Kane vs. McGarrigle. Our choice in the 26th District state Senate race.