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Nine congressional candidates campaign together in Franklin County

Written by Jim Hook/The Chambersburg Public Opinion | Apr 4, 2018 6:30 PM
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State Sen. John Eichelberger, left, Bernard Washabaugh and Art Halvorson listen during a Q & A for U.S. Congress representative for the 13th Congressional District. The event was held at Menno Haven on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. (Photo: Markell DeLoatch, Public Opinion)

(Chambersburg) -- All nine candidates running for Congress in Pennsylvania's 13th District shared the floor Tuesday at the Menno Haven retirement community.

The candidates were given the opportunity to distinguish themselves by answering questions, ranging from immigration to gun rights to transportation. Judging from the polite applause at the end of the two-hour session, no clear favorites emerged. About 40 people attended.

Residents said voters won't have an easy job picking a winner from among two experienced state law makers, two men who previously ran for Congress, a retired colonel, a physician, a businessman, a political science professor and a young ex-Marine.

"Some aren't ready for the job," said David Horneys, a Menno Haven resident. "And some I thought are somewhat up to the job, if anybody can be ready for the job.

"I don't think it's an easy job for anybody," said his wife, Carole.

This is the first time since 1972 that a candidate other than a Shuster is running for Congress to represent the Franklin County region, and there are a lot of people interested, said moderator Bob Thomas, a Franklin County Commissioner.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Everett, is not seeking re-election.

Most candidates presented themselves as conservatives. All nodded in support of the Second Amendment.

The event was the first in recent memory where all congressional candidates gathered in Franklin County to campaign at the same time.

"It's the first time all the candidates for Congress have been at Menno Haven," said Don Parrish, organizer and Menno Haven resident. "There are over 1,000 residents at Menno Haven and among them are a great many voters. They should not go into the polling place or to their absentee ballot and say - 'I don't know these people.' This is an opportunity for voters."

The candidates include eight Republicans -- state Rep. Stephen Bloom, state  Sen. John Eichelberger Jr., Art Halvorson, Ben Hornberger, Dr. John Joyce, Doug Mastriano, Travis Schooley and Bernard L. Washabaugh II -- and a Democrat, Brent M. Ottaway.

Several candidates turned a question about consensus into a question about leadership:

  • "You've got to be a doer," Mastriano said. "To lead, first you must be a servant. I am not for consensus. I'm for understanding."
  • Bloom said he carries pocket copies of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. "Those are elements of who we are that are not open to compromise," Bloom said.
  • "I believe in working with people," Joyce said. "My responsibility is to you in this room. I don't feel I need to join a caucus. You can work with people without giving up your moral fiber."
  • "We need to change the makeup of Congress," Halvorson said. "There's no integrity in Congress. There is no restraint."
  • "I look to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," Eicehlberger said. "I look to the Constitution. You never compromise on moral principles."
  • "Consensus is about negotiation," Washabaugh said. "There are a lot of special interests involved. We forget that the influence is there."


Here's what the candidates said about funding the nation's infrastructure:

  • Schooley said a 25-cent federal tax on gasoline at the pump would cripple Pennsylvania. He proposed paying for transportation improvements through Infrastructure Bonds, similar to War Bonds.
  • Mastriano called for responsible spending and "to see where we can make responsible cuts." He said $17 billion has gone to Pakistan since 2001 and $125 million has gone to the Palestinians.
  • Bloom said "the key is reprioritizing our expenditures." He fought against Gov. Tom Corbett's effort to raise Pennsylvania gas taxes to funds transportation improvements.
  • Hornsberger said he has signed a pledge not to raise taxes. "There's no reason to (spend taxpayers' money to) watch the nesting habits of an endangered bird. That's bull crap. Our infrastructure is crumbling."
  • Joyce said he would never agree to raise the gas tax. He proposed cutting social programs and to work with private companies to build roads and have users pay for them.
  • Ottaway said tax programs that benefit the wealthy should be changed. Infrastructure improvements should include high-speed broadband and pure research.
  • Halvorson said the federal Highway Trust Fund should be devolved. The money should be kept in Pennsylvania rather than sent to Washington where members of Congress spend it on their pet projects.
  • Washabaugh said, "We spend money in other countries, and we need to spend it here."
  • Eichelberger said highway improvements are funded through gas taxes which are user fees. The money is locked into a trust fund dedicated to transportation spending. The nation needs to be "very careful" in moving away from the trust fund  lockbox. "This is a core function of our government."

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The Chambersburg Public Opinion

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