Candidate forum shines spotlight on upcoming primary

Hope Miller, who is running for Register of Wills, chats with folks before League of Women Voters Candidates’ Night on Wednesday in the State College Borough Council Chambers.
Hope Miller, who is running for Register of Wills, chats with folks before League of Women Voters Candidates’ Night on Wednesday in the State College Borough Council Chambers. CDT photo

Deciding between candidates in the upcoming primary may prove challenging for voters after the debates held Monday.

The League of Women Voters hosted a candidates’ night at the State College borough municipal building, inviting candidates from several different races to answer audience questions and push their candidacies. Many candidates, however, agreed on many points.

Attendees were treated to candidates from the 49-03-04 district judge race, the race for Bellefonte Borough Council, Bellefonte Board of School Directors and the race for State College Borough Council. Each candidate was given time to answer six questions and make a closing statement.

Incumbent District Judge Tom Jordan appeared solo Monday. Jordan cross-filed as both Republican and Democrat and faces an opponent on the Democratic ticket.

When asked on steps he plans on taking to reduce the number of DUIs in the county, he said he is working on educational programs to reach high school-age youth. Police are also stepping up enforcement by creating a DUI task force and establishing checkpoints.

He also said he would be seeking stiffer penalties for young people convicted of alcohol-related offenses.

“When they come before me, if it’s a first time offender, I’ll consider alternatives,” he said. “But if it’s a second time offender, I do not. I’ll administer the most severe punishment, usually in the form of monetary fines.”

The race for Bellefonte Borough Council’s 3rd Ward sees two Democrats running for one seat — incumbent Bud Halderman and Joanne Tosti-Vasey.

Tosti-Vasey said the council needs to look at how it maintains Victorian Bellefonte when asked how she would increase tourism in the borough. Working with the community is important if the borough wants to fill empty storefronts.

Halderman cited several projects underway to develop the borough when asked about the local economy and creating jobs. The borough is working with developers to bring a pair of national accounts into the old armory property, he said, as well as working with Penn State to handle any overflow of new commercial and industrial entities it seeks to bring into the region.

Budgeting was the main topic of discussion for Bellefonte school board candidates. John Elnitski, Kimberly Hearn, Bob Lumley-Sapanski and Daniel Miltenberger have all cross-filed to fill five seats. Three additional candidates are also seeking seats.

Each candidate cited fiscal responsibility as a top priority over the next four years, saying the district’s budget is very dependent on the governor’s proposed budget, but are unsure of when that will become a reality.

Each candidate rejected the idea of cutting programs to loosen the budget, preferring to be careful in budget review and bringing in more more money rather than losing programs.

The budget was on the table for candidates for State College Borough Council as well. Democratic challengers Jesse Barlow, David Brown, Cathy Dauler, Janet Engeman and David Stone will face each other for four seats in the primary.

All candidates were against cutting programs or services to reduce the costs. Services mean a lot to the people, they said, and encouraged examining the budget for efficiencies and getting the public involved with the discussions.

But it wasn’t all finances. Each candidate was able to speak on the most important non-financial issue facing the borough.

Barlow suggested finding ways to deal with the expanding area by looking at policies for development. Brown wanted to make the borough more appealing for first-time homeowners and workforce employees who want a life in the borough. Dauler said maintaining the high quality of life is the top priority.

Engeman wanted to take a comprehensive look at rezoning to increase borough efficiency. Stone said the council has to tap into the intelligence and creativity of the community.

Centre County primary elections will be held May 19.