Politics & Government

State legislative candidates meet in debate

Mary Ann Buckley, of Walker Township, and Rep. Rich Irvin, R-Spruce Creek Township, faced off during a Republican primary candidate debate Tuesday hosted by the Centre County League of Women Voters.
Mary Ann Buckley, of Walker Township, and Rep. Rich Irvin, R-Spruce Creek Township, faced off during a Republican primary candidate debate Tuesday hosted by the Centre County League of Women Voters. jhartley@centredaily.com

Policy prevented other candidates from taking part in the debate, but at least two candidates were given time to shine Tuesday evening.

The Centre County League of Women Voters hosted a primary election candidate debate at the State College Municipal Building, inviting the two Republican candidates for the state House of Representatives 81st District race. Facing each other in the primary are incumbent Rich Irvin, of Spruce Creek Township, and challenger Mary Ann Buckley, of Walker Township, Huntingdon County.

The 81st District covers Halfmoon, Taylor and Worth townships and Port Matilda, and portions of Ferguson and Patton townships. It also covers part of Mifflin County and all of Huntingdon County.

Irvin described his political history, saying after he earned his accounting degree he was elected as Huntingdon County treasurer, a position he served in for 18 years. He said his strong background in local government gave him an understanding of how the state and federal government can affect local municipalities.

Buckley said her career has taken her over a wide variety of industries, including agriculture, medicine and teaching. She has worked as a teacher for the past 15 years.

When asked about job creation, Irvin said his biggest concern when campaigning two years ago was focused on job creation. Right now, the state should focus on not chasing businesses away with overburdened regulations.

“We’re educating our youth, and they’re moving out of our state and finding jobs elsewhere,” he said. “We need to try to attract businesses back into Pennsylvania.”

Buckley said she would start by working with the youth of the community, looking at the types of jobs in an area and encouraging entrepreneurship. She said she wants to develop youth skills needed to work in local jobs and enhance the community.

When it came to enacting a severance tax on the gas industry, Buckley said she thinks the state has been taxed to capacity.

“Rather than continue to tax or increase our taxes,” she said, “I think that proper use and application of the taxes we have is much more important than trying to impose more.”

An impact tax returns a portion of money back to the communities affected by the drilling industry, she said — an effective way to use taxes already in place.

Irvin said the state can’t afford to put a severance tax in place on an industry with a decreasing market. Pennsylvania is the only state that pushes local money back into the municipalities to spend, and the industry provides an amount of job creation in the state.

Regarding the most important issue facing voters this election, both candidates agreed that budget and taxes are the most important. Both stressed the need to complete a budget on time through open communication.

Due to LWV policy, only candidates in contested races are invited to debate. Other Centre County primary races are not contested.

Centre County LWV President Candace Dannaker said she was happy with the candidates’ responses.

“It’s encouraging when we see a contested race,” she said. “With redistricting, it’s common not to see a challenger. It’s good to see the residents step up.”

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews

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