Opinion

Our View | Who’s better equipped to get the job done?

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson is a leader with a proven ability to get things done.

He represents the interests of the people of the conservative-leaning 5th Congressional District — a district that hasn’t elected a Democrat since Richard Nixon was in the White House.

“I’m truly the representative of the people that live in the 16 counties (of the district),” he recently told the Centre Daily Times editorial board. “The contacts that I have, being in those communities, working with individuals has prepared me to do a very effective job as their representative, as their voice and as their vote.”

He is a champion for veterans at a time when our veterans need champions. He makes himself available to his constituents and is willing, he says, to sit down and discuss the issues. And he works hard. Thompson has missed only 1.1 percent of roll call votes, which is better than the median of 2.5 percent among the lifetime records of representatives currently serving, according to GovTrack.us.

His determination to bring jobs and job-training programs to Pennsylvania and his quest for fiscal responsibility are admirable. In short, he knows his constituency and he votes accordingly.

But Thompson often fails the political-courage test, voting virtually in lockstep with the Republican Party.

Although he could have stood up to oppose it, Thompson voted in favor of the government shutdown, threatening our credit rating and temporarily putting federal employees out of work. He stood in the party line to fight the Affordable Care Act rather than seeking compromise, and he went along with the now-aborted GOP lawsuit against the president. This is no way to get things done in this crippled Congress.

He calls himself “a leading advocate for the environment" based on the work he says he has done with agriculture leaders to preserve watersheds. But his voting record on environmental issues — particularly to weaken regulations — cannot be ignored.

All things begin and end with our environment, and the failure of this Congress to pass meaningful legislation to protect it could negatively affect generations to come. He cites “misplaced ... environmental concerns” and overreach and overfunding of the Environmental Protection Agency in defending that voting record.

And he puts the blame for the failures and gridlock squarely on the Democrats.

But the blame game just isn’t working anymore. It’s politics as usual in Washington, and Americans are fed up with the resultant do-nothingness.

Democratic challenger Kerith Strano Taylor thinks she has what it will take to get things done. She touts her experience as an attorney and as president of the Brookville Area School District and says she is an advocate for children and families, public education and “healthy communities.”

In a school district that had two strikes in five years, she said, she was able to lead a negotiating team for a teachers’ contract.

“Negotiation is an art,” she said. “It’s a thing that you either know how to do or don’t know how to do.”

But would that know-how translate to an ability to reach across the aisle in a meaningful way — to see real compromise on the issues involving the best interests of not just this district but the country?

Strano Taylor’s strengths are that she is a respected moderate from a conservative area; she has experience negotiating difficult situations; and, she says, she is not beholden to the National Rifle Association or other special interests. She supports gun ownership and reform of the state’s background-check system, is an advocate for fair pay, for an increase in the minimum wage and for health care reform — all issues affecting the people of the 5th District.

She talks a good game and she certainly is passionate. But as a freshman representative of the minority party, could Strano Taylor make a difference? Or would Thompson’s connections and legislative experience better represent the largest congressional district in Pennsylvania?

Thompson and Strano Taylor agree on one thing: Washington is broken. It’s up to you to decide who is more able to fix it.

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