Abington Commissioner Madeleine Dean and attorney Nick Mattiacci met for a debate Tuesday night at the . Both are vying for the state representative seat vacated by Josh Shapiro in the 153rd legislative district.
The event, hosted by the Abington-Cheltenham-Jenkintown League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan civic organization, touched on a few local issues as well as some national, hot-button topics.
Dean started off by saying she was a “52-year-old mother, lawyer, former small business owner and teacher at LaSalle University.” She said she has a deep belief in public service and said she has “what I think are life skills” that will help her contribute.
In a cheeky fashion, she said she’s interested in issues that begin with the letter “E,” which are: education, economy, the environment, the elderly and ethics in government.
Mattiacci started off with a gaffe, asking the memberes of the League, “Who here is a registered Republican?” After a member of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters chided him, he apologized and moved on.
He said he knocked on 4,000 doors recently, and added that the people behind those doors want good jobs, good schools and good government. He also took the time to distance himself somewhat from other Republicans.
“The last thing that the voters of this district in Abington and Upper Dublin want or need is an ideologue from either party,” Mattiacci said. “Now, I’m a Republican, and I’m a proud Republican, but I do not believe that any one party has all the answers.
“I’ve made it clear that some of my policy positions are not in line with the leadership in Harrisburg, and that’s OK, because I am not running to be a Republican representative,” he continued. “I’m running to be a State Representative who represents the interest of this district who happens to be a Republican.”
To see both candidates' opening remarks, see the video section in this article.
Starting off locally, moderator Vivienne Spector, President of the Abington-Cheltenham-Jenkintown LWV, asked each candidate if he or she would support legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Abington is mulling such an ordinance at its Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday at 8 p.m.
Dean said she supports such legislation in Abington ... and at the state level.
“I’ve been very vocal to say it’s something we clearly must do,” Dean said. “It gives a statement of who we are as a community … It’s a basic question of human values. Do we want to say we are a community that tolerates discrimination based on sexuality, or do we not?”
Mattiacci said he would support anti-discrimination legislation on a state level, but said he wouldn’t locally.
“We would have to look at the negative impact of such a law on businesses,” he said.
To see both candidates’ full answers, check out the video section of this article.
What about the Voter ID law going into effect in November?
Mattiacci said while he did not have the opportunity to take part in the debate, he supports the law — and the idea behind it.
“I believe any opportunity that we can make to ensure the integrity of the voting process is something that we should take seriously,” he said.
He also said that he believes the law would not necessarily disenfranchise voters. The moderator stepped in and said because the law requires a government-issued ID, it could be difficult for some residents who live in a county without a DMV office. Mattiacci said he would personally assist any resident who needs his help in getting an ID. Dean dismissed the claim.
Dean called the law “really bad legislation,” and said that there were no cases of voter fraud prosecuted by then-Attorney General Tom Corbett.
“By imposing this barrier to voting, many people, including the elderly and students … will be denied the opportunity to vote,” she said.
To see both candidates’ full answers, check out the video section of this article.
What are the three most important things you’d do to improve K-12 education?
Mattiacci started out by saying, “We have good schools in Abington and Upper Dublin because we care about education and because we believe in accountability. Accountability is probably what needs to be brought to the table. Accountability for school districts, for teachers and for students.
He blamed the Rendell administration for the cuts Corbett made to the education budget, saying that the state pension program was not being properly funded during those years.
Dean said she would restore nutrition programs to the school, look at full-day kindergarten and do a bottom-up review of education funding.
Your stance on privatization — leasing public lands, the turnpike and getting out of the liquor store business?
Both candidates somewhat agreed and said privatization is not the answer. Dean said the privatization of prisons is dangerous and pointed to the Kids-For-Cash scandal in Luzerne County. She said she does not support leasing the turnpike and, as for the privatization of liquor stores, Dean said the state enjoys a low rate of underage drinking and benefits from the revenue and jobs that the liquor stores produce.
On the liquor store issue, Mattiacci said, “I believe that the regulation that they have is warranted, and I believe that they run efficiently under the government.” He also said, “I’ve gone on record several times saying that privatization is not the answer.”
What else do they agree on?
Both had similar thoughts about gifts and contributions from special interest groups. Mattiacci said campaign contributions should be disclosed and gifts should be banned. Dean said that Gov. Corbett’s campaign received a $300,000 from the gas industry and said, “It makes voters wonder what is the connection between a large contribution of money … and votes on that kind of legislation.”
Both candidates also agreed that there are benefits to casino revenue.
On 'fracking' and the environment
Mattiacci said the state legislature has a responsibility to keep the air and the water clean, as well as to protect open space. However, he drew some groans, “Whats?” and “Are you kidding me’s?” from the audience when he said that there has been no study to prove that drilling for natural gas has negative effects on drinking water.
“I think that the question really lines up with regard to the extraction of natural gas. Study after study has been shown that this particular industry has not been proven to have any negative impact on drinking water. Now, if there would be a study that is produced, I would certainly question any support of that program. But the reason why the majority of [Pennsylvanians] support the extraction of natural gas is because it creates good paying jobs.”
He said that he thinks the proprietary drilling methods the companies use should be turned over to the government so the government can test their safety.
Dean said she is very concerned about fracking.
“We would be foolish to think that the slurry that the industry uses — which they don’t want to reveal what’s in the slurry — is not containing chemicals that are harmful to our environment, harmful to our drinking water and we do not know yet the effects of what fracking is doing,” she said.
Roe versus Wade: One word.
Neither candidate could answer in one word. Mattiacci called it “the most difficult question for me to answer,” and said, “I believe there is so much we can agree on (as far as the topic goes), and I agree we don’t get anything accomplished fighting on this because we’re never going to change each other’s opinions.”
He was then pressed by the moderator … and then simply said he was pro-life.
Dean said, “I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I believe in Roe v. Wade.”
Dean’s currently an Abington Commissioner. What’s she going to do?
Dean said she enjoys her duties as the commissioner of Ward 7 in Abington; she added that she became interested in public service years ago.
Will she resign? Most likely. She said she would certainly serve as commissioner through the April election, and will be running in November in the general election for State Rep., full term, win or lose.
“At some point, most likely, I would have to give up the commissioners seat,” she said. “I’m not really happy about that, because I think what you do at the commissioners level forms what you do at the state level, but I would not want any conflict of interest to arise …”
Are you an opportunist, seeking a seat in the 153rd so soon after winning Ward 7?
“No. I’m seizing the opportunity to do something that I think is extraordinarily valuable … which is public service,” she said.