To serve your interests at the local, state, and federal levels, elected officials are compensated with your tax dollars. How can you vote for someone if they shroud their motivations and refuse to discuss their positions on important issues?
That’s exactly what the Bucks County Republican Party is asking you to do.
GOP candidates for state house seats are largely silent on critical issues that will impact day-to-day living and, while they do have websites, most are filled with word salads that are generic or say next to nothing.
Mark Moffa (HD-142), Ilya Breyman (HD-178) and Laurie Smith (HD-18) are three Bucks County Democratic candidates running for state house seats who encountered avoidance tactics by their GOP opponents: Joe Hogan, Kristin Marcell and K.C. Tomlinson.
Political stumping customs once considered predictable have changed over the last few years – and not for the better. Mudslinging is annoying, but refusing to engage is disturbing.
Kyle McMillen, Early Childhood Education Civic Engagement Coordinator for Children First PA, a not-for-profit focusing on children’s health, early learning, education and vulnerable youth, organized candidate forums across multiple counties to address concerns about public education.
The September 14 Lower Bucks Children First Candidates Conversation, captured on video and moderated by Tom Sofield of Levittown Now, featured Democratic candidates Laurie Smith and Mark Moffa; their GOP opponents, Joe Hogan and K.C. Tomlinson, did not attend.
The lack of Republican participation is not limited to PA’s 18th and 142nd House districts.
“In terms of getting a hold of Republicans, having Republicans participate or just giving an answer saying ‘no I can’t make it,’ there has been a real challenge to get any sort of response from Bucks County,” Kyle McMillen said when asked about the absence of GOP candidates.
“I even called – multiple times – the Bucks County GOP headquarters and said ‘hey, listen, let me just walk you through what this is… I’ve invited all of your candidates and just want to appease any questions you have… but I never heard back from any of the candidates.’”
Democratic candidate Ilya Breyman (HD-178) and former Libertarian candidate Brittany Kosin (HD-178) had a similar experience before the May 4 primary, when a Children First Candidates Conversation was held and recorded but again, GOP opponent Kristin Marcell was absent.
Breyman was in attendance at an additional Children First Candidates Conversation forum on September 21 and again, Marcell was a no-show.
Candidates from both parties competing in the upcoming November election also received questionnaires from Children First, but none were completed by any Bucks County GOP candidates.
Voters have no way of knowing where Republicans Hogan, Marcell or Tomlinson stand on childhood education topics because they elected to opt out of a friendly forum to discuss the issues.
“HD-142 is a new district. In such a pivotal election year, voters deserve to know the candidates who are running to represent them in Harrisburg, and where they stand on the issues,” said Mark Moffa.
Moffa and Breyman are in unique races because they – along with their GOP challengers – have never held political office in the Pennsylvania state house.
Jean Weston, Co-President of the League of Women Voters Bucks County, said “we don’t have any candidate forums this year.”
She noted a lack of participation on both sides of the aisle, at the county, state and national levels.
“It’s very frustrating. We have a committee that has worked to try and get at least some candidate forums. We invited every senate and every house candidate in Bucks County. We sent invitations, and we had follow-up phone calls,” Weston said.
The League’s efforts to host forums may not have produced results but not for lack of trying.
“The League has a really good website, called Vote 411, and it’s national. We’ve had much better luck with candidates responding to the League’s questionnaire,” added Weston. “We don’t edit anything, we don’t change anything, it’s what they want it to say.”
In addition to viewing candidate responses to the League’s questionnaire, Vote 411 allows voters to identify their legislators, view candidates in local races, check voter registration, register to vote, locate polling locations and more.
First-time candidates for state office should be able to clearly communicate where they stand on important matters to gain support and to win votes. Bucks County Republicans, however, seem to be avoiding these interactions in an attempt to dodge this year’s hot button issues.
Moffa is more than willing to talk about his platform.
“As the Democrat running in HD-142, I am an unequivocal supporter of a woman’s right to choose, and would immediately introduce legislation that will safeguard that right,” he said.
“I reject the extremism out of Washington, D.C and Republicans in Harrisburg, in favor of policies that create a stronger commonwealth for everyone — better jobs, better schools, and more opportunities for our children.”
Breyman, who was recently endorsed by former Republican Congressman Jim Greenwood, also welcomes the chance to tell voters where he stands.
“I’m running because it seems that as Harrisburg is thriving in the partisan status quo, the everyday person is feeling the squeeze,” Breyman said.
“I believe that fair funding for better schools, cutting red tape for small businesses, life-saving gun control measures and adequate law enforcement funding for safer neighborhoods, as well as strengthening our democracy by repealing closed primaries and increasing government transparency are not partisan issues and I will reach across the aisle to make Harrisburg work for everyone,” he said.
Current and former GOP legislators continue to endorse Democrats due to Republican candidates having embraced radical positions that take away civil rights and place the nation’s democracy at risk.
No candidate should rely solely on a website to communicate with voters. Claiming support of education or lowering taxes is not enough. Such statements lack substance and constituents want to know more.
“With everything at stake, voters deserve to know where Joe Hogan stands on a woman’s right to choose. Instead, he has remained silent,” said Mark Moffa.
Boilerplate talk from GOP candidates denies voters the ability to make wise decisions.
Residents of Bucks County deserve better.
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