Bucks County Herald

Buckingham Voices hear candidates’ views

STUART LEE FRIEDMAN

Buckingham Voices, a group of citizens with a mission to hold elected officials accountable, hosted an event introducing Democratic state candidates on March 26 at the Health and Wellness Center in Warrington.

Bonnie Chang, the chair of the organization, said that all of the candidates were challenging either Republican incumbents or running for open seats.

Chang saidd that the election was energized by the flipping of several state House seats to Democrats across the country, including Conor Lamb’s stunning upset victory in what was a solid Trump Pennsylvania district, aided by changing national sentiment and recently redrawn congressional district maps through gerrymandering.

Recorder of Deeds Robin Robinson then introduced the candidates, each of whom was given five minutes to introduce themselves. Robinson enthusiastically exclaimed, “I really believe a tsunami is coming – not just a blue wave.”

Wendy Ullman, the first candidate to speak, warned, “We can’t ride the blue wave until we make waves.” A self-described social progressive and an educator, she said she was not a career politician.

She spoke of the 143rd Congressional District, saying that it was 48 percent Republican, 35 percent Democrat and 17 percent independent. She said those numbers proved the math that the seat could not be won by Democrats alone, emphasizing the importance of motivating swing voters.

Tim Brennan, another candidate for the 143rd, said the Democrats have not won a seat in the district since 1977. He echoed Ullman’s calls for common sense gun reform.

Jimmy Lamb said to applause that “I want to add to the conversation what people younger than myself have started,” referring to the recent activist events organized by students for “common sense gun reform.”

Andrew Dixon, running for incumbent Bernie O’Neill’s seat in the 29th District, was chairman of the environmental advisory council in Warminster where his team made progress in correcting water quality issues. He currently teaches university level English literature and serves on the Centennial School Board.

Dixon stated that his experience in both education and environmental causes informed his priorities as a candidate.

Lauren Lareau is a first-time candidate running in the 142nd district, inspired by her concern for public schools. “I think it’s important we have a champion for public schools in Harrisburg,” she stated. She is a member of the Middletown Township Environmental Advisory Council and a small business owner, interested in keeping taxes low.

“I would rather raise wages than raise taxes,” Lareau exclaimed, adding that finding a balance between funding what is important without raising taxes was a challenge she looked forward to tackling.

Speaking of her concern as a mother of a high school student, she stated that she did not feel the current state legislature reflects the concerns of “every day Pennsylvanians.”

Candidate Meredith Buck quoted Rosie the Riveter, “We can do it.” She is running for office in the 144th District. She stated she wanted to bring “balance, accountability and basic common sense back to government.” Buck listed her background as both a critical care and surgical nurse as well as an attorney advocating for the vulnerable with pro bono representation for victims of abuse. She expressed her desire to advocate for health care, education, environmental issues and gun laws geared toward community safety.

Brian Kline, running in the 145th for General Assembly, spoke about the 225 Pennridge students who walked out on March 14 and were given detention. “They’re our future,” Kline said, expressing solidarity with them.

Kline also spoke of how Medicaid saved his life after a diagnosis of stage three colon cancer, adding that the Republican Congress is working to erode affordable options for patients.

Helen Tai, a Solebury Township supervisor running for the House in the 178th District, is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Tai stated her desire to change a “broken” Harrisburg in which legislators “are not fixing the real problems that we have” and are even threatening to impeach the state Supreme Court justices over redrawn congressional district lines.

Tina Davis, a state representative running for the Senate, spoke of when her husband lost his job. They had no health care plan, and were victims of a predatory loan that jeopardized her home with foreclosure.

Steve Santarseiro, perhaps the most seasoned candidate in the field, is running for the Senate after completing his fourth term as a state representative in 2016. Santarseiro sponsored gun a background check efforts as a legislator, and also advocated health care availability to everyone.

Maria Collett is running for state Senate in the 12th District, believing that change at the national level starts with change at the state level. She expressed her anger and shame over the mediocrity, bullying and insults after the 2016 national election.

Collett spoke of education, the environment, working wages, common sense gun control legislation and affordable health care. She quoted Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to the US Congress: “If they won’t give you a seat at the table, bring your own chair.”

Linda Fields, running for Senate in the 24th District, spoke passionately about health care, sensible gun control legislation, wages and education, and labor and human rights, maintaining they all interrelate. She went from working at a convent to organizing labor and negotiating contracts, describing herself as a fighter. “I’ve been doing it for 28 years and I’m not going to stop.”

“It’s easy to be pessimistic,” Santarseiro said. “Don’t be.” He added, “This is the year to do it. We have that opportunity now.”

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