Republicans hate taxes. This fear of having to invest in our communities drove the entire event last evening as six Republicans fielded questions as they vie for the Berks County GOP’s nomination for the 11th State Senate special election. Both Parties must conclude their selection process by Monday the 24th when we’ll know who will face off on March 15th. The theme of not wanting to invest permeated the entire night. County Chair Andrew Fick even cited the asking of contributions to cover the costs of the room by reminding those in attendance “its not a tax.”
This was after he opened the evening by insulting Prothonotary Marianne Sutton for her short stature. The event was held at Exeter Township Junior High School and was well attended by between 200-300 people. Unusual for a GOP event there was a large Latino section there to support “DutchaRican” Michael Rivera. Explaining that his mother is Pennsylvania Dutch and his father Puerto Rican he claimed he can win due to his ethnicity. He played the race card several times claiming only he could attract the Hispanic vote for Republicans in the City of Reading.
Neurosurgeon George Chovanes, lawyer Jim Smith, former Sheriff Barry Jozwiak, Register of Wills Larry Medaglia and benefits administrator Ken Smith also were vying for the nomination. The GOP County Executive Board will vote for the candidate this week.
Democrats are not holding any public meetings where voters can question candidates, see who is running or express their opinions and support. The Berks County Democratic Committee under Chair Tom Herman is conducting everything behind closed doors and even Committee persons in the District have no idea what is going on or who is interested in running. They and the State Chair Jim Burn are violating the national Democratic National Committee rules and charter by conducting a closed meeting Saturday.
The openness of the Republican process versus the back room antics of the Democrats may play well for the Republican with voters. The fact the Republican County Sheriff showed up with several Deputies in full uniform and sidearms for a political event may, of course, backfire spectacularly. People don’t like shows of force and intimidation when it comes to politics.
The six men opened with brief statements, took eight questions submitted by the audience and then closed with another brief statement. Jim Smith, a lawyer from Fleetwood appeared very nervous all evening. Notably not able to control his nerves he kept going over his allotted time and tried to pass his microphone to Jozwiak who had his own. He obviously wouldn’t be one to make public speeches. Chovanes is a whack job who believes in all sorts of conspiracy theories, is a climate denier and is someone I don’t want anywhere near me with a scalpel. His mind is twisted and perverted politically.
Michael Rivera had a large supporting contingent which arrived with signs in violation of the rules of the evening. He resides in Reading, works for the Chamber of Commerce and is the dark horse to get the nod. Medaglia stressed his double dipping as someone getting paychecks from two separate county entities (Reading Area Community College receives a large grant from the county every year) and is the clear front runner. As a former GOP County Chair he has influence with committee persons after running the Party out of his County office in violation of the law for many years. Isn’t Gov. Corbett prosecuting people for that same offense in Harrisburg? Ken Smith is a former corporatist who now sits on the Exeter School Board and is fervently against taxation.
Those are my impressions of these six men after watching them last evening. There were eight questions:
1.Do you support the constitution?
I’m not sure of the relevance of this query for a state candidate but its a big issue with the fanatics on the Patriot fringe.
2. Repeal of school property taxes
They are all, obviously, against taxes.
3.Pensions, would you defund state employee pension funds?
Of course they would because that would require raising taxes.
4. What is your view on health care reform?
They are all against health care.
All but Ken Smith are anti choice and insist on them telling women what they cana nd cannot do with their bodies.
6. Would you reform welfare?
They all think everyone on welfare is a cheat and doesn’t deserve assistance.
7. What makes you unique as a candidate?
Rivera cited the race card, Chovanes said he’s successful in a very demanding profession and the rest, who remembers?
8. What would you do about voter fraud? Voter ID?
Of course this is an infinitesimal problem but all claimed it is widespread by Democrats. Interestingly some of those Republican committee persons in attendance regularly engage in it. In Kutztown they tell college students they’ll lose their student loans by voting. They all insist voters must have a drivers license. Millions of poor people don’t drive.
More after the fold…
Now I’ll take each candidate one by one and review their answers.
Dr. George Chovanes, Huffs Church
He claimed to need better educational opportunities while also slamming the massive debt run up by Republican Presidents the past thirty years, said this endangers our liberties, and says there is too much power concentrated in Washington. He is a climate denier and claimed the constitution as a “sacred document.” I suppose this nut job thinks it was written by God and handed to Moses. He knows nothing about school property taxes or welfare, would repeal “ObamaCare,” thinks life begins at conception, and would strive to “eliminate this cancer” (voter fraud). He supports stripping hard working public employees of their defined benefit pensions along with all of his competitors for the nomination. He said in his closing he would do in Harrisburg what he does in the operating room: remove the tumor. Of course most brain cancer patients tend to have very unfortunate outcomes and the same could be said for state government if Dr. Chovanes were elected. He’s a total whackjob.
Michael Rivera was insulted by Dr. Chovanes when in his closing statement he said “I am an American.” It was a clear reference to the Puerto Rican sitting next to him. Rivera didn’t bite and repeatedly said his ethnicity could help him win and keep the seat in 2012. That’s debatable because the GOP has been systematically driving Latino voters towards Democrats by statements such as the Doctor’s and overt racism in immigration policy.
He kept claiming he could create jobs because of his work with the local Chamber of Commerce. One of the big issues in this campaign should be how the next Senator replaces the great work of Sen. O’Pake in bringing economic development money to the District. This wasn’t mentioned at all last evening. Only Larry Medaglia even made any mention of the late Senator and gave him credit for “going above and beyond the call of duty.” No one else showed any class. He stupidly said we have to follow the constitution which is as obvious as the dumb look on his face at such a question at a state level race.
He doesn’t know how to replace school taxes and claimed defined benefit pensions didn’t work for businesses. In fact they worked spectacularly well for fifty years before greed took over and Wall Street decided they wanted more of the money. Workers have been systematically screwed now and are losing pensions right and left. The state pays below average wages for public employees and the fixed pensions are designed to compensate them for that difference. Taking these away will result in state, county and local governments being unable to attract competent people to work in the public sector. Greed wins again if any of these men wins.
Rivera said we must control health care costs but not one of these men said they would support the Family and Business Healthcare Security Act which would do just that. Instead of supporting a state level program to rein in costs and cover everyone that all attacked the federal efforts. He is anti-choice and thinks children should lose their mothers to back alley butchers again. He claimed there is much waste and abuse in the welfare system. The average person on welfare does so for only six months. He thinks every voter should be required to provide voter ID. Voter fraud is less than 1% of those voting and most common in our area is rampant voter intimidation against the Latino population. Rivera was silent on this issue.
Jim Smith is an attorney in Fleetwood and kept repeating that his parents and family were in the audience. No one cares Jim, they want to know what you think about the issues. He was pretty much an empty suit all night with nothing much to say. He is anti-choice, thinks women should have to go to back alley butchers such as the one arrested in Philadelphia yesterday, supports the constitution (who was going to say no?), slammed PSEA for wanting pensions, did go after “the heath insurance mafia,” and slammed welfare recipients for wanting pro bono legal work. He obviously doesn’t believe lawyers should be required to perform pro bono (free) services. He reinforced the issue of poor pay for public employees when he said as a young assistant district attorney he had to work tables at the Crab Barn to make ends meet. He opposes fixed pensions for public employees however, an interesting conundrum. On the issue of voter fraud he stood up and said “this excites me.” He didn’t say much else though.
Barry Jozwiak recited his experience as County Sheriff but forgot to mention he got his department sued. He violated gun owner’s rights by using their confidential information to invite them to join his “posse” (campaign committee) by providing contributions for his campaign. While saying he served three terms he forgot to say he couldn’t run again after getting sued. He is a Second Amendment gun nut who thinks that document is near and dear to his heart…well, that one Amendment anyway. He’s a Mason, anti-choice and is against welfare. He did pledge to limit his term in office. On the constitution query he said his Deputies supported it by giving detainees their Miranda rights. Of course outside the courtrooms the Sheriffs Department had little law enforcement powers under Jozwiak. Its a shame he didn’t respect the privacy rights of gun owners. On school taxes he said he isn’t in favor of an all sales tax approach and that voter referendums should be mandated for all tax increases. That’s one sure way to destroy our school system.
Jozwiak would strip public employees of their hard earned pensions except for the State Police. Of course they can continue abusing their powers without losing a pension. The PSP is becoming a notoriously bad force. He is against health insurance mandates, and is anti-choice. He does support abortion in the case of health of the mother, rape or incest. He supports welfare for those in need and said the answer is to create jobs. He also said some welfare people come into CareerLink driving BMW’s. I imagine some out of work people do have nice cars. This economy has hit everyone.
Larry Medaglia was the only candidate to salute Mike O’Pake for his service. Filling his shoes will be a gargantuan job for whomever replaces him in this seat. Mike was everywhere all the time and devoted his life to serving the 11th State Senate District and no one else even thought to mention this. Larry’s reputation in the courthouse is that he’s lazy and he ran the Berks GOP from his Register of Wills office for years before the term BonusGate was coined. He reminded those in the room that he also teaches at Reading Area Community College while also holding a full time County position. Berks County and the Commonwealth contribute huge sums to keep RACC going so he is double dipping at the public trough.
He supports the Commonwealth Caucus sales tax scheme for replacing property taxes, an obligation which falls disproportionately on the poor. In comparison property taxes fall greater on the rich and wealthy because the more your home is worth the more you pay. No one cited O’Pake’s plan which would totally replace school property taxes with a progressive state income tax. He called public employees “an elite class” who don’t deserve defined benefit pensions. This was a supreme slam and insult to his own workers in the Register of Wills office and at RACC. He did cite and obligation to provide health care to the poor but is against mandates. Anti choice he lost my vote right there. He also cited creation of jobs as the answer to welfare. No one mentioned providing subsidized child care so mothers could work. He also believe sin the myth of voter fraud and said we defraud ourselves when we allow it. He supports the privatization of government wherever possible. This means he thinks your tax dollars should go to for profit enterprises who will cost more for doing less. They would also be required to put profits before the public good.
Ken Smith is an Exeter resident and serves on the school board where he said he opposes taxes at every opportunity. He wants to reduce budgets everywhere possible and cut spending. As for the constitutional question he said he supports all the Amendments. He may have been the most rational and reasonable candidate there. He is the one who is pro choice though he would insist a teenage girl being raped by her parent be denied access to an abortion by requiring she go to her father for permission. What planet is he living on? He is against the state collecting tax money because it would eliminate local school boards. He thinks public employee pensions are too expensive. Of course with lesser pensions the trade off would have to be higher salaries to attract the good people who serve the public tirelessly. Pensions have been a trade off for wages for decades. Take away one and you’ll have to increase the other. He opposes “cadillac” plans for the poor. In America only the rich and union members have such coverage. He would oppose that for anyone else and have you pay for your own medical care. He supports welfare reform because too many of them “have fancy cars and expensive jewelry.” He supports voter ID which means the suppression of the vote for poor people aka Democrats. This is, in itself, voter fraud.