London Grove Democrat cites his record on agriculture, bi-partisanship
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
WEST HEMPFIELD — In a frosty Lancaster barn full of hay, former State Representative Tom Houghton announced in front of a bevy of supporters Monday that he would take on veteran U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts for the 16th District seat in Congress.
The London Grove Democrat acknowledged that the race against Pitts, who has held the seat since 1997 representing parts of Chester, Lancaster and Berks counties — including East Marlborough, Pennsbury and West Marlborough in the Unionville area — would be a challenge. But after the 2013 government shutdown and Pitts being one of the few Congressional members from southeast Pennsylvania to actively support it, Houghton said he felt he could no longer just stand by.
“I’ve been asked before to make the run, and when I watched what happened with the government shutdown and the fact that Rep. Pitts was one of the few to sign on to that letter to actually shut down the government, I thought that was just over the top and outrageous.”
“I just couldn’t sit and watch anymore,” he continued.
And so Houghton, 45, who has a West Grove law practice, announced his race, focusing on two major themes: his track record of working across the aisle both a Township Supervisor in London Grove and later as a State Representative to get things done and his record of fighting for agriculture and farmers — which prompted Monday’s snowy locale.
“It was crucial for us to announce here on a farm, because I realize important agriculture is,” he said. “Not just to this race, and I’m going to make sure it is a big issue, but anyone who knows me, knows that since I first ran for township supervisor, agriculture was basically the platform of every one of our races.”
Houghton spoke about the fertile soils of the area — which he said were among the best in the the planet — which he said makes farming important. But he noted it goes beyond that — that preserving lands as farms is also good economic policy. As seen in Chester County and elsewhere in the district, as farms are converted into housing subdivisions, local taxes increase — unlike farms, each home requires far more in services from roads to schools than it pays in property taxes, increasing the overall burden across the board, he said.
“Saving farm land is not only environmentally sound, it’s fiscally responsible,” he said. “And it is the number one industry in Pennsylvania.”
He cited his efforts to preserve London Grove’s agricultural zone as a township supervisor, and then his work in the state legislature, where he sponsored the “PA Preferred” program, to highlight farm products produced within the commonwealth and revisions to the “Clean and Green” farm property tax reduction law to allow installation of green energy collectors such as solar panels or windmills on a portion of the property, without losing the entire tax reduction status.
And none of these issues could have gone anywhere without the ability to work beyond party labels to find compromises — and ultimately, solutions, he said.
“I was able to get this stuff done, not because I’m some great legislative hero, it’s about working across the aisle,” he said. “That’s what we were able to do, coming together with other people despite their party and saying ‘what’s best for this area, what’s best for Pennsylvania.’ ”
He promised to bring that spirit — something he said is badly needed — to Washington, D.C.
“People want a leader who simply cares and knows how to get things done,” Houghton said. “No matter what some of my past constituents might say about me, whether they agreed or disagreed with me, there’s none of them that can say that I don’t hold those two qualities. I’m running for Congress in the 16th District, because I believe that people in the district want someone to go to Washington for them that can fight for them. That’s something I will do.”
In addition to dozens of supporters, Houghton was joined Monday by his wife of 20 years, Danelle and his two children, Ben, age 10 and Marley, age 14.