Houghton announces new state Senate bid

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Redistricted out of the 9th, he will challenge Sen. Andy Dinniman for the Democratic nomination in the 19th District

Former State Rep. Tom Houghton

LONDON GROVE — Former State Representative, Township Supervisor and attorney Tom Houghton announced his candidacy for the Pennsylvania State Senate for the 19th District, which includes West Marlborough township in the Unionville area.

Houghton started in public service when he was elected to London Grove’s Board of Supervisors in 2001. He became Vice-Chair immediately and Chairman of the Board in 2004. He was re-elected in November of 2007.  Houghton was also a four-year member of the Planning Commission, London Grove’s representative on the Executive Committee to PennDOT’s Route 41 Commission, and is a long-time Board member of the White Clay Creek Watershed Association.

In 2008, Houghton was elected to serve as State Representative in the 13th House District. During his term in office, he served his constituents well, passing legislation, and successfully fighting to increase state education funding to reduce the school property tax burden.

“I have a deep sense of optimism–coupled with deep concern for the direction of our Commonwealth — that led me to plan a run for the State Senate. In Harrisburg, Senator Dominic Pileggi has voted against womens’ health care, opposed former Governor Rendell’s efforts to establish a responsible school funding formula, and backed costly and unproven private school tuition vouchers that would further drain resources away from public education. I believe these views are out-of-step with Chester County values, and harmful to our sense of commonwealth.”

In order to make it to the November General Election, Houghton will have to challenge his new State Senator and fellow Democrat — Andy Dinniman (D, Chester County) in the April 24th Primary Election. Houghton had planned to run against Senate Majority Leader, Dominic Pileggi (R, Delaware County) until the new legislative redistricting maps came out in November. At that time, Houghton found out that his residence in London Grove Township had been redistricted into the 19th Senatorial District currently represented by Dinniman.

“When I first heard the rumors that I would be placed in Dinniman’s district I had to reassess my plan to make a run for the State Senate. Knowing his record, and after discussions with Senator Dinniman about his recent votes, I can only say that Andy Dinniman has abandoned us for special interests. He has made one bad vote after another — votes that are inconsistent with the values of the people of Chester County. He has voted against his constituents on major issues that speak to the very core of our values,” said Houghton.

Houghton pointed out that Sen. Dinniman voted YES on four major pieces of legislation that gave Houghton pause. Sen. Dinniman voted to support a sweeping school vouchers plan that threatens the future of public education in Pennsylvania. Senator Dinniman also supported the most recent restrictions on women’s health clinics, which will deny many women the health care they desperately need. Sen. Dinniman supported restrictions on seniors and minorities, mandating that unemployment and Medicaid recipients must provide a government issued ID, which some elderly do not have and which many cannot afford. The bill bars all other alternative forms of identification and will cost Pennsylvania an estimated $19 million. Senator Dinniman was one of only a few Democratic Senators that supported legislation putting the profits of the corporations and big insurance companies ahead of the safety of consumers, shifting the responsibility for future care of injured victims from wrongdoers to taxpayers.

“All of these votes are extremely troubling, but the major offense is Sen. Dinniman’s support for the anti-public education legislation known as the Vouchers Bill. By supporting the Vouchers Bill Senator Dinniman has joined the opponents of our schools in their relentless attack on public education, and by extension seniors, families and all Pennsylvania taxpayers,” said Houghton.

“Ever since public school opponents took control of the House, Senate and Governor’s Mansion in Harrisburg after the 2010 election, they are simply on the attack against public education. It has been disturbing to watch as they boast about being fiscally conservative, pass a budget giving out $200 million in corporate tax breaks–all while cutting funding for our schools by hundreds of millions of dollars. My school district (Avon Grove) was forced to raise property taxes by 5.9% to make up for these cuts. What they call fiscally conservative I call passing the buck to seniors and struggling families,” said Houghton.

Houghton laid out why the bill, if it eventually becomes law, would be horrible for Pennsylvanians:

“The Senate bill would:

  • Cost millions of dollars letting private schools choose what kids to take while at the same time not being accountable for standardized testing results like public schools are;
  • Give private schools, not parents, the ‘choice’ on whether to accept or deny admission to students. Students can be excluded based on gender, church affiliation, ability, behavior and other special learning needs, or even disability status;
  • Not provide savings to public schools which will have the same overhead costs – maintaining buildings, transporting and feeding students and having to still provide support services. Schools can’t reduce staff or other costs if a few students across different grade levels transfer to private schools with vouchers (public money) in hand;
  • Increase school board imposed property taxes due to the revenue being drawn away from K-12 basic education funding. School boards will have to get the lost funds from somewhere.

“There are many groups and organizations like the PA School Boards Association, PA League of Women Voters, the PA Association of Rural and Small Schools, the National Organization of Women, and the NAACP that oppose vouchers. Why? These groups believe in public education, as I certainly do,” said Houghton.

“As the Senate Minority Chair to the Education Committee, instead of standing up for public education, Senator Andy Dinniman has assisted and given cover to public school opponents in their efforts to begin the dismantling of public education in Pennsylvania. By strongly advocating for and voting YES on the Vouchers bill, Senator Dinniman has betrayed a fundamental tenet of our country and basic Democratic principles–protecting and fighting for public education. Pulling more state money away from the funding of our schools will also result in increased property taxes on the local level. That is simply unacceptable,” said Houghton.

“Sen. Dinniman’s voting record on this issue shows that the voters of Chester County can no longer depend on Andy Dinniman to stand up for our values or our future. Senator Dinniman’s recent voting record and the financial reports of his campaign PAC clearly demonstrate that he has chosen to stand with public school opponents, entrenched corporate interests and their lobbyists in Harrisburg and against his constituents. In the course of my years in public service, I have met thousands of families and seniors at public events and at their own front doors. I have heard their stories, struggles, and frustrations. I cannot sit on the sidelines while our State Senator, who is supposed to be our firewall on this radical agenda of public school privatization, joins the greed driven opportunists who want to create a slippery slope towards the end of public education as we know it; nor can I turn away from the struggling seniors and families who will have to pay for it. Andy Dinniman has deserted the people who elected him, and it is time that someone stood up for them. This is why I choose to run, and it is why I MUST run,” declared Houghton.

Houghton is married to his high school sweetheart, Danelle. They have two children, Marley and Benjamin, both of whom attend public schools, and were long-time foster parents with the Chester County Children and Youth Services agency.

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