Endorsements: Costello, Hartman & Meehan

election2016congressArguably, this is the most acrimonious campaign season in recent history, making it complicated to sort the fact from fiction and figure out who to support in this year’s local Congressional races.

We feel your pain. Our email boxes are constantly filled with breathless pronouncements with whatever counts for talking points in each of these races from both the campaigns, parties and third party groups looking to influence the reporting on the races — a handful substantive, far more either esoteric or moderately ridiculous.

So we understand how you might feel like when you try to pick a candidate, figure out who they are and what they stand for, it can get a bit unclear at times.

Chester County is represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by three house members — representing the 6th (mostly the northern part of the county), the 16th (mostly the south and west of the county) and 7th (a horrific gerrymandered nightmare of a district that ribbons through a slice of the middle of the county in a path that runs through nearly a half dozen counties with little more in common than they exist in the same state).

Three races, but a number of the same issues that face Chester County and the United States in the coming two years.

We’ll start with the easy choices first.

In the 6th Congressional District, Republican Ryan Costello has shown both a facility for working across the aisle and trying to get things done. He’s bright — and his time as both a township supervisor and county commissioner have educated him to realities of governing. While there remain issues on which we disagree with Costello, he continues to show the ability to engage in meaningful discussions of the issues, on which he holds a firm grasp. He listens and works to find common ground. With a vastly reduced — or eliminated — GOP house majority, having members with experience at working across the aisle will be even more crucial in the next two years.

While we think Democrat Mike Parrish offers some good ideas, we’re left somewhat concerned about two issues: his lack of governmental experience (which we grant many might see as a plus, not a negative) and concerns over his ability to manage his personal finances. While many of us have at times struggled to pay our bills, most of us aren’t running for Congress. Between those issues and his struggle to raise campaign funds, we worry that he might find himself excessively beholden to the funding of  special interests if elected.

We endorse Ryan Costello for U.S. Representative in the Sixth Congressional District.

In the 16th Congressional District, in the wake of the retirement of long-serving U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts, we have to look at two relative newcomers to Chester County: Democrat Christina Hartman and Republican Lloyd Smucker.

Smucker currently serves as a state Senator in Lancaster County, so he has a clear legislative experience advantage over Hartman. Hartman, though, has an intriguing resume leading the fight for democracy for various public advocacy groups in countries currently under dictatorship. Her extensive travels and experience give her a strong advantage in terms of foreign policy.

Another advantage that seems clear is Hartman’s engagement in Chester County. She’s been highly visible, plugged in and worked to connect with our residents. Smucker seems somewhat more detached. Another concern: despite his long standing in state politics, he struggled to raise funds for his campaign and we worry that he, like Mike Parrish, might be beholden to special interests for funds if elected — especially to repay the mid- six-figure funds he loaned his campaign.

Lastly, it’s obvious that Congress is in need of change — the most recent term was little more than an exercise in gridlock — and it is hard to see Smucker as being an agent of change.

We endorse Christina Hartman for U.S. Representative in the Sixteenth Congressional District.

While in those two districts the choice is fairly clear cut in our eyes, we admittedly are struggling with a choice in the 7th.

U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, a Republican, who shown a facility to work across the aisle — and has displayed rare political courage, both in openly denouncing GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump (and calling for his withdrawal) and braving censure from the National Rifle Association for backing sensible gun control — primarily battling straw purchases and expanding background checks.

Meanwhile, Democrat Mary Ellen Balchunis — a college professor — is essentially an anti-politician. She has an exceptional education, including a PhD in political science, smarts and common sense. She is not, however, a practiced political operator. While there is some real appeal to sending our own “Dr. Smith Goes To Washington” candidate, we worry whether she might face a learning curve in D.C.

If we have a frustration in this race, it is with neither candidate, but rather the district they run in. Yes, you may have caught on the the fact that we consider the 7th an embarrassment, one that is cited by many national publications as the most gerrymandered district in the country. The time has come for fair, independent districts to be drawn and this district is the best example of why.

While we think both candidates would serve the district well, in the end, we have to reward one of the few elected officials in the area to show political bravery on a regular basis.

We endorse Pat Meehan for U.S. Representative in the Seventh Congressional District.

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