Endorsements: Maxwell, Truitt and Rzucidlo for State House

Election2016HouseIf you think everything in our commonwealth is fine — you have simple choices in Tuesday’s state legislative elections. Returning your local representative will continue the policy and politics we’ve seen for a number of years now.

For the rest of us, who see the state lurching from financial crisis to financial crisis, see alleged “fiscal conservatives” run up the state’s credit card like drunken college students at spring break and use deceptive cheats to “balance” the budget, see a broken system for funding our public schools — one that manages to both penalize poor districts and unfairly burden property owners — and a continued inability to solve the pension crisis, keep our roads and bridges in good repair, and properly fund and staff public safety — it’s a clear a change is needed.

You might say “my State Representative is a really nice person, I couldn’t vote them out.” The problem, of course, is that gives them all, collectively, a blank check to continue selling out the people of the state to buy their next election.

If you have to, think of it as “tough love.” By voting them out, they and their colleagues will learn that voters have had enough of the chaos, dirty deals and refusal to solve problems. Until our elected officials become accountable to us — and not the special interests of the right and left — we cannot make the progress so badly needed in Harrisburg.

While we won’t be endorsing in every race in the county – in some cases, it seems pointless, as an incumbent faces an impossibly overmatched opponent; in others we don’t feel there is a credible candidate on either side of the aisle — we focus on three truly competitive races: the 74th, 156th and the 158th.

In the 74th District, two years ago we hoped that Harry Lewis Jr.’s experience as a teacher and administrator in the Coatesville Area School District would make him an advocate for a struggling school district and a city on the verge of financial collapse. Instead of a vocal advocate, we’ve seen a representative more interested in going along to get along — not making waves among his Republican colleagues.

Coatesville and the surrounding communities need a fighter. After two years, it is clear that Lewis is not that person.

Two years ago, we worried that Mayor Josh Maxwell lacked the maturity to hold this office. Instead of taking his loss personally two years ago, he refocused himself and strove to learn more, to be better and maybe most important: to listen. To be sure, Maxwell has made mistakes, but he’s learned from them, learned to work with folks of all political persuasions, find common ground and seek real solutions.

Even though Maxwell is from Downingtown, at a distance, he is already showing himself to be a better advocate for the people and concerns of neighboring Coatesville. As he has been as Mayor, he will be a very public cheerleader for the district, and someone who will take the voice of the district to Harrisburg.

We endorse Josh Maxwell for State Representative in the 74th District.

The 158th District features an open seat, but an unusual situation: the Democrat, Susan Rzucidlo mostly closely tracks the positions of the retiring Republican State Representative Chris Ross better than does her GOP opponent, Eric Roe.

Ross, in his two decades in the state legislature, was a rarity in modern politics — a moderate, deeply versed on policy.

From what we can gather — and Roe seems to keep his opinions under lock and key for the most part — the GOP nominee is much more conservative than the district he seeks to serve.

His solutions — such as they are — seem like little more than platitudes, with no “there” there when it comes talking about policy fixes, an indication both of his lack of experience and failure to really be deeply involved at a ground level in the community.

As an example, Roe wants to put all new public hires into a 401K retirement plan — which does nothing to solve the current problem that adds an additional 30 cents of every salary dollar paid out to school employees. Worse, since the flow of funds into the pension system would be reduced just as the Baby Boom generation retires, it could literally bankrupt the commonwealth.

With time and experience, it is possible that Roe will develop into someone ready to serve in the legislature, but at this time, he doesn’t appear ready.

Rzucidlo — and this is where she differs from Ross — doesn’t always play well with others. She speaks her mind and treats party leadership — in both parties —with the utter lack of respect deserved. And she’s relentless: in a decade of fighting for the rights and needs of disabled citizens, she’s shown unwillingness to take “no” for an answer and to often try — and do — the impossible.

Without doubt, she will be a disruptive force in Harrisburg. Good. Harrisburg could use more than a little disruption.

The people of the 158th District deserve someone who will fight for them — for their interests, over party, every day. Rzucidlo is that kind of person.

We endorse Susan Rzucidlo for State Representative in the 158th District.

Our final race is far less clear cut — and one we debated internally for many weeks.

The 156th District is lucky to have an option between two excellent, qualified candidates, incumbent State Rep. Dan Truitt, a Republican, and West Chester Mayor Carolyn Comitta, a Democrat.

Truitt is, in many ways, the anti-politician. A professional engineer, he is typically more interested in facts and figures than the politics of an issue. He’s gone against his party on any number of issues from pensions — where he’s one of the very few in either party who get it — to redistricting reform to sensible gun laws.

We don’t agree with him on all issues — and we’d like him to be more forceful and vocal at times, but on the whole he has done his job much, much better than the majority of his colleagues.

Which brings us to Comitta, who has arguably been among the best mayors of West Chester in recent history. Her political skills are strong — she’s shown the ability to build consensus on issues and drive them forward.

Her specific expertise in land use — she and her husband have run one of the top land planning firms in the state — could lead to real reform of the state’s terrible land use laws that handcuff local municipalities and get in the way of redevelopment and open space preservation.

In truth, both would serve the people of the 156th well — it is a shame that both are in the same legislative district, as both would be a credit to the people of Chester County in Harrisburg.

But, when push comes to shove, we see the value of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater as hard as it might be to defend sending anyone back to Harrisburg — Truitt has shown independence and integrity that is rare among legislators of either party these days.

We endorse Dan Truitt for State Representative in the 156th District.

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