Democrat, GOP house candidates snub Cheney event

Independent Dave Cleary makes his case when opponents no-show at NAACP event

By Mike McGann, Editor,

Dave Cleary speaks to students and local residents at Cheney. The independent 160th District candidate was the only district candidate to attend an NAACP sponsored forum on the campus, Thursday night.—Mike McGann Photo.

THORNBURY — For a man in a room full of people, Dave Cleary was feeling awfully alone Thursday night. Cleary was the only candidate from the 160th State House District to attend a candidate forum sponsored by the Cheney University NAACP.

State Representative Steve Barrar (R-Upper Chichester) and Democratic nominee Nick DiGregory did not attend the event, although more than 100 students and local residents filled the multi-purpose room in the Cheney student center.

Running as an independent, Cleary says he’s gotten used to charting his own course — and made it clear to the crowd he — if not his opponents — was appreciative of the opportunity to come out and speak to them.

“I really appreciate the opportunity,” he told the crowd. “I get a lot more rejections than I do invitations.”

While other candidates might have been frustrated or even angry to be left without a chance to take on his opponents, Cleary is more philosophical about things.

“It’s disappointing that this sort of event doesn’t interest the other candidates,” he said. “But I appreciate the opportunity.”

Cleary, who shared the stage with Democrat Gail Connor, one of two state house candidates in the 168th District — the campus is split between the 160th District and the 168th District — was asked a number of questions by organizers and members of the audience, including the topic of spending by the two party caucuses in the legislature.

“The money is actually budgeted to the Democratic and Republican parties,” he said. “If I were elected, there would be no budget for me to have a staff or office unless I agreed to caucus with one of the two parties. I not sure that’s Constitutional. There should be a set budget for each of the 203 districts for offices and staff and the money should not be run through the parties.”

He noted that the two parties already spend entirely too much money on staffs and that some of the staff duties seem like they violate the checks and balances of the state constitution. He cited the many legislators who have people on staff to help local residents get drivers licenses. He notes that’s the job of the state Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and that the executive branch of the government ought to be getting that job done.

“Maybe they can tell people they’re fiscal conservatives,” he said. “But when they’re spending money on things like this, I guess it’s pretty obvious that’s not true. That sort of thing may make a legislator popular, but it doesn’t make it right.”

When asked about the Wall Street bailout, Cleary said that issues like that don’t really come before the state legislature, but cautioned that it could set a poor precedent.

“I’m concerned about rewarding bad behavior,” he said. “The regulation wasn’t being enforced.” Cleary makes that argument that new regulation just seems to punish those who were already playing by the rules — something that could have been avoided if regulators had done their jobs in the first place.

On health care, Cleary said he was worried about the lack of state oversight — and that a handful of providers are charging the state a great deal, but not providing the proper level of care at times. He also said he opposes the legalization of marijuana and even questions whether it makes sense as a prescribed drug.

“I think with so many people having problems with addiction, you have to be sure there’s a real benefit,” he said.

Another question came on electricity rate caps,  which expire in January, 2011 in this area and are expected to lead to moderate to serious rate increases from PECO.

“The challenge there is that you have one utility run to your house, the options for competition remain limited,” he said. “That’s why there were rate caps in the first place. Unfortunately, the legislature — and my opponent — voted to remove those caps without really having another option for consumers. A lot of people are going to suffer as a result.”

One student asked what Cleary could do for students at Cheney if elected.

Cleary noted, with a laugh, that virtually anything would be better for Cheney than the incumbent, Barrar, who Cleary says lists only one university as being in his district on his district Web site, Neumann University in Aston, a private school, as opposed to Cheney which is part of the state university system.

“We have to make sure that the university is funded properly,” Cleary said. “We need to make sure that the facilities are kept up. If I’m elected, you can be sure I’ll be here and make sure that people know your needs.”

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