Voters in Pennsylvania’s 134th legislative district will get to vote twice on April 24 to fill the seat vacant since January when former Pa. Rep. Douglas Reichley was sworn in as a judge in Lehigh County.
A special election is being held that day between Republican Ryan Mackenzie and Democrat Patrick Slattery, to serve the rest of Reichley’s 2012 term.
In addition to the special election section, both their names also will be elsewhere on the ballot because April 24 is primary election day. In November, both hope to win a full, two-year term as state representatives for the 134th district, which covers parts of Lehigh and Berks counties.
Slattery, 41, lives in Lower Macungie Township and is director of business development at KidsPeace in Schnecksville.
Mackenzie, 29, lives in South Whitehall Township. He resigned his position as director of policy for the state Department of Labor & Industry to campaign full time.
“I believe if you are running to serve the public you should show them you are 100 percent committed,” he said.
While at Labor & Industry, he said he helped make bi-partisan changes to the state’s unemployment compensation system “that will save taxpayers $120 million a year.”
Slattery is unopposed in the primary. Mackenzie has one Republican primary opponent, Arlene Dabrow, 73, of Lower Macungie Township.
Slattery ran for the seat in 2010 but was defeated by Reichley, the Republican incumbent.
Mackenzie said he’s never run for office before. He said he’s running now because “from a stagnant economy to a looming pension crisis, the politicians in Harrisburg ignored our problems for too long.”
Slattery offered a similar reason for running: “For too long, our leaders in Harrisburg have kowtowed to party rhetoric and special interests – with disastrous results. We need a leader who will honestly debate the issues and find common sense solutions to our district’s problems. I have the experience and determination to move the Lehigh Valley forward.”
Slattery said restoring faith in government will be his top priority: “With one of the most expensive legislatures in the country, there should be a reasonable expectation for exceptional services. Unfortunately, our legislature has let taxpayers down, proving bigger isn’t always better. I’ll work to reign in wasteful spending and make Harrisburg more transparent. Restoring integrity to state government will be one of my highest priorities.”
Mackenzie’s top goals include “creating jobs, protecting taxpayers and bringing strong fiscal discipline back to Harrisburg.”
Slattery said he is the better candidate because “the problems facing our district can only be solved by a representative who puts his constituents before his party’s ideology.
The state Republican Party has one priority: advance its political ambitions at any cost. That cost is usually felt by already overburdened taxpayers at the local level.”
Responded Mackenzie: “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I have already proven that I will work in a bi-partisan fashion, when I helped craft changes to the unemployment compensation system.”
Mackenzie said he’s the better candidate because “my opponent’s goal seems to be simply to get elected. This is the second time in as many years that he has run for office.”
“Over the past three years, I’ve talked with hundreds of community leaders and business owners and knocked on almost 10,000 doors,” said Slattery. “I know what our district needs and I have the experience and dedication our district deserves.”
Mackenzie charged that Slattery’s financial support in the current and past campaigns has come from Harrisburg special interests, so “you know he will not be willing to take the significant steps, such as pension reform, that are necessary to protect taxpayers.”
Slattery insisted he will put families, workers and seniors in the district first: “If you are looking for someone to protect the middle class and look out for local taxpayers, then you should support my candidacy.” Slattery said he will concentrate on a non-partisan approach to bypass rhetoric and focus on solutions.
Both candidates do agree on one thing: the economy is the top issue.
“The biggest issue facing residents of the 134th District is the same issue facing our country: a stagnant economy that isn’t providing jobs,” said Mackenzie. “We must focus on helping job creators be competitive in the national and international marketplace through tax, regulatory and legal reform.
“My top two priorities are sparking economic growth to drive job creation and addressing rising property taxes. Locally, rising property taxes are an issue for all homeowners and we must help them by overhauling the property tax system and giving school districts the tools to cut and control costs.”
Regarding school funding, Slattery said: “The taxpayers of tomorrow can’t afford the cuts to public education we’re making today. We need to invest in our future workforce. We need to prepare our students for high-paying jobs in the global marketplace. Without an educated workforce, we won’t be able to fuel a vibrant 21st century economy.”
Slattery also said the state needs a smarter tax policy that ties targeted tax cuts to job growth and it must eliminate red tape that prevents businesses from moving to Pennsylvania.