GOP eyes county’s only blue Senate seat
Republican Jack London is challenging Democratic state Sen. Andy Dinniman
This year’s election season has been nothing if not unusual, and the climate of unrest and frustration in the electorate has been evidenced by political outsider Donald Trump’s victory in the Republican primary, and self-proclaimed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders’ unexpectedly competitive campaign against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. This atmosphere that seems to favor outsiders over establishment
politicians could even have more local repercussions in elections at the state level.
Republicans in Pennsylvania are targeting a seat in the state Senate that has been held for the past decade by the only Democratic legislator in Chester County, and the Republican challenger is a man with no prior political experience.
The Chester County Republican Party held a reception in support of state Senate candidate Jack London at the Downingtown Country Club Wednesday evening. Other state senators who attended the fundraiser include: Lisa Baker, R-20, of Luzerne County; Camera Bartolotta, R-46, of Washington County; Michele Brooks, R-50, of Mercer County; Pat Browne, R-16, of Lehigh County; Bob Mensch, R-24, of Marlborough Township, Montgomery County; Tom McGarrigle, R-26, of Springfield, Delaware County; and Kim Ward, R-39, of Westmoreland County. County Republicans – Commissioner Terence Farrell, District Attorney Tom Hogan and
Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh – also attended the fundraiser.
London, a small business owner and former police officer who lives in Avondale, is running against Democratic state Sen. Andrew “Andy” Dinniman of West Whiteland in the 19th Senatorial District. Dinniman has held this Senate seat since he won an upset victory over his Republican opponent, then county Commissioner Carol Aichele, in a special election in the summer of 2006, following the death of Republican state Sen. Robert Thompson. Dinniman was a county commissioner for 15 years prior to the election, making him the longest-serving commissioner in the county’s history. His victory marked the first time in more than a century that voters in Chester County chose to send a Democrat to represent them in the state Senate. However, some Republicans believe this could be the year they’ll finally reclaim the 19th District seat.
London, along with state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-34, of Centre County, spoke with the Daily Local News Wednesday evening about some of the issues they believe Pennsylvania’s legislators need to address.
Corman said some of the most profound issues facing Pennsylvania right now are public pensions and school funding. He said these are complex issues that can’t be solved with one bill, but the Senate needs people who are willing to engage with their communities and put in the time and effort to find solutions. He said London has the experience, discipline and work ethic needed to help meet
these goals in the Senate.
London said issues with funding pensions are connected to other aspects of the state budget because about 70 percent of the budget goes toward unfunded liabilities and debt issues, and it’s sucking money away that could be used for education funding. He said he is concerned about funding for public schools, partially because he has a daughter who attends Avon Grove High School, and she’ll probably go on to attend one of the public universities in the state.
Corman said the total amount of annual contributions for the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) and the Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) has gone from about $600 million in 2006 to more than $2.5 billion this past fiscal year. He said risk is the biggest issue that needs to be reduced in the pension system because the risk held by the state has become a multi-billion dollar issue. Corman said the Legislature has proposed bills to implement a hybrid system where new employees would be eligible for a mix of a pension and a 401k plan, which could help reduce
London said the 401k plan pushes the onus onto the employee. He said he’s not against public employees, but the pension system in unsustainable, and he’s afraid the pensions might not be there in the future. “You can’t kick the can down the road,” he said. “There has to be a give and take.”
London said his experience in the private sector would enable him to get things done in the Senate. “I want to go to Harrisburg and shake things up with a new perspective,” he said.
In a phone interview with the Daily Local News Thursday, Dinniman said that based on his voting record, he’s the most independent senator in Harrisburg in terms of voting for the interests of his constituents. “I am, and have been since my days as a county commissioner, an independent voice,” Dinniman said. “Sometimes I vote with my party; often I vote against it.”
He said the public is fed up with partisan gridlock and people just voting with party lines, so it’s important to have an independent voice. Dinniman said he voted in favor of pension reform, and he supports the plan for a hybrid system for new employees, but it would go against the Pennsylvania Constitution to alter the pensions of employees who have already earned them. He said there are pension reform bills in both the Senate and House, and he supports the Senate bill, but ultimately the two chambers of the Legislature will have to agree on a compromise.
State senators in oddnumbered districts, and all state representatives are up for re-election this year on Nov. 8.
“The reason I get elected in a Republican county is because people look at me not as a Republican or a Democrat but as an independent voice and my voting record reflects this,” Dinniman said.
However, London is not a typical political candidate either. As an awardwinning bodybuilder, he’s no stranger to tough competitions.
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Jack London, Republican candidate for Pennsylvania’s 19th Senatorial District.
State Sen. Andy Dinniman will try to defend his 19th District seat against a challenge from Republican Jack London.