Dinniman, London square off
They are vying for Dinniman’s 19th District Pa. Senate seat in the Nov. 8 election
WEST CHESTER >> State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, of West Whiteland, and his Republican challenger Jack London squared off during a heated debate Sunday afternoon at borough hall.
The debate started shortly after 2 p.m., and took place in front of about 100 people. Dinniman won the coin toss, so he delivered his opening statement first, speaking broadly about his background.
In his opening statement, London attempted to tie Dinniman to increasing property taxes and the state pension issue, two points he would repeatedly return to throughout the debate. He also said Dinniman was “in the pockets” of unions — a statement Dinniman denied.
Dinniman largely rebutted London’s claims by stating he was selectively choosing issues, and argued that many of these problems occurred under Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
On issues about public edu- State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, of West Whiteland, debated his Republican challenger, Jack London, at West Chester Borough Hall Sunday afternoon.
cation, Dinniman talked about his work in revising the fair funding for schools. London, an Avondale resident, said the pension system needed to be reformed before public education could get taken care of, which he criticized Dinniman for his role in.
Next, the debate moved into discussion about unions, particularly the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). Dinniman said he received an endorsement from the FOP, while London said the FOP was “nothing more than another union,” and that his own previous service as a police officer proves his “community service goes deeper than any endorsement.”
On election reform, both candidates called for an end to gerrymandering, the practice of drawing legislative district lines according to concentrations of Republicans and Democrats to help one party stay in power.
When questions about the environment were asked, London called to move away from coal and other fossil fuels and into a more environmentally friendly system, including preserving open space, but he did not offer specifics.
Dinniman reiterated the same broad statements, and said both parties are not moving forward appropriately. His cited his work with open space programs, saying they have already preserved 26 percent in the county, and have a goal to preserve 33 percent.
When questioned about regulating businesses such as Sunoco when they undertake large projects such as laying pipelines across the county, Dinniman talked about creating a process to license Sunoco agents in hopes they will treat residents better, and defend citizens against eminent domain.
London spoke broadly about balancing legislation of big businesses, so they can still continue to grow but still protect the citizens. He did not offer specifics.
London lambasted Dinniman
later in the debate about the Downingtown train station following a question from the moderator about it, saying the senator promised improvements that never happened.
Dinniman responded by talking about his work with the Paoli and Exton train stations, and said that an announcement about the Downingtown train station should be coming in a few weeks from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
When a question was asked about how to help volunteer fire stations suffering from a decline in volunteerism and increased demands placed on fire stations because of development in the county, London highlighted a need to incentivize average citizens to volunteer. He said one way he would do that would be by offering volunteers tax credits.
In his answer, London cited pension reform as one hurdle necessary to help the fire departments and criticized Dinniman for not doing more. Dinniman then took his allotted time to respond to London’s criticism instead of talking about fire departments and what can be done to help them.
On term limits, Dinniman said it was up to the citizens to determine if politicians should have term limits. London said he supports them, and term limits represents what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the constitution. Members of the community come forward and serve their time in office then return to the community, London said.
London also called Dinniman, who has been a state senator since 2006, a “career politician.”
When asked about House Bill 1538, legislation already passed in the House that would allow public officials to withhold the name of a police officer who uses force in an incident until the conclusion of the investigation, Dinniman said he supported the bill. He added that withholding the individual’s name helps protect his or her or family until the investigation is complete.
Dinniman’s endorsement by the FOP came up again, which is where he referenced London’s earlier “nothing more than another union” comment, and called it an “insult.” London attempted to downplay the endorsement.
“The police chiefs association didn’t even call me for an interview,” said London, who also made no mention of House Bill 1538.
At one point during the debate following a breakdown in decorum, moderator Susan Carty said to London, “I’m the one in charge here.”
Questions about abortion came up, where Dinniman said he is pro-choice. London said he is pro-life, except in cases of rape, incest, or where the mother’s life is threatened.
At another point during the debate, both London and Dinniman held up photos of themselves that their opponents used in attack mail and ads against each other, calling the practice “body-shaming.”
London, an award-winning powerlifter and bodybuilder, held a news conference before the debate where he criticized Dinniman’s attacks on him being a bodybuilder and said he wanted to debate the issues.
In an email statement after the debate, Dinniman wrote, “Unflattering pictures are an unfortunate part of political campaigns.
My opponent has put plenty of negative and distorted photos of me out there. If we’re seriously going to discuss the issue of body image in a meaningful way, it needs to happen outside of a political campaign.”
One of the few points where Dinniman and London agreed with each other was that poll workers should not come from out of state.
The 19th Senatorial District includes several municipalities in Chester County including Atglen, Avondale, Coatesville, Charlestown, Downingtown, East Bradford, East Caln, East Fallowfield, East Nottingham, East Whiteland, Elk, Franklin, Highland, London Britain, London Grove, Londonderry, Lower Oxford, Malvern, Modena, New Garden, New London, Oxford, Parkesburg, Penn, Phoenixville, Sadsbury, Schuylkill, South Coatesville, Tredyffrin, Upper Oxford, Valley, West Bradford, West Chester, West Fallowfield, West Grove, West Marlborough, West Nottingham, West Pikeland, West Whiteland and West Sadsbury.