Lawrence faces Dean in state House election
Republican incumbent John Lawrence is facing Democratic challenger Nancy Dean for the seat representing the 13th District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
The 13th District covers most of rural southern Chester County as well as the borough of Christiana in Lancaster County. The municipalities in Chester County include East Nottingham, Elk, Franklin, Highland, London Grove, Londonderry, Lower Oxford, New London, Penn, Upper Oxford, West Fallowfield, West Nottingham, Atglen, Oxford and West Grove.
Lawrence was elected to his seat in 2011 after state Rep. Art Hershey announced his retirement. Dean has not run for state office previously.
Lawrence, 38, is a lifelong resident of southern Chester County. After graduating from Penn State with a degree in business, he accepted a position at JPMorgan Chase in Newark, eventually becoming a vice president in the Private Client Group. He and his wife have been married for 15 years, and have two daughters. “During my time in office, I have advocated for fiscal responsibility and reform; leading by example I have declined the state pension and many of the other ‘perks’ that legislators of the past voted themselves,” he said.
On the issue of schools, Lawrence said parents should have good choices and a strong voice in the education of their children. He said he has been an advocate for public, public charter, and private schools.
“With regard to the Keystone Exams, I do not support a mandate requiring a student to pass the Keystones in order to graduate — this mandate unfairly punishes students who are leaning toward a career in skilled trades. I am a strong supporter of the EITC
tax credit, which provides additional funding for both public and private schools,” he said.
In matters of the state budget and finances, Lawrence says that the biggest financial issue facing Pennsylvania is the $60 billion unfunded liability in the state teacher’s and worker’s pension systems. He said the “liability is not the fault of the teachers,” but rather the “result of incredibly poor decisions made by both Republican and Democrat elected officials in the early 2000s.”
Lawrence said he is “a supporter of eliminating property taxes and moving toward a sales and income tax based model to fund education.”
On reproductive issues, Lawrence said, “I recognize and respect that people can strongly disagree on the issue of abortion. With this in mind, I have been, and will continue to be, a voice for life in the Legislature.” Lawrence said he is a supporter of farmland preservation.
Lawrence said he supports the right of Pennsylvanians to carry guns. “I take my oath to uphold the constitution very seriously. The Legislature has taken important steps, which I have supported, to keep guns out of the hands of those likely to offend. Some of these measures include adding more mental health records to the federal background check database, and significantly increasing penalties on straw purchasers of guns. These are concrete steps that have a measurable impact on gun violence. I am not supportive of legislation that infringes on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Inasmuch as Chester County has a lot of immigrant labor picking crops, Lawrence said this: “The courts have repeatedly ruled that immigration is a federal issue. Presidents Bush and Obama both had the opportunity, but neither did anything to address this issue. In my view, this vacuum of federal leadership, in conjunction with the aforementioned court rulings, have left the states in a difficult position. On a state level, I have supported initiatives requiring the use of E-Verify for employment purposes, and requiring proof of citizenship to obtain welfare benefits.”
Dean, 67, of Chatham, moved from Delaware to this rural area nine years ago. She pursued a career in teaching, and then made a mid-life career change to ministry. She is now retired. She is married, a mother of two and grandmother of two. “I taught in various settings including several years at a university as I worked on my masters and doctorate in English literature, but made a mid-life turn to study religion at the Divinity School of Harvard University,” she said. “I was ordained in ministry in 1994, and served two churches in Massachusetts, and one in Delaware for 20 years.”
Dean said she believes no nation can be healthy and productive without good schools.
“While tests have a needed place in evaluation, unfortunately they have steadily become the end rather than the means, and the state is spending far too much on testing when many schools are inadequately supplied to meet the stated goals of the Common Core. Charters can provide a valuable alternative, but they should not weaken the main system, and should be a part of that system for proper oversight and accountability,” she said.
Dean believes the state budget must be examined for waste and reductions made that do not unfairly place a burden on public servants who worked in good faith.
“Excessive dependence on property taxes is not supported by citizens, so some combination of non-regressive taxes would be better. People should not have their labor undervalued, and there should be a raise in the minimum wage,” she said.
She said she supports Planned Parenthood. “Women’s health issues are important, and Planned Parenthood has an excellent history of providing affordable gynecological exams, and help with family planning.”
She believes that putting land in trust is a winning plan for protecting the rural landscape. “We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and protecting it should a high priority,” she said.
Dean believes in the right to own weapons. “I grew up in a family of hunters, also am a gun owner, and know that sensible weapons regulation is good for everyone.”
In view of the high number of immigrants employed in Chester County, especially in agriculture, she said, “We are long overdue for an updated, commonsense immigration policy that would help people who want to come for work, but would probably be happy to go home. As it is, the current system encourages often dangerous efforts to come here, and less willingness to return home. For those who would like to be citizens, there should be a way for them to move toward citizenship that is fair and upholds the law.”