Two vie for 154th district seat
Democratic incumbent Steve McCarter squares off against Republican challenger Robert Gillies for the 154th district seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the November election. This district includes Cheltenham, Jenkintown and Springfield.
Before he was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, McCarter, 67, said he’s worked in a number of fields over the years. He was a machine operator, U.S. Army Reserve captain, a high school social studies teacher in the Abington and Lower Merion School Districts for 35 years, labor leader and adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
He said he’s running for re-election because he feels he still has a lot left to accomplish in Harrisburg.
“I think one of the major things is in public education,” he said. “My background in public education has given me a view that shows what good funding can do for schools, what good administration is like, to make sure that the best possible results can happen and at the same time, I want to make sure that every child in Pennsylvania gets a quality, world-class education.”
His background in education, he said, makes him the best candidate, because he’s seen the changes that have taken place in schools across Philadelphia and in the suburbs.
“I’ve seen how they’ve become
challenged,” he said, noting the state used to provide 50 percent of the funding for education, and now it’s down to 35 percent, which he called “unacceptable.”
If re-elected, McCarter said that he would not only make his focus on improving public education, but also improving the economy and protecting the environment.
“Pennsylvania’s job growth has dropped precipitously in the last four years,” he said of the economy. “We have not recovered in many areas of the state from the recession. We need to help small businesses in Pennsylvania be able to get job growth … by giving them the incentive to hire more people. At the same time, give them a chance for those people who are hired to work at a living wage. So it works both ways.”
As for the environment, McCarter said he was committed to helping fix the flooding problems in his district by working closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to find ways to drain water gradually and hold off on construction projects near riparian buffers close to waterways to preserve water absorption.
Lastly, McCarter said he was in favor of a natural gas extraction tax from drilling companies as a source of income for the state.
Gillies, 54, a project manager at A.P. Construction, Inc. and member of the Springfield Township Board of Commissioners, said he’s running for office because he’s trying to cut down on over-regulation in government.
“Being a commissioner for 15 years in Springfield, you see a lot of how the state regulations impact our ability to manage the township in some ways and regula- tions that come and prevent us from doing certain things or require us to do others that aren’t as efficient as they could be,” he said. “That’s on the government side. On the business side, coming from a construction career, you see how the government impacts the ability to add growth and development to create jobs. So I feel with the experience in the construction world, and 15 years as a commissioner, I can go to Harrisburg and make a difference and increase the ability for the state to grow and be competitive in the market.”
Gillies said he’s the best man for the job because of the diversity of his experience in both the public and private sectors.
“I get to see a variety of life experience versus the singular track of a teacher,” he said. “I’m not demeaning that in any shape or form. I’m just trying to separate the two.”
If elected, Gillies said he would focus on rebuilding the state economy to allow more people to find jobs.
“It’s really the job market, growth and increasing people’s disposable income by reducing government costs,” he said. “And/or government regulations.”
Gillies cited gasoline prices as a prime example of how government regulations cause certain prices to rise.
“Not the tax, but regulations within that,” he said. “So it’s a hidden tax. So that basically increases the cost of gas.”
He said the same argument could be applied to the issue of natural gas extraction. By adding an extraction tax to natural gas drilling companies, the cost to pay the tax would be passed on to consumers living in state who use that gas to heat their homes. By keeping prices low, he argued, natural gas consumers’ fuel costs are cut in half leaving them with more money in their pockets.
Lastly, Gillies said if elected, he’d like to make sure that government follows the “constitutional law versus the executive law.”
“We have a constitution we’re supposed to follow,” he said. “There’s ways to change laws if you want laws changed. Individual people shouldn’t be able to change laws.”
Follow Eric Devlin on Twitter @Eric_Devlin.
Steve McCarter, the Democratic incumbent, looks to improve public education and the economy, plus protect the environment Robert Gillies, running on the Republican ticket, is a project manager at A.P. Construction and a member of the Springfield Township Board of Commissioners.