The Delaware Valley Journal hosted an online debate for the Republican lieutenant governor candidates on Thursday.
Among those vying for the position in the May 17 primary are John Brown, Jeff Coleman, Mayor Chris Frye, James Jones, Clarice Schillinger and Jesse Streeter participated in the forum. Rep. Russ Diamond was unable to join due to technical difficulties.
While the group agreed in many areas, there were differences in style, background, and solutions to the state’s problems.
Brown, who has served as county executive for Northampton and mayor of Bangor, emphasized his government experience and leadership. He said the Wolf administration mismanaged the COVID pandemic, adding the problems facing the state from inflation to joblessness are “problems that I’ve been working on my entire life.”
Coleman founded Churchill Strategies, a communications firm in Harrisburg. He is a former state representative who also worked for the Commonwealth Foundation. He says he believes there is a “loss of civility” in public life and a need for the new governor to enact their policies swiftly, working with the state legislature.
Frye, the mayor of New Castle, said he would build relationships, connect with people and be “a servant leader.” He has a background in social work and nonprofit organizations.
Jones, a Hatboro resident, said he is a businessman rather than a politician. He has a “three to five-year plan” to help the new governor get the state back on track and has worked with labor unions and emergency management. Jones is also a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, Beirut, and the First Gulf War.
Schillinger, an education advocate from Horsham who co-founded Back to School PAC, said the governor is the chief executive officer of the commonwealth, and she has learned to be a CEO from “the man who trained Steve Jobs.” She wants to be “truly the voice of the residents of Pennsylvania.”
Streeter, a businessman who owns hotels and restaurants, would bring a “Six Sigma” management approach to Harrisburg. During the pandemic, the Wolf administration “used COVID for their own advantage” and “abused their power” when it deemed thousands of businesses nonessential, he said.
One duty of the lieutenant governor is to chair the Board of Pardons, and the candidates were asked what metrics they would use to decide who should receive pardons or commutations.
Jones and Brown emphasized the need for a case-by-case approach.
Schillinger said she would “back the blue” and be an advocate for crime victims’ rights. Streeter spoke about young men who “run with the wrong crowd,” get in trouble, and are imprisoned at a young age.
Coleman said there has been a “growing bipartisan consensus” that once people have paid their debt to society, they should be rehabilitated. But convicts also need “strong support” outside prison to do well once released.
Asked about the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which raises tolls yearly while losing money, Brown called it “a broken system.” Money from tolls is funding the State Police, instead of being used for infrastructure as originally envisioned.
The Turnpike issues need debate, and the Turnpike has been plagued by patronage, corruption, and failure to modernize, said Coleman.
But Jones countered there have already been “years and years” of debate, and it was time for action.
Schillinger, meanwhile, said she has been avoiding the Turnpike while traveling around the state for her campaign.
“Not every Pennsylvanian can ride on that road,” she said. “It takes a second mortgage to do so… It’s the most expensive road in America.” She also noted the Turnpike eliminated numerous toll taker jobs while paying millions to contractors.
Streeter, of Beaver County, said most of the state is small towns.
“We are taxed to support these urban cities,” he said.
Asked about Donald Trump and his impact on the Republican Party, most of the candidates spoke highly of Trump’s policies. Coleman was the notable exception, distancing himself from the Trump populism. To be a Republican is to be for “limited government, lower taxes, personal responsibility, dignity, freedom and the value of human life,” Coleman said.