The four candidates competing for the Republican nomination to be Pennsylvania’s governor answered questions Thursday during a forum hosted by the Blair County Republican Committee.
Republican governor hopefuls had a chance to weigh in on issues including the state budget, education standards and responding to the opioid epidemic.
State Senator Scott Wagner, from York County, said he ran a write-in campaign for his seat because he was fed up with government. He called the Senate “completely dysfunctional.”
“Folks, let me tell you," Wagner said. "We don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending and mismanagement problem.”
Pittsburgh attorney Laura Ellsworth, also highlighted her outsider status.
“It is time for the citizens of Pennsylvania to take back our state from the professional politicians, from political paralysis, from posturing. It is time for us as citizens to get things done,” Ellsworth said.
The forum was civil. The candidates took turns at the microphone in front of a packed audience at the American Legion in Hollidaysburg.
They agreed on many issues. With some taking opportunities to slam Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat. State House Speaker Mike Turzai said the state lived within its means under Wolf’s predecessor, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
“What’s the difference in the equation? Tom Wolf," Turzai said. "He wanted to increase personal income taxes, sales taxes, cradle-to-grave taxes. Guess who stopped him? The House Republicans stopped him. Each and every time.”
Each candidate had a chance to answer all the questions, although a chime sounded when responses went over the time limit.
State pensions were another a topic. Businessman Paul Mango, from Pittsburgh, said he won’t pull the rug out from under employees because government can’t meet its obligations.
“We need to reduce the size of the state employee work force. We will address that, along with growth. We will close our pension gap," Mango said.
Blair County Republican Chair Lois Kaneshiki used the debate to weigh in on the Republican party’s upcoming straw polls. She said party officials will have their first straw poll this Saturday. Straw polls are unofficial votes to measure opinion. She said straw polls will happen in six regions before the Pennsylvania Republican winter meeting February 10th.
“Many voters believe that they get to choose their candidates in the primary," Kaneshiki said. "But, I believe this endorsement vote interferes with the voters’ choices, and it’s a manipulation of what would be the natural primary process.”
The Republican nominee will likely face Wolf, who is running for reelection.