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The Republican race for Pennsylvania governor: WPSU talks with Melissa Hart

Melissa Hart
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Melissa Hart, who served in the Pennsylvania Senate and U.S. House, is one of the candidates running for governor in 2022 in a crowded Republican primary.

The Democratic primary for Governor is not competitive in Pennsylvania this year. But nine Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination to be governor. WPSU invited all those candidates for interviews leading up to the May 17 primary. Here’s the conversation WPSU’s Anne Danahy had with Melissa Hart.

Anne Danahy 
Melissa Hart, thank you for talking with us.

Melissa Hart 
It's nice to be with you today.

Anne Danahy 
You served in the state Senate and U.S. House, and you now work as an attorney. You're also one of nine candidates in this race, you all agree on some of the issues. So what sets you apart from the other candidates?

Melissa Hart 
Yeah, I think it's important actually that voters pay attention to our skills and abilities. Aside from the fact that, you know, we may agree on an issue or two, or 10. It's less relevant than who we are as people, what we've been able to accomplish. If we've been elected, if we understand government, if we understand the private sector. I am the only person in this race who actually has served a significant amount of time in state. Ten years I was a state senator, I chaired the state Senate Finance Committee, then I was six years in the federal government. I'm the only one of us actually who has the balance of both state and federal service. But the reason I'm actually in this race is because the last 15 years where I've been working in the private sector as an attorney at a small firm, working with small business people, and I'm also on the board of directors, which is a very active board of a lender that only lends to small business people. So I have been pretty much pushed into this race by the concerns of those Pennsylvanians who've been trying to build our economy and finding that they hit a brick wall often when dealing with the state.

Anne Danahy 
Can you be specific? What are you hearing from them? What types of issues would you like to address

Melissa Hart 
Yeah, they're across the board. But to begin with, though, it is the incredible and growing bureaucracy and the very uncooperative, I would say uncooperative state agencies. I think this governor really and COVID together have put us in a position where our state agencies are more interested in being the people who give directives, but not the people who assist Pennsylvanians in compliance, for example, with regulations, or with getting licensed. I talked to a woman the other day, whose daughter is a nurse practitioner, and she can't get her license to practice. She's been waiting for months and months. And as you know, our healthcare system needs her and has needed her. But the state is not cooperative and making sure that we have the people we need ready to go even though she's qualified. So that example is No. 1. I want to work with these agencies to make sure that they're customer service-oriented. But also the issues I've faced regarding energy. The development of energy in Pennsylvania has stalled in under this administration. And we need to free up both the families who own the properties, the companies who want to help them produce. And also we need to make the connections with the market. So the pipelines that are being stalled again, by this administration. We need to make sure that we make the connections and also make the connections to the ports, so that the liquification, for example of our natural gas can be done. And then that can be marketed. It's good for all of Pennsylvania. It's not just, you know, the people who are in the energy industry, because then we have cheaper energy. And that helps all the smaller towns that used to be dependent on manufacturing. As we work to onshore manufacturing in America, Pennsylvania can be a focus for that. And obviously one of the best places because of our energy costs.

Anne Danahy 
You've called for education reform, including school choice for families. How would that work? And would it include using tax dollars to support private schools?

Melissa Hart 
Yeah, there's no tax dollars going directly to private schools, because our Constitution doesn't allow for religious schools. But we do allow grants back to parents and that's what would happen here in Pennsylvania, if we did pass a school choice bill. When I was a state senator, I sponsored school choice. We were unable to get it passed at the time. I also worked with an organization out of Washington called the Center for Education Reform, which is based really out there to give parents the control over the children's education. So I'm supportive of a number of different things because every child is different. So every child learns differently. And so each parent should have the opportunity to put their child in the type of education that works best where that child is most likely to succeed, because that's what they want for their future. So I support homeschooling, I support school choice, which would allow a parent to choose a different school district, it also would provide a parent the opportunity to choose a private school, whether religious or not, and that will be up to them. They will get a rebate of some of their taxes so that that would help them defray the cost of education. But I also do support charters, which are public schools. And many of the newest and best charters in the Commonwealth are the ones that are focusing on science and technology. We've had unfortunately, a dearth of graduates who are encouraged in the sciences and encouraged in mathematics. And so what happens in our economy is we're short the people we need for those technical careers. It's important for us to focus on that. We can also, in fact improve our vo-techs, which is a part of our high school system, but they haven't been keeping up with the needs of the market. So we need to work with industry to make sure that those vo-techs are teaching the kids the things they know. So they can walk out of high school into a good paying job.

Anne Danahy
Melissa Hart, we have just a few seconds left, what would you say your top priority would be if you were elected?

Melissa Hart 
I think the state needs to be focused on customer service instead of the state expecting us to serve the agencies, which I find appalling. So that's one thing that certainly has to be turned on its head. But the other is that parents need to be able to choose their schools. We need to get the state out of the business of teaching crazy ideologies and back to common sense. Look, parents raise their children, and they teach them the values that their family holds. The school should focus on academic subjects, and not be involved whatsoever in what a lot of people are calling indoctrination. And in a lot of cases, it looks like that's what it is. We need to focus on teaching kids the truth, not some academic's view of something. So the other issue for me is making sure that voter integrity is addressed.

We had a wholesale change of our voting system, which was inappropriate and uncalled for, with Act 77. I would repeal that. I would work with the legislature to repeal that. Go back to the system that we had before. Because there was really no cause for the change. People had access to the vote, there was no major voter fraud or anything that we were informed about before. So let's go back to that prior system so that our counties can actually process the ballots in the way they're funded to do this, this crush of mail in ballots that don't allow us to know who even won a race is just unreasonable and ridiculous. And now we've seen that it's against the Pennsylvania constitution. So let's go back to the basics, go back to: you must order an absentee ballot and you must be a valid applicant like the state Commonwealth Court ruled. And then we also, in my opinion, must add one thing to the system. And that is a requirement for picture ID and government voter ID for each voter so that each of us know that when we vote our votes not going to be canceled out by someone who's not a valid voter.

Anne Danahy 
Melissa Hart, thank you for talking with us.

Melissa Hart 
Well, it's good to be with you today. I appreciate the opportunity.

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