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Meet the candidates: Justin Behrens, the Republican running for the state House in the 82nd district

A head shot of Justin Behrens with trees in the background.
Photo provided
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Justin Behrens is the Republican candidate running in the 2022 election for the newly created 82nd district seat in the state House of Representatives.

Seats in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are on the ballot in the 2022 election, including the new 82nd district. Created as part of Pennsylvania’s redistricting, the 82nd runs through the middle of Centre County, from Harris Township in the South to Burnside Township in the North. WPSU’s Anne Danahy spoke with both the Democratic candidate Paul Takac and Republican candidate Justin Behrens, in an election that’s seen as competitive. Here is her interview with Behrens.

A map showing Pennsylvania's new 82nd state House district
Dave's Redistricting
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This snapshot of Pennsylvania's state House districts shows the 82nd district in Centre County. It is a new district in 2022 that came out of legislative redistricting and is seen as competitive.

Anne Danahy 
Justin Behrens, thank you for talking with us.

Justin Behrens
Oh, thank you for having me. I love this.

Anne Danahy 
You've said the economy and helping Pennsylvanians deal with rising costs is your top issue. What specifically do you think the state should be doing to better assist people who are struggling?

Justin Behrens
So I think it's the state's responsibility to make sure that the people of Pennsylvania along with the 82nd district are able to provide for their families, provide a roof over their head and food on their table. And so I'm going to go down to Harrisburg and make sure that we control spending. Harrisburg is notorious for spending, and they continue spending and not controlling the spending when it comes down to crises, like we are now with inflation.

Anne Danahy 
So how will controlling spending help Pennsylvanians who are struggling?

Justin Behrens
What happens is when you have spending going on, taxes are raised. And so by cutting spending down, we don't have to tax the burden on the taxpayer, the middle class families, and therefore they'll be able to provide for their families versus paying those extra taxes.

Anne Danahy 
So looking at lowering taxes, are there particular taxes that you have your eye on?

Justin Behrens
Yes, so one of the things I'm looking at is, it's going to be very difficult when you get to Harrisburg to actually lower taxes once they're already raised. So I don't want to raise taxes even higher, and therefore when you control the spending, we don't have to put more tax burden on people and raise taxes, especially during a time of inflation we are in right now.

Anne Danahy 
Pennsylvania has a historically low unemployment rate. Right now we're at about 4.1% and Centre County is even lower. What do you see as the challenge or struggle?

Justin Behrens
So I see that what's happening is, is that we're having a majority of the people that are coming in, they're going into jobs, and they're not getting into substantial jobs, right? Jobs that are making them say: 'This is my career, this is where I'm going to stay for umpteen years, 20 years.' So we're having a lot of people that are just filling jobs, but not taking on those substantial jobs. And so what I want to bring is businesses here to the 82nd. I want people coming into the 82nd that will have good jobs, good paying jobs, $35 $25 an hour, so that they can provide for their families.

Anne Danahy 
And how do you respond to the criticism that you're very new to the area, and you want to represent this area, even though you just moved here last year, so you might not be able to be the best fit for that?

Justin Behrens
So I disagree with that. And I'll tell you first of all, my wife has worked for Penn State for the last six years. She's been traveling across 80. We made the decision to come here and move here like most people do. It's a very transient area where I live. And so we decided to make this our home. When you ask about, you know, what does it mean — do I know 82nd?, you know, how do I relate to that? Well, I know Pennsylvania, I'm probably one of the only candidates who was born in Pennsylvania, I went to high school in Pennsylvania, I went to college in Pennsylvania, and went to my masters in Pennsylvania. I know Pennsylvania very well. And I know the 82nd. I mean, my wife worked here for six years. So we know this area. We've been traveling back and forth, unfortunately. You know, now we get to live here, which is what we wanted to do.

Anne Danahy 
And another top issue right now, of course at the national and at the state level is abortion. Abortion is legal in Pennsylvania with some restrictions, would you support legislation to further restrict or ban abortion in Pennsylvania?

Justin Behrens
So I'm a pro-life candidate with exceptions of life of the mother, rape and incest. What's happening right now is there's a bill that's on the floor, that's going to actually put it to the voters of the public, the people to make the decision. But the question that I ask is, why not let the people make that decision. And here's the thing, if the people decide that it's going to, you know, that pro-choice, and that we decide that abortion is legal, it may be against my values, but I respect the Constitution, and I respect the people's decision. And I won't argue with it at all. What I will say is we need to start putting funding into adoption agencies, we need to start putting funding into helping men and women make good choices. I think that we also talk a lot about the women, you know, in this whole issue and everything like that, but men have to take responsibility also. And I think that we need to start looking at how do we educate our men in making good choices, in making good decisions.

Anne Danahy 
I just want to go back to that a little bit more, though, because if there's legislation that's introduced, and you are elected to this position, and there's legislation that's introduced to either further limit, or ban abortion in almost all circumstances, would you support that?

Justin Behrens
So I'm pro-life. And so I will always vote how I feel with my values of pro-life. But right now, there's Senate Bill 106. That's going to, if it's passed again, will go to the public to make that decision. And so again, I respect the decision of the people and where they vote on that.

Anne Danahy 
And you're a supporter of charter schools and school choice. Do you think the state should provide funding for parents who want to send their children to private schools?

Justin Behrens
I do. I think the dollar should find a follow the parents where they make the decision. But I want to make — there's a myth out there, right? They say: School choice. We're against public education. That's not true. I'm for public education. I'm just for the parents making the decision where they want their dollars to go to and that helps the lower income families, right, the individual that's living in a school district that may not have the services that a private school has, but they don't know have the money to make to go there. Why should we neglect a child to get their best education that they want. At the same time, we also need to look at funding the schools, giving them the proper resources. My mother and father are both public educators for 40 years. I remember they spent out of their own money — chalk, you know, equipment for the schools to do the science experiments and stuff like that. No parent, no teacher who should have to pay out of their own pocket, the supplies they need for school, so we need to properly fund our schools.

Anne Danahy
Right, because that's the concern that if the money follows the child, then the public school where the child may have been going is going to have less funding, if many of those children or any of those children are going to other schools.

Justin Behrens
Forty percent of our budget goes to public education. That's the largest of the budget in the state of Pennsylvania. There's plenty of funding out there. I think the issue at hand is is that we need to make sure that we spend it correctly. We have school boards that decide that they want to build sports complexes, right. Rather than putting it into the education of the children. I think we need to make sure that the school boards hold the responsibility to make sure that they have their district the best districts that there is.

Anne Danahy 
And one other question on the political front, that's very divisive. Do you think Joe Biden won legitimately the presidential election?

Justin Behrens
I served this country overseas in Iraq to defend the Constitution. Joe Biden took the oath to be the president United States. And yes, he is.

Anne Danahy 
But do you think that he actually legitimately won because there are, of course, people out there, including the former president, who questioned the legitimacy of the election?

Justin Behrens
He won the presidency. He is the president United States. I don't question that he's not the president of the United States. I question how we have a high inflation ever since he's been here, and then the burden on the people and then how we're paying some more money going out for groceries and everything like that. But he is the president of the United States.

Anne Danahy 
Justin Behrens, thank you so much for talking with us.

Justin Behrens
Thank you and great having me here.

Anne Danahy is a reporter at WPSU. She was a reporter for nearly 12 years at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, where she earned a number of awards for her coverage of issues including the impact of natural gas development on communities.
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