The 25th Pennsylvania Senatorial District includes all of Cameron, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, Potter and Tioga counties, and part of Clearfield County. It is currently held by Republican Joe Scarnati, who decided to retire this year.
Cris Dush is the Republican candidate running for this seat against Democrat Margie Brown in the general election this year. Dush represents the 66th Pennsylvania House of Representatives District. He is a retired corrections officer with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and served in the US Air Force and Air National Guard.
WPSU’s Min Xian talked with Cris Dush.
Min Xian: Representative Cris Dush, thank you for joining us.
Cris Dush: I’m glad to be here. Thank you.
Min Xian: How does your background and your experience as a state Representative influence your motivation in running for the state Senate?
Cris Dush: I've had a lot of experience with going after the fraud, waste and abuse within the legislature. Prior to that, as a law enforcement in the Air Force and my experiences with the Department of Corrections for the state. And during my time in the house, I've uncovered a significant amount of more issues. And I'm looking to extend that in the Senate.
Min Xian: And what do you think are the most important challenges facing the 25th Senatorial District?
Cris Dush: Well, the 25th legislative district in the Senate, it is the largest in the Commonwealth, it's over 5,000 square miles. It is rich in natural resources from our timber, our other agricultural industries, the coal, natural gas, and the water resources. They're just phenomenal.
But the problem is, right now, there are so many regulations and guidelines that come from the executive branch rather than the legislative branch that are impeding the ability of our people to utilize them in the best way possible. We've also got a significant issue throughout the western part of Pennsylvania, in that we contribute a set amount to the state coffers. But for instance, with the transportation funding -- I also in my current position have part of Indiana County, which is in the southwest, and they contribute 11% of the tax dollars for road infrastructure but are getting 6% back. So we need to start working to get that throughout the entire western half of the state and the northern tier as well.
Min Xian: Do you have any plans to address those issues specifically?
Cris Dush: There are several pieces of legislation. And we are trying to address things like the Chapter 102 and 105 permitting programs, which, when we increase the funding to the Department of Environmental Protection, we get fewer permits done, even though we gave them a 3.3% increase and 11% increase in staff, we got a 1,000 fewer permits done while the the county conservation districts, when we gave them about a 3% increase, we got a significant increase in the number of permits being done.
So we've got to look for ways to allow the conservation districts and the people who are willing to be partners with our community -- economic development partners -- to get that done. Also the Governor's attempt to add unilaterally without legislative authority to enter us into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, that is having a very negative impact on our businesses. So we're pushing back against RGGI, we are putting forth some policies and legislation to try and correct the overregulation. And we're also working to try and get a reduction in the number of regulations.
Min Xian: You are critical of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and his administration’s handling of the coronavirus, voting to terminate the Emergency Declaration. You also agree with a federal judge ruling two weeks ago that said the state’s coronavirus restrictions were unconstitutional. What would you do differently?
Cris Dush: Well, the federal judge kind of hinted at it in his ruling, but what I've consistently said is that I trust my constituents, I trust the people that are running our local government. And here's the thing, when you have two people, the Governor and the Secretary of Health, making decisions on a statewide basis, they're impacting 12.6 million people. These local and county governments, the school districts, even right down to the individual business owner[s]. When those people make a decision, it is impacting a much, much smaller, a tiny fraction of a percentage of what the governor's edicts are doing.
So when the governor is making a mistake, like by putting those people in congregate settings, the nursing homes, if you were to put that back on those nursing homes and those nursing homes could make their own decisions, you might have, in the worst case scenario, we had down in beaver County, that one nursing home with 500 cases, that would have been basically isolated to that one location rather than the entire Commonwealth. And this is why socialism doesn't work in the first place. Because when you have top-down, the negative impacts of bad decisions are manifold worse than they are when they're done on an individual basis.
Min Xian: There have been protests for racial justice and against police brutality nationwide this summer. Are there changes you would make as a state senator to address these issues?
Cris Dush: The laws we have on the books right now are adequate to address the situations. I saw an excellent post here recently, it said lives matter. If you have to put a word in front of that, you're a racist. And I agree with that wholeheartedly. All lives matter. And the -- I'll just leave it with that. All lives do matter.
The racism -- I've been in law enforcement since 1981, in various degrees -- it is not institutional, and the people around our area in the 25th district. They absolutely hate that people are talking about anybody being better or worse than somebody else because of their race. This area was a key part of the Underground Railroad. And that Christian mentality that we're all made in God's image is still very prevalent here. We don't care about what color your skin is. What we care about is the content of your character, just as Martin Luther King did.
Min Xian: Representative Cris Dush, thank you for talking with me.
Cris Dush: Well, it was my pleasure, Min. Thank you.
Min Xian: Cris Dush is the Republican candidate for the 25th Pennsylvania Senatorial District. We’ll talk with his competitor, Margie Brown, tomorrow during Morning Edition on WPSU.
You can find more information about this year’s general election on WPSU.org/vote. I’m Min Xian, WPSU.