Both candidates for Pennsylvania’s 48th Senatorial District seat, Lebanon County’s District Attorney Dave Arnold and Lebanon Valley College history professor, Michael Schroeder, received applause and the occasional derisive “boo” for their views on subjects which ranged from abortion to gun control during a Candidates’ Night held in the auditorium of the Lebanon County Municipal Building Monday evening.
More than 200 people attended to hear the views, policies, and agendas of the next person who will represent them in the state Senate.
The evening was sponsored by WLBR (1270AM) and hosted by moderator Laura LaBeau.
A special general election will take place next Tuesday, Jan. 14, to select a State Senator to fill the remaining three years of the term of former Senator Mike Folmer, who resigned last September after being arrested and charged with possession of child pornography.
The state’s 48th Senatorial District comprises all of Lebanon County, and parts of York and Dauphin counties.
As moderator, LaBeau gave each candidate time for a 90-second opening statement before asking each candidate questions on top issues.
Arnold, 48, said he was proud to have been nominated and wants to add another level to his record of public service.
Lebanon’s District Attorney for the past 14 years, Arnold is also president of the Pennsylvania District Attorney Association.
In his tenure as district attorney, Arnold said he has been an advocate for crime victims and a relentless prosecutor.
Arnold considers himself a “consistent conservative,” is strongly pro-life, and is a member of the National Rifle Association.
Schroeder, 61, began his opening statement by telling the voters they deserved to hear from both candidates, and maintained that Arnold had rebuffed any prior efforts to discuss the issues publicly, thereby creating a “media void,” Schroeder said.
The purpose of government is to serve the public good, Schroeder said, adding that he has the qualities of honesty, integrity, a sense of fairness, and compassion; all necessary, he said, for those who govern.
LaBeau asked both candidates for their ideas on how to address property taxes.
“Property owners are still saddled with this onerous tax,” LaBeau said.
She asked each man if he wanted property taxes eliminated altogether or just reduced.
Schroeder said he doesn’t support the total elimination of property taxes, but wants the state to pick up more funding for schools, and wants property tax relief for senior citizens and for those on fixed incomes.
“No one should lose their home because of property taxes,” Schroeder said.
Arnold said one focus of the issue would be to decrease spending in school districts.
“One of my main issues will be property tax reform,” Arnold said.
LaBeau asked about increasing the sales tax, taxing food and clothing and raising income tax as ways to lower property taxes.
“Increasing sales tax and income tax – no,” Schroeder said. “I’m opposed to aggressive sales tax (increases) because that would hit the poor the hardest.”
Arnold said he was also not in favor of raising the sales tax, and didn’t care for the current crop of plans to lower property taxes that are coming out of Harrisburg.
State Representative Frank Ryan (R) has a plan that includes raising the sales tax by two percent and taxing retirement income at 4.9 percent; the controversial part of his property tax plan, LaBeau said.
Arnold said he flatly opposes retirement income being taxed.
“I don’t believe we should tax the people who have lived and worked here all their lives,” Arnold said. “We shouldn’t be placing that burden on them and they should not lose their homes because of property taxes – period.”
The candidates’ views on abortion sat on opposite ends of the spectrum.
“I am anti-abortion; there’s no question about it,” Arnold said. “But I do not wish to completely outlaw abortion, as in the case of incest, rape, or the health of the mother. But it’s unfortunate that we have come to view abortion as birth control.”
While voicing opinions more pro-choice than Arnold, Schroeder added that he does not approve of late-term abortion.
“I don’t support late-term abortion on demand,” Schroeder said. “Because at about 24 or 25 weeks of life, the fetus becomes viable…and then there is the right of the fetus to live. It is a very thorny issue.”
When asked, Schroeder said he didn’t see any reason why public money shouldn’t be used to pay for abortions.
Arnold, appalled, strongly disagreed.
“Under any circumstances, public money should not be used for abortion,” Arnold said. “Life begins at conception; the idea that life begins at 24 weeks – what is it before that? A lump of clay? I find that offensive. I can’t agree with that because we’re talking about human life.”
Find more photos of last night’s debate below.
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