Ed Krebs says his three opponents in the race for the 48th Senate District seat – left vacant when Republican Senator Dave Arnold died Jan. 17 from brain cancer – boast that they aren’t career politicians and will bring fresh perspectives to the Pennsylvania Legislature.
“The other three, they’re all proud of not being politicians. But at this time in history, you don’t want to be a rookie going to Harrisburg,” Krebs said. “You want to be a player.”
Krebs, who served more than a decade in the state House of Representatives, believes his experience will help bring order back to a divided state government.
“I think I can build a caucus (of independent and centrist legislators) so the right and the left have to come and talk to us to get anything done,” he told LebTown.
And that’s important, Krebs said, to dismantle the walls dividing the two main parties.
“How do we bring America back into the mainstream?” he asked. “We used to take the political signs down the day after the election, and then we went back to being Americans. Not anymore… We want to get rid of the other side, but that’s not the American tradition. We need to restore the center.”
Krebs, 77, lives in Campbelltown, South Londonderry Township, with his wife, Pat.
First elected to represent the 101st District in the House as a Democrat in 1990, he switched to the Republican party in 1993. Now running as an Independent, he faces Republican Christopher Gebhard, Democrat Calvin “Doc” Clements and Libertarian Tim McMaster in the May 18 special election to fill Arnold’s unexpired seat.
The 48th District includes Lebanon County and parts of York and Dauphin counties. According to statistics provided by the Pennsylvania Department of State, party affiliation among registered voters in the district is 50.5 percent Republican, 33.9 percent Democratic and 15.6 percent others.
Arnold’s unexpired term runs through November 2022.
In a statement issued in early March, Krebs said he believes “in building consensus regardless of party label. When appropriate, we must reach compromises that prove to be practical and timely solutions.”
That requires “a willingness to cross party lines” in the Legislature, he added. “The present deep political divisiveness must be overcome in the best interest of Pennsylvania’s future.”
A father of three, Krebs has worked as a farmer, a business consultant and a professor of economic history at Lebanon Valley College.
He believes his various occupations make him a better politician.
Being a farmer, for instance, “tells me how hard it is to run a business, to make a payroll when you’re having a bad time. Government needs to be a helping hand in addition to all the regulations. … Economic history helps me to understand how history recycles itself, and we’re starting to make mistakes that we made in the past.”
Although he retired from politics nearly two decades ago, Krebs said the events of Jan. 6, when rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, “made me go a little crazy” and convinced him to get involved again.
“I wanted to do what I could do to save our democracy, which we almost lost,” he said. “What can I do to help? How can I help to bring people together?” As a nation, he said, “We’ve lost our way. We’re not red or blue, we’re Americans. We can do politics civilly.”
Krebs said he does not favor a constitutional amendment altering the balance of power between the governor and the Legislature. In the case of an emergency situation, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, “decisions have to be made immediately to save lives – do you want to put it into the hands of a group of people who takes years to get anything done? It doesn’t make sense.”
He supports reopening the state’s economy, noting that “mistakes were made in closing things down, but everyone was winging it. We saved lives by closing… but we have to recognize the damage we have done. We have to give people credit to help them to recover.”
A key issue for Krebs is an end to gerrymandering, which has redrawn district lines in Pennsylvania to unfairly favor certain parties in an election.
“We in Lebanon County suffer greatly… because we’re tied to communities we have no commonality with,” he said.
“The 48th District is a poster child for gerrymandering,” he noted in an earlier statement, citing the “jagged corridor running through lower Dauphin County to a portion of north-eastern York County,” which is divided from Lebanon County by a segment of the Susquehanna River that has no bridge.
He vowed to fight for new district lines “that assure effective representation for the voters and their communities in Congress and in the Pennsylvania House and Senate.”
A lot can be accomplished in the remaining 18 months of this term, Krebs said. But, he said, no matter how the time goes, “This isn’t a career move. I’m willing to give 18 months… to help get Pennsylvania back on track. But I will not run again for the Legislature.”
Gebhard, Clements, and McMaster can spend that time watching him in action, Krebs said.
“They can fight again next year to see who’s going to replace me,” he said. “In the meantime, they can study how to get things done.”
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