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A residential construction designer specializing in wheelchair accessibility projects is running for office in the state’s 98th Legislative District.

Mark Temons, 44, a Democrat from Marietta, is campaigning for the seat currently held by Dave Hickernell, a Lancaster County Republican, who is not seeking reelection. The GOP have fielded four candidates in the race: Faith Bucks of Lebanon County and Lu Ann Fahndrich, Logan Hoover and Tom Jones, all from Lancaster County. The Republican victor of the May 17 primary will likely face Temons in November.

Read More: Lebanon County voters will have limited choices at the polls for May 17 primary

Temons told LebTown his occupation sparked his interest in running.

“I design home improvement projects for wheelchair accessibility, helping folks get into and out of their homes and move about their homes more independently,” he explained. “I travel all over the state, and it bothers me when I meet older Pennsylvanians, those with disabilities, and veterans who aren’t receiving the resources they need after working hard their whole lives. … Why has it taken us years to get those parents what they need to care for their child? Why do older Pennsylvanians have to struggle to receive the services they worked hard for for decades?”

Also, he added, “we’re also not investing our resources, our tax dollars, effectively.”

“Like with anything, when you don’t invest adequate resources up front – when you don’t pay your bills – you get broken things and more bills. It’s true whether it’s folks moving into nursing homes, or folks using the emergency room because they can’t afford preventative care under their current insurance. It’s true whether investing in infrastructure like our roads and bridges, or investing in the infrastructure that is our children’s education. So we aren’t taking care of each other, and we’re being fiscally irresponsible at the same time.”

Top issues

Temons’ campaign has focused on three issues, he said: fair school funding, the creation of good-paying jobs, and prison reform.

“These are three things the PA House can pass in the next two years,” Temons said in an email.

A fair funding formula was devised by the state House nearly a decade ago, he said, “and still it’s applied to only a small fraction of the overall state education budget. As a result, we see huge disparities in how we invest in our children’s education across the state. The quality of our children’s education should not depend upon their zip code.”

Secondly, Temons said, “we need to invest in our children’s future employment and in creating good-paying jobs now for working families. These jobs should have benefits and safe working conditions, and the way to do that is to prevent legislation that weakens the organized labor movement, because what we know is that not every worker has to be unionized for the movement as a whole to benefit every worker in Pennsylvania.

“Every Pennsylvanian worker deserves a job with decent pay, benefits, and safe work conditions. And that includes folks who have been incarcerated, because they face barriers to employment and housing long after they’ve been released from jail.”

And that leads to prison reform.

“We can’t create safer communities until our state legislature changes our mandatory minimum sentencing requirements and our out-dated drug laws,” Temons said. “Without those changes from the top, and without changes to our parole and probation systems, we are not going to see significant changes at the local level, and we are not going to see real solutions to our opioid crisis. All of this is necessary if we ever want to substantially make our communities safer.”

Action by the Legislature, he said, “will expand opportunities for those who have served their time; it will reduce recidivism and put less people in prison.”

Building consensus

Temons earned a degree in political science in 2000. He worked briefly in consumer advocacy before moving on to bartending, then carpentry.

“I have always followed politics closely and voted regularly, and I have continued to learn about public policy,” he said. “I got involved directly about 8 years ago as an advocate for prison reform. At that time, the local county prison down here was having some real problems – it was overcrowded, under-staffed, and too hot and too cold, seasonally. People were literally dying there, and nationally, at that time, prison reform was a consensus issue with bi-partisan agreement. Republicans didn’t want to spend so much money incarcerating millions of folks for silly laws any more than Democrats did. Unfortunately, we have lost some of that consensus, but I have remained active since then.”

More recently, Temons worked as policy director for a U.S. congressional campaign and helped organize school and municipal campaigns.

He was a registered Independent until 2015, he said.

“When it comes to voters, we are all somewhere on a spectrum of Democrat or Republican or Independent,” he said. “We all have Democrat or Republican friends, and we agree and disagree on different things. We are all ultimately individuals.”

He refuses, he said, “to let my campaign be hijacked by national issues. I don’t want to get into the ‘red-team-blue-team’ stuff. It’s important to me that when I’m out knocking on voters’ doors or talking to people at the polls, we’re talking about real issues, and having deep discussions on how to solve them. But for people running for the State House, the only thing that really matters is how they will vote on the legislation put before them.”

Legislators should vote “in the best interest of their constituents,” Temons said, rather than a party line.

“Concerning schools and prisons, with such consensus among Democratic and Republican voters, I would like to see more Republican legislators supporting fair school funding and fewer folks in prison,” he said. “The debate on these things should be over in Harrisburg by now, but yes, absolutely, moving forward, Democrats and Republicans in the State House are going to need to work together to get things done for working families. If partisan gridlock causes inactivity in Harrisburg, things will break, and it will cost taxpayers more money.”

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Tom Knapp

Tom has been a professional journalist for nearly four decades. In his spare time, he plays fiddle with the Irish band Fire in the Glen, and he reviews music, books and movies for Rambles.NET. He lives with his wife, Michelle, and has four children: Vinnie, Molly, Annabelle and Wolf.