Disclaimor: That which follows is NOT an endorsement by the Lebanon 9-12 Project. While I chair that organization what I am about to state has no bearing on a position by that organization. We encourage all of our members to go out and support the candidates of their choosing and in that regard, I am no different than anyone else in the room. While I am the chair of the Lebanon 9-12 Project and I have no authority to speak on their behalf in any area outside our official stated positions. The board has agree to a very strict non-endorsement policy and as a member of that board I totally embrace that position. However, that strict policy in no way restricts any individual in an official position from stating their individual positions in an election. That includes me. In the past I have chosen to stay out of elections and not publicly state my concerns or support for fear that my endorsement would be interpreted as an endorsement by the Lebanon 9-12 Project. Circumstances in this election have forced me to search my conscience and take a different look at this election, particularly in the race in the 102nd. The attention to that race has also detracted us from discussing the race in the 101st and I am very concerned that the choices in this race will be ignored until the Primary in May. There are real choices in this race. For those reasons and many others I have taken a position of endorsement this election cycle. I would hope that in future races where real issues that face everyone in our Municipalities, Counties, State and Federal Government can remain front and center I can return to my personal non-endorsement policy.
Elections, by their nature can become very divisive. I do think that has more to do with the way most elections are run because they so quickly degenerate into the politics of personal destruction. Rather than staying focused on issues when individuals make a choice based on which candidate they feel best represents, when elections degenerate into personal attacks while digging in the trenches to find those moments which they exploit by either embellishing or withholding certain facts turning truth into a misrepresentation. It is a technique of character assassination and when a candidate’s character is intentionally maligned supports see these attacks and take it personal
In an election focused on issues and not personalities, when the election is over it is much easier to shake hands rather than create divide. It is much easier to be supportive even when your candidate loses an election because the debate has not been framed around personal attacks.
In the real world, we elect people, not gods, to represent us in government. As people we sometimes make mistakes but an isolated incident is not a reflection of our total character. It is the bigger picture that should be our focus, the overall character of an individual rather than an isolated moment in time. I firmly believe in redemption, I believe people can make a mistake, learn from that mistake and become better people as a result of that mistake. Individuals who demonstrate a repetitive nature of going down the wrong path is something different. Again it’s the larger picture we should be looking at-in my opinion it should be about recognizing patterns.
One of the races in Lebanon County quickly degenerated into the politics of personal destruction. It became a race of intimidation of opponents that had little to do with the actual issues and everything to do with annihilating the competition and in many areas it crossed ethical lines in my opinion. It also became a race of deception where individuals pretended to be something they were not in order to try and get some piece of dirt they could use to cause divide and then exaggerate and exploit that deception. Frankly, It disgusted me.
The nature of that race is the reason I have decided to make personal endorsements
In the 101st I am supporting John Dissinger. John has served on City Council where he has both advocated for and stood up for Constitutional Principles. He’s not just a vote on an ordinance; he’s an advocate for principle. John has also been engaged in the fight for property tax independence. He was out there with us in the trenches engaged in this fight even joining us when we went to Harrisburg last September for the citizens lobbying efforts. These two factors made me take a very serious look at John Dissinger as a candidate. Certainly his support of HB/SB 76 weighed heavily in that since Rep. Gingrich has instead chosen to through her support behind the leadership led Grove bill which doesn’t eliminate school property taxes but rather expands the taxing authority of the school districts. John has solid positions on Right To Work, Prevailing Wage, Pensions, Paycheck Protection, Education and as a member of City Council John knows firsthand how unfunded mandates impact each of these issues. Those positions are not based on party but on rock solid positions. The Dissinger family has gone far and above the call of duty in the realm of parenting to take in a child who had gone through very difficult times and not only welcome him into their home but to make him a part of their family. I have no doubt that John has the moral clarity to make the right decision on legislation because it’s the right thing to do and that he will remain true to his principles and values as a representative of the people. John has publically stated he will not participate in the Public Pension. John also has experience in serving our country through the military. John took a pledge at the start of his campaign to keep his focus on principles and not the politics of personal destruction and he has remained true to that principle. At the core of John’s principles are personal faith principles that guide him.
In the 102nd I am endorsing Wanda Bechtold. This is the contentious race and I know that many of my friends are supporting another candidate. That doesn’t have to make us enemies and it shouldn’t. My support goes to Wanda because I have seen in her a consistent unwavering stance for the principles I admire. I am aware of the questions raised about Wanda’s qualifications as a legislator but I would remind everyone than none of the candidate in this race have any experience as a legislator. Having previous experience as a candidate or even an activist does not immediately translate into experience as a legislator. Like John, Wanda is a veteran of the military. Like John, she did so by choice. Inspired to help the troops, Wanda organized a local support the troops effort and has donated countless hours of volunteer time to build this effort with the help of a grassroots community in that effort to let our soldiers know that they haven’t been forgotten. Wanda then turned to the business community to seek their support in this effort turning it from its humble origins to a tremendous effort of support for the troops. Long before the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors became supporters of HB/SB 76, Wanda was busy working for this effort among her peers, the Lebanon County Realtors. She has also volunteered her time to work for Sertoma and for the Lebanon County GOP committee where she has tried to build bridges while remaining true to her principles. Wanda understands that it is okay to compromise on the details if those details do not threaten her principles and if that’s not a qualification for a legislator, I don’t know what a qualification is. Wanda has taken solid positions on Prevailing Wage, Right To Work, Pension Reform and Paycheck Protection that are again, based on personal principle and those positions are often centered around Wanda’s faith values. As this election turned ugly with personal attacks Wanda has remained resolved to not go down that path in an extraordinary display of integrity in adverse situations which I believe to be one of the ultimate tests of character. Wanda has also publicly taken a pledge to reject the public pension.
In both cases my support goes to these candidates because of their consistent efforts to serve their country and their community by being involved. In many cases their volunteer efforts have gone unnoticed by the general public because that’s not why they did it. It hasn’t been about garnering public attention or in driving the focus on them but is simply doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do. I have never heard Wanda or John claim that an effort they supported or even led was accomplished by them alone. They have always stated that it was through the work of others and have graciously recognized that effort. With Wanda and her support the troops effort she could justifiable say look at what I did but her nature is such that she recognizes that although she may have taken part in the lion’s share of the work, without the work of everyone involved else involved the effort would not be where it is today.
I am not endorsing in the 101st which was only recently redistricted into Lebanon County and I don’t really know enough about the challenger to Sue Helm to take a position. I do know John and Wanda as active members of our community who have not only taken a stand for principles but have spent countless hours of time and energy to work for those principles often unrecognized and behind the scenes.
Senator Folmer is uncontested. There’s a reason for that. Senator Folmer has been a consistent voice of principle and reason in a place where such things often seem like alien concepts. Senator Folmer went to Harrisburg as Citizen Mike and has never lost that connection to the people of this community. He has taken unpopular positions with his party while remaining firm in his conviction to principle. He’s also a bridge builder, understanding that details can be compromised as long as those details do not contradict his principles and our Commonwealth Constitution. Senator Folmer has my full support and endorsement as a representative of the people of this Commonwealth.
You may have chosen to support another candidate and that all part of this process. That doesn’t mean we have to drag this election into the dirt. That doesn’t mean we have to go out and do everything we can to show our support by destroying the character of the other candidates based on isolated incidents framed around half-truths and misdirections. It is possible to have elections based on real issues and the power of those who seek only to destroy their opponents only has the strength we are willing to give them. As exemplified in the special election in York, a people angry at this sort of election, can make a real difference if they have the courage to stand on principles.
I am fully aware that there has been petition challenges to Wanda Bechtold that may result in having her name removed from the ballot. I am also aware that this was a law created to punish people willfully attempting to deceive the people which I am certain that neither Wanda nor any of the petition gatherers for Wanda embraced. Like many laws created for our alleged good, it is easily abused and has become a tactic used by incumbents bent on preserving their candidacy by making it easy for someone new to the process to make an honest mistake. I believe the same to be true about the challenges to Joe Eisenhauer. In the event that the challenge is successful I fully intend to write-in Wanda as a Candidate because my opinion that Wanda is the best candidate to become a representative of the people in this race remains unchanged. If this becomes the only way an individual wins an election then the process needs to be changed.
Every candidate in this race brings elements to the body politic it’s up to you to decide what those elements are and if you want to support those elements. My endorsement is certainly not an end all do all and I would never pretend I carry such an influence. I encourage everyone to fully explore the candidates and then let your conscience guide you. This isn’t about “loyalty” which can both be an admirable trait and a flaw. For every politician engaged in acts of corruption against this Commonwealth, they had loyal followers. Blind allegiance in the face of questionable ethical practices is, in my opinion, a betrayal of friendship. We need look no further than this administration to see what how loyalty to party or individual in the face of unquestionable actions against the best interest of the nation is a flawed excuse to fall back on. We have a responsibility with our friends to support them when they are right and to let them know when we feel they are wrong. True loyalty is a two-way street. To ask an individual to betray their principles in the name of loyalty is to ask that friend to betray their conscience and that, in my opinion, has nothing to do with real friendship.