DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. — Two years after narrowly winning his State House seat as a freshman lawmaker, Republican Andrew Lewis is in another tough battle to keep his seat representing the 105th District in Dauphin County.
Democrat Brittney Rodas, a former policy analyst in the House of Representatives, and current regional director of Pennsylvania Young Democrats, is running for the seat which covers Lower Paxton, West Hanover and South Hanover Townships.
Lewis was elected in 2018 by a 1.6% margin.
He currently serves on the Finance Committee, Liquor Control Committee, State Government Committee, and is the Secretary of the Urban Affairs Committee.
Prior to pursuing a political career, Lewis was a decorated combat veteran, and was chief operating officer of his family construction business while serving as a National Guardsman. He is still an active member of the PA National Guard.
Lewis earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Thomas Edison State College, a graduate certificate in public policy from Liberty University, a master’s degree in legislative affairs from George Washington University, and a Master of Business Administration from Temple University.
In May 2020, Lewis was diagnosed with COVID-19, and caused controversy after it was later revealed he went public with the information days after his diagnosis.
Lewis lives in Lower Paxton Township with his wife, Ranae, and their three sons: Jeffrey, Jason and Jeremy. Lewis is involved with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Rotary International and the Harrisburg Chamber of Commerce.
Rodas said if elected, her primary focus will be on increasing the minimum wage and securing fair paying jobs for all skill levels, government reform, quality education and providing adequate resources for healthcare and mental health services. She also lists the environment as a priority, and says the legislature must address the poor air quality across the Commonwealth and explore alternative energy sources. She also promises to be an advocate for common sense gun laws, supporting safe storage laws, universal background checks, banning ghost guns, and increased access to mental health resources.
Both candidates responded to FOX43's campaign questionnaire. Their answers are listed below.
1. Why do you want to represent your district?
REP. ANDREW LEWIS: I want to represent my district to bring the voices of everyday people to the Capitol and advance policies that will create more opportunity for everyone. I grew up in a blue-collar family as the son of a drywall finisher and grandson of an immigrant who came from modest means; I want to make Pennsylvania the nation’s leader in prosperity, economic growth, jobs, and opportunities by empowering individuals and job creators as they pursue the American Dream.
BRITTNEY RODAS: I am running for State Representative because I saw firsthand how the current system isn’t working. My dad, a Vietnam War Veteran, died of a heart attack last year after failing to qualify for Medicaid by $7. Help wasn’t there when we needed it most. I know how important it is to protect working families and the most vulnerable among us. I grew up in poverty – programs like CHIP and Food Stamps kept me and my sister alive. Public schools educated me. I wouldn’t be where
I am today, as a 25-year-old mom of two running for State Representative, if legislators created policies that wrote off kids born into tough circumstances. We have a responsibility to invest in our future generations. People live and die by the decisions made by the Legislature. The system failed my dad and my family, but I know we are not alone. As a Policy Analyst for the Legislature, I have spent countless hours working on policy that could drastically improve the quality of life for those in our district just to watch my opponent strike it down at the order of the Republican speaker. Our district is asking for leadership in a time where every day we face new challenges, such as a global pandemic, and challenges older than this country, such as racial injustice. I am ready to step out of my role as a Policy Analyst and community activist, and into one where I can have the impact on my district we so desperately need.
The 105th Legislative District deserves more than party-line votes and politically-fueled discourse. It is time that our community is represented by someone who understands the needs of our working-class district and is willing to put politics aside to produce real results. I am running because I believe the future of Pennsylvania is a diverse and inclusive state that should practice compassion at all levels of government. I am running because it is time to put people before politics.
2. What area of public policy are you most passionate about and why?
REP. LEWIS: Government reform. It’s unfortunate but true that, over the years, people have begun to lose trust in their government. We need to change that. I fight every day to make government more efficient and transparent, and to be a wise steward of taxpayer dollars. I believe government can be smaller – starting with the size of the legislature, and that our elected officials should serve for us, not for perks and pensions. In my first term I have led the charge for reform: introducing a term limits amendment to Pennsylvania’s constitution, successfully passing a debt-reduction bill through the House, and introducing an ethics and transparency bill that would hold local officials accountable for how they spend borrowed funds. I also lead by example and refuse the taxpayer-paid pension and perks. Insiders cannot change the system they come from; I am not an insider.
RODAS: My public policy goals center around government reform, healthcare, and education.
During my time as a Policy Analyst for the legislature, I watched special interest money buy votes off the floor for common-sense legislation. I am passionate about bringing the government back to the people by fighting back against these corporate special interest groups and increasing voting access through drawing fair maps.
I know firsthand how unjust and bureaucratic the health insurance system can be. When my father got sick, he missed the cutoff for Medicaid assistance by only seven dollars, forcing him to buy inhalers at $500 and unable to get the care he needed. I know my family is not the only one to have faced this challenge and I am committed to reducing the cost of life-saving drugs and healthcare coverage and making sure that everyone has access to good healthcare so no more families have to face this challenge.
Finally, I believe that all students should have equal access to quality education, and I will fight to fully and fairly fund public schools. I would not be in the position I am today running for State Representative without Pennsylvania public schools. As both a mother and from my own experience, I am passionate about ensuring that all students get the quality education they deserve.
3. Name three goals you wish to accomplish in the next term if elected?
REP. LEWIS: First, I want to help develop the fiscal plan to help our state navigate our way through the COVID-19 pandemic. We are facing major revenue shortfalls but now especially is not the time to raise taxes on struggling families and businesses – we must find other ways to address this challenge. Second, I want to see the Taxpayer Protection Act passed through the House and Senate. This constitutional amendment legislation would then go to the voters for a referendum vote; if successful, it would place necessary limits on the rate of spending growth in Harrisburg. Spending increases would be limited by a formula tied to population growth, plus the rate of inflation. Finally, I would like to see my Educational Scholarship Account (ESA) legislation for children of active military members pass the House.
I will advocate for capping the price of life-saving prescription drugs such as insulin and medication to treat Hepatitis.
I will vote to raise the minimum wage and strengthen prevailing wage.
In 2020, maps will be redrawn to determine the voting districts for the next 10 years. I will advocate for a bipartisan independent commission for redistricting in order to eliminate gerrymandering in Pennsylvania, so that elections are decided by the people.
4. What is the biggest challenge facing Pennsylvanians in the next couple years?
REP. LEWIS: Undoubtedly the biggest challenge facing Pennsylvanians will be safely navigating our way back to normal in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. This presents a myriad of challenges for policymakers, including a path forward that protects public health (especially the vulnerable) while safeguarding civil liberties, as well as meeting a host of budgetary challenges to keep state government funded and functional.
RODAS: Climate change will continue to be a pressing challenge in the coming years. The Harrisburg region, including my district, was recently designated fourth in the country for worst air quality. The legislature must address the poor air quality across the Commonwealth and explore alternative energy sources in order to protect our climate, our communities, and our children.
5. COVID-19 will continue to be a part of our lives in 2021 and beyond. What should Pennsylvania’s top priorities be as it relates to the pandemic?
REP. LEWIS: Our top priorities should be to protect the vulnerable and at risk while safeguarding civil liberties. We must continue learning as much as humanly possible about the virus as quickly as possible so that we can pinpoint mitigation efforts to protect the vulnerable, while ensuring the vast majority of our citizens can still live their lives and earn a living to provide for their families. As policymakers, we must actively monitor hospitalization rates and available beds to ensure those in need of urgent care can receive it. We also must ensure our frontline workers have access to the PPE needed to safely do their jobs. We must continue to adapt our educational delivery systems in real-time to ensure that our kids have access to a world class education, despite quarantines and lockdowns.
RODAS: Pennsylvania’s top priorities should be on protecting essential workers and small businesses. COVID-19 has shone a light on the problem with a $7.25 minimum wage. A massive strain has been put on the unemployment system because we do not pay people enough to allow them to build a safety net to fall back in times of crisis. These essential workers should also be guaranteed the basic protective measures to which they are entitled. We shouldn’t be risking safety of employees to line the pockets of corporate interests. The economy’s recovery is contingent on whether we create policies to enforce masks and other basic protections.
6. Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force praised Pennsylvania for how it has handled the COVID-19 pandemic. How would you assess the commonwealth’s response?
REP. LEWIS: In the early days of the pandemic, it was encouraging to see the legislature and governor’s office work together to quickly take action and respond to the pandemic and flatten the curve. We passed legislation to address a myriad of issues related to the pandemic, including to fund our schools, ensure adequate PPE, and protect those losing their jobs. I believe that ultimately, the business closure orders were imposed unevenly, unfairly and with a lack of transparency – unnecessarily crippling our economy and putting many small businesses out of business or struggling to survive. The governor’s decision to force nursing homes to admit COVID-positive patients was the wrong decision, with disastrous results. Our Unemployment Compensation office and system were ill-equipped to handle the many claims, despite the governor’s orders that predictably put millions of Pennsylvanians out of work. My hope is that the governor’s office will collaborate with the legislature once more, as we did at the beginning of the pandemic, to help our state navigate through this unprecedented time.
RODAS: First and foremost, I trust the science and the experts. COVID-19 is an unprecedented health crisis, and I trust that the experts enacted policies that saved lives within the constraint of ever-changing and ever-growing knowledge of the virus. That being said, we need to continue to uplift our small businesses by giving them a seat at the table and protect our essential workers by providing them with life saving Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), as our recovery is contingent upon protecting them.
7. What needs to be done in order to improve Pennsylvania’s economy?
REP. LEWIS: In order to transform Pennsylvania’s economy so that we become the economic powerhouse of the East Coast that we could be, policymakers must focus on five key areas: Taxation and Regulation, Worker Freedom, Healthcare, Education, and Infrastructure. Our ultimate goal must be to create a Commonwealth that welcomes and encourages new job growth while protecting our state’s natural resources and the health of our citizens. By ensuring fair taxation and consistent but reasonable regulation, businesses know how they can operate and what their costs will be. By promoting worker freedom and improving healthcare we make it more appealing for workers to want to settle in our state. By supporting education we can make certain we have a trained workforce – which attracts employers. And having an infrastructure that works ensures our businesses can get their products and services to market.
RODAS: We must invest in our small businesses and close corporate tax holes, reduce the property tax burden so families have more spending power, and enact fair contract agreements that’ll bring local, well-paying jobs for our local families. We also build the future of Green energy through further developing apprenticeships and training programs that’ll train the next generation of workers. In addition, we should invest in building more affordable housing throughout the Commonwealth, which will create good-paying union jobs and help with our housing affordability crisis.
8. Social unrest has played out in front of us as citizens protest the killings of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and other Black men and women. What changes are needed to state laws as it relates to criminal justice reform?
REP. LEWIS: Pennsylvania was one of the first states in the nation to pass commonsense reforms both before and after the incidents you mention, and I was proud to support them. I believe we must work to reform the criminal justice system so that there is truly equal justice under the law for all Pennsylvanians, regardless of race or socioeconomic status. I believe one of the first structural changes we must make to our criminal justice system is to appropriate state funding for legal defense. This is why I co-sponsored legislation that would provide such funding. Pennsylvania is one of the only states in the nation that does not provide state funding for legal defense, and this must change. There are a litany of other aspects of our criminal justice system I would like to see reformed, including the process of civil asset forfeiture as well as the decriminalization of marijuana. We must continue the bipartisan effort to reform our criminal justice system.
RODAS: I believe it is critical to meet this moment with proactive, structural policy changes to dismantle the systemic racism that literally kills Black and brown people. I will continue to work with our Black communities and other communities of color to enact policies such as: reducing police presence in our schools - especially because studies show that police presence doesn’t make schools safer and upholds the harmful school-to-prison pipeline - and withdrawing participation from police militarization programs.
9. What changes would you make to Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation system?
REP. LEWIS: The Unemployment Compensation system has failed thousands of Pennsylvanians this year when they needed it most due to outdated and antiquated technology. Sadly – despite the legislature having appropriated funds years ago specifically to fix this problem – the Administration never took the necessary action. We must ensure that these fixes are made and allow for the deputizing of staff from across other agencies to process claims when the system becomes overwhelmed, as it did this year.
RODAS: The problem with the unemployment compensation system stems from the budget cuts made years ago and inadequate staffing. I would increase funding to the agency to further invest in the system with interface upgrades. An increased budget would also allow more staff to be there to readily answer calls and ensure accountability for Pennsylvanians.
10. Are you confident in the security and results of this election?
REP. LEWIS: Yes, I believe our counties and election officials do an amazing job protecting the security and integrity of our electoral process. I do believe the outcome of the election will reflect the will of the voters. That being said, I am concerned with recent court rulings that permit the acceptance of ballots after the election, while at the same time not mandating those ballots be postmarked. Although I do not think this ruling will result in voter fraud that upsets the outcome of the election, I do believe it could put a question mark in voters’ minds if the outcome changes three days after the election. For this reason, I believe the ruling was misguided. Ultimately though, I am confident in the security and integrity of our electoral process in Pennsylvania.
RODAS: I am confident in the security and results of this election. Mail-in-ballots are a safe and secure way for citizens to make their voices heard, and our democracy is stronger when more people vote. Any person or political party that suppresses the right to vote does not and should not represent our community.