CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Pa. — Democracy 2020 takes a look at the State House race for the 88th District.
The Cumberland County seat covers Lemoyne, Lower Allen Township, Mechanicsburg, New Cumberland, Shiremanstown, Upper Allen Township, and Wormleysburg.
Republican Sheryl Delozier has represented the 88th for the last 12 years. Tara Shakespeare is the Democrat she's running against.
Delozier chairs the House Commerce Committee.
Before she was elected in 2008, she worked in the Auditor General's office, and was on senior staff for former Governors Ridge and Schweiker.
Delozier touts accomplishments on her campaign website, including the bipartisan Clean Slate Law she co-sponsored with Philadelphia Representative Jordan Harris.
Shakespeare is a Harrisburg native who went to Bishop McDevitt High School. She lives in Lower Allen Township and works in finance and human resources.
Shakespeare says the state needs to have a better plan to beat Covid-19. She wants schools to use the fair funding formula to avoid property tax hikes.
Increasing government transparency is also among her top priorities.
For more election coverage, where to vote, information about the candidates, and other stories about voting safety and security, visit the FOX43 Election Voting Guide.
FOX43 sent candidate questionnaires to both candidates. Their responses are listed below.
RELATED: PA House 88th District election
1. Why do you want to represent your district?
REP. SHERYL DELOZIER: It is an honor of a lifetime representing the hardworking people of the 88th District. I want to represent the 88th District to provide balanced, fair, and provide real solutions to the difficult issues facing our state and local communities. I work to develop a compromise for good public policy in the many bills I have had signed into law. I would be honored to earn the privilege of representing the residents of the 88th District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
TARA SHAKESPEARE: I'm running for office because I absolutely love Cumberland County and Pennsylvania. We truly have a community here and people from all walks of life have chosen to live and work here because of that community. We have so much to offer, from our parks to our amazing small businesses to our schools. My husband and I bought a home in Lower Allen because we loved the West Shore School district, but we realized that while we found a lot of homes in our budget, the property taxes made them unattainable for us. I am committed to ensuring that our state legislature adequately and equitably funds education in the Commonwealth because their failure to do so over the past 10 years has led to a lot of financial hardship for people seeking their first home or for seniors living on a fixed income. We have a growing community and we need to ensure that our legislature reflects our values of peace and prosperity for all Pennsylvanians.
2. What area of public policy are you most passionate about and why?
REP. DELOZIER: As the author of first in the nation Clean Slate legislation, I am passionate about making common sense reforms to our criminal justice system and standing for victims of crime. Clean Slate allows people convicted of low-level crimes that have been arrest free for 10 years to have their charges sealed. Common sense criminal justice reforms have bipartisan support, make fiscal sense, and help individuals turn their life around after paying their debt to society. Criminal justice reform can and must be balanced with protecting victims’ rights to form strong public policy. As the sponsor of the Crime Victims Bill of Rights that the voters passed last year, I will and always have worked for positive change to make sure a victim’s voice is heard in our justice system.
SHAKESPEARE: I am extremely passionate about healthcare policy in the Commonwealth. I personally have experienced $15,000 in surprise medical billing in one year and I know that no Pennsylvanian should have to go through that experience. We need to put a stop to surprise medical billing, ensure that prescription drugs are affordable for everyone, and ensure that no one ever has to declare bankruptcy because they cannot afford the lifesaving treatment they need.
3. Name three goals you wish to accomplish in the next term if elected?
- Continue enacting common sense criminal justice reforms.
- Exploring ways to improve Pennsylvania’s economy as Chair of the House Commerce Committee.
- Implementing the Constitutional Amendment that was overwhelmingly approved by Pennsylvania voters providing for a crime victims bill of rights.
SHAKESPEARE: My main goal in office will be to ensure that our state legislature has a clear and concrete plan to deal with COVID-19. There are so many hurdles we are all facing right now as a result of the pandemic and our state legislature needs to have a plan to deal with them. We have lost friends, family and neighbors to this pandemic as well as so many small businesses and sources of employment and security. We need to ensure that every Pennsylvanian is safe by providing PPE to every worker, rapid and easily accessible testing, and a solid plan for our economic recovery.
I am committed to implementing our fair funding formula to ensure the success of our public schools and ease the burden on school districts that are currently being forced to raise property taxes. Cumberland County has one of the fastest growing counties in Pennsylvania and to ensure that this growth continues, our legislature must ensure that the cost of living here isn't prohibitive.
I will work every day to ensure that we have government transparency. As it stands, it's incredibly difficult to know what your state legislator is doing on a daily basis and who is funding their campaigns or giving them gifts. Politicians can accept an unlimited amount of money from dark money donors, which has led to a legislature that more accurately reflects the wants of multinational corporations, than the needs of the people in our district. The people of Pennsylvania want a safe and prosperous life for themselves and their families, but too often career politicians in our state house have handed out tax breaks to the organizations that are polluting our air and water and making us sick.
4. What is the biggest challenge facing Pennsylvanians in the next couple years?
REP. DELOZIER: In addition to rebuilding our economy from the COVID-19 pandemic, transportation infrastructure funding is one of the biggest challenges facing Pennsylvania. As a member of the House Transportation Task Force, I see firsthand the issues facing our transportation networks. The task force released several workable solutions that will create a path forward on keeping Pennsylvania competitive nationally and internationally.
SHAKESPEARE: Unfortunately the biggest challenge facing Pennsylvanians in the next couple of years is moving on after the economic and emotional devastation of COVID-19. We are living through a once in a century pandemic and it will take several years to recover from it. I have dedicated my career to small business and I have seen the toll this year has taken on our small business community throughout the Commonwealth. Our legislature needs to do everything possible to ensure that our small businesses can not only rebound, but come back better. We must also ensure the emotional well-being of our residents, particularly 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. DELOZIER: We must ensure the health and safety of our children, families and seniors get our economy running again. We learn more about the virus every day and that provides us with the knowledge to make better and science-based decisions. There needs to be discussions on future reopening plans on what happens after a county has reached the “green” phase of reopening. We cannot be in a situation where people’s livelihoods are taken from them and they have nowhere to turn.
SHAKESPEARE: COVID-19 has absolutely devastated so many of our lives and while I'm hopeful that we will have a vaccine in the future, in the meantime we need to ensure that the Commonwealth has PPE for everyone, rapid and easily accessible testing, and a robust and fully-funded contact tracing system. We are truly in this together and we need a legislature that looks out for us the way we have looked out for our families, friends, and neighbors during this time. Additionally, a top priority needs to be our budget. I realize that talking about money isn't necessarily everyone's favorite topic, however we must ensure that we have reliable sources of income in order to appropriately fund all of the Commonwealth's expenses. While our economy was in a state of free fall because of the pandemic, legislators in Harrisburg handed out a $670 million taxpayer funded subsidy to the fossil fuel industry. At a time when many Pennsylvanians have been struggling to collect unemployment and provide for their families, tax breaks like this are extremely irresponsible. Working people throughout the Commonwealth pay their fair share of taxes and it is time for the ultra-wealthy and well-connected to do the same.
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. DELOZIER: The COVID-19 pandemic is nothing that any elected official has seen before and there is no precedent on how to respond. We need to ensure we balance our physical, mental, and economic health as the state navigates the pandemic. We are elected to represent the people of Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives and I wish the Governor would appreciate that fact and recognize the co-equal branches of government. The General Assembly has sent many bipartisan commonsense bills to the Governor that would safely reopen Pennsylvania businesses and get residents back to work using the most up-to-date CDC science guidelines. We can get back to work while providing the necessary protections against the spread of COVID-19.
SHAKESPEARE: I am thankful that Pennsylvanians have done so much to stop the spread of COVID-19, but it is imperative that we acknowledge that the Governor was forced to make a lot of difficult choices because our federal response to the pandemic was completely insufficient. I have seen friends and neighbors band together to provide home-sewn masks for nursing homes and schools, I have seen so many people step up to deliver groceries to people in need, and I am moved by the compassionate displays of humanity from my fellow Pennsylvanians.
On the other hand, I have been shocked and appalled by the behavior of our state legislators and their response to the pandemic. Our Republican controlled legislature had the chance to truly make a positive difference in our lives by ensuring that they would work with the Governor and the people of their districts to ensure that everyone had access to PPE, testing, and contact tracing. Instead, they have wasted so much of our desperately needed taxpayer dollars, on political stunts. As of right now, we have no long-term strategy to keep Pennsylvanians safe, no long-term plan for our children's education, and no long-term strategy to rebuild our economy and replace the revenue that we have lost. The short-sighted political spin coming out of our elected officials has been nothing short of shameful.
7. What needs to be done in order to improve Pennsylvania’s economy?
REP. DELOZIER: Before the pandemic, Pennsylvania was approaching one of the lowest unemployment rates on record. We need to respond by safely getting people back to work and aiding small businesses that may be permanently impacted by the pandemic.
SHAKESPEARE: Pennsylvania needs to invest in our small business community in the same way that we have invested in multi-national corporations. Small business is truly the backbone of our economy and unless you've worked at built a small business, you may not understand how critical they are. Investing in our small businesses means that our legislature provides grants and innovation opportunities that directly contribute to our local communities. Right now, legislators in Cumberland County consistently hand out tax breaks to the oil and gas industry in Pittsburgh, which does nothing to help our local residents. We need to ensure that these local businesses thrive. We also need to invest in the future of the Commonwealth by investing in industries that are showing considerable revenue and growth potential such as solar and wind energy. There are amazing organizations in the Commonwealth that have creative solutions for providing good paying jobs, while providing considerable advancement of our infrastructure and technology. We have a real opportunity to be on the cutting edge of these advancements and to tap in to industries that benefit our economy and uphold our Constitution by ensuring that we all have clean air and water.
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. DELOZIER: As the wife of a former police officer, I understand completely how difficult law enforcement’s job is. To assist police departments weed out officers that do not follow the rules, the General Assembly enacted legislation that would require officers to receive mental health evaluations as a condition of continued employment, legislation that provides for more detailed background checks for potential officers, and an electronic database where police departments around the state can see prior complaints against a potential officer.
SHAKESPEARE: One of freedoms that all Americans are privy to is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. George Floyd was an innocent man killed by bad police officers in broad daylight. Breonna Taylor was an innocent woman killed in her own home by bad police officers. At no point during their last moments on earth were they tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for anything they may or may not have done.
There are so many facets of criminal justice reform that must happen in Pennsylvania but the very first thing our legislature needs to do is acknowledge the systemic racism that plagues our society from healthcare, to education funding, to economic opportunities. We need to ensure that our Black residents have the same access to a high-quality education and opportunities, as all other students, regardless of their zip code. We need to put a stop to the school to prison pipeline by investing in our communities, ensuring access to affordable healthcare, preventing income inequality, and focusing on crime prevention.
We also need to listen to good law enforcement officers and reform how police pursue and arrest suspects. We need to enact a uniform use of force policy that ensures our police officers are thoroughly trained in non-violent methods of de-escalation and receive adequate mental-health training to ensure that everyone is as safe as possible. Good police officers want to do good work and they want to go home safely to their families at the end of the night, much like our Black residents want to go home safely to their families at the end of the night. Our communities, especially our Black and Brown residents, need to know that officers are trained to serve and protect, and not to take their lives, in the way that George Floyd's life was taken, that Breonna Taylor's life was taken, in the way that Antwon Rose's life was taken.
We must reform our sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums, particularly for drug related offences. The "War on Drugs" led to skyrocketing over-incarceration in America and we have not yet dealt with the long-term consequences. There are people incarcerated in Pennsylvania who are serving sentences related to marajuana, which is now legal in multiple states. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical executives who knowingly manufactured and distributed highly addictive opioids and lied about it, leading to a massive increase in substance abuse and an unforgivable loss of life, have remained free from consequences because their money and power bought them immunity. This is not what justice looks like.
Our prison system is being used to punish Black Pennsylvanians, poor Pennsylvanians, and Pennsylvanians who are experiencing mental health issues. While much has been said about how far we have come on criminal justice reform, it is not near enough and the leadership of our Republican controlled legislature has refused to let true reform happen. In fact, our state legislature has doubled the amount of laws we have on the books over the past 10 years, effectively making it easier to be incarcerated, rather than reforming anything. They have repeatedly cut funding for mental health initiatives and programs at a time when we need more mental health resources, not less.
Our probation system needs to be overhauled. As an example, if you look at the trajectory of House Bill 1555, a bi-partisan effort to reform our probation system, you can see how broken it is. This bill initially had the support of the ACLU and FAMM, two great organizations who are working hard everyday for criminal justice reform, but then it morphed into something else entirely through a series of changes by the House Judiciary Committee. Not only did it not address probation reform, it actually would have made our probation system far worse. The ACLU and FAMM dropped their support in December of 2019 and a month later a news article ran about how our criminal justice system had been fixed by the same legislators who put forth HB1555. We have too many politicians doing the bare minimum to reform our broken systems while patting themselves on the back for a job poorly done. These broken systems are costing us taxpayer dollars and our lives.
I am committed to working with organizations like the ACLU, FAMM, and Free the Ballot- Incarcerated Voter Family Network, as well as formerly incarcerated Pennsylvanians, and good law enforcement officers to make sure that we pass legislation that is effective, compassionate, and keeps everyone safe.
9. What changes would you make to Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation system?
REP. DELOZIER: As someone who had their identity stolen in an effort to defraud Pennsylvania’s unemployment system, I feel it is imperative the Department of Labor and Industry work to verify individual’s identity on the front end of the system to ensure unemployment dollars are getting to people who truly need assistance. The backlog of unemployment claims is unprecedented. To further ease this backlog, the Department of Labor and Industry needs to complete the computer system update that has been going on for years so they can provide timely assistance to those individuals accessing benefits
SHAKESPEARE: A lot of people are unaware that our current problems with Pennsylvania's unemployment compensation were caused by the Republican controlled legislature's refusal to appropriately fund a special state fund in 2016 that would have brought our department into compliance with federal standards. People have experienced extremely frustrating wait times in their calls and in receiving responses from the department. This has also caused significant delays on people receiving unemployment compensation at a time when that money is how they put food on the table or keep a roof over their family's heads. I will take action as soon as possible to allocate the funds to bring our unemployment compensation system up to those federal standards in order to ensure that money gets into the hands of the people who need it most.
10. Are you confident in the security and results of this election?
REP. DELOZIER: Yes.
SHAKESPEARE: I am confident that the county board of elections offices and our postal workers are doing everything in their power to ensure the security and results of this election, however I am extremely concerned that some in our state legislature and federal government are working hard to undermine their efforts and our votes. Our Republican controlled legislature has moved forward with something they’re calling the “election integrity” committee. This committee is trying to pass legislation that would effectively allow politicians to:
- Subpoena our ballots after they've been cast and before they have been counted
- Subpoena and interrogate local election officials and postal workers, while they’re trying to do the important work of carrying out our democratic process
So many good people are working hard every day to defend our democracy, while an unfortunate amount of our elected officials are fighting to dismantle it. Our vote is one of the most powerful tools we as Americans have, to tell our elected officials that what they’re doing isn't working for us, and that it’s time for a change.
We don’t know what will happen in November, but we know what is happening right now as we watch as some in our state legislature try to steal our democracy out from under us. I love our country, our Commonwealth, and our democracy. That democratic process is what makes America great because we are not beholden to the whims of kings and queens, despots and dictators. We are a nation that is to be governed of the people, by the people, and for the people and I am happy to work every day to ensure that our voices and votes are heard at the ballot box and the mailbox this year.