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PA House District 97: Steven Mentzer (R) vs. Dana Hamp Gulick (D)

Rep. Mentzer is seeking a fifth term in the central Lancaster County district against the Democrat he defeated in 2018.

Democracy 2020 previews the State House race in Pennsylvania's 97th District. This seat in central Lancaster County covers Lititz Borough, as well as Manheim and Warwick Townships.

State Representative Steven Mentzer was elected in 2012 and is seeking a fifth term in office. His Democrat challenger is Dana Hamp Gulick, whom he defeated in 2018 by a 57 to 43 percent margin, about 4,000 votes.

Mentzer is a former Manheim Township treasurer, and is currently the President of the non-profit Central American Relief Efforts, which brings humanitarian aid through volunteers to Central American impoverished countries.

Mentzer says his goal is to bring Democrats and Republicans together. If re-elected he wants to bring fiscal responsibility to Harrisburg, and has a goal of safely restarting the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dana Hamp Gulick, a Democrat, is a mother and is open about her history as a domestic violence victim. She says she helps other victims of domestic violence as a board member with the Lancaster YWCA.

Hamp Gulick says she supports responsible gun ownership and wants to curb gun violence. She also wants to pass the PA Fairness Act to end workplace discriminations against LGBTQ+, and create a state-based public option program tied to Medicaid negotiated costs.

For more information about the race for the 95th District, and all other local, state, and Presidential races this election, plus information on where and how to vote, visit the FOX43 Election Voting Guide

Credit: WPMT FOX43
Credit: WPMT FOX43

FOX43 sent questionnaires to both candidates about their platforms. Their answers are listed below:

1.Why do you want to represent your district? 

REPRESENTATIVE STEVEN MENTZER: I am running to continue bringing responsible and effective leadership to the residents I serve. In Harrisburg, I will continue to focus on the issues that make a positive difference to our community: fiscal discipline, education, economic growth, healthcare, and keeping our neighborhoods safe. The fact is that, despite the increasingly partisan divide in our country, my record is one of bringing together Republicans and Democrats to get results on these and other issues. 

DANA HAMP GULICK: As a single working mother and survivor of domestic violence, I know what it’s like to live a nightmare through no fault of your own. After growing up in my district with a wealth of opportunities, I started my career, married, had a beautiful healthy child, and then moved to paradise in Hawaii. That paradise soon became a nightmare when after a work injury, my husband's well-concealed mental illness began to reveal itself, aggravated by multiple surgeries and abuse of prescription opioid painkillers. Eventually he became delusional and dangerous, forcing me to flee with my young daughter, spending nine months in women's shelters before being flown back to Pennsylvania by a state program for survivors. When we arrived back in Manheim Township, we had just two suitcases and each other. I know what it’s like to lose everything and need to rebuild. I know what it’s like to need social benefit programs to get back on my feet. I feel it’s my responsibility to use my knowledge, experience and privilege to help others, because any of us could be one injury, one illness or one layoff away from the financial abyss. I’m running because I believe every family can be and must be safe, healthy and thriving.

2.What area of public policy are you most passionate about and why? 

REP. MENTZER: No answer provided.

HAMP GULICK: As a survivor of domestic violence and mother of a teenager who has spent all her school years since Kindergarten doing active shooter drills, I am most passionate about enacting smart and common sense gun violence prevention measures, that respect gun ownership while addressing and preventing the epidemic of gun violence.  

3.Name three goals you wish to accomplish in the next term if elected? 

REP. MENTZER: No answer provided.

HAMP GULICK: 1. Pass the PA Fairness Act 2. Expand the use of the Fair Funding Formula to include ALL education funds through the state. 3. Create a state-based public option program tied to Medicaid negotiated costs 

4.What is the biggest challenge facing Pennsylvanians in the next couple years? 

REP. MENTZER: The state’s recovery from the economic and human toll of the coronavirus pandemic. While Pennsylvanians understood early measures taken to address COVID-19, I believe it is to time to turn to a different model: one of transparency and building coalitions. We must bring together all stakeholders – legislators, small businesses, the medical community, the education community, residents and others – to make open decisions based on real data, much as the Lancaster community has done. Our goal must be restarting our economy in a safe and responsible manner that protects our citizens and workers – because a resurgent economy will help us address so many of the challenges we face today. 

HAMP GULICK: The biggest challenge facing Pennsylvania is the same challenge facing the rest of the nation— the lasting effects of the COVID-19 crisis on our economy and on our neighbors.

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. MENTZER: No answer provided.

HAMP GULICK: We must be aggressive in our response to save lives and livelihoods. One way to do this is to ask the RIGHT questions. Businesses need support. How can we keep businesses afloat while protecting workers from disease? The answer to this question is different than the answer to “how do we open businesses?” A lot of our children need school as a safe place to be during the day that provides meals and more. How can we meet these needs? Again, a different question than “how do we reopen schools?” 

So, if we are asking the right questions, we can get closer to meeting the actual needs of our communities. Small businesses need financial support to help them pay their basic expense and retrofit for safety. They need more lenient unemployment standards to support employees out of work, and they need hazard pay for employees in essential positions. Working families during this pandemic need an extended moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. We need to extend unemployment insurance for them, and we need to hire more unemployment employees to help process the flood of applications. Lastly, families need the flexibility to care for each other when a child or adult becomes ill, so a statewide family leave program is vitally important.

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. MENTZER: No answer provided.

HAMP GULICK: While some have argued vehemently against Governor Wolf’s response and restrictions around the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe he, along with the steady medical guidance of Dr. Rachel Levine, have made the right, albeit difficult, decisions around Covid and that the result is thousands who have been saved from the devastating disease. We know, for example, that if masks are utilized at 100%, we could quickly crush the spread of COVID-19 and get our communities moving again faster. Our Commonwealth has been put into an impossible situation and in the absence of leadership on the federal level, has done as well as they are able.

7.What needs to be done to improve Pennsylvania’s economy? 

REP. MENTZER: No answer provided.

HAMP GULICK: The first and most important thing we can do is increase the minimum wage. Increased real wages that grow above inflation gives consumers more disposable income to spend. We can also increase revenue through various mechanisms (taxing energy production, closing the Delaware loophole and taxing legalized recreational adult-use marijuana) that can then be used to drive the economic engine of the state through investment in education and infrastructure. 

8.Social unrest has played out in front of us as citizens protest the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black men and women. What changes are needed to state laws as it relates to criminal justice reform? 

REP. MENTZER: Working together in a bipartisan fashion, the General Assembly has passed several laws that focus on reforming the system, including things like the Clean Slate law and new efforts to improve police training and procedures. As long as we continue to put partisanship aside, I believe we can do even more next session. 

HAMP GULICK: Black Lives Matter, full stop. Our nation was founded with inequality baked in and despite gains in fits and starts, the inequality still exists at a fundamental, systemic level. It’s incumbent upon us, especially those of us who are white, cis, and straight, to dedicate ourselves to dismantling the systems of oppression we’ve inherited and benefit from. Here are just some ways we could reform the criminal justice system: We need to reform our criminal justice system by lowering or eliminating mandatory fees, fines, and defendant-funded court proceedings that criminalize poverty. We can institute sentencing reform for non-violent crimes, so no one spends years in prison for possession of marijuana. We need to reform probation in Pennsylvania and lastly, we need to re-allocate some police funding to broader community services-- an armed officer is not the right respondent for every call for help.

9.What changes would you make to Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation system? 

REP. MENTZER: My district office continues to be swamped with calls concerning the in efficiency of the unemployment compensation system. Unfortunately, the unemployment compensation system’s problems have been well-known and are directly related to their outdated technology system. That is why, several years ago, I supported special funding to be used specifically for upgrading that technology. Why the Administration did not take the steps they should have to implement that upgrade is still in question, but the stress placed on the system by increased claims due to COVID-19 is unacceptable and the Department of Labor and Industry must be held accountable to fix this as they were provided resources to do years ago. 

HAMP GULICK: I would increase the number of employees available to screen and approve applications, update the decades-old system, and extend unemployment eligibility to account for the unforeseeable conditions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the economy both short and long term.

10.Are you confident in the security and results of this election? 

REP. MENTZER: I recently voted to increase the security of this year’s election by supporting legislation to allow for preElection night opening and preparation of ballots for scanning. This legislation also eliminated the use of drop boxes because they are both an area in which fraud could occur and allow for “ballot harvesting” which was made illegal under the originally passed election reforms. Lancaster County’s Board of Elections is working very hard to implement proper security and procedures to insure the integrity of this year’s elections, including increased training for election workers. 

HAMP GULICK: I was feeling good about the election in PA until the House Republicans came up with a whole new resolution this week. HR 1032 attempts to establish the Select Committee on Election Integrity to investigate and review election results. This is an attempt to mess with the results of the election and to put Republicans in charge of the outcome. I have no faith the Republican leadership would execute these duties in a fair and honest way. They are far too concerned with losing their power in this election and this resolution is a desperate attempt to hold on to that power.