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PA Senate District 33: Doug Mastriano (R) vs. Rich Sterner (D)

Both candidates are in their first general election. Mastriano won the seat in a special election to replace Rich Alloway in 2019.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — In the race for the Pennsylvania State Senate seat in the 33st District, Republican incumbent Doug Mastriano is seeking to win his first full term against Adams County Democrat Rich Sterner. 

Mastriano won the seat in a special election in 2019 to replace retiring senator Rich Alloway. He is one of Governor Tom Wolf's most outspoken critics in how the governor has handled Pennsylvania's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mastriano has also introduced legislation to strengthen laws against abortion and says on his campaign website he is opposed to same-sex marriage.

Sterner is a former principal at Biglerville High School, and is currently a member of the Bermudian Springs School Board.

The 33rd District covers all of Adams County, plus parts of Cumberland, Franklin, and York Counties. 

Senator Mastriano and Mr. Sterner were sent questionnaires from FOX43 about their candidacy and stances on issues. 

RELATED: 2020 Pennsylvania Election Voting Guide

Credit: WPMT FOX43
Credit: WPMT FOX43

RELATED: 2020 Pennsylvania Election Voting Guide

1. Why do you want to represent the PA Senate 33rd District? 

SENATOR MASTRIANO: I served 30 years active duty in the United States Army, retiring in late 2017.  As I concluded my time in the Army, I reflected on the deployments, the years away from home, and the sacrifices my family and I had made and it gave me pause.  My heart was broken that after 30 years of service, the Pennsylvania I would be handing off to my son was less prosperous, less secure and less free than when I received it from my father.  Crippling taxes are driving retirees out of their homes; the precious lives of the unborn are eliminated, while free speech is under attack by Orwellian-like ideologies that are taking over our public institutions.   

I could not stand aside while radical ideologues and greedy bureaucrats run our state into the ground.  Too much is at stake and I will not stand aside as bureaucrats create regulations that crush our families, farmers and businesses, or while Harrisburg thinks of new ways to take more of your hard earned money.   

RICH STERNER: I will represent everyone in Senate District 33 with leadership, integrity, compassion, and honor. I will work to solve problems, not point fingers. There is too much partisan bickering in Harrisburg and we need to change that. I will look to the furthest point down the road in search of long term solutions. One of my favorite quotes is “seek to understand, then seek to be understood.”

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

SENATOR MASTRIANO: Our basic freedoms are under assault by Gov Wolf.  Never before has a governor in our commonwealth wielded so much power over our lives.  There is no issue more important than this.   

Benjamin Franklin was asked in 1787, “what do we have Mr. Franklin, a Republic or a king?” He responded, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” 

Ronald Reagan warned us in 1961, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” 

If we are a free people, then let us live and walk as free people.  

Now it’s is our turn to keep the Republic.  How do you plan to reduce the spread of coronavirus in Pennsylvania and prevent future outbreaks? 

Gov. Tom Wolf unilaterally issued edicts that shut down thousands of businesses, putting millions out of work. The question will be, was Wolf’s cure worse than the disease? I believe the answer will be yes. 

The Philadelphia Inquirer on March 27 did an expose showing how Governor Wolf’s family legacy cabinet was still in operation, claiming they had a waiver to stay operational. This, while all other kitchen and cabinet manufacturers across the state were ordered by the Governor’s office to shut down last week. 

If this was not a conflict of financial interest, then nothing is. Imagine having the powers of Thanos to knock out all of your competition with a stroke of a pen, as the Governor so effectively managed to do with little notice from the press.   Indeed, prudent measures must be taken. But, for the Governor to order the shutdown of businesses that pose little risk to public safety is irresponsible. 

Unfortunately, his cure is worse than the virus and you in the media are complicit by looking the other way… 

RICH STERNER: Education because of my 25 years as a history teacher, middle school principal, and high school principal. Education is the keystone to success. Once you have gained the right education, it will stay with you all through your life.

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

SENATOR MASTRIANO: We need to restore our basic freedoms, stop the failed tax and spend policies of career politicians and roll back the 153,000 state government regulations crushing us. 

 I have been the voice of reason and for defending your constitutional rights in these days that try our souls.  No one has done more to reassert the consent of the in the midst of unparallel overreach of our governor.   

 Transparency and honesty is what leaders owe to their people…  Transparency and honesty is what our citizens deserve 

As an officer in the United States Army, I saw the importance of accountability and transparency was foremost.  Leaders are not given trust; they must earn it - by being transparent and consistent.  The lack of this destroys trust and breaks our institutions 

Especially in a time of crisis - we need to know that the governor regardless of party - has oversight and accountability   

 As Lord Acton, the 19th-century British historian wrote, “Power tends to corrupt and Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  As a result of this tendency - our founding fathers created a constitutional republic built upon checks and balances.   It is the constitutional responsibility of the General Assembly to provide oversight, accountability as well as checks and balances.   

But, sadly during this COVID-19 crisis, the transparency and accountability has been woefully lacking and Governor Wolf has used this sweeping power abusively, to the destruction of many lives. 

RICH STERNER:  My top three goals are (1) COVID-19 work to influence the federal government and the states to solve problems collectively; be a leader in finding help for our local communities, improve systems such as unemployment insurance and broadband access for rural areas, and provide consistent, transparent messaging to my constituents; (2) provide health care that is not job dependent but available to all, coverage that is effective and efficient, lower prescription costs, and cover pre-existing conditions; and (3) create a world-class K-12 education ensuring fair and equitable funding, including property tax reform, while maintaining a high standard of local control. Fund charter schools and cyber charter schools by need, not for profit, and hold them accountable. Eliminate standardized testing and create an evaluation system based on graduation data rates and student performance beyond graduation. Provide training in high school and beyond for jobs necessary in our local industries, businesses, and farms.

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

SENATOR MASTRIANO: Our basic freedoms are under assault by Gov Wolf.  Never before has a governor in our commonwealth wielded so much power over our lives.  There is no issue more important than this.   

Benjamin Franklin was asked in 1787, “what do we have Mr. Franklin, a Republic or a king?” He responded, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” 

Ronald Reagan warned us in 1961, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” 

If we are a free people, then let us live and walk as free people.  

Now it’s is our turn to keep the Republic.   

RICH STERNER:  We need to immediately address the COVID-19 pandemic and get Pennsylvanians working, doing so within the recommended guidelines of experts. We must listen to the experts or we will never be able to move forward. Second, we must fix the systems the pandemic highlighted that are not working, the Workers’ Compensation Insurance system; Health Care that is not job dependent, healthcare that provides efficient and effective coverage, lowers prescription costs, and covers pre-existing conditions; and provide broadband access to our rural areas.

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? 

SENATOR MASTRIANO: Governor Wolf and Secretary Levine tell us of the immediate danger that we face and in addition to personal measures that we must take to ameliorate the impact of the disease, that all medical professions are needed in this hour of need. 

Indeed, we do need all medical personal on deck for this battle. To preserve our valuable medical professionals and to have them at the ready, the Governor and his Secretary of Health have unilaterally ordered the end of all elective surgeries until the end of the COVID-19 crisis. 

Unless it’s life-saving, your hip surgery, leg surgery, knee, oral surgery and everything else is on hold until the crisis passes. 

But, of course, his one notable exception is abortion. 

This could be overlooked as the Governor and his Health Secretary preach, in their science-defying explanation, that abortion does not kill a human, but that it is an elective procedure. 

If that is the case, then why not postpone it as he did all other procedures? 

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it is unconscionable that he will allow this, and subject thousands of health care professionals to COVID-19 for what he says is an elective procedure. This is the problem with politicians, the hypocrisy and Orwellian new-speak. 

RICH STERNER: We must work on navigating threats, social and cultural influences on behavior, science communication, moral decision-making, leadership, and stress and coping. Historically, infectious diseases have been responsible for the greatest human death tolls. We should consider the creation of ethical guidelines for governments, healthcare systems, and clinicians to be used in planning for and responding to a pandemic.

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?

SENATOR MASTRIANO: A restaurant from Ohio recently awarded PA Governor Tom Wolf with its “employee of the month award.”  The recognition was tongue-in-cheek, but the honor was very deserving. 

After all, Pennsylvanians residing near the Ohio border have been flocking to the Buckeye State to enjoy restaurants, as well as food and beverage establishments, that are either shuttered here or operating at limited capacity. 

As part of his unilateral, autocratic mandates, Governor Wolf shut down all businesses he considered to be non “life sustaining” back in March. 

Meanwhile, large box stores and supermarkets were allowed to operate at full capacity. If we can observe social distancing, sanitation and other state and federally recognized health and safety practices at Wal-Mart and Home Depot, why can’t we do the same at small businesses? 

The government overreach needs to stop. 

As a result, the committee that I chair – the Senate Intergovernmental Operations panel – has passed eight measures that reduce government bureaucracy, streamline regulations and cut red tape. 

But for many businesses, including the 33rd Senate District, it is already too late. 

The businesses that remain open are struggling to survive. Many have already closed their doors because they were unable to cope with the Governor’s draconian edicts.   Instead of being apologist for the Wolf Administration, I continue to call for the media to do their part in this Constitutional Republic to hold Wolf and Levine accountable.    

RICH STERNER:  I commend Governor Wolf and Dr. Rachel Levine in their efforts during the pandemic. I do wish the governor had been more transparent in some of his decisions, but overall Pennsylvania is, according to Wolf, just one of three states to witness a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases for more than 42 days. The other two states are Montana and Hawaii. The governor credits the choices made and the science-based approach to reopening the state and I agree.

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

SENATOR MASTRIANO: Pennsylvania ranks in the top 10 in tax burden among all states, according to the Commonwealth Foundation, and there have been five tax hikes in the past 11 years. 

Enough is enough.  The Governor’s latest attempt at raising our taxes comes in the form of the multi-state Transportation & Climate Initiative. While the vision has merit, raising the gas tax by 17 cents – which is part of this plan – is an absurd solution. 

I am not convinced that the modeling and data that have been presented as part of this plan are factually supported by science. Our gas tax is already high – – – this appetite in Harrisburg to continuously tax us needs to stop. 

Everyone remembers Act 89 of 2013, which was sold to taxpayers as the panacea that would fix our state’s crumbling roads and bridges. 

Seven years later, our infrastructure is still in deplorable condition and our state’s gas tax remains one of the nation’s highest. 

Pennsylvania’s stature as a top ten state in tax burden is an embarrassment. It is time to get the Harrisburg bureaucracy off our backs and out of our wallets.  

RICH STERNER: Our primary role in shaping the economy and promoting businesses is through our investments in education and training, transportation infrastructure, and health care.

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?

SENATOR MASTRIANO: Sadly, systemic racism is most evident where Democrat politicians have held power for decades.  Although claiming to be champions of civil rights, their failed policies have exacerbated a social and economic environment where "we the people" cannot prosper.  For example, the last Republican mayor of Philadelphia was Barney Samuel, who left office in 1952.   It is time to reconsider the election rhetoric and seek real ways to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the opportunity and freedom in our constitutional republic   

RICH STERNER: Systemic reform is needed; it’s not just police brutality, racism in police departments, reform in prisons. We need Systemic Change. It must begin in Washington, DC, and continue through to Harrisburg and our local governments. We need Restorative Justice.

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

SENATOR MASTRIANO: The system is wrought with fraud and antiquated systems.  It must be totally overhauled so that it serves the people of the commonwealth in a timely and efficient manner.  Although given millions of dollars to upgrade the systems BEFORE the pandemic, this office dithered and has failed the people of this state miserably.  It is the personification of what is wrong with Harrisburg.    

RICH STERNER:  Upgrade the information technology system and hire competent IT staff. Then increase training and the number of customer service personnel.

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

SENATOR MASTRIANO: Constitutionally - NO - the General Assembly has the constitutional authority to write election law (legislation), but now we have an activities state Supreme Court determined to legislate from the bench.  They have created a recipe for disaster, and it is bewildering the media suffers from group think and fails to do any tangle stories or exposes on this constitutional crisis.     

RICH STERNER: I am very confident in the security of the mail-in ballot and in-person voting at polls. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended the deadline for accepting mail-in ballots and will allow voters to submit their ballots through drop boxes. Also, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a state law that poll watchers must be registered to vote in the county where they're observing the polls.