By Marisa Pagan
SC Staff Writer
ESU’s political science department, along with their students, the College Republicans, and the American Democracy Project hosted Pennsylvania’s 40th State Senate district candidates, Mark Aurand and Mario Scavello, for a debate in Beers Lecture Hall on Thursday, October 9.
The event lasted just under an hour with political science professors Dr. Kimberly Adams and Dr. Adam McGlynn acting as moderators.
In attendance were supporters for both candidates, identifiable by the political buttons adorned on their chests, and many ESU students. The building was crowded enough that several students gave up their seats to senior community members and moved to stand along the sides of the room.
President Welsh was in attendance and opened the event by thanking all those involved in organizing the debate.
The questions asked during the debate were chosen by the moderators to address key issues facing both Monroe and Northampton counties and ranged from topics about bringing higher-paying jobs to the area, to the issues of education and pensions.
After winning a draw, Mario Scavello began first with his opening statement commenting on the issues of the counties in Pennsylvania: “Part of the uniqueness about this district is that not many districts in the state have the same issues between counties. For example, if they had matched Monroe with Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, they wouldn’t have been a good match. Luzerne and Lackawanna counties are losing population whereas [Monroe is] growing.”
In Mark Aurand’s opening statement, he stated the major issues that he believes exist in Pennsylvania: 1. The legislature voted not to fund pension obligations of public employees; 2. Governor Corbett and the legislature cut corporate and bank taxes by 1 billion dollars; and, 3. Governor Corbett and the legislature decided to not place a severance tax on the national gas companies.
“I’m concerned with a lot of the things going on in Harrisburg. The voice of the people matters and I’m not sure that voice is being heard,” said Aurand.
In regards to the issue of creating higher-paying jobs for the area, Aurand’s ideas are to move away from just tourism and recruit clean manufacturing, increase energy jobs, help farmers, and create local opportunities.
Scavello instead wants to increase the creation of small businesses: “Accelerated programs where small businesses are starting to incubate, and, as they grow, we’re hopeful that they’ll be able to grow and create jobs here locally or even across the county.”
On the issue of higher education, Scavello stated, “I will support a severance tax to put $550 million dollars more into basic education … Our best investment is in education.”
Aurand supported the tax as well: “I absolutely support the severance tax and using some of those funds for public education.”
Aurand then spoke on the specific issues affecting ESU, such as professor layoffs and cuts to the foreign language, music, chemistry, and physics departments. He believes the changes are “bad moves… I was dismayed when there was the 18% cut [in funding for PASSHE schools and] I would support very strongly additional funding for public education.”
Although the candidates did not agree on the issues, both were impressed with the student turnout for the event. Freshman Ricky Goodall said the event was, “very nice and competitive. I learned a lot.” Despite enjoying the event, graduate student Sarah Khan thought, “There should have been more crowd control.”
Make sure you vote on Tuesday, November 4.
Email Marisa at: