For one moment, please tune-out all of the McCain/Palin Obama/Biden chatter which has been hammering your eardrums and eyeballs for the past too-many-to-count weeks and take a look in your own backyard at a woman named Judy Hirsh and a man named Jeff Piccola.
You see, Judy Hirsh is the Democratic nominee for the 15th Senatorial District in Central Pennsylvania and is running against three-term incumbent Jeff Piccola.
Judy Hirsh is a relative newcomer to the PennsyPolitics arena; Piccola has been the Senator representing the fifteenth district for the past three terms (and a year.) [Piccola initially won his seat in a special election following the passing of his predecessor.]
For the under or uninformed, the Senate is the part of our government which is empowered to create, amend and repeal the laws governing our Commonwealth.
And each “Senator” is part of the body known as the “Senate” which collectively votes on legislature (or laws) that is presented before them.
There are fifty senators in the Pennsylvania senate. Each covers a certain area – or district- which is responsible for the greater good of about two hundred thousand citizens.
So if you care about or are affected in any way (which you definitely are) by some local law – whether or not you agree or disagree; have been charged with violating one or enforcement of another- your local representative of the Senate should represent your views and ideals in order to be an effective leader.
I offered both Judy Hirsh and Jeff Piccola an opportunity to sit down for a breakfast chat with me at Nonna’s about two weeks ago.
Judy Hirsh’s campaign manager responded and scheduled a meeting with me almost immediately.
And I allowed Piccola’s team the remainder of the time between my meeting with Hirsh and the time that this entry is being posted to sit down with me to answer the same following questions- but his office did not accept my invitation.
So the following is the text of my chat with Judy Hirsh- who will- subsequently- be getting my vote next Tuesday.
[Bold text are my questions- Plain Text are Judy Hirsh's responses]
Let’s start with an easy one: why are you running for State Senate and what makes you most different from Jeff Piccola?
I’ve been involved with the community for about seventeen years. While I was working in the community and raising my family- doing a lot of volunteer work- I saw this disconnect between what was going on in the community and what was going on in the legislature and I thought that I had the qualities and the direction that we need. I have a masters in public administration, I’m an attorney, I’m a people person…that’s the kind of thing that I think would make a good Senator. It’s not about being a democrat or a republican; it’s about being able to cross the aisle and going to the administration- working with legislators and working out peoples problems.
I came here [to Harrisburg] out of graduate school and worked in the house appropriations committee as a budget analyst- so i understand the government, I understand how the budget process works- i understand how the legislature works- and I think that’s a big plus.
Piccola has been in office for over 30 years, Reed has held office in Harrisburg for over 20 years. Ron Buxton has been in office for 15 years.
With the current state of affairs in the state and local governments with regard to mismanagement, unaccountability, corruption and a lack of general responsibility from our elected officials, do you think that term limits would be a good thing for Pennsylvania Politicians and do you think that some of the passion and fire that ignites a person to seek public office can be marred after, literally, decades in office? And, if elected, how do you think you’ll avoid seemingly ego-induced pitfalls of our local elected officials?
Good question. Yes. I would be supportive of term limits- I haven’t come up with a specific number of years that would be appropriate- obviously local versus state is a different issue- we have to make sure we’re not creating staff people that know more than our legislators. I think there’s a point where an elected official is in office and becomes complacent and is no longer really in touch. I don’t want to generalize that every single person is going to turn out that way but it’s a big possibility- you get more comfortable with your position, with your perks with your leadership than you do with really being in touch with your people in Harrisburg and I think that’s exactly what happened with Jeff Piccola- and I’m not sure if he really wants to be in the legislature any more- he did try to run for governor, he attempted to run for the appelate court and he has failed in his current leadership
attempts. Where has he been for the past five or ten years? It’s only now that he has a candidate..a challenger, a competitor that he’s really showing up these days.
Your platform screams “change!” – while we all have our own ideas of things that we’d do different if we were in charge, what, exactly, do you
plan to change if you’re elected? And do you have a laundry list? Top priorities? Things you’re going to attack immediately?
I think we need to do something to bring better jobs to Pennsylvania- I’m a big proponent of alternative energy and investment in business that will create
new technology- we need to do what we can to bring tax incentives to businesses – business incubators- businesses who are providing support services
for these new technologies- i understand that underneathth Pennsylvania we have a wealth of liquid gas and that we have to make sure we have the right technology to bring that liquid up and convert it to energy so that we can become an energy-independent state and then we could export that energy; those are really great jobs for Pennsylvania- that would be something I would really work towards. We’re in a crisis with our environment and we really need to do anything we can to reduce our carbon footprint – and to really encourage good clean energy and the technology Jeff Piccola has consistently voted against alternative energy technology investments. It wasn’t until June of this year that he voted for it [after he knew he had a challenger]
So that’s one of the top things.
I also have a great passion for education- i believe that a good education is key to so many things…also to economic development.
Would you agree that many of our schools are in pretty sad shape?
I would absolutely would agree with that!
I also think that we put so much emphasis on the “no child left behind” that’s been proven not to work- that we have way too much emphasis on memorization
and testing rather than teaching communication skills and problem solving – we need to refocus our energy and we need to refocus our attention on teaching our kids
critical thinking skills rather than just memorization.
We need to keep our commitment to fund our schools equitably – this year was the first year that the state budget that put together a funding formula
to fund the schools equitably. That’s what we have to do. We also have to beef up our funding for schools. Historically, it’s supposed to have been a 50 50 split
between property taxes and the state- and the states share has now gone down to about 34 percent- but hopefully some of the gaming revenue will do something
And one other big one is health care- 700 thousand people in this state don’t have health care. We need to start putting emphasis on preventative health care and getting
Next, probably the most important question on my readers minds: What’s on your iPod?
I like to listen to books on my ipod [laughs] my kids love that.
Do you have a favorite band?
I’m something of an old timer- I love Dan Fogleberg, I love Billy Joel.
Are you a Springsteen fan?
[Deadpan] No. I love women artists- Carly Simon- Carla Barnoff..
What’s the last concert you saw?
Billy Joel- and before that- Jackson Brown- I’m also a product of my kids- my whole family loves Motown – we love the soundtract of Rent- we love Rent.
Piccola has launched some fairly vicious- but relatively benign- ads questioning your ability to lead based solely on the fact that you’ve run for office
in the past but have lost-[Hirsh lost a bid for Susquehanna Township Commissioner by seven votes in 2005] but he left out the fact that after announcing he’d run for Governor, he failed to gain support – losing, in essence, to a former football player and dropped out of the race. Also, Piccola gave up his position as Senate Whip and made a bid to become president pro tempore but lost that election as well- there by losing both Senate Whip AND president pro tempore. And, Piccola considered running for Supreme Court in 07 but withdrew after failing to gain support for the state committee endorsement.
In the current climate of negative-based advertising, do you think that voters have adequate opportunity to gather enough information and independently research the candidates without being tainted by misleading ads from your opponent?
The ad says that my campaign is being run by the “insiders” who were responsible for the pay raise- I have no idea where that came from at all; but I do
have a campaign manager. She’s very young-, she’s 22 years old and she’s from State College
So she’s certainly not an insider.
No, she’s certainly not an insider.
I have another woman who’s fresh out of college who’s helping me with my field efforts and i have a dear friend helping me as well. She’s never worked in government but she IS from Harrisburg-
I think as far as Jeff Piccola goes, his record speaks for itself- I think that people can research the things that I say. I’m only speaking on his record – he’s pro-deregulation, he’s done nothing to keep jobs in the area and he takes thousands of dollars from public utility’s and thinks deregulation is going to work. I mean, these are all things that are out there in public record – as far as what the ads say about me, I have knocked on some doors lately and people will say “ooh..you’re the liar” -
Do you find that frustrating?
I find that frustrating- I’m just hoping that people will have more sense- but I think that in reality, that negative campaigning and negative advertising works-
Look at the federal level with whats happening with the presidential race- I’ll do my best to put forth what I’m gonna do and who i am and hope that in the end
that voters will have the sense [to make the right decision].