Meadville Tribune

Local News

May 15, 2014

Seven seek two seats in primary's most crowded race

A wide open seat in the 17th District of the Pennsylvania State House has made it the most crowded race on a Crawford County primary ballot with seven candidates vying for two seats on Tuesday.

Five Republicans and two Democrats are contending for their respective party’s nomination. The 17th District covers western portions of Crawford, Erie, Mercer and Lawrence counties.

Republican voters will choose from these candidates, listed in their ballot order: Patrick Gehrlein of Girard in Erie County; Gary J. Temple of Hartstown and Ed Franz of Conneautville in Crawford County; and Parke Wentling of Greenville and David George Biros of Fredonia in Mercer County.

For Democrats, voters of that party will choose between Wayne E. Hanson of Conneautville and Dennis P. Webber of Greenville.

They’re all running for the right to succeed state Rep. Michele Brooks, a Republican from Mercer County. Brooks, first elected to the 17th District House seat in 2006, isn’t running for re-election. Instead, she’s one of three Republicans seeking the nomination for the 50th Senatorial district, which includes all of Crawford and Mercer counties and portions of Erie and Warren counties.

The 50th District Senate seat became open when Sen. Bob Robbins, a Republican from Greenville, announced in late December 2013 he wouldn’t seek re-election to a seventh term.

The candidates for the 17th District seat have a wide variety of backgrounds and their respective reasons for seeking the nomination are diverse as well.

Gehrlein is a concrete laborer who has had work in the mortgage banking industry and worked with nonprofit housing and development groups. The current economic environment is hindering small business, according to Gehrlein.

“The Pennsylvania I know and you know is being damaged by over-regulation,” Gehrlein said of why he’s seeking the office. “To ensure our future for the next generation, we need to commit to positive change to make it more business-friendly.”

Temple is a bio-med engineer and treatment device technician who has been with The Regional Cancer Center in Erie for the past 24 years. Temple said he will support legislation to retain or create industry within the district.

“Kids today don’t have the opportunities for jobs and good paying jobs we once did,” Temple said of why he’s seeking the office. “This area has been left out the last couple of decades.”

Franz, a 28-year employee at General Electric in Erie, said he entered the race over concern about Pennsylvania’s tax revenue falling short of projections while the state doesn’t have a business-friendly environment.

“Regulatory agencies in Pennsylvania make it difficult to operate,” Franz said. “Regulations are out of control.”

Franz said Pennsylvania’s 9.9 percent corporate income tax rate is excessively high with many Pennsylvania firms actually incorporated in Delaware and not paying the tax, leaving a higher tax burden on Pennsylvania incorporated firms.

Wentling, a technology education instructor with the Wilmington Area School District for 16 years, said he has seen first-hand that strong family values and good parenting are the keys to success.

“We live in a wonderful community built by people with strong conservative values,” Wentling said. “I will champion these values and make certain that our community is an even better place to live, work and raise a family.”

Biros, a sales representative with more than 20 years experience, said he’s a fiscal conservative seeking the office because he feels both the federal government and Pennsylvania are in trouble financially and need to get their fiscal houses in order.

“Wild spending has got to stop,” Biros said. “We can’t do this any more.”

The Democratic ticket features Hanson, a former magisterial district judge, and Webber, a contractor.

Hanson said he’s running to be a voice for working people.

“Many of the state’s policies hurt working people, the middle class and unfairly subsidize corporations,” Hanson said. “Currently, Pennsylvania taxes are coming from average workers, and large corporations are not contributing significantly, hurting average workers and small business.”

Webber, who has owned and operated his own contracting business the past 14 years, said he entered the race because being self-employed, he has seen state government have a gradual stifling effect on Pennsylvania’s economy.

“It’s becoming more difficult for businesses to make money,” Webber said. “The state is into over-regulation and not controlling its budget.”

The respective winners of the Republican and Democratic party nominations in Tuesday’s primary will face each other for the 17th District seat in the November general election.

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