LEWISBURG — Two of three candidates seeking special election votes for the 85th District State House seat debated in Lewisburg Tuesday night.
Dr. Jennifer Rager-Kay, the Democratic nominee, and Clair Moyer a Republican write-in candidate, debated the issues facing the district in a question and answer session. Both pledged the night would have a civil tone.
David Rowe, Republican nominee, was invited but not present and had previously cited another commitment for his not attending.
Rager-Kay and Moyer followed a format often used by the League of Women Voters of the Lewisburg Area. Janice Bigelow, long-time league member, served as moderator.
Virtually all major issues came up in questions from the league or from among the nearly 60 members of the audience at the East Buffalo Township Municipal Building.
Moyer said he did not support ownership of powerful firearms such as an AR-15. However, he supported the Second Amendment as a check against the excesses of government.
“I don’t want to take away guns from individuals,” he said. “I am a gun owner myself. I own five of them. I use them recreationally and I use them myself for protection, and I don’t want to give them up.”
Rager-Kay, also a gun owner, noted that she had a conceal carry permit. Gun issues were not black-and-white, she said, noting there was plenty of gray area.
“One of the specific law I will target is the issue of being able to sell a long-barrel gun in the state of Pennsylvania without any type of background check,” Rager-Kay said. “You can go to a flea market tomorrow, buy a long-barrel gun without any questions. If we are willing to get behind the wheel of a car and take the responsibility of something that can happen there, that we can do the same if you want a long-barrel gun.”
In rebuttal, Moyer noted that gun transport over state lines made incorporating such laws difficult. Rager-Kay rebutted that the issue goes beyond the gun itself and is fueled by incendiary rhetoric.
Rager-Kay said so-called red flag laws, which allow people to petition a court to order temporarily seizure of firearms from people who may harm themselves or others. Moyer had little problem with a red flag law, but hoped it would include an expedient enforcement mechanism.
The candidates were asked how they distinguish themselves form the two opponents. Moyer said it was difficult to field the question if one of the opponents was absent. He pledged to be a full-time legislator if he wins.
Rager-Kay said she would continue to work as a physician should she win and noted that many state legislators had outside jobs. She accused the absent candidate of only representing a single party.
Whether state abortion laws should change drew contrasting responses. Rager-Kay said as a physician, it was little different than other health issues and should be decided between a patient, her partner and medical provider.
“It is not something the state government needs to continue to regulate,” she said. “Republicans and Democrats alike would like the government to stay out of their business and this is another example.”
Rager-Kay added that there was room for abortion reform, but not if the ability of a woman to protect her health is taken away.
Moyer said he was pro-choice before conception, but not after.
“We go into space and we find these tiny micro-organisms and we jump up and down for joy and say we found life in outer space,” he said. “Yet here on earth we refuse to acknowledge that the sperm and the egg are actually life.”
Moyer conceded that there were points in the development of an unborn child where things could occur which could result in the immediate death of the child after birth. Abortion in that case would be permissible.
Rager-Kay, in her rebuttal, said she had discussed the issue at length with Moyer and that it was complex.
Both candidates sought a less fractured state government. Moyer said district lines could be redrawn by the courts or by direct citizen input.
Rager-Kay touted renewable energy sources as something clean and worthwhile but would support a severance tax rather than the current impact fee. Moyer said his research of renewable energy sources would continue.
Moyer said the addiction crisis was a problem of porous national borders and addicted persons needed support to reach out for help. Rager-Kay called the issue of chemical dependency a ideas rather than a matter of choice once it has progressed. Blaming family structure was appalling, she added, but the solution was the lack of funding of programs for people with addiction disorders.
Moyer will be a write-in candidate in the Tuesday special election to replace Fred Keller after his election to Congress. Rager-Kay, recommended by local party conferees as nominee and approved by the state party, will appear on the ballot against David Rowe, chosen by GOP conferees from the 85th District.
Staff Writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.