Democratic state representative Bob Merski wants another two years in Harrisburg.
His Republican opponent in the 2nd Legislative Circuit race, Michael Pace, is attempting to reject Merski’s re-election bid in the Nov. 8 general election.
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Merski, 47, was first elected in 2018 and is seeking his third two-year term in the 203-member Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He is a former teacher, Erie City Councilman and mayoral candidate.
Pace, 58, is a lifelong resident of Summit Township who has been a toolmaker for more than three decades. Pace ran unsuccessfully for the 2nd Circuit seat in 2016. He also served on Summit Township’s Parks and Recreation Board and was a volunteer wrestling, football, and baseball coach.
Election 2022:May primary results
Merski did not face a Democratic challenger in the May 17 municipal primary; Pace, who failed to respond to multiple Erie Times-News requests for information for this article, ran as a candidate in the November election.
The 2nd Ward includes the 5th Ward of the city of Erie; the borough of Wesleyville; and Greene, Harborcreek and Summit townships.
Top Campaign Issues
Merski said fair school funding, which he believes would ease the burden on taxpayers and seniors, is among his top priorities.
“Because the state invests in our children and local school districts, school boards can grant property tax breaks to their residents,” Merski said. “While I was in the community, people from all walks of life are feeling the pinch of higher prices.”
Opinion:Merski: I’ve increased school funding, lowered business taxes, and lowered spending on seniors
Merski said it was one of the reasons he co-sponsored legislation that would create the $500 million PA Opportunity program, which would send $2,000 checks directly to Pennsylvanians to stem rising inflation a pool of money that the state government already has in its coffers.
“I also have legislation to raise the income threshold for our senior programs to allow more seniors to be eligible for property tax rebates and rent rebates and the reduced rate of senior vehicle registration tax,” Merski said.
Pace pledged in an Erie Times-News opinion column published Oct. 14 that if elected he would promote new approaches to energy both locally and across the Commonwealth.
Opinion:Pace promises a new approach to energy, schools and will preserve PA’s abortion law
“I will fight to reduce regulations and give the free market a bigger role in finding the best and cleanest mix of natural gas, hydroelectric, solar and other energy sources,” Pace said. “We will do this in a way that respects the environment. We must also allow research and investment in multiple energy sources to continue. Developing an energy policy that allows Erie to thrive and prosper is a high priority.”
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Pace added that “our schools must remain open and mask-free. Test scores in math and reading are falling; we cannot let our children fall further behind. We need to get back to focus on basics like reading and math, especially as we recover from the effects of the COVID-19 shutdowns and distance learning. In a way, the parents are the customers and owners of the school. They should know what their child is learning in school and I will fight for transparency in the curriculum.”
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Pace also said that “School choice and home schooling options must be available so that all parents can choose the best school, regardless of their zip code.”
He also said that “woke” subjects like critical race theory or the study of how social notions of race and ethnicity have shaped public policy in America “need to stay out of schools.”
CRT is not currently part of the required curriculum of the Pennsylvania Department of Education and is not taught in any K-12 schools in Northwestern Pennsylvania or any of the Erie County colleges.
education debate:Critical race theory is not taught in NWPA schools, but controversy still exists
Pace also said he supports “the right to own firearms and the right to defend oneself and one’s family” and that he strongly supports law enforcement and public safety.
“Dangerous criminals should not be released to harass the innocent, as is all too often the case,” Pace said.
Merski called abortion rights “an issue that divides so many in Pennsylvania. My position is that it is a moral issue that is best left to the woman, her doctor and her support system, be it that family, the pastor, the minister etc.”
While saying that his “personal beliefs” are pro-life, Merski said he also understands “that we don’t live in a theocracy and have other other beliefs that we need to respect.”
Merski said he supports keeping existing Pennsylvania abortion laws intact. State law currently allows abortion for the first 23 weeks of pregnancy; after that, abortions are only allowed if the life/health of the mother is endangered.
Pace has said there will be “no perfect solution” to abortion after the US Supreme Court in June overturned a five-decade-old constitutional right to abortion by overturning the Roe v. Wade lifted.
However, Pace said he felt that “Pennsylvania’s current law is not extreme in any way and I will support it. I respect the sanctity of life and will bring that viewpoint to Harrisburg.”
Erie-area legislators:Where they stand on abortion rights
Merski said he supports “collecting absentee ballots in advance so we have a clearer indication of the winner on election night. It is supported by local election officials across the state.”
Regarding the integrity of the elections, Merski said, “Pennsylvania elections are safe, secure and counted by our local election officials on site at the courthouse. I’ve won and lost elections, but I’ve never questioned the integrity of the voters or the integrity of the people who count the votes. This recent trend, ‘if my candidate loses, it’s cheating’ defies all logic.”
In his Oct. 14 op-ed for the Times-News, Pace did not address Pennsylvania’s current electoral system and/or whether he believes in the integrity of state/federal elections.
However, Pace has in the past shared debunked conspiracy theories on claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election on his personal Facebook page.
recreational marijuana, other subjects
Merski noted that New York, New Jersey and Maryland “have legalized or are in the process of legalizing cannabis for adult use,” and that medical marijuana legalization has been positive for Pennsylvania.
Merski said he’s not opposed to “extending legalization to adult recreational use, but it needs to be heavily regulated. My concern with legalizing cannabis for adult use is the impact it will have on children in the home, particularly infants and young children with developing brains.”
If recreational marijuana use were legalized, Merski said he would prefer it to be done within the state’s existing retail liquor sales/distribution system.
Pace didn’t address questions about his stance on recreational marijuana in his most recent opinion piece.
Recreational Marijuana:The legislator is taking the first steps towards legalization
- Michael Tempo
- Party: republican
- Age: 58
- profession: toolmaker
- Education: A graduate of Erie County Technical School and Fort LeBoeuf High School
- Family: father of four children
- More information: pace4pa.com; facebook.com/Erie.Likes.Mike