Dem incumbent Merski, GOP challenger Pace battle in 2nd District state House race
Democratic State Rep. Bob Merski wants another two years in Harrisburg.
His Republican opponent in the 2nd Legislative District race, Michael Pace, is looking to deny 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 Pennsylvania House of Representatives, which has 203 members. He is a former teacher, city of Erie councilman and mayoral candidate.
Pace, 58, is a lifelong Summit Township resident who has worked as a toolmaker for more than three decades. Pace ran unsuccessfully for the 2nd District seat in 2016. He has also served on Summit Township's Parks and Recreation Board and has been a volunteer wrestling, football, and baseball coach.
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Merski faced no Democratic challenger in the May 17 municipal primary; Pace, who did not respond to multiple requests by the Erie Times-News for information for this article, advanced to the November election as a write-in candidate.
The 2nd District covers the city of Erie’s 5th ward; the borough of Wesleyville; and Greene, Harborcreek and Summit Townships.
Top campaign issues
Merski said equitable school funding, which he believes would provide relief for taxpayers and seniors, is among his top priorities.
"As the state invests in our children and local school districts, school boards can provide property tax relief to their residents," Merski said. "As I've been out in the community, people from all walks of life are feeling the pinch from higher prices. "
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Merski said that’s one reason he co-sponsored legislation that would create the $500 million PA Opportunity Program, which would send $2,000 checks directly to Pennsylvanians to combat rising inflation from a pool of money that state government already has in its coffers.
"I also have legislation to raise the income threshold for our senior programs, so that more seniors are eligible for property tax rebates and rent rebates, as well as the reduced rate on car registration for senior citizens," Merski said.
Pace, in an Erie Times-News opinion column published on Oct. 14, pledged that if elected, he would promote new approaches to energy, both locally and in the Commonwealth.
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"I will fight to reduce regulations and let the free market play a larger role in finding the best, 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 grow and prosper is a high priority."
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Pace added that "our schools have to stay open and mask-free. Testing scores are dropping in math and reading; we can't let our children fall further behind. We need to refocus on basic things like reading and math, especially as we recover from the effects of the COVID-19 shutdowns and remote learning. In a way, parents are the school's customers and owners. They should know what their child is learning in school, and I will fight for curriculum transparency."
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Pace also said that "school choice and home-schooling options have to be available so every parent can choose the best school regardless of their ZIP code."
He also said that 'woke' topics' such as Critical Race Theory, or the study of how social conceptions of race and ethnicity has shaped public policy in America, "need to stay out of schools."
CRT is currently not part of the Pennsylvania Department of Education's required curriculum, and is not taught in any K-12 schools in northwestern Pennsylvania or at any of Erie County's colleges.
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Pace also said that he supports "firearm ownership rights, and the right to self-defense and the defense of one's family" and that he strongly supports law enforcement and public safety.
"Dangerous criminals should not be set free to victimize the innocent as they too frequently are," 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 that family, pastor, minister, etc."
While saying that his "personal faith belief" is pro-life, Merski said he also understands "we don’t live in a theocracy and others have different beliefs which we must respect."
Merski said he supports leaving Pennsylvania’s existing abortion laws intact. State law currently allows abortion through the first 23 weeks of pregnancy; after that, abortions are allowed only if the mother’s life/health are endangered.
Pace has said "there will be no perfect solution" on abortion in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s move in June to overturn a five-decade-old constitutional right to an abortion by reversing Roe v. Wade.
However, Pace said he feels "Pennsylvania's current law is not extreme in either direction and I will support it. I respect the sanctity of life and will bring that viewpoint to Harrisburg."
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Merski said he supports "pre-canvassing the mail-in ballots so that we have a clearer indication of the winner on election night. It’s supported by local election officials across the state."
Regarding election integrity, Merski said: "Elections in Pennsylvania are secure, safe and counted locally at the courthouse by our local election officials. I’ve won and I’ve lost elections, but I’ve never questioned the integrity of the voters nor the integrity of the people counting the votes. This recent trend of ‘if my candidate loses then it’s cheating’ defies logic."
Pace did not address Pennsylvania’s current election system and/or whether he believes in the integrity of elections statewide/nationwide in his Oct. 14 opinion piece for the Times-News.
However, Pace in the past has shared debunked conspiracy theories on his personal Facebook page regarding claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
Recreational marijuana, other issues
Merski noted that New York, New Jersey, and Maryland "have all 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 would not oppose "expanding legalization to adult recreational use, but it needs to be heavily regulated. My concern in legalizing cannabis for adult use is the impact on children in the home, especially infants and toddlers with developing brains."
If recreational marijuana use was legalized, Merski said, he would prefer that it happen as part of the state’s existing retail liquor sales/distribution system.
Pace did not address questions about his recreational marijuana stance in his recent opinion piece.
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Party: Democrat (incumbent)
Occupation: State Representative, 2nd District
Education: Bachelor's degree in elementary education, Mercyhurst University; master's degree in educational development and strategies, Wilkes University
Family: Married with two children
More information: bobmerski.com; facebook.com/bobmerski; twitter.com/bobmerski; instagram.com/bobmerski
Education: Graduated from Erie County Technical School and Fort LeBoeuf High School
Family: Father of four children
More information: pace4pa.com; facebook.com/Erie.Likes.Mike
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Bob Merski & Michael Pace: 2nd District state House candidates