Oct. 20 – NANTICOKE – This was not a debate, but a “forum” that took place Wednesday night at the Luzerne County Community College Education Conference Center between Alec Ryncavage and Vito Malacari.
Republican and Democrat respectively, each candidate is vying for the 119th District State House seat vacated by Gerald Mullery. First elected in 2010, Mullery announced earlier this year that he would retire rather than seek re-election.
Moderated by Andy Mehalshick of WBRE/WYOU Eyewitness News, the theme of the evening can be summed up in one word: bipartisanship.
The contestants shared a laugh or two, a fist bump, a fondness for Sheetz, and actually agreed on many issues. A question from the audience prompted the two to name one thing they liked about their opponent. Ryncavage said, “I thought I was going to be the best dressed contestant”, while Malacari joked, “I was going to say hair”, rubbing his nearly bald scalp and prompting laughs.
That said, many burning questions were on the table.
A relevant project for the region was the proposed pending Nacero gas-to-liquids (GTL) refinery for the Township of Newport, which is expected to create 4,000 jobs in the region, including 400 permanent.
Alternately, Malacari answered first.
“Balance is the most appropriate thing in everyday life…” he said, acknowledging that he is not opposed to the installation, but also believes that his potential voters have a right to clean air and water and that he would work to see Nacero uphold their end of the bargain.
Ryncavage’s rebuttal was, “I believe I’m the only candidate who actually supports him.” He further noted that Nacero was just one phase in the region’s advancement and highlighted the need to fund places like the Lackawanna College School of Petroleum and Natural Gas in Tunkhannock, which he said provides graduates entry-level jobs from $60,000 to $80,000 and zero. debt.
On other major issues such as raising the minimum wage, mail-in voting, gun control, recreational marijuana, public education, renewable energy and police defunding, it was almost evenly…almost.
Asked if the candidates think the General Assembly should address the minimum wage, Malacari said it needs to be raised and raised now, noting that raising wages leads to increased dignity. Ryncavage said he doesn’t think it’s necessary to address at this time, citing a statistic that says only about 2% of workers live on minimum wage and that Pennsylvania should be ‘open for business’ .
Both have also agreed to support postal voting; however, Ryncavage noted that as a cybersecurity company owner, he would work to regulate and reduce funding for private companies that send information under the guise of an official government document, which could confuse some voters.
Both also agreed to fund police, public education and renewable energy resources.
Ryncavage said he would also work to increase funding for mental health when gun violence emerged, although he said, “Our Constitution” is very specific. Calling himself a “hunter and sportsman”, he said that right “must not be questioned”. As a teacher, Malacari said he believed in “lawful and responsible gun ownership”.
Malacari said he would “unequivocally” vote against Senate Bill 106, which would “outright ban abortion.” He also said he would unequivocally vote for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, explaining how it could boost agriculture, entrepreneurship and can be taxed, going further to say he would also strive to see the expunged criminal records of those charged with possession. in small quantities.
Ryncavage called bills like 106 “kitchen sink bills” and said the items they contained should be voted on individually. He also said he supports legalizing pot. “I will vote my opinion in Harrisburg,” he said, later saying he supported a “moderate, common-sense approach” to Republican politics where he “didn’t agree with a lot of what that I see”.
The only contentious moment of the night came when candidates were asked if they would vote against rules that don’t give lawmakers at least 24 hours before voting on bills. Malacari said Harrisburg should be held accountable and that transparency was paramount. Ryncavage started off by saying he can be 100% committed to his job if elected because he’s young and has no family, which quickly drew boos from the crowd. Malacari asked, “Who here has a family?” noting in the opening and closing remarks that one of his strengths is his own, as he understands the challenges of raising one. Ryncavage attacked asking if Malacari wanted to play dirty, although the animosity was quickly subdued and order returned.
The entire forum was filmed and will be posted on YouTube, which each candidate has the opportunity to share through their official campaign website. The forum was hosted by the Wilkes-Barre Area League of Women Voters with Community Leaders Chair Dr. Mischelle B. Anthony.