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Candidates vie for open seat in 89th District

October 26, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - For the first time in 22 years, the 89th District seat for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is open and voters will go to the polls Nov. 2 to choose between Republican nominee Rob Kauffman and Democrat Doug Harbach.

Kauffman, 30, a Greene Township supervisor, and Harbach, 44, the vice president of e-LYNXX Corp. of Chambersburg, are vying to succeed former state Rep. Jeff Coy, who resigned his seat in September to take a position with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Both men have experience in the House, Harbach as a legislative assistant to Coy from 1984 to 1990, and Kauffman as a legislative assistant to state Rep. Patrick Fleagle, R-Franklin, in 1997-98 and in staff positions with the House Republican Caucus in 1997 and 1999.

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"My background lends itself to understanding the business community better," said Harbach, a former president of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce. "We always have to work together with local municipalities and other elected officials to make our area more 'shovel ready' with tax incentives and grants" to attract business, Harbach said.

"The reason I'm more qualified is my local government experience. My opponent has never held elective office," said Kauffman. "I'm an elected official and I've never had to raise real estate taxes. I know the community and I represent its values," he said.

Kauffman said he would not vote to raise taxes if elected and said the state should limit its increases in spending to a formula that includes increases in population plus an inflation index.

"We need to eliminate the school property tax as we know it today," Kauffman said as the issue he has heard the most about from residents. He said he favors shifting from property taxes to a mixture of earned income and sales taxes.

"We should be lowering the burden of property taxes," by relying more on income and sales taxes, Harbach said. He said the state's share of education funding, which has fallen from 50 percent to 34 percent over the years, has to be increased.

Both candidates said they opposed the slot machine gambling law passed earlier this year, in part to raise revenues to fund education and reduce school property taxes.

"I believe we need medical malpractice reform where we cap noneconomic damages" in lawsuits to help control the escalating cost of health care, Kauffman said.

"Attorneys have to accept some caps," said Harbach, who added that insurers and physicians have to be part of a solution as well. Doctors with bad track records should pay higher premiums than ones with "a clean bill of health," he said.

If elected, Harbach said he wants to propose legislation to expand the state's PACE and PACENET prescription drug programs for low- and moderate-income senior citizens and augment federal prescription drug plans with state lottery funds.

Harbach said one of the biggest differences between the two men is how the campaigns have been conducted. Citing campaign contribution figures filed with the state Friday, Harbach said Kauffman has raised approximately $238,000 in cash and in-kind contributions in the primary and general election campaigns.

"A campaign for an open seat should be locally controlled and, for the most part, locally financed," said Harbach, whose campaign has raised about $34,000.

Kauffman said his campaign expenses in the primary were higher because he ran in a three-way race, while Harbach was unopposed. He said his campaign has raised and spent about $110,000 for the general election, much of it from donors within the district and the Franklin County Republican Committee.

"There are Republicans who are supporting me because they believe in the views and passions I have," Kauffman said of contributions from outside the district, including the House Republican Campaign Committee. Kauffman said Harbach "has taken contributions from Democratic leaders in Harrisburg. He just hasn't gotten as much."

House members are paid $66,203 a year, according to the Clerk of the House.

The 89th District includes the boroughs of Chambersburg, Shippensburg and Orrstown; Greene, Letterkenny, Lurgan and Southampton townships and part of Guilford Township in Franklin County and Shippensburg and Southampton townships in Cumberland County.

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