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State senator tells Franklin Co. GOPs he's taking on Rendell

March 22, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Getting a jump on possible competition for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2006, state Sen. Jeffrey E. Piccola Monday addressed more than 300 Franklin County Republicans at their annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

"That rumor is true. I am running for governor of Pennsylvania," the Dauphin County senator told the audience at the Lighthouse Restaurant.

"The commonwealth needs to go in a new direction ... and the biggest impediment is a gentleman by the name of Ed Rendell," said Piccola, who was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 1997 and to the Senate in 1995.

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Piccola criticized Rendell for an economic policy of raising taxes, raising fees, borrowing money and gambling.

"He calls that his plan for a new Pennsylvania," said Piccola, the Majority Whip. "We don't need a new Pennsylvania. We need a new governor."

"My vision for Pennsylvania is a place where we set the people free," the candidate said. "Government doesn't create jobs ... People create economic expansion and growth."

Piccola also took Rendell to task for the property tax relief he promised when elected in 2002, saying property owners have yet to see lower taxes. Instead, Piccola said he would eliminate property taxes.

Pennsylvanians also pay "the lawsuit abuse tax," Piccola said. The lack of tort reform, Piccola said, is causing doctors to leave the state due to high malpractice insurance premiums and hurting other industries saddled with high insurance rates.

"We have the highest business taxes in the nation now," according to Piccola. "We can't create opportunity unless we cut the business tax rate."

Another likely candidate for the GOP nomination, Lynn Swann, the Hall of Fame former wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sent a letter to the Republican committee noting that he has formed an exploratory campaign committee.

Franklin County is a GOP stronghold, with nearly twice as many Republicans as Democrats. That strength was evident on the dais where Piccola sat with state Sen. Terry Punt and a House delegation of Reps. Patrick Fleagle, Mark Keller, Rob Kauffman and Stephen Maitland.

With the election of Kauffman last year to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of 89th District Rep. Jeff Coy, the county's entire delegation in Harrisburg, Pa., is Republican.

All countywide offices are held by Republicans with the exception of one Democrat on the Board of County Commissioners and one jury commissioner. In both cases, however, minority party representation is required by law.

Many of the approximately 180 people who filed petitions to run for municipal offices in the May 17 GOP primary will find their toughest competition in the primary.

Treasurer Chris Bender and two of his three challengers, David Secor and Derek Stoy, addressed the party dinner. The winner of the primary will be the treasurer, as no Democrat filed to run.

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