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Rock blasts pay raises, enters race

November 04, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A Waynesboro School Board member formally announced his candidacy Thursday for the 90th District seat held for 17 years by state Rep. Pat Fleagle.

Todd Rock, a teacher at the Franklin County Career and Technology Center, and Fleagle will square off in the 2006 Republican primary next spring.

Rock, 42, of Mont Alto, Pa., made his announcement on the front steps of Waynesboro Borough Hall before about 60 people.

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In the crowd were his wife, Nancy, daughters Christina and Jenelle, and Leland Lemley, Rock's conservative school board colleague.

Rock pegged the opening of his candidacy on the controversial pay raise that members of the General Assembly, moments before leaving for their summer vacation in July, voted for themselves. It boosted their salaries 16 percent to 54 percent and drew an outcry from voters across the state.

The legislature reversed itself late Wednesday and repealed the raises in the face of that fierce public criticism.

"In my opinion," Rock told his audience Thursday, "the pay raise scam is blatantly wrong, immoral, indefensible, and at the very least, incredibly poor judgment. To put it bluntly, this pay-raise scheme flies in the face of everything that is good and right about public service."

"In retrospect, we made a mistake," Fleagle, 54, said in an interview following Rock's announcement.

Wednesday's vote rolled back Legislators' salaries to July, which, before the raises, were around $69,000, Fleagle said. The measure goes before the General Assembly Monday for a final vote, he said.

"We did a wrong thing and we went back and fixed it because of public pressure," Fleagle said.

Rock said the legislators, "after watching their poll numbers plummet and the constant pressure from the voting public, in an act of desperation to save their positions..." reversed themselves.

"How dumb do they think we are? We caught them red-handed," he said.

"Why would public servants vote themselves a massive pay raise when you are getting little or nothing? Is it a lack of competition at the polls or are these career politicians just out of touch with the average working person?"

Rock said the best public servants come from the working class ... where he said, he has been for the last 20 years.

He's been teaching at the career center for 10 years. Before that, he ran his own business and before that, he was a dairy, beef and crop farmer, he said.

"I am a conservative Republican and I have core values that are nonnegotiable," he said. He will work with Democrats on property tax reform, education and other issues, he said.

Rock said he would support an increase in the minimum wage and affordable health care for seniors.

"Together," he told his supporters, "we need to take this message to all corners of the 90th district and with your help we will take back our conservative values."

Fleagle was first elected in 1988, the year four Republicans, including Lemley, ran in the primary. His only other battle came in 1994 when Democrat Judith Zafft ran against him. Other than that, he's had pretty clear sailing every election year.

"It's an unusual situation to have an opponent in a Republican primary, but that's what politics is all about," Fleagle said. "This will give me an opportunity to showcase my record and achievements. You gotta hope that people examine your record and look at the constituency work you've done for thousands of people. They have to make a judgment on the character and integrity of your life."

Fleagle said serving on the school board "is parochial. It's higher stakes on the state level where there's no privacy and your personal and business life is fair game. Voters can look at my life," he said.

Fleagle and Rock said they would run a clean, honest campaign.

The district's population includes around 60,000 people, Rock and Fleagle said. It is about 60 percent Republican. It runs basically along southern Franklin County's border with Maryland from Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., on the east to the Fulton County line on the west.

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