The race for Paul Schemel’s PA House seat seems too close to call

April 8 – The two Republican contenders for Paul Schemel’s Pennsylvania House seat held a forum on Friday that lasted more than three hours and a whole lot of topics were discussed. 

Jay Gray, a Greencastle-Antrim School Board Member, and Chad Reichard, the planning and zoning officer for Washington Township, took questions from the audience and the moderator, attorney Clint Barkdoll. 

Schemel has decided to step down from his service in the Chamber.

Barkdoll said, “I felt like everyone did fine. I didn’t think there were any huge missteps. The candidates all seemed to have effective, adequate answers. They seemed informed on the subjects. As we predicted going into it, not a whole lot of differences between Jay Gray and Chad Reichard. There were some nuances on a few issues, but no huge differences. I thought it was interesting as the night started, Jay just head-on confronted that issue about his past voter registration and I thought he smartly came out from square one to address that. I thought he gave a plausible explanation for that.”

Which one of the contenders came out on top? 

Barkdoll said, “I talked to some voters after the event, who I think were legitimately undecided and two of them felt that Chad won by a mile. The other two said they thought Jay won. My point there is I don’t know if there was any clear winner, if you had to say who won. I think they both did well. I would maybe say it was a draw, if anything.”

If you missed the forum on Friday, there’s another forum on Thursday in Shady Grove. 

Barkdoll said it will be “just those two candidates. This one is only going to be for about an hour and a half so voters will have one more chance to see them and ask them questions on Thursday night.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM noted, “That makes sense that it’ll just be those two. A pre primary forum should have the primary candidates that have challengers. That just makes sense to me. This certainly is the one that I think people do need to have a good way to make up their mind between these two conservative Republican candidates. It just makes sense that they want to hear more from these two and understand their positions. I think you’re right, I think both did well. I think the difference between the two of them is the strength of their background, what they bring to the table and people maybe discern that through listening to them answering those questions, at this past one and at the next forum.” 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM asked, “Is it the positioning of okay, Chad’s got expertise in the machine, hasn’t been at the leadership role of the machine, but he’s got expertise in the machine. While Jay, alright, I’m an outsider and you want an outsider. Is that the role and the argument for either candidate?”

“I think that’s part of it,” Barkdoll confirmed. “These guys are qualified. Chad has a very extensive background in local and state government, even federal government, to some extent, and that is certainly an asset for someone, but as you’re saying the flip side of that is Jay can say well I’m the outsider. Let’s try something new. But you think about all of those topics that were covered Friday night, both of them had insights. I mean, it wasn’t like they were just grasping, I don’t know what that is. They had insights. Chad on a few issues, I felt had very granular details on issues. The idea being that they’re very well informed and I think the district is going to be well served here regardless of what happens, but it’s getting to crunch time and we’re only about two weeks away.”

The Democrats don’t have a candidate for the seat, so whoever wins this seat in the primary will likely be the next state representative. 

One topic of discussion at the forum was the possible closure of the South Mountain Restoration Golf Course. 

Ryan said, “I thought the guys did a pretty good job going ‘no’. No, Josh. No, DCNR. Let’s put the brakes on all of this stuff. So having this kind of representation of being able to push back and say, hey, hold on just a second. You’re upsetting a lot of people’s lives out there.”

Barkdoll said, “That was one of the subjects that all of the candidates, including the Democrat running for Senate, all agreed the golf course should stay. That golf course is a major draw to South Mountain. It’s very popular. It’s well used. It’s been there for decades. People love it. They’ve had some town halls up there, the public overwhelmingly supports keeping it, but yet the state, DCNR keep going down this path to close it. So I thought, too, that was interesting in as much there was unanimous consent, we need to do something to try to keep that golf course there. We should say I think Representative Schemel and Kauffman and Mastriano, everybody’s on the same page with this. Let’s keep the golf course, but as far as I know, the state is still moving down this path of taking steps to close it and as they say repurpose it for these trails and maybe a visitor center up there.”

Providing health care for lawmakers even when they’re no longer in office was also brought up.

Ryan added, “To everybody’s credit, they all agreed if the lawmakers right now don’t have the appetite to shut down their healthcare after they’ve left office, have the health care when you’re at the job, but there’s no reason why anybody in the state should pay for anybody’s health care moving forward after you’ve left office. I’d like to thank Chad and Jay for saying no, after I’ve left office, I’m turning the healthcare down. That’s the only way apparently this is going to work if we continue to bring it to people’s attention.”

Barkdoll said, “I was pleased to hear that because you’re right. The only way to address this issue is to get commitments from these candidates up front. They also said they were going to waive per diems. That’s good.”

Jansen noted, “On term limits, it’s interesting because there were two points made, one strongly saying well, I vow I will take term limits and I noticed my candidate kind of danced around it. That was Janon and Chad’s point although it is also good, I think. Unless all of them do it, that’s not necessarily going to be helpful, especially if you have some of the better people because it’s still unfortunately the seniority power there. Until you can get term limits across the board, unless you can get some people in a seniority position they don’t have as much impact. So that was the point made by Chad. I think you could argue in a way both points, the personal principle I’m going to make a term limit for myself and unless everybody takes a term limit, we’re kind of cutting off our ability to have some decent control if you can get the right people in those seniority positions. So I think both of them had points but they differed on it.”

Today is the last day to register to vote in the primary. 

Barkdoll said, “You can do that in person, or online.”

Ryan suggested, “If you’re not registered, get yourself registered. You have the ability to make a difference.”