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LAURA DICKSON

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KAREN BOBACK

MONROE TWP. - It was billed as an old-fashioned “Meet and Greet the Candidates” night.

But when Thursday’s forum was over at the old Beaumont School, Rep. Karen Boback and two challengers for her 117th District legislative seat - Democrat Laura Dickson and Republican Davis Haire - found themselves in the midst of a “real” political race.

Neither Congressman Lou Barletta nor his Democratic opponent, Andrew Ostrowski, showed up, but county party veteran Paulette Burnside was ready to defend the Republican in Washington. So, too, was Sandra Ritz, filling in for 20th District Sen. Lisa Baker. They read opening statements for their respective candidates, but we didn’t hear any more from them as the evening wore on.

Boback was first up for an opening statement and said she is a former schoolteacher who is also proud of her eight years in the legislature. She reviewed her committee assignments including veteras affairs and emergency preparedness. tourism, gaming oversight and appropriations is her “big one.”

“There I get to toe the line, and hold the line on spending,” she said.

Dickson introduced herself as having been raised on a farm, and carries old-fashioned values “where family, neighbors, church and community still matter.”

She said she had a 30-year background in business, and only in recent years go tinvolved in county government where she has served as Wyoming County auditor since 2010.

Haire introduced himself as an optometrist who came to Tunkhannock in 1977.

He said he is for reforming the tax structure, and “stand up, speak out and keep our young people here with good jobs.”

He said he would consider himself a citizen legislator taking a paycheck only when the legislature was in session, which he stated was only 80 days out of the year. “If it was good enough for George Washington, it is good enough for me” he said.

The candidates fielded questions from the audience.

One, directed at Boback, focused on per diems, the practice of allowing legislators to take $170 a day allowance whether or not the actual sum of money was used.

Boback said she was a “poster girl” for open records “and I take actual expenses.”

She was then asked if she had the use of a state car, which she denied.

There has been a suggestion that even though she might not be driving a state c ar, that a lease on her car mightybe paid by the state.

She said she drives her own Ford that has 115,000 miles on it and no the state is not paying a lease on it.

She reiterated that she takes actual expenses when she’s doing state business, but “I am a taxpayer first.”

Wyoming County Commissioner Ron Williams who was in the audience noted that she had that day called for an investigation by the state Department of Environmental Protection regarding an incident earlier in the week at the Chapin Dehydration Station.

He said she had an opportunity to request an investigation late last year when there were similar incidents and she chose not to.

She said she felt the latest incidents were outsid a comfort zone.

All three candidates were asked about a sevrance tax on the Marcellus gas industry.

Boback said when the issue came before the legislature itt was as an impact fee, which she supported. But she said today that if given the option, she would support a severance tax.

Haire said he would as well, but noted that just because people see golden dollars with gas money, does not mean they’re not paying a tax in another way.

Dickson said she, too supported a severance tax and bemoaned all of the lost revenue for not having the funds over the past four years. She said it broke her heart to be at a meeting the day before on the possible closure of URS, and felt like service such as that need not just disappear.

Moderator Leon Sidorek and the candidates reminded that the primary election is May 20 and the General Election is Nov. 4.

If you haven’t registered to vote, you have until April 21 to register.