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Democrat Carol Hill-Evans and Republican Joel Sears, the candidates for the 95th District House seat, squared off Thursday night on topics including property taxes and minimum wage.

The public debate, co-hosted by York Daily Record and the York County Economic Alliance, was held at the Yorktowne Hotel and included questions from local high school students and audience members.

The two are vying for the seat currently held by Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, who dropped out of his re-election campaign after announcing in August that he had accepted the position of president and CEO of YCEA.

York City Council President Hill-Evans was participating in her second public forum related to the election as she was selected from a field of six candidates by the Democratic Party of York County to replace Schreiber on the ballot.

Unlike that forum among fellow Democrats, Thursday's debate featured many disagreements on how to address issues facing the district.

Property tax: One of the most spirited back-and-forths centered on a question regarding school property-tax reform.

Throughout his campaign, Sears has spoken out in favor of eliminating school property taxes, and he reiterated this stance during the debate.

Sears, pointing out that York City has some of highest property taxes in the state, said that he would propose funding schools through an increase in income and sales taxes.

"We should spread the cost of education to the broadest (group of people) as possible," he said.

Hill-Evans pointed out that state legislators have been discussing such a proposal for many years and have found it to be unreasonable.

She said property-tax reform, which she's in favor of, should come incrementally and in a sustainable manner.

Minimum wage: The two also strongly disagreed when discussing whether or not to raise the minimum wage.

Hill-Evans said she's "absolutely" in favor of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 or even $15 per hour.

"It just doesn't make sense for someone to work 40 hours a week and not be able to support their family," she said.

Sears said increasing minimum wage would be a job killer, especially for small businesses.

He also pointed out that wages appear to be rising on their own in response to market trends.

Other contentions: During the lightning-round portion of the debate, Hill-Evans expressed support, as she has in the past, for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, while Sears simply answered "yes" when asked whether he supported Clinton, Republican Donald Trump or a third-party candidate.

Sears, a software engineer living in Spring Garden Township, was able to reiterate a point he's stressed throughout his campaign while debating an audience question regarding infrastructure in the district.

Sears said he would recommend incorporating more crosswalks and bicycle lanes, and Hill-Evans said the city has already added those features.

"We're not just the city," Sears said of the district, which also represents West York and Spring Garden and West Manchester townships. "The district is behind."

Sears went back to this thought during his closing remarks.

"It seems that most of what goes on here is concentrated within a three-block radius of City Hall," he said. "We need someone who will represent the whole district."

In her closing remarks, Hill-Evans touted her government experience and leadership qualities and expressed a desire to focus on improving educational opportunities for all.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.

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