Saylor, Snell make plea to bring civility back into politics at town hall

Rebecca Klar
York Dispatch

Despite stark policy differences across statewide issues, state Rep. Stan Saylor and Steve Snell, vying for the 94th District state House seat, agree on one thing — there needs to be more civility in political discourse. 

Saylor, the Republican incumbent, and his Democratic challenger both expressed a need to tone down divisive political rhetoric during a Thursday, Oct. 25, town hall hosted by the Red Lion Elks. 

State Rep. Stan Saylor spoke alongside his Democratic challenger at a town hall hosted by the Red Lion Elks on Thursday, Oct. 25.  (Photo by Rebecca Klar)

The Democratic newcomer said politicians need to "stop stoking the fires of hatred and bitterness between the two sides." 

"We don't have the same policies in some cases, we don't have the same values in some cases, but he's a good man," Snell said of his opponent. 

Saylor echoed his challenger's sentiment, adding that he respects members in the House across the aisle. 

A party label "doesn't make any of us evil or bad people," Saylor said.

Refreshing: The candidates heeded their own plea on Monday, focusing the debate around policy rather than personal attacks. It was a refreshing change for some constituents after political division on the national level and a contentious gubernatorial race. 

"I want to thank both of them for having class," said Dell McChalicher. "They didn't insult each other ... they answered people's questions to the best of their ability.

"Maybe they should both get the job," she said. 

Her husband, Kim, added that "either one would be great."

More:94th District House race profile: Snell vs. Saylor

Term limits: Democrat Snell is competing for a seat that has never been held by a member of his party since its creation in 1969. 

His opponent has been in the House for 26 years — that's more than double the amount of years Snell said a representative should be allowed to serve. 

"I think there's an appropriate time to say we need new blood, we need new ideas," Snell said. "I think we're past that in this case. I would not support anything beyond a 10 or 12 year max." 

This is Snell's first run for state office. He previously served on the Red Lion Area school board. 

Saylor is the longest-serving York County delegate in the House. 

Electing the same official and expecting change is the definition of political insanity, Snell said. 

Steve Snell said there needs to be new blood in state politics during the Oct. 25 town hall. (Photo by Rebecca Klar)

Although Saylor said he is not necessarily opposed to term limits, he said more terms add up to to more influence in Harrisburg. 

In 2016, Saylor was named chairman of the House Appropriations committee.

"The one thing seniority does give you, it gives York County the third most powerful member of the House of Representatives," Saylor said. 

In his position, he's able to direct money into York, he said. 

Snell said by that logic, "we would give legislators life terms because they would be able to gain more and more influence and control the longer they were there."

Snell added that there needs to be a "fair and clear way" to allocate money to projects that need funds the most. 

Saylor responded that Snell was being "naive" and "disingenuous." 

"That's just part of politics, you want things for your district," Saylor said. "I don't care who you elect, Democrat or Republican, when you're elected to office you're going to fight for your voters, your constituents, your taxpayers." 

Money in politics: Newcomer Snell said money is a corrupting influence on both sides of the aisle, but his opponent said that in Harrisburg, "money does not influence decisions."

Members of the audience laughed at Saylor's claim. 

"I can't speak for Washington, but in Harrisburg, Democrats and Republicans alike, 99 percent do not let money from lobbyists influence how they vote," Saylor said. 

He said there are added levels of transparency in today's world with the internet, allowing constituents to see money that comes in. 

"You can't go into a smoke-filled room and make deals like they used to," he said. 

Snell disagrees. 

"My opponent has received tens of thousands of dollars from different interest groups; they wouldn't be spending that money if they didn't think they were getting results," Snell said. "Why else would they be spending millions of dollars?"

The Democratic challenger said there needs to be a way to power elections free from corporate donations.

Members of the audience said they were happy the candidates kept the discussion civil and policy centered. (Photo by Rebecca Klar)

School security: Recent Red Lion Area High School graduate and first-time voter Alecia McKinley, 18, asked the candidates what they can do to ensure more school security. 

Last year, a student brought a gun to her school, she said. There was no lockdown, and the students didn't find out about it until after the situation was over, she said. 

McKinley said she wants to feel safe when sending her younger brothers on the school bus. 

Saylor said he allocated $60 million in the budget for school safety. Each district is guaranteed $25,000, he said. 

Saylor and Snell both agreed it is an important issue, but neither candidate fully answered the question, McKinley said.

Instead, they shifted the topic to "make themselves look better," which the young constituent already knows is what most politicians will do. 

Snell answered by making his case for less violent rhetoric in political and public life. 

Though her question may not have been fully addressed, McKinley said she's still happy she showed up and asked. 

Events like the town hall help the voters see the candidates beyond the letter in front of their name, she said. 

The 94th House District includes Chanceford, Lower Chanceford, Windsor, Lower Windsor and Peach Bottom townships; Delta, East Prospect, Felton, Windsor, Red Lion and Yorkana boroughs; and parts of Springettsbury Township.

Election Day is Nov. 6. Polls open at 7 a.m.