Pa. House race pits incumbent against Republican and Libertarian | Armchair Lehigh Valley

Second Amendment


For years, the 132nd House district covered the western half of Allentown and a tiny part of South Whitehall Township.

Under redistricting, the district now includes the west end of Allentown, all of South Whitehall and two districts in Upper Macungie. It still leans Democratic. But the change has opened the door to more candidates from the Parkland School District.

Incumbent Democrat Mike Schlossberg, 39, of South Whitehall is seeking to extend his 10-year run by another two years.

Running against him are Republican Beth Finch, a 34-year-old mother of three from South Whitehall who has rallied against mandated mask policies in schools, and Libertarian Matthew C. Schutter, 52, of South Whitehall, who unsuccessfully ran for elected office twice in Carbon County and twice in Lehigh County..

In running again, Schlossberg said on Facebook, “My biggest priorities are improving education for students in Allentown and Parkland, enhancing mental health service for those in need, while reducing the stigma which surrounds those who suffer from mental illness, and job creation.”

Finch did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this post. On her Facebook page, she said, “I’m a hard-working professional and also a wife and mother of 3. I’ve been defending our children at Parkland school board meetings on topics like: CRT, illegal mandates and medical freedom.”

Schutter, 52, is running because he is concerned about the direction of the country and state.

“I am sick of the divisiveness in politics today drawing the people against each other. I know the answer to these problems,” Schutter said. “When elected I can change these things by lowering taxes, (having) less regulations and most of all honoring my oath to the Constitution and respecting people’s freedom. I want to be the voice for these values.”

Schlossberg had $49,744 as of June 6, the end of the second campaign reporting period. Finch, a write-in winner, had a zero balance in her campaign finance report for the period ending June 6. She didn’t raise any money but in the weeks leading up to the May 17 primary spent $2,233 on campaign mailings and received $60 worth of in-kind services (labels/postage) from the Lehigh County Republican Committee.

As a Libertarian, Schutter was not a candidate in the primary and has not filed a campaign finance report. To get on the November ballot as a minor party candidate, Schutter was required to submit a petition with at least 300 valid signatures, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

MIKE SCHLOSSBERG

Background: Schlossberg was born and raised in Livingston, N.J., and came to the Lehigh Valley to attend Muhlenberg College. There he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and psychology in 2005 and received a master’s in political science from Lehigh University in 2006.

Before running for state office, Schlossberg worked for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce on sales, member relations and retention. He managed the Chamber’s social media and trained small businesses on using social media to increase profitability.

Schlossberg lives in South Whitehall Township with his wife Brenna Schlossberg, a teacher at Harrison-Morton Middle School in Allentown, and their two children.

Foray into politics: After grad school, Schlossberg worked for Rep. Jennifer Mann, D-132, whom he would later replace when she retired from the House in 2012.

He was elected to Allentown City Council in 2009 and served from January 2010 to September 2012, shortly before he was elected to his first term as state representative for 132nd House District in November 2012. He ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and the general election.

In 2014, he was unopposed in both the Democratic primary and the General Election, according to Ballotpedia. In 2016, he garnered 67% of the vote to beat Republican Benjamin Long. In 2018, Schlossberg ran unopposed. In 2020, Schlossberg ran against Republican Michael McCreary, beating McCreary with nearly 68% of the vote.

Currently, he serves on the House Rules Committee and the Government Oversight Committee. He is a member of the House Leadership as the House Democratic Caucus Administrator.

Political leanings: Schlossberg characterizes himself as a “pragmatic progressive.”

“I believe the government has an important role to play in society,” Schlossberg said. “But my job is to do good and get things done, and that means I need to compromise with people to make government work.”

Schlossberg leans liberal, according to ivoterguide.com, with a 92% rating with PennEnvironment, a 75% rating with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 69% from the ACLU-PA and 59% from the AFL-CIO PA.

Issues

Education: Schlossberg, who goes by @MikeSchlossberg on his personal Twitter account, has been a staunch advocate for fairer funding for public school districts. He sponsored “Level Up” legislation that ensured the state’s 2021 budget included $100 million for 100 of Pennsylvania’s neediest school districts, including Allentown. Level Up received bipartisan support. In 2022, Level Up provided another $225 million for the poorest school districts in the state.

“One of the greatest problems we face in Pennsylvania is all too often the quality of a child’s education is determined by their ZIP code,” he said. “The state doesn’t provide enough support for education. That means that poor school districts like Allentown and growing school districts like Parkland don’t get what they need.”

Schlossberg has said that the long-term solution should include Pennsylvania adopting a better funding formula for schools to lessen the disparities between rich and poor districts and ease the burden on overtaxed property owners.

Guns: Schlossberg is a co-sponsor of House Bill 770, which would ban owning, selling or making high-capacity, semi-automatic weapons. He voted against another bill that would allow anyone who wanted to carry concealed firearms to be able to do so without going through a background check or having to get a permit. The bill passed both chambers but was vetoed by Gov. Wolf.

He supported House Bill 235, which would require guns purchased at gun shows to be subject to a universal background check.

“Anytime any gun is sold, you should have a background check, no matter what,” Schlossberg said.

He co-sponsored House Bill 1903, which would allow families and law enforcement to remove firearms temporarily from those showing they may be a danger to themselves or others. No votes were taken in committee or on the floor.

Mental health: Schlossberg has been open about his struggles with depression and anxiety and this year proposed an agenda called HOPE for PA that advocated investing $100 million for mental health needs in the community, that included money for training, education and outreach. The final state budget included a nearly $43 million increase for county mental health programs, according to a report by WESA-FM in Pittsburgh.

Among the additional funds was $10 million to place social workers in police departments, as well as other funding for mental health specialists in emergency departments and for mental health education for medical personnel.

Schlossberg’s advocacy earned him an invitation to the White House as one of 15 state legislators around the nation who participated in a Sept. 30 bipartisan summit on mental health issues.

Criminal justice: Schlossberg promoted the PA Marijuana Pardon Project for people who have minor, nonviolent marijuana offenses on their record, giving them the opportunity to be pardoned for those offenses. The initiative was announced in September by Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.

“I supported that effort because I think a minor nonviolent marijuana crime shouldn’t hold somebody back,” Schlossberg said. “We should be giving the people who made a mistake years ago and haven’t made another one since the opportunity to move on with their lives.”

Environment: He was an outspoken proponent of the state Legislature allocating almost $1 billion for conservation efforts, including funds to improve air and water quality through the Growing Greener program and the Clean Streams Fund this year.

Abortion: He supports a woman’s right to choose abortion and believes that the right to abortion should be in the commonwealth’s Constitution.

“I believe the right for a woman to have an abortion should be constitutionally enshrined,” he said. “I think what the (U.S.) Supreme Court did with the Dobbs decision was disgraceful, a marked step backward for personal freedom.”

School bus cameras: For a bill that grew out of an Allentown woman’s activism, Schlossberg worked across the aisle. Amber Clark of Allentown spoke out at an Allentown School Board meeting about the need for cameras on the stop arm of school buses to catch and fine drivers who pass stopped buses as children are getting on and off. Schlossberg worked with Sen. Pat Browne, R-16th, and Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-22nd, to pass a law that permitted school districts to employ technology to catch and fine such drivers.

Voting rights: Schlossberg supports no-excuse, mail-in voting, early voting and automatic registration. “I think we should make it easier, not harder, to vote,” he says.

He opposed the lawsuit filed by Trump allies Stephen Miller and Mark Meadows to require Lehigh County to have people monitoring the county’s drop boxes in person in case someone tries to drop off more than one ballot. The suit, which was dismissed last week, was in response to accusations that some people dropped off multiple ballots at the county drop boxes.

“The only thing that unquestionably happened with the drop boxes was people dropped off their spouse’s or their child’s ballot not realizing they were technically violating the law,” Schlossberg said. Along with Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-22, and Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-133, he co-sponsored a bill that would allow a person to drop off their spouse’s or child’s ballot.

“The idea that you can’t drop off your spouses or child’s ballot is ridiculous to me,” he said.

Economics: Schlossberg supports raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania to $15 an hour and indexing it to inflation. He also backs paid family sick leave. “We are the only country in the western world that doesn’t have paid family sick leave,” he said.

LGBTQ rights: He supports legal same-sex marriage and believes it should be codified in the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Transgender athlete rights: Asked if he supports allowing transgender athletes to play scholastic sports as the gender they identify with, Schlossberg said it should be left up to the schools and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.

“I am not an expert on when a kid may be able to play a sport or not, and I think they are and they should make that decision,” he said. “It should be left to the schools and the experts and that’s not us.”

“Anytime I hear about this conversation, my response is always the same: Can you name a single transgender athlete in the Lehigh Valley? And the answer is always ‘no.’ It’s not a real issue,” he said. “What it is is an attempt to scapegoat a vulnerable population.”

BETH FINCH

Background: Finch is a mother of three who lives in South Whitehall Township. Her Facebook page says she is from Bethlehem. She is an independent Pampered Chef consultant, according to a Facebook page. Finch also goes by the names Bethney Q. Finch, Bethany Quinn Finch and Beth or Bethney Whitehill-Finch.

Activism: Finch is a founder of Freedom for Choice PA, a grassroots group that says it has about 3,000 members. The group’s Facebook page said it aims to advocate for those who feel that their rights are in jeopardy.

This includes educating teachers about their rights to opt out of unions, providing sample letters and speeches to parents to use at school board meetings, helping health care workers who face firing for their personal choices on issues such as vaccines and advocating for workers who feel infringed upon at work.

She raised money on Spotfund to support a successful lawsuit backed by Freedom for Choice of the Lehigh Valley over mask mandates. Her effort raised $2,425.

Last year Finch started a petition on change.org to show support for keeping masks optional in the Parkland School District.

Finch spoke on that issue at a Feb. 15 Parkland School Board meeting after the board allowed masks to be optional, saying she was “Beyond happy to know that these kids have the choice to finally breathe freely.”

She said the issue was far from over as the district’s tiered Covid plan allowed for mandated masks during future outbreaks. “When will it end?” she said.

Foray into politics: Finch unsuccessfully sought to be appointed to an open seat on the Parkland School Board in January, according to lvpnnews.com.

She filed a petition to run in the May 17 primary for the 132nd House district under the name Bethney Q. Finch but withdrew it in the face of a petition challenge. She then won a write-in campaign in the primary with 764 votes.

Issues

On her campaign website, Finch said she is a “constitutional conservative” She said she is “passionate about defending our Constitutional God given inalienable freedoms! I will NEVER be a typical self-serving politician. I will be your advocate.”

A comment on her Facebook page showed support of a recent Supreme Court ruling that sided with a Washington state high school football coach’s right to pray on the football field after games. “So happy to see this! Protecting free speech and the rest of our Constitutional rights is so important. I will always stand up and fight for our freedoms.”

Among the goals she listed on her website: lower taxes including Pennsylvania’s gas tax, stand with first responders to make schools and communities safer and remain awake, not woke.

MATT SCHUTTER

Background: Schutter grew up in Allentown, later lived in Penn Forest Township in Carbon County and then returned to the Lehigh Valley.

He described his job as a political petitioner – someone who is hired to collect signatures for political candidates and causes. He said he travels around the country for his work, which allows him to enjoy the outdoors. He is active in the National Rifle Association.

Foray into politics: Schutter switched from the Republican Party to the Libertarian Party in 2008. He was inspired by U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for president; although Paul ran as a Republican that year, he was committed to Libertarian principles and ran for president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1998.

As a Libertarian, Schutter lost elections for Penn Forest Township supervisor in 2011, state representative from Carbon County’s 122nd District in 2016, Lehigh County commissioner in 2019, and South Whitehall commissioner in 2021. The only election he won was in 2013, when he received 517 write-in votes for a six-year term as an auditor for Penn Forest Township.

He said people who vote for Libertarians are not wasting their votes. It’s a way for them to send a message to the two established political parties that people want change. LIbertarian candidates, he said, are a “voice for freedom.”

Issues

Posting school curriculum online: “I absolutely support this. Parents are responsible for their child’s education. Taxpayers are paying the bill, and the government should be transparent to the people.”

Gender/diversity/history of racism/sex education: Says schools should incorporate such lessons at an appropriate age to the subject of their teachings. “Also we need to teach real history, like slavery was the main reason for the Civil War but it was not the only reason.”

As far as gender diversity, Schutter said, “As a gay man myself, I find this to be very offensive to teach this kind of stuff to young grade-school kids. I personally think the local school directors should have more say on this kind of curriculum than the state legislators, and I would vote accordingly in the state House.”

Transgender athletes playing in public high school and college women’s sports: ”I do not support transgendered girls playing on the girls sports. Scientifically men are physically stronger than women. To allow this would give an unfair advantage to the team that the transgendered girl is on.”

School vouchers: Supports giving state education money directly to parents. When asked about the impact on the Allentown School District, which would stand to lose $150 million in basic education money under a voucher system, he said, “I could care less about the school district. I am here to represent the parents and children and not protect the school district’s monopoly.”

Abortion: “Allow abortion for the first trimester with the only exception (after that) being the life of the mother. No public funding for or against abortion.”

Guns: Does not support banning assault weapons outright or to persons under age 21; does not support expanding background checks or concealed carry laws, and opposes allowing municipalities to create their own gun laws. Opposes requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns or requiring them to properly store weapons.

“The 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1 Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution is very clear that the people have a right to keep and bear arms, and our state Constitution says that right shall not be questioned.

Voting: Has no problem with no-excuse, mail-in voting, which was upheld by the state Supreme Court. But he believes it is unconstitutional. “This is another example of how our Republican and Democratic politicians don’t know or don’t care what our Constitution says.”



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