DeLissio residency scandal rises to top at Roxborough candidates forum

 State Rep. Pam DeLissio and contender Dave Henderson at the forum on Tuesday night. (Janis Chakars/for NewsWorks)

State Rep. Pam DeLissio and contender Dave Henderson at the forum on Tuesday night. (Janis Chakars/for NewsWorks)

State Rep. Pam DeLissio’s residency scandal continued to dog her at a 21st Ward meeting on Tuesday night where candidates for state representative, lieutenant governor and governor presented themselves.

DeLissio, Tom Wolf, Mike Stack and Dave Henderson pitched their positions and prospects for victory to 55 Democratic committee people and others at a public event punctuated by reports on the Flyers game.

Education, support for labor, and Marcellus shale stood out as key issues facing Pennsylvania, but DeLissio’s place of primary residence remained prominent in the race for the seat in the 194th district.

Schools a constant concern

With the hockey game starting on TV in the next room and Ward Leader Louis Agre presiding, City Councilman Curtis Jones gave a rousing introduction to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf and brought up a crucial issue for Philadelphians: School funding.

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“My grandbaby has to pick a school next year that is likely to not have a librarian or a nurse,” said Jones. “That, for Pop Pop, is unacceptable.”

Wolf stumped mainly on the points highlighted on his website and ubiquitous television commercials.

His service stretches from work with the Peace Corps in India to Secretary of Revenue in Harrisburg. His business experience ranges from managing a hardware store to becoming a major supplier of kitchen cabinets. He emphasized that he was generous with his employees, that he is highly educated and that he drives a jeep.

He described himself as “ruchety” — Pennsylvania Dutch for fidgety — made sure to play to the hometown crowd.

“All our money comes from Philadelphia,” he said in an effort to dispell the myth that the city takes more from the state than it gives. “When Philadelphia does well, Pennsylvania does well.”

To help Philadelphia schools, Wolf proposed restoring funding, taxing the Marcellus shale, and addressing overfunded charters and accountability block grants, but added vaguely that it was not just about throwing money at the problem, but understanding the needs of specific localities.

A contender

Gubernatorial candidate Allyson Schwartz could not attend because of a prior engagement, but Committeeman Mark Stier represented her. He said that the candidates in the Democratic primary were similar in their positions, but Schwartz brings greater political experience to the job.

Stier praised Schwartz’s work on children’s health programs, tax breaks for Iraq war veterans, the Affordable Healthcare Act, and addressing food deserts. He insisted that she could defeat Tom Corbett in the general election.

Fighting Corbett

From a field of five, state Senator Mike Stack is the only candidate for lieutenant governor from Philadelphia or southeastern Pennsylvania. He stressed this point to the “world famous” and “top performing” 21st Ward.

Stack stressed the need to defeat the incumbent governor and get Philly its due from the state.

“I’ve been fighting Tom Corbett since before it was popular,” he said. “Philadelphia needs a seat at the table.” 

Stack characterized state politics as marked by “rampant greed.” He decried how college students are “graduating practically bankrupt.” He touted his proposal to tax the shale. Then he followed Wolf to their next appointment.

7:46 p.m. Flyers game check. No score.

DeLissio vs. residency scandal

The headliners of the night, however, were incumbent DeLissio and challenger candidate Dave Henderson, who are in a heated race for the 194th district state representative job, which includes Roxborough, Manayunk and East Falls.

DeLissio brings two terms of experience in the position, while the youthful Henderson is campaigning more on his personal story as a soldier who grew up in the neighborhood and knows it well.

7:59 p.m. Flyers check. The home team is up 1-0 on a power play goal.

Questions for DeLissio immediately and repeatedly centered on her attempts to claim residency in Harrisburg. People questioned whether they could trust her, if she unfairly got a break on car insurance, and whether under the voter identification law she could even vote in her own district.

DeLissio explained that her homestead exemption was allowed, that she returned money from it, that the judge recognized her as having a primary residence in Roxborough, and that she was within the letter of the voter ID law.

“I apologize if that offended somebody,” she said. “Let me be beyond a doubt 100 percent clear. I live in Philadelphia.”

She continually apologized for her misjudgment and stressed the fact that she has lived in the neighborhood since 1997.

Henderson portrayed himself as a local boy who made good in the world, positioning himself as a fresh alternative to DeLissio.

DeLissio was left on the defensive.

8:36 p.m. Flyers check. The boys in orange are ahead 2-0.

After the meeting, Agre called the residency issue “a deal breaker.”

DeLissio and Henderson will face off again on the issue of education at Cook-Wissahickon Elementary on May 8.

Following the meeting, the Flyers beat the Rangers 5-2. The primary plays out on May 20.

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