Race to watch: Brian Munroe wants to unseat Pa. state Rep. Todd Polinchock

Democrat Brian Munroe and Republican state Rep. Todd Polinchock face off over reproductive rights and fracking.

Pennsylvania House of Representatives at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.

Pennsylvania House of Representatives at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo, file)

Ask us: As Election Day draws near, what questions do you have?

Brian Munroe believes Republican state Rep. Todd Polinchock has “abandoned the middle” — so Munroe is challenging him to represent the 144th state house district in Bucks County.

“He’s gone far, all in, on the extreme right. And that’s not this district. This district is a moderate district,” said Munroe, who calls himself a “fiscally consertive and socially liberal” Democrat.

Polinchock recently voted for Senate Bill 106, which would amend Pennsylvania’s Constitution, to “not grant the right to tax-payer funded abortion or any other right relating to abortion.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Polinchock was elected in 2018 and is running for his third term. In 2020, he beat Democrat Gary Spillane by 4,396 votes.

The 144th District is politically mixed. It includes Warminster and Warrington townships, and since redistricting this year, Ivyland. Redistricting gave the district 3.58% more registered Democrats, so it is now 41.43% Democrat and 43.57% Republican.

Munroe hopes to clinch the middle, in a purple district

Before politics, Munroe, 48, of Warminster, was a police officer in Radnor and Conshohocken.

He served as a Warminster Supervisor from 2016 to 2020, when he was elected as the Bucks County Clerk of Courts.

He prides himself in being able to work and make friends with people of any political party. He said he made a fantasy football league with the Warminster Supervisors “just to make sure that everyone gets along and we can have a good time together… it still goes today.”

Munroe is endorsed by Planned Parenthood, and said he believes the government should stay out of a person’s medical decisions.

A man poses, smiling, for a photo.
Brian Munroe is running to represent the 144th state district in Pa.’s House of Representatives in the 2022 election. (Courtesy of Bucks County government website)

Munroe said he wants the state to transition to renewable energy “as fast as possible,” and place a 7% gas extraction fee on fracking companies. “I would take that money and I would give anybody over the age of 65 school tax relief,” Munroe said.

The GOP-led state Legislature has repeatedly blocked Gov. Tom Wolf’s previous attempts at a gas tax. Pennsylvania does have an “impact fee” — creating up to $227 million a year, while a severance tax could generate an estimated $1.7 billion over 5 years, according to the left-leaning organization Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“Think about that. For 10 years, that’s a half a billion dollars every year that my opponent and his friends in Harrisburg have given back to these companies,” Munroe said. “And you have to ask yourself why? I think I know why.”

Munroe also wants to invest $20 million into water purification systems for Warminster’s water wells (the area’s water is contaminated with PFAS), institute comprehensive background checks on first gun purchases, and raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage.

He said he hopes to take the money out of politics. Munroe is endorsed by Citizens United, a national group fighting for campaign finance reform.

“Unfortunately, that’s the American system right now,” Munroe said. “And it’s a disgusting system and we need to get out of it.”

Polinchock puts economy stances first

Polinchock, 59, of Warrington, is a retired Navy commander and Bucks County Realtor. He co-chairs the Autism/Intellectual Disability Caucus and Opioid Recovery Task Force.

Polinchock challenged Munroe’s picture of him.

“My opponent tries to paint me as an extremist, but I’m actually one of the most moderate Republicans in the entire caucus and in the state house,” Polinchock said. “I’m endorsed with the far right folks, with my Chamber of Commerce and my business folks, as well as the usual left side… I’m endorsed by the AFL-CIO, the labor unions.

Polinchock has voted in support of conservative initiatives, including Senate Bill 106, which would amend the state constitution, to “not grant the right to tax-payer funded abortion or any other right relating to abortion.”

He said he voted for that bill to send the issue “to the public to vote. It takes it out of my hands. I thought it was too big of a thing for me to make that decision on.” 

Polinchock also supported House Bill 118, which would require hospitals and clinics to arrange a funeral or cremation of all “fetail remains” after an abortion, stillbirth, or miscarriage.

Polinchock, though, told WHYY that the bill mandated that the hospitals have to make [funerals and cremations] available to people that want it.” 

Current law doesn’t stop anyone who wants a cremation or funeral for their miscarriage or abortion. 

House Bill 118 has gone through several changes. It’s especially headspinning to legislative experts, because the bill’s latest and third version contradicts itself — with an addition that states hospitals and clinics are not mandated to arrange a funeral or cremation, only when an individual requests it. But earlier in the bill, it states that hospitals and clinics are mandated. 

The second version of the bill didn’t include that addendum stating the requirement is only for individuals who request it, and Polinchock voted in support of that version in June 2021.  

Overall Polinchock says he has no intention of supporting legislation that bans abortions in the case of “rape, incest,” or that risks “the health of the mother.” 

“I’m not for a bunch of 50-year-old middle-aged white guys deciding what a woman should do with their body,” Polinchock said. “But I’m also not for killing babies. So where’s the right place on that? I’m not for late-term abortions. I think that’s barbaric.”

A man smiles and poses for a photo wearing a suit and tie.
Pa. state Rep. Todd Polinchock currently represents the 144th district, and is trying to win a new term in the 2022 election. (Courtesy of Pa. General Assembly website)

Polinchock’s campaign is focusing on the economy — touting some accomplishments like voting for business tax cuts “to spur economic growth” and attract “new businesses,” as well as sponsoring legislation to create a task force on overdose recovery, supporting $1 million in funding for Warrington Police, and voting to reduce health care costs.

He wants to eliminate property taxes for seniors, double school safety funding from $60 million to $120 million, and cut regulations. He opposes broad-based tax hikes.

Polinchock told WHYY that the current Pennsylvania minimum wage — of $7.25 per hour — is too low, and that he would support raising it, but did not offer an exact number.

In an op-ed, Polinchock wrote that he wants to produce more energy out of Pennsylvania — to become an “international competitor” and keep gas prices down.

He pointed to Pennsylvania’s current “impact fee,” and said he opposes Munroe’s tax suggestion. We don’t want to completely make it so these companies don’t want to work in Pennsylvania,” Polinchock said. 

Polinchock said he hopes to continue to work on getting clean water for 144th District residents. 

He also wants to push for harsher crime legislation. He supports state Rep. Frank Farry’s bill, House Bill 2819, that would impose a new mandatory minimum for people who were previously convicted and charged with illegal possession of a gun. 

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Nov. 2 to include comments from Polinchock.

Your go-to election coverage

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal