Editor’s note: A previous iteration of this story indicated that this race would tip the balance of power in the state House. Around the time of publication, state Rep. Joe Adams resigned from his post, giving Democrats control of the Pa. House of Representatives.
Republicans are looking to wrest control over the 140th House seat, which encompasses Falls Township, Morrisville, Tullytown and parts of Middletown Township.
It’s the fourth time in less than a year that a race will test the close margins in the lower house. Following the resignation of Republican state. Rep Joe Adams, of Pike County, last Friday, there are now two vacancies in the chamber. Democrats hold a 101-100 lead.
The Democrats lost their slim majority last year following the departure of longtime state Rep. John Galloway, who resigned from his post and became a judge.
GOP candidate Candace Cabanas said she wants to prioritize local issues facing working-class voters. Although it’s objectively difficult to ignore national interests when the Associated Press is calling and a Washington Post reporter tags along during a day of knocking on doors.
“It feels strange, because that wasn’t my focus. My focus was just how do I best set my foot forward to run for this race and represent this community,” Cabanas said.
Standing in the GOP’s path is a sizable Democratic voter registration edge and a party desperate to defend its relatively new power in the state House. Democratic candidate Jim Prokopiak said he’s up for the challenge.
“We’ve seen what happens when the Republicans control both the House and the state Senate and we have a Democratic governor — the governor’s priorities pretty much die on the vine and not a lot gets done,” Prokopiak said. “We need a Democratic state House to really push forth that agenda that we really think is important for working-class families here in Bucks County and all over the state.”
Prokopiak wants Bucks County to be a more affordable place to live
A lawyer by trade, Prokopiak lives in Levittown with his wife and three children. He currently serves on the Pennsbury School Board and the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority.
Prokopiak, a former Falls Township supervisor from 2002 to 2009, said while local politics can solve a lot of problems, he acknowledged its limitations.
“We need really statewide solutions to many of these problems,” Prokopiak said. “And so that’s one of the reasons I decided to run as I saw issues that are affecting my local community that we couldn’t just solve at the local level.”
His platform focuses on property taxes, expanding affordable housing, codifying abortion rights and increasing state education funding — he said he’s seen firsthand how an absence of money at the state level has overburdened local taxpayers.
“We’re talking about working-class families who are struggling to put a roof over their families heads, make sure their kids have a quality education, make sure they have affordable health care, and maybe a pathway to retirement,” he said.
Prokopiak is proposing the “inclusion of affordable housing as a mandatory provision, aligning with practices in New Jersey.”
“The houses are out of the price range of the average Bucks County resident and so we needed to do a better job of addressing that,” Prokopiak said.
Prokopiak is also advocating for a $15 minimum wage and the legalization of marijuana.
Cabanas says the economy isn’t ‘working’ for working-class Bucks County residents
Cabanas currently works as a restaurant server and resides in Falls Township with her husband and two children. Previously active in Republican politics in Lancaster, Cabanas moved to Lower Bucks County about five years ago.
Voters have told her that inflation is a primary concern.
“We need to relieve the burdens put on families by high gas prices, rising costs of living, and the economy just doesn’t seem like it’s working for us,” Cabanas said.
Hyperlocal issues such as Pennsbury School District’s building plan and its impact on the taxpayer are also being brought up in her door-to-door campaigning. Cabanas said even national issues such as immigration and fears of fentanyl crossing the United States’ border with Mexico have been points of discussion.
Cabanas is campaigning on public safety, affordable healthcare for all and improving the public education system.
“We want to work on delivering the best possible education for our students,” Cabanas said. “The trick with education is we want to fund our schools, we want to put money into them and help our kids, but our taxes go up. So what’s the balance — and what’s the accountability for where those funds are spent?”
She said she wants to be a responsive politician and represent the interests of all the voters.
“Civil engagement is important and sometimes I’ve noticed over the years as people have disengaged is they don’t like what’s happening in government, but they love to complain about it and I don’t want to be someone who just says, ‘I think this is a problem or that’s a problem or maybe this could use some work,’ and then just sit back and expect someone else to do it,” Cabanas said.
Cabanas said she is wary of “extremes.” She is non-committal on certain issues, such as abortion, which she said voters should decide.
Recalling a situation with a close friend who had an ectopic pregnancy, Cabanas said she will support protections for people “who need them.”
“I think we need to look at the issue with a lot of compassion and grace for each other and understand that politics is really about finding that middle road that most of us can get as comfortable as we can with and move forward together,” Cabanas said.
Prokopiak also said democracy requires a commitment to strike a balance.
However, he acknowledged that the race has implications that are bigger than his candidacy or Bucks County.
“For the agenda that we talk about — a pro-worker, pro-family, pro-women’s rights agenda, treating everyone all with dignity and respect — that agenda only gets pushed forward in a Democratic state House,” he said.
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