Two students are hoping to hold state legislators accountable for voting to pass a late-night pay raise last July. How? By running for office against them.
Casey Roncaglione, 20, a sophomore business major, and David Boyer, 28, a senior psychology major, are challenging local representatives for their seats this November.
Roncaglione is running for the 164th District, which includes Upper Darby, East Landsdowne and Millbourne.
Boyer is running for the 197th District, which includes most of North Philadelphia.
Both candidates decided to run after a pay raise by legislators that made headlines all over the state. Although the pay raise was eventually repealed, politicians all over Pennsylvania are facing challenges at the polls from angry constituents.
“I feel that everyone does have a responsibility to better the world and this is what I have chosen and it’s what I think I’m best suited at,” Roncaglione said. “And if I can make a difference, I think this is the place to do it.”
Roncaglione, a Democrat, faces Republican Mario Civera in the 164th district. No other candidates have stepped forward for the democratic nomination, but Roncaglione still has to secure the nomination from committee members and wardens in his district.
“There are several committee people who are in charge of different areas of the actual committee,” Roncaglione said. “Each committee person has a say in who becomes nominated and who will the candidate be so there’s a meeting in which they all gather … then each representative comes up and they are voted on.”
Roncaglione said he does not believe Civera has kept his constituents in mind during his tenure in Harrisburg.
“I believe that he sat on his hands on numerous issues,” Roncaglione said. “The property tax issue is one of them. The school funding is sometimes in question and those are the sorts of things that I feel that are such essential elements of the community can’t be overlooked and can’t be on the back burner.”
Roncaglione will be 21 in October, the minimum age for state representatives.
Although he’s not the only young person running, Roncaglione has faced some questions from his critics about his maturity and ability to lead.
“If anything, age is a benefit. My youth – I’m going to be vigorous. I am going to be ever learning. I plan to work as hard as humanly possible to do everything I can in that jobs power to make the area where I live a better place,” Roncaglione said.
David Boyer’s race is slightly different. He will face Democrat Jewell Williams, the incumbent, in the primary election this May.
That race will decide whether or not he makes it onto the ballot for the general election in November.
“Jewell Williams is on the Ethics Committee [that] said that the pay raise was okay,” Boyer said. “So if somebody can essentially steal money and get away with it, I definitely want to oppose that.”
Although Boyer said he has voted consistently since he was 18, he has little experience with the state legislature. Boyer served as a Navy medic for five years. “I’m disgusted with the way politics work in our state,” Boyer said. “I want to put honesty and integrity back into politics.”
Boyer said he believes the biggest issue facing his District in 2006 is a lack of well-paying jobs.
“I have a very diverse, very diverse district, but I think the first priority is jobs. More jobs that pay better,” Boyer said.
“The minimum wage in this state is atrociously low and we need to increase the wages of our constituents before we can increase the wages of our legislators.”
Boyer has also chosen to affiliate himself with a group called PA Clean Sweep, an activist group supporting grassroots campaigns for the legislature, while Roncaglione declined to associate himself with the group.
According to its Web site, PA Clean Sweep is a “non-partisan effort to return responsible government to the citizens of Pennsylvania and to restore honor, dignity and integrity to the halls of our state Capitol.” Clean Sweep is seeking to unseat every legislator in the PA General Assembly. Their prime motivation is July’s pay raise.
“The idea behind PA Clean Sweep – the straw that broke the camel’s back – is the pay raise that they gave themselves.” Boyer said.
“I feel that my loyalty should be to the citizenry, not to any specific group or anything that would create bias in any specific direction” Roncaglione said. “You can’t just simplify a problem by eliminating absolutely everything.”
Starting Tuesday, both candidates can legally begin to collect the 300 signatures necessary to be on the ballot.
“I need 300 signatures to get on the ballot,” Boyer said. “They will most definitely be challenged, so I am planning on collecting 800 signatures.”
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