WILKES-BARRE — As incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Casey cruises through the May 15 primary unopposed, two Republicans will square off to see who will earn the GOP nomination to try to deny the Scranton Democrat a third six-year term.
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, 62, of Hazleton, is running against state Rep. Jim Christiana, 34, of Brighton Township, Beaver County.
Barletta said a main focus will be on bringing good-paying jobs back to our area and saving the jobs that are here.
“Good-paying jobs sustain families and build healthy communities,” Barletta said. “That’s why I voted in favor of the historic tax cuts and support President Donald Trump’s agenda to scale back excessive regulations.”
Securing our borders and stopping illegal immigration remains a top priority for Barletta. He said illegal immigrants are taking American jobs and putting national security at risk.
“By refusing to enforce federal immigration law, sanctuary cities and the politicians who support them create safe havens not just for people in this country illegally who are looking for a job, but also for drugs, gangs, and violent criminals,” Barletta said.
Barletta also supports Pennsylvania energy jobs and building a pipeline to get gas to market. He said Pennsylvania is on the cusp of becoming a world leader in energy production, which means more jobs.
Barletta said he has spearheaded federal support for a pilot project to extract Rare Earth Elements from the anthracite coal waste piles in Northeast Pennsylvania. If successful, the region’s rich anthracite coal deposits could create new jobs, not just in the coal industry, but in manufacturing and related industries that rely on these elements.
Barletta said every community has been touched by the opioid epidemic. He helped to negotiate the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act as a member of the joint House-Senate conference committee. That legislation included his bill to protect babies born addicted to opioids.
Christiana on the issues
Christiana said Congress is spending $1 trillion more than it’s bringing in because Republicans like Barletta and Democrats like Casey continually vote for budgets that the country cannot afford.
“We need a balanced budget, period,” Christiana said. “We need a senator who will stand up to legislative leaders and interest groups that support budgets that overspend. I’m the only candidate who’s done that for 10 years in the state House of Representatives.”
Christiana said health care is too expensive and the quality of care is too low. He said Obamacare made it worse.
“We need to give states the ability to manage Medicaid with no strings attached,” he said.
Christiana said Congress “can’t get its act together” to pass a comprehensive infrastructure bill. He said Pennsylvania is an extremely diverse state with diverse infrastructure needs.
“Washington cannot successfully manage all these projects,” Christiana said. “Washington must drive funds to state and county officials to make the investments without costly red tape.”
Christiana said the opioid crisis is tearing families apart.
“In Harrisburg, we passed 12 bipartisan bills to help mitigate the damage,” he said. “But Washington undermined all of our efforts to protect drug distributors. Instead of helping families, Democrats and Republicans in Congress passed a law to help protect drug distributors and undercut DEA agents.”
Christiana said Social Security will be bankrupt in no time.
“Congress continually raids the fund to balance their budget and it needs to stop,” Christiana said. “Washington needs to honor their commitment to senior citizens on Social Security and those near retirement age, no exceptions.”
Barletta said he has reported his campaign funding at $1.6 million cash on hand. He said during the first three months of 2018, his campaign received contributions from nearly 17,000 individuals — 93 percent of which were less than $100.
Christiana did not disclose his campaign fund balance, but said his campaign has been funded exclusively by Pennsylvanians and Pennsylvania families.
‘Made it worse’
Barletta said he has a proven record of always standing up for the people.
During his time as mayor, Hazleton’s population increased by 50 percent, but tax revenue stayed the same, making it nearly impossible to provide services to residents. He said he has always fought to put the interests of Americans first.
As a member of Congress, Barletta said he helped save taxpayers $3.6 billion by eliminating excess federal real estate and forcing government agencies to negotiate long-term leases and move into smaller spaces.
Barletta said he will be spending a lot of time campaigning in Luzerne County and across northeast Pennsylvania. His campaign headquarters and his home are in Hazleton.
“Northeast Pennsylvania — and Luzerne County specifically — was central to electing Donald Trump as president,” Barletta said. “It is important that the same voters who turned out to vote in order to take back their country in 2016 turn out to vote again this year.”
Christiana said combined, Barletta and Casey have been given 20 years to fix Washington and “they’ve made it worse.”
Christiana said his legislation created PennWATCH, a transparency tool that shows government salaries and all state spending online.
Barletta said he decided to give up his seat in the U.S. House to run for Senate because he did not go to Washington for a job.
“I went to Washington to get things done for the people of Pennsylvania,” he said. “I am committed to putting the interests of Pennsylvania first, not Washington.”
Christiana said, “Combined, we’ve given Bob Casey and Lou Barletta two decades to fix Washington. On May 15, let’s start fresh.”