Bill Troutman knows he has an uphill battle. He’s a Democrat seeking to oust an incumbent Republican state senator in a conservative district. Sen. Ryan P. Aument was elected to his first term in the 36th District, which stretches across northern Lancaster County, with more than 72 percent of the vote. And that election for years ago was for an open seat; this time, Aument has the power of incumbency.
Making matters worse for Troutman, he was sidelined for months when he was badly injured in a car crash. He signed the paperwork to get on the ballot from a hospital bed.
But that isn’t deterring Troutman, who last year became the first non-Republican elected to the Elizabethtown Borough Council in decades.
“I think that it’s going to be really tough to beat Mr. Aument, but I think we have a fighting chance,” Troutman said in an interview with The Elizabethtown Advocate.
Troutman is counting on heavy enthusiasm from Democrats turning out to vote in greater numbers than usual, a “blue wave.” He said a “red void,” or lack of enthusiasm from Republicans, can also help, along with a “red change of mind” from people who had historically voted for Republicans who have become disenchanted with the party.
Also, the large number of Democratic candidates running this year allows for coordination between campaigns. The 36th Senate District is entirely within the 11th Congressional District, where Democrat Jess King has shown great fundraising strength in her effort to defeat Republican incumbent Rep. Lloyd Smucker. And all seven state representative districts in the Senate district have Democratic candidates running, which is unusual in an area of such heavy Republican dominance that Democrats often don’t bother trying.
Troutman said his hospitalization was a stark reminder of how good his health insurance is as a union electrician. He noted that many Pennsylvanians lack any health insurance and said he wants to change that.
“It’s those people that I really have to fight for so that they can have similar benefits, or at least the opportunity to fight for those sort of benefits,” Troutman said.
Troutman said if he is elected, he will push for a higher minimum wage. Better wages will spur economic growth because they will give consumers more money to spend, Troutman said.
Troutman said he will fight for what he called fair education funding. He said Pennsylvania has the largest gap in funding between affluent school districts and poor ones of any state in the country.
“When we invest in education, we create more educated people,” Troutman said. “When we invest fairly, we broaden the opportunity for everyone.”
Troutman said the extraction of natural gas known as “fracking” has made Pennsylvania the No. 2 state in gas production, but noted that Pennsylvania is the only major gas-producing state that does not have a severance tax for the gas removed.
“Pennsylvania is giving this gas away. We’re not getting the money Pennsylvania is entitled to as a state,” Troutman said.
He said he does not oppose the gas industry, but wants it to be taxed and regulated.
“I don’t necessarily stand with the opponents of the pipeline,” Troutman said, adding that it is too late to stop the expansion of natural gas, but not too late to regulate the industry to protect the environment.
He also noted that other states charge property taxes to pipeline operators and said Pennsylvania ought to do that. He said taxes on the natural gas industry can be used to fund first responders, such as fire companies, that need to be ready to respond to pipeline emergencies.