By Matt Schickling
Wire Staff Writer
Four years ago, state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf celebrated his ninth consecutive victory in Pennsylvania’s 12th Senatorial District. Greenleaf’s challenger in 2010, Democratic candidate Ruth Damsker, is again looking to unseat him in the Nov. 4 election.
“2010 was not a good year for Democrats,” Damsker said. “I’m very concerned about the last four years here. I think the failure and lack of leadership by Corbett has been devastating to the people of PA.”
Greenleaf won the previous election by a significant margin with about 64 percent of the votes. He believes his 36-year tenure gives him the experience necessary to hold his seat for another four years.
“I just run on what my record is,” Greenleaf said. “It takes a while to learn how to pass legislation, and some people never do. I passed a number of bills through bipartisan activity and issues-based legislation.”
He cited his role in passing the Human Trafficking Law, also known as Act 105, with co-sponsor Andrew Dinniman, a Democratic member of the Pennsylvania Senate, as support for his willingness to reach across the aisle.
“Much of what we’ve passed has been unanimous,” Greenleaf said.
Damsker commends him for this but says there are several other issues left untouched by the senator.
“I have seen him out there as far as with sex and human trafficking, which is important,” she said. “But, frankly, I don’t know anybody that’s for sex trafficking. He touts that as his big accomplishment while we’re losing the middle class.”
Damsker was born and raised in Cheltenham, but now lives in Upper Gwynedd Township. She was township controller in Cheltenham for 12 years before being elected as a Montgomery County commissioner, serving two terms from 2000 to 2008.
Despite her loss in 2010, Pennsylvania Democratic leaders called on Damsker to run again, believing that this election represents a unique opportunity for Democrats to regain control of the Senate.
“We need to flip the state Senate, which is possible. We only need two more seats,” she said.
Damsker raises issues with Greenleaf for his support of several of Gov. Tom Corbett’s initiatives, like Greenleaf’s voting to pass budgets, especially in regard to cuts in education.
“I don’t know of anybody who has really benefitted from the Corbett budget. He has cut and cut and cut, and Sen. Greenleaf has to accept responsibility,” she said. “He can say that he’s for education, but he voted to cut that by a billion dollars.”
Greenleaf, in support of his record, argues this differently.
“We’ve had record funding for schools,” he said, adding that the state government allocated $10.5 billion for education. “That’s with a total budget of about $28 billion.”
Damsker says that Corbett’s budget left municipalities to shoulder much of the cost of education.
“Homeowners pay over 60 percent. The seniors paying those taxes are being forced out of their homes. Young people can’t afford to buy houses because the taxes are so high,” she said. “One of the biggest responsibilities of a legislator is the budget.”
Greenleaf says that while he believes education is funded adequately, the funding is not distributed as it should be.
“Our community schools did not receive enough funding,” he said. “We’re going to continue to fight that battle.”
The two candidates participated in a public forum on Oct. 27 at Foulkeways Retirement Community in Gwynedd, but the debate took place after the Wire went to press. Both candidates agreed to attend.
“All I do is work as hard as I can to have an issue-focused campaign. It’s up to the voters to decide,” Greenleaf said.
“I would be honored to serve this district, and serve the people and put Pennsylvania back on the right track to the top in education and job creation,” Damsker said.
The Pennsylvania general elections take place on Nov. 4. The 12th Senatorial District is comprised of parts of Bucks and Montgomery counties.