In 5th Senatorial District, battle of the Mikes

— Three-term Demo­crat Stack touts his in­de­pend­ence. Re­pub­lic­an Tom­lin­son says it's time for a change.

Sen­at­or Mike Stack at­tends the Cran­a­lith Spir­itu­al Cen­ter ce­re­mony on Sunday, after re­cent renov­a­tions and ad­di­tions to the prop­erty. (Maria Pouch­nikova)


State Sen. Mike Stack said he is seek­ing a fourth term in next month’s elec­tion be­cause the job en­ables him to have an im­pact on people’s lives.

“I en­joy do­ing it. I’m honored to be the sen­at­or for the 5th Sen­at­ori­al Dis­trict,” the Demo­crat said.

Mike Tom­lin­son, who de­scribes him­self as a “pro-uni­on Re­pub­lic­an,” is mak­ing his first bid for of­fice and has en­joyed the ex­per­i­ence.

“Meet­ing with people, I wouldn’t give that up for the world, win or lose,” he said.

Stack, 49, a law­yer from Somer­ton, de­feated Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Hank Sal­vatore in 2000. He had lost twice pre­vi­ously to Sal­vatore and also lost a bid for an at-large City Coun­cil seat.

In re-elec­tion con­tests in 2004 and ’08, he won hand­ily. He is favored over Tom­lin­son based on name re­cog­ni­tion, cam­paign funds and a Demo­crat­ic voter re­gis­tra­tion ad­vant­age.

Stack has lost ef­forts to be­come the Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate lead­er and chair­man of the Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee. He be­lieves Demo­crats can pick up a couple of seats to cut the GOP’s cur­rent 10-seat ad­vant­age in the 50-seat state Sen­ate, but he did not ex­press a de­sire to run for lead­er­ship this year.

“One of my greatest strengths is my in­de­pend­ence,” he said.

Tom­lin­son, 55, of May­fair, is hop­ing people in the dis­trict split their tick­et on Nov. 6. He vows to be a “lob­by­ist” for the people. He’s a former math teach­er at Over­brook High School and had a long ca­reer as a CPA. He’s long been act­ive with Holmes­burg Boys Club. He also is leg­ally blind.

Dur­ing the cam­paign, Tom­lin­son has un­suc­cess­fully tried to sched­ule a de­bate with Stack. The chal­lenger un­der­stands that a well-fun­ded in­cum­bent will al­most nev­er give a plat­form to a poorly fun­ded chal­lenger.

“I’m not good at ask­ing for money,” he said. “It’s grass­roots against money, and we’re go­ing to see who wins.”

Statewide, one of Stack’s top goals is to use budget sur­pluses to ad­equately fund adult­Basic, a state-sub­sid­ized health in­sur­ance plan for low-in­come adults.

On the loc­al level, Stack has been among the elec­ted of­fi­cials work­ing to keep a pro­posed meth­adone clin­ic out of a build­ing at Frank­ford Av­en­ue and Dec­atur Street.

The law­maker is also look­ing for­ward to when a de­veloper work­ing with Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity starts build­ing on the former site of the Lid­don­field Homes hous­ing pro­ject in Holmes­burg. The mix of seni­or hous­ing, re­tail and ath­let­ic fields could cre­ate as many as 500 jobs and should help nearby busi­nesses, he be­lieves.

“I think it’s go­ing to be great,” he said.

On health care, he has brought state dol­lars to Naz­areth Hos­pit­al and Aria Health-Tor­res­dale Cam­pus.

Stack de­scribes Naz­areth as a great neigh­bor­hood in­sti­tu­tion with an act­ive board of dir­ect­ors that designs pro­grams tailored for the com­munity. Aria-Tor­res­dale, he said, re­lies heav­ily on its emer­gency room and is us­ing state money to ex­pand the de­part­ment, cre­at­ing as many as 200 jobs.

“We have ded­ic­ated health-care pro­fes­sion­als in our midst,” he said.

Stack is glad to be able to fund the hos­pit­als at a time when money is scarce.

“It’s hard to get a single nick­el out of Har­ris­burg,” he said.

As for edu­ca­tion, he wants an elec­ted school board to re­place the School Re­form Com­mis­sion and in­sists that any money dir­ec­ted to pub­lic edu­ca­tion be in­ves­ted wisely.

“I want the fund­ing to go in­to the classrooms. I don’t want it to go to dis­trict ex­ec­ut­ives,” he said.

Stack wants the city to go after people who are de­lin­quent on their prop­erty taxes. He wor­ries that the Ac­tu­al Value Ini­ti­at­ive, which will be ad­op­ted next year, will lead to in­creased prop­erty taxes among his con­stitu­ents.

“I be­lieve this is a back-door tax in­crease,” he said.

Tom­lin­son, who has four daugh­ters and three grand­chil­dren, doesn’t fa­vor the meth­adone clin­ic in the com­munity either, but he does want heroin ad­dicts to re­ceive treat­ment. He sug­gests some­place “out in the middle of nowhere.”

The chal­lenger, who’s met ad­dicts along the cam­paign trail, wants longer pris­on sen­tences for people deal­ing drugs. He thinks drug ab­users of­ten turn to crime to sup­port their habits.

“They’re go­ing to put a gun to your head for three bucks,” he said.

As for a long-term solu­tion, Tom­lin­son wants schools to in­crease the amount of time they spend on anti-drug mes­sages.

“We need to tar­get these kids at the young­est level,” he said.

Tom­lin­son wants to re­form gov­ern­ment, of­fer­ing gen­er­al cri­ti­cism of the amount of money donated by lob­by­ists to the cam­paigns of elec­ted of­fi­cials.

The Re­pub­lic­an, who says that the School Re­form Com­mis­sion “has got to go,” wants to re­place it with a pan­el that in­cludes teach­ers, par­ents, ad­min­is­trat­ors, com­munity ad­voc­ates and a charter school rep­res­ent­at­ive.

The can­did­ate has listened to the Phil­adelphia As­so­ci­ation of Re­tail Drug­gists and wants to find a way for the group to con­tin­ue to prosper at a time when many con­sumers are re­quired to pur­chase their pre­scrip­tion drugs by mail from out-of-state firms.

Tom­lin­son has met with 56 busi­nesses dur­ing the cam­paign. He fa­vors tort re­form so busi­nesses are not hit with frivol­ous law­suits that they of­ten have to settle.

In gen­er­al, Tom­lin­son wants Pennsylvania to be­come a busi­ness-friendly state. He’s spoken with own­ers of hair salons, flower shops, del­is, bars and auto body shops who com­plain about taxes, fees and reg­u­la­tions.

“We need to make it easi­er for small busi­ness to op­er­ate and make a reas­on­able profit,” he said.

If he loses, Tom­lin­son plans to run again in four years. ••


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