BROCKWAY — State Rep. Cris Dush and challenger Kerith Strano Taylor got a chance to meet some future voters in Brockway Area Junior-Senior High School’s auditorium Thursday.
The forum in which the two participated was scheduled by history teacher Rachel Chamberlain as part of the school’s effort to help its students learn about the people who represent them. Previously, Chamberlain brought in U.S. Rep Glenn Thompson.
“Each year when we finish our content on government, I send out invitations to elected representatives or candidates,” Chamberlin said. “Cris and Kerith had each come in previously, Cris when he had just taken over this district and Kerith when she was running against Glenn Thompson. It was great having them back.”
With their opening statements, the topic of the gerrymandering case and the legislative map was clearly on the minds of both candidates.
“I agree that the maps were gerrymandered,” Dush said. “But the court overstepped its bounds when drawing a map of its own.”
Strano Taylor said that people holding office could not effectively draw the lines because they would be driven to keep their jobs. She suggested that the court did what it had to or said the state could appoint a non-partisan commission.
“There is no such thing as a non-partisan commission” when it comes to making legislative maps, Dush said. Strano Taylor countered by giving examples of previous commissions, including California and Arizona, but Dush took exception to California saying that the members of that group were probably harming California more than helping it.
That discussion, while not foremost on the students’ minds, still gave them a chance to analyze the candidates.
“It was interesting,” said Brockway sophomore Shaughny Richardson. “But most of us teenagers don’t care about the district maps. I wish they had started with another topic.”
“She took a page from President Trump’s playbook,” said junior Weston Hrin. “She interrupted Rep. Dush and shook her head while he was talking. It was like what Trump did in his debates.”
Dush, for his part, was described as “calm” through the forum.
“I feel like he wasn’t ready for a debate,” senior Pierce Yahner said. “He just came in there to talk about his position.”
“She seemed more about facts and figures while he seemed to focus on examples and solutions,” said sophomore Chanell Britten.
An area where Strano Taylor and Dush agreed was the area of school safety, both hoping for expanding social services and looking at additional training for teachers.