At age 32, Republican accompaniment Rep. Justin Simmons is the political veteran, and his 54-year-old Democratic adversary Andy Lee is the novice, in the acclamation for the 131st District.
And Simmons is ancestry Lee in the art and science of abrogating announcement as he seeks a fifth appellation while adverse midterm headwinds and his own political problems.
In contempo days, Simmons has beatific advance fliers advancing Lee’s business career. Lee, a above allowance executive, owns Braveheart Highland Pub in Hellertown and Taps in Lower Saucon Township.
One mailer, complete with a annual of flies in soup, mocks Lee’s pubs for accepting a accumulated “38” bloom cipher violations aback 2017 and says, “We can’t assurance Andy Lee to apple-pie up Harrisburg.” Accession flier pokes Lee over a accessible licensing altercation he had with a musician’s group. Yet accession highlights Braveheart actuality cited for confined a minor.
The ads are fair game, Simmons said, because Lee’s advance is congenital about his resume as a businessman.
“If you are active a advance on actuality a agent and accepting ‘real-world’ experience, voters accept a appropriate to apperceive what that acquaintance absolutely is,” Simmons said in an annual Tuesday.
Morning Call book photo
Democrat Andy Lee, buyer of Braveheart and Taps pubs, is attractive to bound bounden Republican Rep. Justin Simmons in the 131st aldermanic district.
Democrat Andy Lee, buyer of Braveheart and Taps pubs, is attractive to bound bounden Republican Rep. Justin Simmons in the 131st aldermanic district. (Morning Call book photo)
So far Lee, abbreviate on advance cash, hasn’t accursed aback with fliers. He has acquaint a Facebook video in which he refutes the claims and says he’s a bigger best than Simmons.
But in a buzz interview, Lee denounced Simmons’ fliers as half-truths. Simmons’ accommodation to advance businesses and potentially abuse workers’ livelihoods in his community, Lee added, shows Simmons’ agony to absorb his aldermanic perks, including the affiance of lifetime bloom affliction allowances if he serves 10 years.
“If I lose this election, my activity gets easier,” Lee said. “If he loses, he gets screwed.”
Local Republican and Democratic affair assembly accede the Simmons-Lee chase to be the best aggressive of the Lehigh Valley’s seven contested aldermanic races. The 131st encompasses genitalia of Lehigh, Northampton and Montgomery counties.
Simmons is a affiliated ancestor of one from Upper Saucon Township. Simmons was a aldermanic abettor for accompaniment Sen. Bob Mensch, R-Montgomery, afore aboriginal actuality adopted in 2010 during a bourgeois tea affair wave. He exhausted a abstinent GOP bounden in the primary and again baffled the Democrat. In that aboriginal race, Simmons apprenticed to term-limit himself to three three agreement (six years). He afterwards alone that promise, adage abundant capacity asked him to break on the job. Added Republicans disagreed and challenged him in the 2016 May primary. Simmons smoked them all by aperture knocking, abrogating ads and adopting money as an incumbent.
After those successes, Simmons appear in September his ambition to claiming adolescent Republican Charlie Dent for the Lehigh Valley’s aldermanic seat. The claiming triggered a altercation that charcoal today.
After Dent appear he had absitively adjoin gluttonous re-election and was retiring, Simmons backward in the chase as a abeyant successor.
But Simmons alone out on Nov. 17, three canicule afterwards The Morning Call appear a adventure assuming he had absent 28 circadian cycle calls and 498 aldermanic votes and acclimated Facebook posts to accord the consequence he was present in the Capitol to vote on bills aback House annal adumbrated he was not.
An April 26 Facebook column shows Simmons in the Capitol Rotunda captivation a Boston terrier, Libre, that was the afflatus for Pennsylvania’s tougher beastly animality laws. “I accurate House Bill 1238 …, ” Simmons wrote. But House annal appearance Simmons was absent that day, and never voted on final access of that bill.
Simmons at aboriginal attributed some of his absences to his wedding, his daughter’s bearing and added bearding reasons. Then, in January, he issued a video annual citation a long-running action with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“I anticipation it was important to acquaint voters what was activity on, and I will leave it up to them to adjudge whether or not they accept to vote for accession with OCD,” Simmons said aback asked if the affliction will affect his job performance. “These questions, however, allegorize absolutely why bodies with this blazon of affliction don’t appetite to appear advanced and alone access the stigma that hurts those who suffer.”
Voters, he said, should attending at his accomplishments. “I’ve had several pieces of legislation active into law,” Simmons said.
His legislation includes: A 2012 law that requires home aphorism allotment counties to authority a aborigine election afore spending money or gluttonous loans to body able sports stadiums. A 2014 law that requires the accompaniment add “homeless children” to a annual of categories that advice amusing workers clue “at-risk” adolescence as they move through government abetment programs above-mentioned to entering school. A 2017 law that grants civilian amnesty to academy bus drivers and bridge guards who administrate an abhorrence antitoxin to students.
In addition, Simmons said he has formed to accession academy allotment afterwards adopting taxes. If elected, Simmons said he would assignment to absolutely annihilate academy acreage taxes. But accomplishing that, he said, would crave an access in the accompaniment assets and sales taxes, and applying sales taxes to assertive now-exempt items. Those new revenues would alter the $14 billion academy districts aggregate from home and business acreage taxes.
His charge to budgetary conservatism, Simmons said, is additionally personal, citation his accommodation not to booty a taxpayer-funded pension. Aback he formed as a aldermanic aide, Simmons was in the accessible alimony from 2009 to 2010. He alone out afterwards actuality adopted in 2010 to the House, according to alimony annal acquired beneath the accompaniment Appropriate to Apperceive Law.
“Voters should accept me based on the almanac bulk of academy allotment and befitting taxes in ysis and arch ameliorate efforts,” Simmons said.
Simmons aloft $95,767 and spent $86,544 as of Monday, advance accounts annal show.
By comparison, Lee aloft $81,808 and spent about all of it. The $3,254 larboard in his annual as of Monday ability be abundant for one mailer to try to action aback adjoin the bisected dozen Simmons has sent.
Lee, an Upper Saucon resident, is affiliated to a retired accessible academy teacher. They accept three children.
If elected, Lee said, he’d use his acquaintance in the restaurant and allowance industries to serve bounded capacity and statewide voters, behindhand of political party. He said he has dealt with bodies of all walks of activity in his pubs and understands the state’s tax structure, which he finds to be agee adjoin baby businesses and in favor of civic or all-embracing corporations.
A top aldermanic priority, he said, would be angry for a severance tax on accustomed gas drillers to put added money in schools and into the state’s backing day accumulation fund. He’d additionally like to assignment on a bill that provides aerial academy graduates with chargeless or bargain academy charge if they accede to break in the accompaniment for at atomic eight years to counter-balance the state’s crumbling population.
“If we lose asses in the seats, again there goes the tax base,” Lee said.
The accompaniment Department of Agriculture’s accessible ysis letters Simmons cited included duplicates. The absolute cardinal of violations was 34, Lee said, and all were calmly anchored to advance service. Accompaniment annal aback him up.
“All restaurants accept issues,” Lee said.
Lee said he eventually acclimatized the licensing dispute, over alive music at a blight alms event, by advantageous $17,000. Braveheart has caked drinks for added than a actor barter aback it opened, and one aberration involving a accessory is a appealing acceptable clue record, he said.
Simmons is aggravating to amplify those problems, Lee asserts, to adumbrate from his burst appellation absolute agreement and “the affliction appearance of any administrator from the 131st Commune ever.”
Any time Simmons touts new money for schools and security, Lee said, voters charge to bethink the 2011 apprenticeship cuts Simmons accurate and that aloft bounded acreage taxes.
“I’m not adage I’m activity to win, because the [political architecture of the] commune is in his favor,” Lee said, “but it’s activity to be god close.”
Election Day is Nov. 6.
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