Pennsylvania’s delayed primary election is now rapidly approaching, but like almost everything else in our lives, COVID-19 has changed how candidates and voters are interacting.
Door knocking and candidate forums are not possible this spring. Instead, candidates are relying on outreach on social media along with mailings and telephone calls. It means voters need to work a little harder to make an informed choice.
The 2020 general election is likely to be decided by philosophies instead of individual issues. In November, voters’ opinion of Donald Trump will be the key factor as the electorate makes their choices for offices up and down the ballot.
The primary election is different, however. Most candidates share the overall philosophy of their political party. But candidates differ in their approach to, and their emphasis on, various issues.
A group of issues that deserves the focus of candidates are those impacting older citizens and their families. There is a practical reason for candidates to take a stand on these concerns – older voters participate in elections at a much higher rate than younger voters. But the reality is these issues are becoming more important to everyone as our population grows older.
Across Pennsylvania there are contested primaries for the US House of Representatives, the Pennsylvania State House and the Pennsylvania State Senate. Many of the candidates for these offices have campaign websites and are activity engaged on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
Over the next few weeks voters should take the opportunity to engage with the candidates on these concerns:
COVID-19 has exposed the deplorable state of our long-term care system. Candidates at both the state and federal level must acknowledge this and discuss their views on how to reform our approach for caring for those who can no longer care for themselves.
Candidates should be asked about their views on the role of for-profit entities in our long-term care system, how to better recruit, retain, and support direct care workers, how home care can be better utilized, and how to support family caregivers, particularly the working parents trying to maintain a career, raise children, and care for their elderly relatives at the same time.
SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE, and MEDICAID
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives will have an important task in debating the future of Social Security and Medicare and funding for the Medicaid program, which provides health and long-term care for low-income Americans.
Candidates should be asked about their proposals for ensuring these programs have adequate funding and whether they believe the debate about the future of Social Security and Medicare and their possible expansion should be a priority for the next session of Congress or pushed into the future when the programs’ financial health will be in more jeopardy.
The Pennsylvania state Budget will be under enormous pressure due to the impact of COVID-19 on revenues. Among the challenges will be a reduction in lottery revenue. At the same time, the programs supported by the lottery will be needed more than ever.
Candidates for the state House and Senate should be asked if changes need to be made in our approach to funding programs for older Pennsylvanians and the role lottery revenues should play as the older population grows.
FEDERAL AND STATE SPENDING
The debate about cutting spending verses increasing revenues will have a direct impact on seniors and will become a central issue as new sessions of the U.S. Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly begin in 2021.
If candidates support spending cuts, they should provide details of what programs they believe should be impacted, and if candidates support increased revenues, they should provide details on how to raise those additional funds.
Finally, every candidate has their own priorities, which are often reflected in what Committee assignment they request.
Committees in Congress and the General Assembly focusing on issues impacting older citizens are not the sexiest of choices, but candidates should be encouraged to ask to serve on them. With many elected officials desiring a high-profile Committee assignment, the opportunity to choose a less glamorous role that can make a huge difference in the lives of their constituents is waiting for those who express an interest in working on these important issues.
Opinion contributor Ray E. Landis writes about the issues that are important to older Pennsylvanians. His work appears biweekly on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Follow him on Twitter @RELandis.