IUPolitique: Koplinski sells himself as ‘progressive alternative’ during IUP visit

Brad Koplinski’s 2-year-old Ford Escape broke the 105,000-mile mark on his trip to Indiana University of Pennsylvania – just another stop on his 67-county journey and campaign to be Pennsylvania’s next lieutenant governor.

At an event held jointly by Indiana Voter Initiative and Education and IUP’s Environmentally Conscious Organization, Koplinski, a Democrat, spoke to a room of approximately 20 people from the community and the club about his campaign platform – specifically his stances on education and the environment.

In an interview before his speech, Koplinski indirectly criticized IUP alumnus and lieutenant governor frontrunner former Rep. Mark Critz for focusing his campaign in western Pennsylvania.

“We’re not focusing on one part of the state,” Koplinski said. “We’ve been to all 67 counties.”

In an interview with The Penn, Critz’s campaign manager, Nick Bonesso, said that although his candidate was not ruling out the eastern side of the state, he continues to try to shore up support in his Western Pennsylvania roots.

“We’re working to our base and trying to get to our people out here in western Pennsylvania,” Bonesso said.

Koplinski, a city councilman in Harrisburg, was the first lieutenant governor candidate to enter the race – just over 14 months ago. Koplinski announced his candidacy in February 2013, initially focusing on a platform of working with municipal governments.

Although that platform continues to be one of six areas of importance for Koplinski if elected, he has now expanded his campaign to include a focus on education, Marcellus Shale and natural gas extraction, pardon reform and social issues.

“One of the things we’ve been hearing about is education concerns, environmental concerns, issues regarding the economy,” Koplinski said. “The thing is beating Tom Corbett in November; it’s amazing how much synergy there is coming into play on that.”

Throughout his remarks, Koplinski threw barbs at the incumbent governor, specifically regarding Corbett’s background with education funding.

“The rich schools keep getting richer, and the poor schools keep getting poorer,” Koplinski said. “There’s no formula to even it out.”

Koplinski advocated for a funding formula – something that several gubernatorial candidates have been promising while they campaign for the state house.

In order to fund education, Koplinski said he supports what many gubernatorial candidates have been pushing: a natural gas extraction severance tax that could help funnel some money into the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s coffers.

Koplinski is also pushing for transparency on what chemicals are in the fluid used for hydraulic fracking and no new drilling until a severance fee, additional regulations and knowledge regarding the fluid are in place.

During his remarks, Koplinski also touched on pardon reform because the lieutenant governor heads the board of pardons for the Commonwealth. Currently, Koplinski said, some pardons take three years to even make it to the lieutenant governor’s desk.

Koplinski is pro-same-sex marriage and said he will fight for LGBT and women’s rights and equality.

The lieutenant governor candidate said that his previous experience in Harrisburg is an asset, not a liability.

Although Koplinski serves on the city council for Harrisburg, the state capital, he says that that experience doesn’t make him an insider, but rather gives him insight into how to work with municipalities.

“I’m running because of what Gov. Corbett is doing to our municipalities,” Koplinski said. “There are two Harrisburgs. One is the state capital, and the other has a 30 percent poverty rate, problem schools and is $350 million in debt.”

As the head of the Commonwealth’s Local Government Advisory Committee, the lieutenant government is responsible for relations with municipalities – and other forms of local government.

In Pennsylvania, lieutenant governor and gubernatorial candidates run separately until the primary. So, Koplinski’s campaign will end May 20. However, the winning lieutenant governor will join forces with the winning gubernatorial candidate to campaign against the Republican nominee in November.

Joining Koplinski and Critz in the lieutenant governor’s race are state Rep. Brandon Neuman, state Sen. Mike Stack and Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith.