Frank Burns calls himself an “independent” state lawmaker, and has shown that he is willing to oppose his own Democratic Party leaders in Harrisburg on issues he believes are of importance to his Cambria County constituents.
Burns pushed back on Gov. Tom Wolf’s tight restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially involving taverns and restaurants. He voted against tax proposals put forth by Wolf and former Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican.
The East Taylor Township resident was first elected to the General Assembly in 2008, and says he has “matured in office” since then.
We agree, and strongly support Burns for another term representing the 72nd district in the state House over his Republican challenger, Ebensburg businessman Howard Terndrup.
“I have consistently voted the way I think the constituents want me to,” Burns said in a Zoom meeting with our editorial board.
He added: “I do my best to put the people of the district before politics, and I’ve proven that I’m not afraid to stand up and fight for the people back home, and I’m not afraid to fight to make sure that the people of our district are heard in Harrisburg. I truly feel that’s my job, to be the advocate for this area.”
We support Burns’ push to establish a Keystone Opportunity Zone in Cambria County, which he says would bring jobs to the region, along with his efforts to catch the eye of larger companies such as Amazon when they are seeking places to locate offices.
“We have nothing to lose by going out and talking to these companies to let them know our story,” he said.
Burns backed the seriousness with which the governor responded to COVID-19 – “We’re not the only state that shut businesses down” he said. – but did push for easing restrictions on small operations and scholastic sports, saying Wolf “drug his feet” in reopening such disparate enterprises as car dealerships and dog-grooming centers.
Burns opposes legalization of marijuana for recreational use, and supports expansion of passenger rail service between Johnstown and Pittsburgh.
“That could help with economic development here,” he said.
Burns has been endorsed by numerous groups, from the NRA and the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation to Pennsylvania Realtors Association and the state AFL-CIO, according to his campaign.
Burns is chairman of the state House’s Blue Lives Matter Caucus and vice-chair of the Policy Committee. He also sits on committees such as Consumer Affairs, Liquor Control, Tourism & Recreational Development and Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness – and could move into a chairman’s seat based on seniority in 2021.
Terndrup didn’t offer enough to convince us that he is a better option than a six-term incumbent.
He founded a landscaping business 30 years ago and is a former board member for REA Energy. He taught chemistry at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School.
The Republican said agriculture is a key issue, and pledged to work with U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, if both are elected, on issues related to farming.
Terndrup said he would push for an expansion of rural internet service, noting that “50% of Cambria County is underserved.” He sees trade schools as crucial to job creation and one answer to the region’s ongoing population decline.
Terndrup said he sees benefits in medicinal marijuana but opposes legalizing the drug for recreational use due to his concerns about “safety in the workplace and on the road.”
When asked why he is a better candidate than his incumbent opponent, Terndrup accused Burns of “wasteful spending” through the use of political fliers sent by mail, and also said the Democrat is often “at odds with his own party.”
We see the latter as a likely strength for Burns in this region, which has shifted from blue to red politically and where people often feel left behind by Harrisburg.
Burns said when voters sent him to the House 12 years ago when he was a 32-year-old newcomer to state politics, they “took a chance on me.”
Now his experience and growing seniority in Harrisburg should benefit the residents of Cambria County and this region.
The voters of the 72nd district should give Burns the chance to continue serving them in Harrisburg.