By Taylor Applegate
State Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R-26) is up for re-election Nov. 6, having served in the Pennsylvania Senate since November, 2014.
He has lived in Delaware County for more than 40 years, owns an auto mechanic business, and is very active throughout the community, supporters say. He has participated in fundraisers for veterans, visits local schools, and collaborates with the Delaware County Heroine Task Force.
I recently sat down with McGarrigle at his office in Drexel Hill to discuss local and national politics, his perspective on important issues, and the work that he does in the Senate.
What initially drew you to getting involved in politics?
It started when I worked closely with the township officials as president of Springfield Youth Club. I enjoyed it. Shortly thereafter, I ran for commissioner. After four years as commissioner, I was elected to the Delaware County Council. At the end of my second term, I ran for the Senate when Ted Erickson announced his retirement. After winning the seat, I resigned from the council and I’m finishing up my fourth year as a senator. I am presently up for re-election.
You were chairman of Delaware County Council before becoming a state senator. What motivated you to seek a higher office at a state level?
I really enjoyed the Delaware County Council, but because it was term limited, I had to leave so this was the natural next stage.
You have a successful business and a family in Springfield, as well as having to be in session in Harrisburg. How are you able to manage all of that?
That’s why I have grey hair! My youngest son runs the day-to-day operations of my business. I am in session in Harrisburg Monday through Wednesday afternoon. I then drive home and go back to my business.
Would you ever consider running for higher office?
No. I enjoy being in the Senate. The higher offices to run for would be lieutenant governor, governor, or Congress and I have no interest at all. There are only 50 state senators and there are 203 state representatives, so you have a larger district representation, but also a more important role because there are only one of 50. And I am getting old!
I noticed on your website you had a page of resources for veterans. Is there a personal reason for why you are so invested in issues that our veterans face?
I have a lot of respect for veterans. Unfortunately, people take things for granted. I’ll give you an example: Rusty Carter. He’s about 32 years old. He was over in Afghanistan when his Hum-V went off a bridge and he was paralyzed from the waist down, or chest down, and he spent over a year in hospitals out of the country. He is in a wheelchair and needs a lot of constant medical care. What we do is a golfing fundraiser. We were able to get $10,000 this year. The thing I don’t understand, at the federal level, is the VA hospitals. It’s tough to get services and appointments, and I don’t understand why they can’t go to any hospital and be covered.
We are seeing Democrats beginning to assume political positions formerly held by Republicans in Delaware County. Why do you think this is?
I think it’s more and more people who are traditionally Democrats, moving into Delaware County from the city.
Do you think it has anything to do with President Trump?
I think so. I think the president has great policies. I’ll give you one example: this year in Pennsylvania we went to complete our budget in June. It was the first time in 20 years we were ahead of schedule. We were almost a billion dollars over in tax receipts, so that just shows you how the economy is booming. That being said, I think [Trump’s] delivery is terrible. There is a certain benefit of understanding how government works, and it’s not a dictatorship. You must have the ability to compromise and work with the other side. I probably vote 90 percent with Democrats because our issues in Harrisburg aren’t really Republican and Democrat. It’s part of the state you’re from. They’re regional issues.
What are your thoughts on the Kavanaugh hearings and his nomination to the Supreme Court?
I am going by his record, and it is really an awful issue. I am glad that they decided to have the FBI investigate it. For a lifetime appointment I don’t think it should be rushed.
You sponsored the Medical Marijuana Act and have a 95 percent rating from the Marijuana Policy Project. What are your views on the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Right now, I would not support it at all. I don’t think Philadelphia does anything if they catch you smoking pot because it’s just too much paperwork.
Senate Bill 1095, which you sponsored and offers students an alternative to Keystone Exams to graduate, is going to the House. Why did you feel this was a bill you had to sponsor?
Each year I meet with all of the school boards and school districts I represent and what they are finding is that even their most intelligent students are having trouble passing the Keystone exam. We met with PSEA and the school board associations, and they said not every child fits into the same little square box. I went to [vocational training school] and you still have to pass the Keystone exams.
On Planned Parenthoods Voter’s Guide you were listed as against safe, legal abortion. How would you respond to women who are pro-choice?
Well, they won’t like this. I was born and raised Catholic. I’m pro-life. We will just have to agree to disagree.
Is there anything else you would like the voters to know?
As an elected official, I work across the aisles whenever I can. I don’t have a Republican or Democrat agenda.
Contact Taylor Applegate at firstname.lastname@example.org