If the fundamental question about this year’s election is which presidential candidate can fix the broken economy, then put Lou Barletta squarely in Mitt Romney’s camp.
Although the conservative Republican from Hazleton spent his freshman term in Congress siding with a House majority that largely was dedicated to obstructing President Obama’s policies., Barletta says he can be independent when necessary.
The former Hazleton mayor who once ran a company that painted lines on highways says that experience led him to oppose a bill that would have allowed triple-trailer "truck trains" to operate in many states. He took a bipartisan approach, teaming up with Democratic Rep. Jerry Costello to stop the plan.
The trucking industry and “big-box” shippers lobbied hard for the law, which would have allowed states to set their own weight limits. But Barletta says that would have led to regulatory chaos. The congressman’s work on the issue shows he doesn’t necessarily let conservative principles trump pragmatism. “I’m for states’ rights, but when it makes sense,” he told the Standard-Speaker/Citizens’ Voice editorial board. “And this was a case where it didn’t make sense.
Like many first-term representatives, Barletta says he is frustrated by the rancor and slow pace of action in Congress. Today’s Lou Barletta is clearly better-informed, wiser to Washington’s ways and better polished than the man who rode his tough stance against illegal immigration into office two years ago, defeating longtime Rep. Paul Kanjorski in what was a heavily Democratic district. Due to gerrymandering, the district now skirts most of its former heavily Democratic enclaves, stretching nearly to the Maryland border to do so.
Making the district more friendly to Barletta also produced his opponent in this race, Democrat Gene Stilp, a Wilkes-Barre native who now lives in northern Dauphin County, near Harrisburg. It is the state capital where Stilp, a nonpracticing lawyer, made his name as an aggressive and dedicated reform activist.
Stilp has not translated that record well into his Congressional race. He has been an effective opposition activist, but a political campaign for Congress carries the additional burden of an affirmative agenda, which Stilp has not quite met.
Barletta is the better candidate in this race and he impressed this newspaper’s editorial board with his sentiments for compromise, proclaiming, “Every issue, I say where can we find common ground. How can we work together?” He wins our endorsement for a second term with the hope that he can put those sentiments into strong practice.