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Lehigh Valley Election News

PA-7 Primary: Republican candidates give their takes on the economy

PA 7 Republican candidates
From left, Ryan Mackenzie, Maria Montero and Kevin Dellicker are the Republican candidates running for their party's nomination to the 7th Congressional District U.S. House seat.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The three Republican candidates seeking the party's nomination for Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District visited the Univest Public Public Media Center for one-on-one interviews with LehighValleyNews.com. The conversations are the basis of a five-part series this week focusing on policy issues ahead of the April 23 primary election. U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, who is unchallenged in the Democratic primary, declined to participate.

Today's issue: The economy (Third of five parts)
Part I: Reproductive rights
Part II: Foreign affairs

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — In recent interviews, the three candidates seeking the Republican nomination in Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District painted different strategies to battling inflation and improving the economy.

But one thing Kevin Dellicker, Maria Montero and Ryan Mackenzie all agreed on was who was at fault — President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress.

Attacking Democrats over the economy could prove to be a winning strategy for Republicans this fall. While economic indicators such as unemployment, the national GDP and the stock market suggest the economy is growing stronger, polls show consumers lack confidence about the future.

On the Issues: Kevin Dellicker on the economy


Congress created the Federal Reserve with goals of stabilizing prices and maximizing employment. To achieve that mandate, the Fed has adopted policies with a goal of keeping unemployment at about 2% annually. Under normal economic conditions, unemployment rates have typically been around 4% when inflation has been on target.

But since the pandemic, those standards have gone out the window. In March 2021, inflation rose above pre-pandemic levels and kept climbing. Inflation peaked at 9.1% in June 2022 before falling to 3.2% in June 2023. Since then, inflation has hovered around that level; the most recent report placed inflation at 3.2% in February.

Economists and politicians continue to debate what factors contributed most to the spike in inflation and why it continues to remain above normal. Supply chain issues born from the pandemic made it difficult to connect goods to consumers, causing prices to jump. Many business have struggled to find employees, which has contributed to lower-than-average unemployment rates.

Republicans have pointed the finger at Democrats for massive spending bills such as the American Rescue Plan, saying they flooded the market with money. Some Democrats, including President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., have blamed big corporations for engaging in price gouging, noting their records profits far outpaced even the price of inflation.

Whoever or whatever is at fault, the economy has forced households across the country to pinch pennies. While American wages have grown under the Biden administration, they have failed to keep pace with rising costs.

And while inflation has slowed down over the past year, prices remain high for food and housing — essentials that consumers can't decide to simply do without.

On the Issues: Maria Montero on the economy

What the candidates said

The three candidates lamented the high costs of food, housing and gas that Americans contend with and pinned the blame on Biden and Democratic lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-Lehigh Valley.

If the next Congress is going to right the ship, they said, it needs to rein in spending.

Montero, an Easton attorney, said that along with reducing spending, Congress should look to make a more friendly atmosphere for businesses through deregulation.

Government policies prevent entrepreneurs from auto mechanics to land developers from investing in the community to the extent they would like, she said. In their pursuit of protecting the environment, Montero said, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency have created onerous business conditions.

"We are giving agencies runaway authority to create such hot mess webs that businesses need to go through just to make a dollar," said Montero, a member of former Gov. Tom Corbett's administration.

Dellicker said the best way to help the economy is to get the federal government's spending under control with a balanced budget amendment.

"You need to tackle your spending so that the United States Congress can't continue to spend like they're a bunch of drunken sailors," he said.

It isn't a partisan problem, either, he said.

Democrats and Republicans have both contributed to the country's $34.4 trillion deficit, Dellicker said. It's the natural outcome when you send career politicians to Washington who are more concerned about staying in office than in resolving the pressing issues facing the nation, he said.

Dellicker, who's owned a consulting company for about 20 years, said Congress needs more people who have direct experience balancing their company's budgets if the federal government is going to take the necessary steps.

Mackenzie said the most sure fire way for the government to assist people struggling with high costs was to reduce their tax burden.

It's familiar territory for Mackenzie, a state representative from Upper Macungie Township. In 2023, he introduced multiple bills to reduce how much constituents pay in taxes, from exempting dog food from sales tax to reducing the inheritance tax for children and grandchildren.

"I think that if we're going to do anything to reform the tax code, we need to help working families and — seniors as well — who are really struggling to make ends meet," Mackenzie said.

On the Issues: Ryan Mackenzie on the economy

TOMORROW: The candidates discuss the budget

Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District represents all of Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties plus a sliver of Monroe County. It is among the most competitive districts in the nation, with near equal numbers of registered Democratic and Republican voters. The House has been narrowly divided in recent years, making control of PA-7 crucial to the parties' efforts to hold a majority.