For Craig Williams, standing as a representative of the state is just an extension of his decades-long desire to serve. He retired as a full Colonel of the Marine Corps after 28 years, having served as an armaments officer on F-18s during the Gulf War, and attended University Law School from Florida while still in the Marines.
After his retirement, he became a federal prosecutor in the Department of Justice, prosecuting a multitude of crimes, including illegal possession of firearms, drug distribution conspiracies and fraud. He was a prosecutor for the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Locally, he was a Boy Scout leader and football and baseball coach.
“I have spent my entire adult life serving my country and my community, and that’s what it is to me. the essence that is me, ”he said.
A Republican, Williams, 55, is running against Democrat Anton Andrew to represent the 160th legislative district. Steve Barrar currently holds this position but retires at the end of this session.
Williams has several prominent issues. One is the funding of schools. He has presented himself as an advocate for increased spending on education. Still, he said the state needs to change the allocation formula that allows school district budgets to remain constant even as the population shrinks.
He said that a school district with a shrinking school population should see its public funding cut, that dollars allocated to a district should be based on the number of students in that district. “Funding should be proportional to population,” Williams said.
And, as others before him have said, he wants to stop using property taxes to pay for schools.
“I hope we can get out of this formula. I have knocked on countless doors of seniors who say this is their number one problem. As you can imagine, having a fixed income even with the home paid off, depending on the value of their home, they still have a tax bill of $ 10,000 to $ 12,000. I have a senior who calls me every month to make sure I remember this is their number one problem, ”he said. “She is afraid of losing her house because she cannot afford the expense.”
He hopes to change education funding from property taxes to extraction taxes.
“I am not offering the entire extraction tax to go to education because there is a bit of dependency. I don’t want to end up with an educational void right down the line. “
He understands the issue of property rights but also sees that these natural resources belong to the people. He specifically mentioned how Alaska – where he hails from – treats its natural gas reserves as owned by residents, so there is no state income tax.
“And that’s how I feel about Marcellus Shale,” he said, adding that “it’s not popular Republican opinion, but I think we should all benefit from exploring this. resource”.
Williams also wants a reduction in the cost of health insurance premiums. He said one way to do this – in addition to using part of the extraction tax for this purpose – is to “start being transparent about these costs” so patients can see a detailed breakdown of all of them. the costs involved. With this breakdown, he said, people would see exactly what they are paying for, and that, in turn, would put pressure to reduce the cost of insurance and health care.
He then made an analogy. “If someone is repairing my water heater and they give me an invoice for $ 800 for the repair, and I don’t see all the costs itemized, I won’t know if I paid fair market value for it. that. What I want is for patients to see what all these costs are. This will lead to a natural downward pressure on transparency which will translate into cheaper healthcare costs. “
The war on drugs
Williams has an emotional reaction to the War on Drugs, particularly in relation to what is known as the opioid epidemic. He said many people didn’t realize how addictive certain drugs today – pharmaceutical and black market – can be. But he added that addiction shouldn’t be treated as a crime. “One thing I know that doesn’t work is incarceration.”
He mentioned a criminal case while he was a federal prosecutor in Colorado, where a woman had violated her parole three times by using methamphetamines… The only time she was clean was when she was in jail. But that was not the way to help him clean up his life. “
Williams opened up during the interview, saying he lost a brother to addiction this summer.
“He’s struggled with this since high school, and it’s part of the narrative for me of legalizing marijuana because that’s where it all started. His high school marijuana use was such that it completely derailed. his education and his career… This is an area where I am particularly worried. “
And while he’s uncomfortable with the possibility of adult cannabis use being legalized in Pennsylvania, he wants to keep an open mind, even though he views marijuana as a gateway drug on the Internet. the basis of what happened to his brother.
“All I can count on right now is my gut feeling and personal experience, but I want to have this conversation.” [about legalization] open at the moment. “
He added that while he still opposes recreational use, he believes legitimate medical uses go beyond what the state currently allows.
Criminal justice reform
Williams said he viewed the confiscation of civilian assets as a violation of constitutionally guaranteed rights.
“It’s a huge due process problem,” he said. “I think that asset forfeiture should absolutely be linked to criminal convictions.” Even though governments cash in billions of dollars through the confiscation of civilian assets, “that does not justify taking someone’s property before they are convicted of a crime.”
His take on qualified immunity is slightly different. He thinks the police should have qualified immunity or, as he said, “the protection of the Constitution”. He explained that the immunity is qualified, not general, that the police can be held responsible if they break a law or knowingly violate the rights of others.
“There has to be a clear violation of the Constitution for them to be denied qualified immunity.”
Williams is married with four children and lives in Concord Township.