There was a time when Rep. Joseph Preston Jr., D-East Liberty, was a champion for the 24th Legislative District, which includes Homewood, East Liberty, Wilkinsburg and Lincoln-Lemington.
The fire he demonstrated when he took office in 1983 has diminished considerably over the years. Though the veteran legislator can point to more than two decades' worth of bills and initiatives he's had some hand in, he's increasingly ineffectual and tired. Still, the 64-year-old Lincoln-Lemington resident insists his work in Harrisburg isn't done.
His Democratic challenger Ed Gainey, 42, is determined to write a new chapter. Mr. Gainey is a former community development specialist in Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration who left to run for office. He is endorsed by the Pittsburgh Democratic Committee, of which he is chairman.
Mr. Gainey, a Lincoln-Lemington resident and former aide to Mr. Preston, is making his third attempt since 2004 to unseat his former boss. There are plenty of reasons to believe the incumbent, who has already skipped one of two scheduled debates, should be concerned about Mr. Gainey's energetic challenge. Unlike past races, the field of challengers has been narrowed to one. The anti-Preston vote will be concentrated.
Judging by a bizarre turn of events involving hundreds of nominating signatures he needed to get his name on the April 24 primary ballot, it is obvious that Mr. Preston is holding on by his fingernails. Some 498 of 806 voters' names submitted by the Preston campaign were either thrown out by Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini or withdrawn by the candidate.
At a recent press conference, two constituents whose names appeared on Mr. Preston's petitions insisted that their signatures were forged. Mr. Preston has yet to explain how or why so many of the names on his petition were bogus.
Mr. Gainey is a sharp and thoughtful candidate who appears well-versed on the issues and committed to moving his legislative district forward. He understands that the voters of the 24th Legislative District have lost patience with representation mired in past accomplishments. For this reason and many others, the Post-Gazette wholeheartedly endorses Ed Gainey in the Democratic primary.
First Published April 4, 2012 12:00 AM