39th House District: Levdansky offers forward-thinking leadership

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Voters in the 39th House District will be treated to a rematch Nov. 6 between Democrat David Levdansky of Forward and the Republican who ousted him two years ago, Rep. Rick Saccone of Elizabeth Township.

In the Legislature Mr. Levdansky was known for not being afraid to buck party leaders. Despite that independent streak, Mr. Saccone defeated him by a razor-thin margin.

On the issues, the contrast between the candidates is sharp and residents should have no difficulty choosing in a district that covers Clairton, Forward, South Park, Elizabeth Borough, Jefferson Hills, West Elizabeth and part of Elizabeth Township in Allegheny County, plus Nottingham, Union, Finleyville, New Eagle and part of Carroll in Washington County.

Trouble is, the issues aren't getting as much attention as they should. Mr. Saccone, 54, is attacking Mr. Levdansky, 57, for receiving a state pension to which he contributed during his two decades in the House. Yet Rep. Saccone is now on the state payroll himself, and after two decades in the Air Force he, too, has received plenty of paychecks and benefits from the public.

Although Mr. Levdansky met in person with Post-Gazette editorial writers, the incumbent declined, saying he would take questions only by phone. Voters must ask why Rep. Saccone, an elected official paid by the taxpayers, refused to sit down and discuss his legislative record.

Perhaps he was afraid that it would show he gave away the store to the Marcellus Shale drilling boom by favoring impact fees on the industry over a severance tax like those in other states. Mr. Levdansky said that, as a result, Pennsylvania missed a chance to have the industry pay more of its fair share of taxes.

Perhaps Mr. Saccone did not want to appear in lockstep with a lobby like the National Rifle Association, which fights common-sense gun bills in Pennsylvania. Mr. Levdansky, a hunter and an NRA member, defends Second Amendment rights but also favors closing loopholes that can put powerful weapons in the wrong hands.

Perhaps Mr. Saccone did not want to discuss the bill he had pushed to abolish the school property tax by raising other taxes, now that a state study shows it would have fallen $1.5 billion short in funding public schools. Or maybe he didn't want to talk about the bill he sponsored proclaiming 2012 The Year of the Bible in Pennsylvania.

Other issues separate the candidates, and on most Mr. Levdansky espouses a more sensible view -- believing that higher license and registration fees should help fix roads and bridges and that women should not be forced to undergo an ultrasound test (favored by Mr. Saccone) before an abortion.

With this kind of incumbent, it's back to the 1950s. Voters in the 39th District can move forward by returning David Levdansky to the House.

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