In matchups between a longtime incumbent and a fresh challenger, voters can be tempted to go with the new just for the sake of change. Let's hope that's not the case in the 33rd House District, where Republican Gerry Vaerewyck wants to replace 11-term Democratic Rep. Frank Dermody.
The two men, now opponents for the second time, agree on some key issues, but, on one in which they part company, we have a concern about the newcomer in the district comprised of East Deer, Fawn, Frazer, Harmar, Harrison, Indiana, Springdale Borough, Springdale Township, West Deer, Brackenridge, Cheswick, Oakmont, Tarentum and part of Plum.
Mr. Vaerewyck, 50, is a licensed professional engineer and co-owner of a small New Kensington business that makes lasers. He's been a township supervisor in West Deer for the last year.
He and Mr. Dermody agree that drivers' license and vehicle fees must be raised to fix roads, bridges and transit. They see adequate funding for public education as the first step in creating jobs and a strong economy. They want to see uniform treatment of property assessment statewide. And they fault the Marcellus Shale drilling law for giving local towns little control.
While Mr. Vaerewyck makes a pitch for strong science, technology and math education in public schools, he reduces its chances by also advocating taxpayer-funded tuition vouchers to send children to private schools.
Mr. Dermody, 61, of Oakmont, knows Pennsylvanians can't afford to fund a second education system, which is why he's been vocal about adequately funding the first. His years of service and leadership on such issues have given him clout with both parties, and in 2010, with his party in control of the chamber, Mr. Dermody was majority whip. If the Democrats take the House back next year, he could hold an even higher leadership position, which would benefit Allegheny County.
This is not the time to replace a skilled and articulate lawmaker with a freshman. The Post-Gazette endorses Frank Dermody for re-election.