Voters in the 16th House District are fortunate. They have two smart candidates vying to represent them in Harrisburg. The question is which to send.
Republican Kathleen Coder, 53, is on Bellevue's council and the founder of a leadership development and training consultancy. Her background as a council member has taught her to cross party lines to solve problems and to understand the interdependence of cities and suburbs.
Democrat Robert Matzie, 44, is the incumbent from Ambridge seeking his third term in the state House of Representatives. He, too, has local government experience, having served his borough as mayor and as a member of the planning commission and redevelopment authority.
Although both candidates showed themselves to be articulate and informed during an interview with Post-Gazette editors, Robert Matzie has the edge over his challenger by virtue of experience.
He, too, has the ability to work with both Democrats and Republicans. Although his party is now in the House minority, he worked to generate Democratic votes for Gov. Tom Corbett's incentive program for the Shell Oil "cracker" plant proposed for Beaver County. He also tried to drum up Democratic support for the Keystone Opportunity Zone to attract jobs and businesses.
Ms. Coder and Mr. Matzie are not far off philosophically. Both would vote for higher driver's license and car registration fees to fix roads, bridges and transit; both favor efforts to reduce the school property tax by raising other taxes; and both oppose abortion and new gun laws.
Both say they favor strong funding for public schools, and Mr. Matzie clearly has voted that way. But Ms. Coder says she also supports vouchers that would send public dollars to private schools -- in effect, a second taxpayer-funded education system.
The candidates also differ on their views toward the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry. Rep. Matzie would have preferred a higher tax on drilling, similar to the rates of other states, and he favored more local control over where to put well sites. Ms. Coder was fine with the impact fee that was written into law and, despite the concerns of fellow local officials over drilling control, said, "I'm not sure it's wise to have them make these decisions."
We think there's plenty to distinguish these candidates in the district that includes Bellevue, Crescent, Bell Acres, Leet, Leetsdale and parts of Franklin Park and Ross in Allegheny County, plus Aliquippa, Ambridge, Conway, Baden, Harmony and part of Economy in Beaver County.
Robert Matzie has been consistent in looking out for his constituents and deserves re-election.
Correction/Clarification: (Published 25, 2012) Kathleen Coder is a member of Bellevue Council but no longer its president. An editorial Wednesday on the 16th House District race misstated her title.