Primary 2008/East: Political kinship links candidates against Casorio

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Brian S. Blasko and Susanna Lisotto are Democrat and Republican, respectively. But they have a political kinship.

Each has attempted, and failed, to unseat James E. Casorio Jr. in state House District 56.

Then again, so has everyone who has challenged Mr. Casorio, D-North Huntingdon, during the past 12 years. He is seeking his seventh consecutive term.

Mr. Blasko and Ms. Lisotto are trying again.

Mr. Blasko, 22, of North Huntingdon, is running against the incumbent in the April 22 primary.

Ms. Lisotto, 50, a Penn Hills High School graduate and a Penn Township resident, is the only Republican candidate in this district and will oppose the winner in the Nov. 4 general election.

She is the manager of a hospice agency and a former instructor at Saint Vincent College. Ms. Lisotto ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Casorio six years ago.

Mr. Blasko is attempting another run at the District 56 seat. He said he is upset with the operations of state government, contending that it wastes a lot of money. He believes that an influx of new legislators, and a new mind-set, would benefit the state.

"I have no desire to make a career in politics. I was disgusted with Pennsylvania government -- with reading about one scandal after another -- and wanted to do more than vote," said Mr. Blasko, a 2007 graduate of Seton Hill University and a substitute social studies teacher in five Westmoreland County districts.

"People keep saying they want change. I want to see our tax money put to more efficient and effective use."

Mr. Blasko has gotten the endorsement of the Westmoreland County Democratic committee, a designation Mr. Casorio did not seek. Mr. Casorio, 43, did not respond to several requests for comment about his re-election bid.

Mr. Blasko, an East Allegheny High School alumnus, does not have a wealth of political experience. But what he has belies his relative youth.

In November 2006, during his senior year at Seton Hill, he ran as an independent for this legislative seat. Mr. Casorio got more than 14,000 votes, outdistancing the runner-up, Joel Reiter, a Republican from North Huntingdon, who had about 8,000. Mr. Blasko was third with about 750.

In the North Huntingdon commissioners race in May, he lost to Anthony L. Martino in a three-way bid for the Democratic nod in the 5th Ward.

"I'm feeling significantly better," Mr. Blasko said of his current candidacy. "I feel I'm in a nothing-to-lose situation."

Mr. Blasko called his campaign "underfunded," but he said that doesn't automatically doom him to failure.

"If people want to see improvement [in the Legislature], they will consider their options. They can vote for a familiar name or they can vote for change," he said. "I'm not in this for myself, but the state of Pennsylvania."

District 56 covers the City of Jeannette; parts of North Huntingdon and Penn townships; and Irwin, North Irwin and Penn boroughs.




East editor Rick Shrum can be reached at rshrum@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1911.


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