Primary 2013/North: District 3 seat open; two seek GOP nod for Allegheny County council

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A lawyer from Shaler, making his third run for Allegheny County Council, faces a businessman and soccer referee from Hampton in the Republican primary.

Lawyer Ed Kress, 41, is running against Mike McMullen, 42, in the race for the GOP nomination for council's District 3 seat. The district includes 11 communities in the North Hills and the Allegheny Valley.

Mr. Kress has served twice on county council. In both cases he was appointed by the county legislature's GOP caucus to replace members who resigned, but he later lost either primary or general election races to hold onto the seat. Mr. McMullen is making his first attempt to win elective office.

Both are members of the GOP state committee.

Mr. McMullen has been self-employed in sales, marketing and political consulting since 1997. He has worked since he was a teenager as a soccer referee at all levels of the sport. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

In a statement on his website, peoplewithmcmullen.com, Mr. McMullen refers to the political value of his experience officiating at sporting events.

"Our property tax system has failed, and nobody has the courage to make the tough call," he wrote.

"I know a lot about making the tough calls."

He says he would lobby the state Legislature to replace the current property tax system with an alternative that could include a higher sales tax, among other options.

"I'm willing to start with a clean slate and consider all solutions," he said.

Mr. McMullen grew up in West Deer and graduated from Deer Lakes High School.

He got his first job at age 11, rising at 5:30 a.m. every day to take care of horses on a farm in West Deer.

He entered the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville, transferred to Pitt-Johnstown after his freshman year and finished his last semester at the Oakland campus.

He worked his way through college, refereeing high school and college soccer matches after an injury ended his playing career.

He has a bachelor's degree in political science with a double minor in history and education.

Mr. Kress is a lifelong resident of Shaler and a graduate of Shaler Area High School. He earned his undergraduate degree at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from Duquesne University. In his general law practice he concentrates on estate and trust work, elder law and real estate.

Following his second appointment to council in April 2011, Mr. Kress has introduced more bills than any other member and saw five of his proposals approved.

"I think I've shown that Republicans and Democrats can work together to get things done," he said.

Mr. Kress said he was running for county office because of his belief in the importance of local government.

Municipal and county officials oversee critical services, and they are the closest and most responsive to the needs of voters, he said.

Mr. Kress described himself as being open to new ideas.

"I don't mind sitting and listening, looking for ways we can make something better," he said.

Mr. McMullen and Mr. Kress agreed with the decision of county council to allow drilling for natural gas on county-owned land at Pittsburgh International Airport.

"We have a chance to move Allegheny County forward and create jobs in many areas," Mr. McMullen said in a statement.

Developing the region's Marcellus Shale gas deposits would create direct employment and provide a boost to other businesses, Mr. Kress said.

"The natural gas industry can support an office building boom Downtown and will provide a new source of good jobs for kids without a college education," Mr. Kress said.

Democrats currently hold an 11-4 advantage on council. Both Mr. Kress and Mr. McMullen pledged to work with members of the opposing party.

That ratio could change if Republicans take the District 3 seat now held by Democrat Jim Burn of Millvale. He declined to run for re-election.

Mr. McMullen said his votes on council would follow a three-priority system.

He would represent the needs of his district first, his conscience second and, finally, his party.

Mr. McMullen said he would focus on reform of the Port Authority, which provides public bus and light-rail service.

He also favors terms limits, pledging to serve no more three four-year terms, or 12 years. "Government needs fresh blood," he said.

"My philosophy is get in, get out and go home."

Mr. Kress pledged once again to look for ways to raise revenue, especially for county infrastructure maintenance and improvement, that would not require increases in any county taxes.

He said he would once again propose a "department of alternative revenues" to explore new options raising funds for the county.

The primary will be May 21. The winner of that contest will face Democrat Mary E. Gibson, 29, a lawyer who lives in Indiana Township.

She is the only Democrat seeking the District 3 nomination.

The county council position is part time with an annual salary of $9,000.

District 3 includes Aspinwall, Etna, Fox Chapel, Hampton, Indiana Township, Millvale, O'Hara, Reserve, Shaler, Sharpsburg and West Deer.

neigh_north

Len Barcousky: lbarcousky@post-gazette.com or 724-772-0184.


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