Campaign 2012/South: Jobs and energy issues frame House 49th race

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Republican Richard Massafra came within 1,484 votes of unseating longtime Democratic incumbent state Rep. Peter J. Daley two years ago.

These days, the 51-year-old systems engineer and small-business owner hopes voters in the state's 49th House District, including most of southern Washington County and the Mon Valley in Washington and Fayette counties, will recognize his name and give him a shot at reforming what he believes is wrong in the district and the state.

"Obviously, the economy is a top issue, and jobs," said Mr. Massafra, of Monongahela. "I'd like to see more jobs in our district. Washington County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation for jobs, yet it seemed to pass us by for some reason."

Mr. Massafra said he believes that Mr. Daley, 62, of California, Pa., has served long enough with ineffective results.

The longest-tenured representative in the western half of the state, Mr. Daley is seeking a 16th term in office Nov. 6.

Mr. Massafra said the Mon Valley has been left behind during the past 30 years that Mr. Daley has been in office.

"Since Pete Daley has been in office, we've lost 25 to 50 percent of our population in some of these [Mon Valley] towns," Mr. Massafra said.

But Mr. Daley, who also maintains a law practice, said his track record has been good and it's getting better. He cites the ongoing job creation and economic explosion brought on by natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale industry, the completion of the Mon-Fayette Expressway and thousands of new jobs being created through tax incentives.

As the Democratic chair of the House Commerce Committee for the past six years, Mr. Daley said he's been able to steer projects, such as a proposal to reopen the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel plant in Allenport, which shut down two years ago.

Tax incentives being offered by the state would allow the site to be retrofitted as an ethanol manufacturing plant, generating $42 million for the local economy and creating 2,000 new jobs.

"This could be the shot in the arm that the Mon Valley needs for the next 25 years," Mr. Daley said. "It's big time."

The final leg of the Mon-Fayette Expressway was completed this summer after Mr. Daley said he and other legislators were able to lobby the state Turnpike Commission to fork over $514 million earmarked for property acquisition for the Southern Beltway and instead use the funding to complete the new highway in Washington and Fayette counties.

During his tenure, Mr. Daley said, he has helped to create 300,000 jobs in the district and said he will continue to fight for more if he's sent back to Harrisburg.

"Things are going better and I think we're going to turn the corner soon in all of southwestern Pennsylvania," he said.

Mr. Massafra, though, said the outlook isn't as rosy for small-business owners that he's talked to on the campaign trail. They cite unfair and burdensome taxes as one of the top reasons they can't expand or hire more workers.

"I think lower taxes would help everybody," said Mr. Massafra, who doesn't favor tax incentives to spur economic development. Instead, Mr. Massafra said he would like to see a more equitable tax code and an end to red tape and cumbersome regulations.

"Government needs to get smaller and we need to reduce the tax burden on small businesses and corporations," he said. "Thank God for Marcellus Shale, or we wouldn't be growing at all."

Mr. Massafra favors school choice for parents and believes more support for charter schools and home schooling would help improve the literacy and high school dropout rates

"Let parents decide if their school is failing for them," he said. "Parents know what's best for their child."

If re-elected, Mr. Daley said, he would focus on promoting southwestern Pennsylvania as an energy center with improved clean coal technologies.

"I support anything that is going to support more energy," said Mr. Daley, who pointed out that 60 percent of the nation's energy is derived from coal. "I don't think we have to skewer coal to do that."

But Mr. Massafra said he believes it's time for a change in leadership.

"Nothing has improved since [Mr. Daley] has been in office and we need to turn that around," he said.

About the candidates:

49th House District

Richard Massafra, Republican

Age: 51

Education: Bachelor's degree in manufacturing technology

Occupation: System engineer and small-business owner

Family: Married for 32 years; two children, three grandchildren

Statement: "This election is about the economy, jobs and taxes. My opponent has not addressed these concerns for the young looking for jobs or those on fixed incomes paying higher property taxes. I have a plan to help bring jobs here and lower taxes. I will start reforming Harrisburg by not taking a pension when elected."

Peter J. Daley II, Democrat

Age: 62

Education: Bachelor's degree in social studies and master's degree in political science, California University of Pennsylvania; master's degree in public administration, University of Pittsburgh; Juris Doctor, Widener University School of Law

Occupation: State representative

Family: Wife, Sally (Daugherty); daughters, Talia Daley and Delia Jericho

Statement: "I have a proven record of fighting for my constituents for jobs and for standing up for funding for public and higher education. I am a straight-talking politician who gets the job done. I am a fighter for my constituents and my district -- always have been, always will be."

neigh_south - electionsmunicipal

Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-851-1867.


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