William C. Kortz II, an operations manager at the U.S. Steel Irvin Works plant, has never run for political office before.
But Mr. Kortz, of Dravosburg, was so irritated by the pay grab by state legislators last year that he decided to challenge state Rep. Kenneth W. Ruffing for the 38th House District seat in the May 16 primary.
"We need normal citizens to take a stand," said Mr. Kortz, 51, a candidate endorsed by PACleanSweep, a nonpartisan group that is trying to oust General Assembly incumbents because of the legislative pay raise they voted themselves on July 7. The raise was later revoked.
Mr. Kortz, whom Mr. Ruffing calls a "one-issue candidate," will not have an easy time. The Democratic primary in the 38th District will be a three-person race.
The third candidate is C.L. "Jay" Jabbour, a longtime West Mifflin political figure, who resigned his seat on Allegheny County Council to challenge Mr. Ruffing.
The district includes Dravosburg, Glassport, Liberty, Pleasant Hills, Port Vue and parts of West Mifflin, Baldwin Borough and McKeesport.
Mr. Ruffing, 39, denied an allegation made by both his opponents that he has been nonresponsive to residents of his district.
"That's not true. That is a lie. How come I keep getting elected?" asked Mr. Ruffing, who is seeking his fifth term.
On the controversial pay raise issue, Mr. Ruffing admitted that he voted in favor of the pay raise and took it, and then later voted to repeal it.
He said he donated the pay raise to an autism society because one of his children has autism.
"I think we should move off that," he said about the pay raise vote. "I shouldn't have put that vote up, but I hope people won't judge me on that one issue.
"I don't want to be held accountable on that one vote. Judge me by my record."
Mr. Kortz and Mr. Jabbour say they would like the public to do just that.
Mr. Jabbour, 73, said he has run for the state house five or six times before. He said he has nothing personal against Mr. Ruffing. Both men formerly served on West Mifflin council.
"He is a friend of mine and I am not running with a grudge. But can you tell me what he has accomplished?" asked Mr. Jabbour.
Mr. Ruffing has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Robert Morris College. He received the endorsement of the Allegheny County Labor Council over Mr. Jabbour.
Asked about his achievements in the House, Mr. Ruffing said he's been a minority member, working on education issues and property tax reduction. But he said his main focus is attempting to get a landslide insurance bill passed.
More information about Mr. Ruffing is available on www.pahouse.com/ruffing/.
Mr. Kortz, who is divorced and the father of three children, grew up in Dravosburg and has a bachelor's degree in criminology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is an operations manager in the galvanize department of the Irvin Works, where he has worked for almost 29 years.
Mr. Kortz, said his platform is much broader than just the pay raise issue. He is seeking reform in government, education and economic issues, wants to reduce the size of the Legislature and set term limits.
"I am just an ordinary citizen who is determined to make changes in Harrisburg," said Mr. Kortz, who has been going door-to-door campaigning and showing up at municipal meetings to introduce himself to residents. His platform is outlined on his Web site, www.billkortz.com.
Mr. Jabbour has an associate degree from the former Robert Morris College, served on West Mifflin council for 12 years, including a stint as president and vice-president. Mr. Jabbour also is manager of Riverview Homes Association, a 450-unit cooperative housing complex in West Mifflin.
Mr. Jabbour was the only one of the three candidates who sought and got the endorsement of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, He is counting on help from the Democratic Committee people to do a door-to-door campaign.
He listed improved health coverage, property tax reform and government reform as his main issues.
"We want to bring the trust of the voters back," Mr. Jabbour said. "They have been violated with this pay raise issue."
The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Daniel J. Davis, of West Mifflin, who is making his first bid for the state legislature.
Mr. Davis, 41, is a senior environmental project manager for Robert L. Kimball & Associates, where he has been employed for 18 years. He ran unsuccessfully for a seat on West Mifflin borough council last year.
As many as five Democrats and two Republicans had announced that they would challenge Mr. Ruffing. All but Mr. Kortz, Mr. Jabbour and Mr. Davis dropped out.
Correction/Clarification: (Published May 10, 2006) The 38th Legislative District was inaccurately described in this news story as originally published on April 27, 2006. The district does not include Whitaker and it covers only part of West Mifflin.
Jan Ackerman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-851-1512. Correction/Clarification: (Published May 4, 2006) C.L. "Jay" Jabbour, a candidate for the 38th Legislative District, has an associate degree from Robert Morris College. His educational degree was incorrect in a story in last week's South edition.