This is the first in a series of candidate endorsements for contested nominations in the May 20 primary. The Post-Gazette will publish a recap of its recommendations on Sunday, May 18.
Next month’s Democratic primary in the state House’s newly constituted 36th District is a contest between the new Pittsburgh and the traditional one, between freshman lawmaker Erin Molchany and 10-term veteran Harry Readshaw.
Rep. Molchany, who was elected two years ago to the District 22 seat previously held by county Controller Chelsa Wagner, represents the new. She’s a 36-year-old Mount Washington resident who came to Pittsburgh in 1995 to attend Duquesne University and stayed after graduation to work with several nonprofit organizations, most recently as executive director of the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Program of young professionals.
An enthusiastic booster for the region, Ms. Molchany introduced legislation that would expand state education grants to community college students, improve pay equity, give patients greater access to their own medical records and better regulate dirt bikes on private property. She is realistic that, as a new member in the House’s minority party, her bills would not advance without significant help and she has reached out to lawmakers from other parts of the state to build support on common ground.
She has garnered the support of a strong political coalition — Mayor Bill Peduto, council members Natalia Rudiak, Bruce Kraus, Dan Gilman and Deb Gross and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
The composition of the new 36th District, however, favors the traditional, with 70 percent of its population coming from the current District 36, where Rep. Readshaw has held office since 1995.
Mr. Readshaw, 72, of Carrick cited his successes in moving legislation, but most of the measures he mentioned during an interview with Post-Gazette editors were adopted years ago. Last year, he cast a disappointing “No” vote on the state transportation funding bill, a measure that was necessary to address Pennsylvania’s deteriorating roads and bridges and aid its mass transit systems.
Mr. Readshaw argued that the bill was a chance for the Democrats “to take charge,” unlikely given that they are outnumbered in the House 111 to 92. In a campaign ad, he characterizes the bill as “Gov. Corbett’s massive gas tax that funds Philadelphia’s mass transit.” The bill did raise the wholesale gasoline tax, which can be passed on to consumers, and it did provide dollars for the Philadelphia system, but it is wrong to characterize the bill in east-vs.-west terms. It also funded Allegheny County’s Port Authority bus and T operations, helping to stave off more service cuts, as well as numerous bridge and road projects throughout the state.
Ms. Molchany — a native of Allentown who has spent her adult life in Pittsburgh — voted in favor of the bill, recognizing that an urban core like Pittsburgh is dependent on having a functioning mass transit system.
The new 36th District includes Brentwood, Mount Oliver, Carrick, Overbrook, Arlington, Bon Air and St. Clair Village plus parts of Baldwin Borough, South Side Flats, South Side Slopes, Mount Washington and Brookline. No Republican is on the ballot, so the primary’s winner is all but assured of election in November.
Although many voters in the district may not know Ms. Molchany, they will find her a forward-looking, fresh addition to the Legislature — a one-term incumbent worth keeping. The Post-Gazette endorses Erin Molchany.