46th House District : Democrats should back the contrite Jesse White

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The most formidable opponent on May 20 to state Rep. Jesse White is Jesse White.

The lawyer from Cecil is seeking the Democratic nomination so he can run for a fifth term in the House, where he is one of the most vocal critics of practices used by Marcellus Shale drillers, which he thinks are deficient, and of oversight provided by the state Department of Environmental Protection, which he thinks is insufficient.

As a self-described watchdog on an industry that is booming in his district, he has drawn his fair share of opponents. Unfortunately, Mr. White, 35, provided them with ammunition when he created false identities on the Internet and used the personas to attack those who disagree with him. The effort was childish and dishonest, went on for months and initially was denied by Mr. White. He ultimately admitted the activity and apologized.

The newly drawn 46th District includes Collier, South Fayette, Bridgeville, Heidelberg, McDonald and Oakdale in Allegheny County, plus Canton, Cecil, Mount Pleasant, Robinson, Smith, Burgettstown, McDonald and Midway in Washington County.

Mr. White is hoping Democrats will forgive what he did on the Web and remember the work he has done on the issues of property assessment, the Southern Beltway highway project and in the successful challenge of Act 13, the drilling law that improperly restricted the zoning authority of local municipalities. Despite his strong views, Mr. White correctly opposes the idea of a moratorium on drilling, as does his Democratic challenger, Thomas Casciola, 59, of Cecil.

Whoever wins the party nomination in the primary will face Republican Jason Ortitay in the fall.

In a nod to the small-town nature of politics, Mr. Casciola was one of two Cecil supervisors who gave Mr. White his start in politics, appointing him to his first term as a supervisor in 2003, while Mr. White still was a student at Duquesne University School of Law.

Mr. Casciola has had a long history in public office. He has been a Cecil supervisor for 22 years, sometimes as its chairman; he was a member and president of the Canon-McMillan school board and he has been active in other Washington County quasi-governmental bodies. Nonetheless, he was not well-informed on some of the issues discussed in a meeting with Post-Gazette editors.

But this race boils down to one issue: Jesse WhiteJesse White. He has provided valuable public service through vigilance over the drilling industry, but an episode of bad judgment compromised his effectiveness and drew a challenger from his own party. That opposition is weak, though, and has the Post-Gazette’s endorsement in the primary, provided he has truly rejected the errant behavior that brought him ridicule.

Meet the Editorial Board.

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