Republican incumbent Keith Rothfus, a lawyer who lives in Sewickley, has spent his freshman term applying his conservative, Tea Party-style philosophy to the faithful service of his party. Some of this zeal is well-directed. Mr. Rothfus, 52, has stressed constituent service and has held more than 60 “coffees with Keith” that were open to the public.
On the flip side, he also voted with the Republicans in the House a year ago to shut down the government, which achieved nothing and cost the treasury billions, for which he blames Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He can’t even promise not to do it again in the future — he says it would depend on the circumstances. He has also voted multiple times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the growing success of which he does not believe.
As it happens, the Democrat, Erin McClelland, 39, of Harrison brings a special expertise in health care to the race, an issue she is passionate about. Having obtained academic degrees in psychology, she started a nonprofit business specializing in addiction treatment. One of her pet causes is reducing medical errors. While she does not pretend that the Affordable Care Act is perfect, she would be a sincere and knowledgeable reformer of it.
Whoever said that all politics is local clearly had the 19th House District in mind.
Democratic state Rep. Jake Wheatley of the Hill District is being challenged by school board member Mark Brentley Sr. of Allegheny West, running as an independent. Both know the district; both are involved in community efforts beyond the scope of their elected offices.
Mr. Wheatley, 42, is seeking his seventh two-year term. Mr. Brentley, 57, who has been on the school board for 15 years, is in his fourth House run. In an interview with Post-Gazette editors, the candidates engaged some statewide issues but were more focused on matters in the district.
Two years ago, the Post-Gazette endorsed state Rep. Rick Saccone’s challenger because the Republican incumbent was out of sync with our positions on various issues.
Since then, we’ve been critical of his proposal to let school districts display the motto “In God We Trust,” and his allegiance to the National Rifle Association on behalf of assorted measures. Earlier, we also opposed his resolution to make 2012 the “Year of the Bible.”
In addition, we disagree with the two-term lawmaker on the need for a Marcellus Shale extraction tax — he’s against it — and the unduly optimistic House Bill 76, which would cut property taxes but could hurt low- and middle-income families with higher sales and income taxes — he’s for it.
But there is no getting around the fact that Mr. Saccone, 56, of Elizabeth Township is an intelligent, articulate advocate for his positions. Those who disagree with the St. Vincent College professor won’t find an equally capable opponent in Democrat Lisa Stout-Bashioum, 53, of Somerset, Washington County.
State Rep. Marc Gergely says he doesn’t want to be a lifer in the Legislature, but he does want another term. The White Oak Democrat discussed why he deserves a seventh term in a meeting last week with Post-Gazette editors, an opportunity his challenger, Republican Kenneth Peoples, refused.
Mr. Peoples, 42, also of White Oak, was unhappy with the Post-Gazette’s decision last year to endorse his opponent over him in their race for Allegheny County Council, but it was an easy call. At the time, Mr. Peoples said he wanted to abolish the 1 percent Allegheny Regional Asset District sales tax, an unqualified success that has contributed to the vitality of big-city and small-town amenities.
But Mr. Gergely, 45, did more than show up for this contest’s interview. He spoke knowledgeably and comprehensively about key issues confronting the state and District 35.
Voters in the 33rd House District have a tough choice on Nov. 4 — stick with a smart, senior lawmaker or take a chance on a bright, thoughtful newcomer. After 22 years in office, Rep. Frank Dermody’s clout in Harrisburg gives him the advantage in serving the Allegheny River Valley.
Republican challenger Sean Watson, 34, of East Deer is a small-businessman who represents makers of sustainable building products to contractors. He said he’s running because he wants the responsibility of making the state better for his children and other Pennsylvanians.
Mr. Dermody, 63, is a Democrat from Oakmont who still enjoys the politics of the job, which he says enables him to help fix Pennsylvania’s problems. He believes the state will have a new governor in January, which would increase the legislator’s influence in the House even if the Republicans keep control.
Democratic Rep. Joseph Markosek has been a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature for 32 years, and his Republican challenger this year gives voters no reason to make a change now.
Mr. Markosek, 64, of Monroeville sits on the powerful Appropriations Committee, where the details of the state’s annual operating and capital budgets are worked out. Like his fellow Democrats, he is limited because Republicans control the House and Senate, but his long experience in the chamber still translates into influence for his constituents and Allegheny County.
His extensive tenure has not dulled Mr. Markosek’s enthusiasm for the work. If he gets his way, the state will start imposing an extraction tax on Marcellus Shale drillers, using some of the dollars it would bring to pay for K-12 and higher education and human services programs. He disagrees with Gov. Tom Corbett’s refusal to expand Medicaid and would have taken the federal dollars that would have come with it.
Republican John Ritter, 60, also of Monroeville, is a computer scientist by training and a contract employee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
Tom Fodi is not a typical candidate. The Republican running in the state’s 20th House District was a Democrat until January, says he is frustrated by “party politics,” describes himself as a small-L libertarian and holds positions that don’t line up well with any of those labels.
He is challenging Adam Ravenstahl, who is seeking his third full term for the seat. Like many Democrats, Mr. Ravenstahl, 29, of Summer Hill is pinning hope for change on having Tom Wolf in the governor’s office, although control of the House — advantage Republicans — is not expected to flip with the Nov. 4 election regardless of who wins at the top of the ballot.
In Harrisburg, the younger brother of Pittsburgh’s former mayor has voted the party line and followed the direction of his leaders. In an interview with Post-Gazette editors, his views sounded all too predictable, with little suggestion of independence or his own ideas.
The Republican Party would really like to see that Democratic state Rep. Jesse White doesn’t get a sixth term. The party is responsible for a series of scathing mailers that rightly criticize Mr. White for his sophomoric stunt last year of creating false identities to take shots at his own critics on the Internet, but wrongly paint him with demeaning labels such as “deranged,” “mean,” “sick” and “demented.”
The GOP should have put more time and attention into a selecting a candidate to challenge Mr. White in the race to represent the 46th District.
Republican nominee Jason Ortitay, 30, of South Fayette, is engaging and an enthusiastic booster for the region, but the business owner — he manufactures cheesecakes for sale by fund-raising organizations — offered few important contrasts to the incumbent, was uninformed on too many topics during an interview with Post-Gazette editors and relied on the old trope of finding waste and improving efficiency to address the state’s budgetary challenges.
The race in the state’s 45th House District offers voters a choice between a dependable, somewhat conservative six-term Democrat and a Republican with a libertarian bent who was recently a Democrat.
Rep. Nick Kotik, 63, of Kennedy, has been concerned about equitable funding for education and supports a possible way to raise revenues — through an extraction tax on Marcellus Shale drillers. He favors, however, a hybrid extraction tax married to the existing impact fee, because municipalities have come to depend on it, and he would not want the tax to be too high.
Republican challenger Benjamin Gross, a corporate attorney from Rosslyn Farms, is mostly in sync with these social views. He too describes himself as pro-life and supports gay marriage and workplace equality. He favors full legalization of marijuana, going further than Mr. Kotik, who is a supporter only of medical use of marijuana.
Try as we might, it is impossible for the Post-Gazette to endorse either Mr. Wolf, the former state revenue secretary who revived his family’s cabinet manufacturing firm, or Mr. Corbett, who was appointed once and elected twice as state attorney general before becoming governor. Despite extensive interviews with the candidates, both of whom are 65, we believe that neither possesses the strong leadership skills that Pennsylvania needs in a chief executive.
Despite his experience as an elected official, Mr. Corbett became governor four years ago as a novice in dealing with the Legislature, and he never figured out how to win the allies and exert the influence he needed to advance most of his agenda. His supporters say deal-making is not in his nature, but they too freely give him a pass that ignores the amount of plea bargaining and other negotiations that are common in the prosecutor’s office. Regardless, his ability to harness the power of a Republican majority in both chambers never matured and now the Nov. 4 election is a stark referendum on him as an incumbent.
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