Campaign 2012/South: A race to replace Bill DeWeese
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The race to replace political icon and disgraced Democrat Bill DeWeese as state representative in the 50th Legislative District pits a longtime Greene County commissioner against a first-term Waynesburg councilman.
Democrat Pam Snyder, 56, of Jefferson is serving her third four-year term as chairwoman of the county commissioners and is making her second bid for the Legislative district seat. Republican Mark Fischer, 51, is a first-term Waynesburg councilman making his first attempt at higher office.
Ms. Snyder and Mr. Fischer offer voters in the Nov. 6 election a stark contrast in their political views and background. The seat, held for 19 terms by DeWeese until his public corruption conviction earlier this year, covers Greene and parts of Washington and Fayette counties.
Ms. Snyder has long been a Democratic stalwart and is a lifelong resident of Greene, growing up in Dry Tavern and serving as an aide to the late U.S. Rep. Frank Mascara for nine years before becoming a county commissioner.
Mr. Fischer grew up in East View, Greene County, and his career as a business consultant in the energy industry took him to Florida and West Virginia before he returned in 2004 to Waynesburg. He still works as a consultant and operates Fischer Antiques in Waynesburg.
He also has a diverse political background, having been registered as a Democrat, Republican and Libertarian before returning to the Republican Party. He said he doesn't like the party system because party affiliation "drives everything" and prevents elected officials from making the best decisions. However, he said, it is almost impossible to win an election as a candidate outside the major parties, so he's now a Republican again.
Mr. Fischer said although he's not a formal member of the Tea Party movement, he is "aligned" with its goals of less government regulation and spending. DeWeese represented the district for nearly 40 years, but Mr. Fischer said it is not necessarily a liberal area and he thinks he has been well received.
"I don't think Bill is nearly as left as my current opponent," he said. "People here have a fierce independence."
Mr. Fischer said he considers energy the biggest issue in the district, with Marcellus Shale drilling passing coal as the major employer in recent years. He said drilling company trucks and other equipment have "pounded our infrastructure beyond belief."
He said fees generated under state Act 13 that regulates drilling are as effective as they could be because they can be used for too many items other than infrastructure. Also, he's not in favor of the state establishing zoning for local communities.
Ms. Snyder said she doesn't like the zoning aspect of the bill, either, but she's happy with the revenue from impact fees. The fees began this year and generated $3.1 million for Greene County.
"It's a giant step forward," she said. "For me, any new money so you don't have to raise taxes is a good thing."
On transportation, Mr. Fischer said both parties have not done enough, leaving roads and bridges across the state "a bit of a mess right now." Although he didn't offer specifics, he said the state needs to take a "proactive" approach to care for roads and bridges before they deteriorate.
Ms. Snyder said she supports recommendations in a report from Gov. Tom Corbett's advisory committee that called for raising drivers' license and registration fees but not on lifting the ceiling on gasoline taxes to raise $2.5 billion over five years.
The candidates also differ on state liquor stores. Mr. Fischer called it "ridiculous" that the state operates liquor stores, but the difficult aspect is how to fairly handle state employees. Ms. Snyder said the state's control is important to avoid sales to minors.
Mr. Fischer said one frustrating aspect of the campaign is that Ms. Snyder wouldn't agree to a series of debates. She said they debated before the editorial board of the Uniontown Herald Standard, but there weren't other debates because Mr. Fischer wanted to control the venue and questioners.
"I went toe-to-toe with Bill DeWeese, so I'm not afraid to debate anyone," she said, referring to her candidacy against DeWeese in 2010. But she won't let her opponent set the rules, she added.
Correction/Clarification: (Published October 26, 2012) Greene County Commissioner Pam Snyder supports many of the recommendations Gov. Tom Corbett's transportation commission made last year but not lifting the cap on the Oil Company Franchise Tax. Her position was incorrect in an election preview story Thursday on the House 50th District race.
First Published October 25, 2012 5:29 am