39th House District: Levdansky for the Dems, D'Alessandro for the GOP
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If political campaigns were boxing matches, former state Rep. David Levdansky would be the former champ trying to regain his crown after a stunning knockout. First he must defeat a strong opponent for another title shot.
The judges in this fight will be the Democratic voters in the 39th Legislative District, which includes Clairton, Forward, South Park, Elizabeth Borough, Jefferson Hills, West Elizabeth and part of Elizabeth Township in Allegheny County, plus Nottingham, Union, Finleyville, New Eagle and part of Carroll in Washington County.
Although the district has about two Democrats for every Republican, it was a Republican, Rick Saccone, who stopped Mr. Levdansky's 26-year House career cold in the 2010 election. Clearly, some constituents had grown tired of him.
To what extent those feelings linger will determine whether Mr. Levdansky, 57, gets past his primary challenger, Rob Rhoderick, who ran for this seat six years ago.
Mr. Rhoderick, 41, of Forward, is a chiropractor, a member of the Elizabeth-Forward school board and a former aide to state Rep. Bill Kortz, experiences that have made him knowledgeable on the issues.
While he is generally against raising taxes, he recognizes that more revenue is needed and supports the governor's transportation funding commission recommendations, which include raising the cost of car registrations and driver's licenses. On property assessments, he says there has to be a better way and favors House Bill 1776, which would replace the school property tax with higher sales and income taxes.
A sports enthusiast, Mr. Rhoderick is skeptical of efforts to restrict access to firearms. Mr. Levdansky, a hunter and gun owner, has gotten an unfair rap for supporting sensible bills, like the lost-and-stolen-gun reporting rule aimed at keeping illegal weapons from criminals.
Indeed, Mr. Levdansky, in his 13 terms in the House had a record of supporting enlightened measures, from greater lobbyist disclosure to campaign finance reform. He is a strong proponent of funding transportation and education, but is wary of shifting off the property tax under HB 1776, only to have basic necessities subject to sales tax.
On our card, this call goes to David Levdansky, the district's past champion who deserves another shot.
Before Rick Saccone, the district's Republican freshman, can go another round with a Democrat to win a second term, he first must defeat a challenger of his own. The bad news for him is that she is an excellent contender -- smart, principled and assertive.
Shauna D'Alessandro, 55, of Jefferson Hills, is a certified public accountant and runs her own small business. She has a knowledge of finances that most other legislators lack and she also knows about public service from her eight years as a member of the West Jefferson Hills school board, three of those years as president.
She accuses her opponent of having no plan for jobs -- which she calls the No. 1 issue. She says she would have passed a resolution calling 2012 the Year of Creating Jobs -- a dig at Mr. Saccone's controversial measure making 2012 the Year of the Bible. Legislators have better things to do, she insisted, adding that "I'm a devout Catholic ... but people aren't electing me to be their minister."
Calling herself a "common sense conservative," Ms. D'Alessandro said her jobs plan is about reducing taxes to spur businesses. While she would have voted for the recent Marcellus Shale bill, she would have pressed harder for more local control.
With her experience as a school director, she would be a strong advocate for education. "If you are not pro-education, you are not pro-jobs," she says. She also is a firm advocate of gun owners' rights.
Mr. Saccone, 53, a former Air Force captain who became a college professor, declined the Post-Gazette's invitation to meet with editorial writers along with his challenger.
Shauna D'Alessandro's intelligence, manner and emphasis on education would help her attract swing voters in the fall. That's why she is the choice for Republicans in the spring.
First Published April 13, 2012 12:00 am