Campaign 2006: Three seek Lescovitz's open House seat

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Two lawyers, two Pauls, two repeat candidates and two 20-somethings are running in the 46th Legislative District primary. And with Rep. Victor J. Lescovitz, D-Midway, not seeking re-election, it adds up to an open race for the three candidates.

Lawyers Jesse White, 27, and Paul Walsh, 42, are seeking the Democratic nomination. Republican political consultant Paul Snatchko, 29, faces no foe.

Aside from the superficial similarities, there is room to distinguish the candidates. Mr. White, who is making a second run for the seat, said he hoped to avoid fluff and political gamesmanship, such as who placed whose sign in whose yard.

"I am putting myself out there to let people know where I stand. I hope voters see through the circus to the substance," said Mr. White, a former Cecil supervisor.

Mr. White became entangled in a bit of a circus himself in 2004 when he sued Cody R. Knotts, Weekly Recorder publisher, for defamation and libel. One of Mr. White's campaign signs was set afire, and afterward, he charged, a newspaper column about the event indicated he committed arson.

An arbitration board found in Mr. Knotts' favor. Mr. White chose not to pursue an appeal.

Mr. White and Mr. Snatchko are PACleanSweep candidates. Mr. Walsh, who said last summer's legislative pay raises played no part in his decision to run, is not under the banner of the nonpartisan group. PACleanSweep seeks to unseat incumbents because of the pay raise vote. The raises have since been revoked.

In sizing up his first legislative run, Mr. Walsh said, "I think I can make a real difference in the community."

Mr. Walsh points to his experience. He has practiced law for 12 years, serves as a Burgettstown councilman and as solicitor for several boards, including Burgettstown Area School District. He is a former assistant district attorney and onetime court-appointed child advocate.

Mr. Walsh, who has lived in Burgettstown since 1990 but grew up in the Philadelphia area, cites school funding as important. Property tax reform and public education go hand in hand, he said, and the state should play a larger role.

Per-pupil funding should be raised to at least $9,000. There are ways to raise funding, he said, through anticipated gambling revenue, boosting the earned income tax for high wage earners or increasing the state sales tax. However it is done, legislators have to fashion an equitable system, Mr. Walsh said.

He sees emergency responders as an important constituency. Mr. Walsh said he would be a strong advocate for increased funding for police, firefighters and ambulance services.

Mr. Walsh said he was a trained mediator, a useful skill in the Legislature when disputes arise.

Using the slogan, "Real help for real people," Mr. White is concerned about education, seniors' health care, property tax relief and economic growth.

Mr. White said he would like to explore mandatory countywide school districts, a theme Mr. Lescovitz sounded at one time. But, Mr. White said, his proposal differs from the incumbent's plan in that Mr. Lescovitz would have allowed districts to opt out. Countywide districts would allow a broader tax base, he says.

Mr. White, a Cecil native, said he would push for a law requiring districts to spend a certain percentage of their budgets on students. That would ensure money goes where it is needed, he said. While there is no magical formula for eliminating property taxes, he said, he would favor expanding the income tax bracket at the top.

Pennsylvania is diverse. To get real property tax relief, there has to be compromise, and, Mr. White said, he would be willing to work with whomever it takes to enact reform.

Referring to senior citizens, Mr. White said he favored increasing the income level for the PACE drug program. Currently eligible seniors can earn no more than $17,000. Mr. White said he favored raising the ceiling to $30,000 to assist more people.

Mr. White said he supported an economic assistance center where trained professionals could advise people about programs for which they are eligible. A grant writer could aid groups in finding available money.

Although Mr. Snatchko faces no opposition, the New York University graduate and a McDonald native said he is running as if does. This marks his third try for the seat.

"I wasn't going to [run], but when the pay fiasco happened, it really showed how badly we needed change in Harrisburg," he said.

As a former freelance writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and staff reporter for the Washington Observer-Reporter, case investigator for the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission and campaign manager and executive director for county Republicans, Mr. Snatchko believes he brings more diversity to the job than his opponents.

He believes the number one issue is reform of state government. The culture in Harrisburg has to change and the pay raise demonstrated how broken the system is and legislators' arrogance, he said. He would work to reduce the size of the House from 203 to, at most, 175 members.

He supports sprucing up small towns and villages, eliminating property taxes and realigning districts after a census, and he would work to recruit businesses.

"Why is Pennsylvania hemorrhaging young people? We're not making small towns where young people want to live." Mr. Snatchko said.


Lynda Guydon Taylor can be reached at ltaylor@post-gazette.com or at 724-746-8813.


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