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As we look ahead to November’s elections, North Hills Patch is devoted to bringing you information you need about races in town. Here's our start on the candidates and issues we'll be covering as November draws near. Bookmark this page for updates.
President Barack Obama vs. former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Pennsylvania has delivered its 20 electoral votes to the Democratic nominee for President in the last five elections. If current polls hold steady, Mr. Obama will make it six in a row in November.
The president has not taken Pennsylvania’s support for granted and has made several trips to Western Pennsylvania in the past several years, even going as far as choosing Pittsburgh to host the G-20 summit in 2009. In his most recent visit in October of 2011, the president lobbied for his $447 billion American Jobs Act, which continues to face an uphill battle with Republicans in Congress.
The president has also sent what many consider his most potent weapon, his wife, to shore up support in the Pittsburgh area. First Lady Michelle Obama visited with service members of the 911thAirlift Wing and 171st Refueling Wing in April. Vice President Joe Biden also visited the Moon Township base in May.
Mitt Romney is no stranger to the region either, even though some experts suggest the GOP nominee seems to place little importance on winning votes in Pennsylvania.
Romney visited Pittsburgh for a fundraiser in October; the event was closed to the media.
He returned for an April campaign stop in Bethel Park, where he outlined his plans for the economy.
“I’d like to reduce the burden on middle-income taxpayers,” Romney said. “I’d like to see anyone making $200,000-$250,000 or less—which is 98 percent of Americans—save their money tax-free. No capital gains. It’ll make filing taxes a lot easier and people can save money for things they care about."
Romney was back in Pittsburgh a month later, criticizing the president for the nation’s unemployment rate during a visit to a family-owned manufacturing plant in O’Hara.
Also running for President:
From the Libertarian Party: Gary Johnson
and from the Green Party: Jill Stein
The No. 1 issue for Western Pennsylvania voters, as with many others across the country, is jobs and the sluggish economic recovery.
President Obama continues to campaign for the American Jobs Act, which the White House says will prevent up to 280,000 teacher layoffs, allow for the hiring of tens of thousands of police officers and firefighters, encourage the hiring of returning veterans and invest billions into roads, rails, airports and waterways.
He blames Congress for not doing enough.
Congress “hasn’t acted fast enough,” the president told supporters at a recent rally. “Congress," he said, “can’t just sit on their hands.”
Romney and other Republicans suggest the Obama plan is nothing more than a payoff to Democratic constituent groups, particularly organized labor, which would benefit from federal grants to states to keep government workers on the payroll, as well as construction projects to be completed by union job crews.
On his campaign’s web site, Romney blames the President’s policies for the lack of job growth.
“The vast expansion of costly and cumbersome regulation of sectors of the economy, ranging from energy to finance to health care. When the price of doing business in America rises, it does not come as a surprise that entrepreneurs and enterprises cut back, let employees go, and delay hiring,” Romney said.
PA 12th Congressional District
After a bruising and expensive primary battle against fellow Democrat Rep. Jason Altmire of McCandless, incumbent Rep. Mark Critz faces Republican Keith Rothfus of Edgeworth to represent Ross and West View in the new 12th Congressional District.
The redrawn map of Pennsylvania's 18 new congressional districts forced the primary battle by merging Altmire’s 4th District into one new 12th district, currently represented by Critz.
"When Mark Critz first ran for Congress in 2010, I supported him and worked for his election because I knew that his top priority would be to create jobs and fight for the middle class" Altmire said in a press release.
"Through our work together in Congress since that time, I have seen firsthand Mark's continued commitment to Western Pennsylvania's working families."
Rothfus, who ran unchallenged in the primary, takes aim at the Obama administration on his campaign website.
“The big-government policies of the Obama administration have failed to produce a robust and growing economy that adds jobs and lets business flourish,” he writes.
“From the threat of higher taxes, to burdensome compliance costs and mandates and unprecedented levels of government spending and deficits, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress have brought us the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression," he adds. "It is time to change course.”
Altmire defeated Rothfus in the 2010 election in the 4th Congressional District.
Incumbent Democrat Bob Casey, Jr., of Scranton, Lackawanna County, faces a well-funded challenge from Republican Tom Smith of Shelocta, Armstrong County in the race for one of Pennsylvania's two U.S. Senate seats.
Casey, a son of the late Gov. Robert Casey, won the seat in 2006 after defeating former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. Prior to entering the Senate, he served as state auditor general and treasurer.
Smith, a coal businessman and multimillionaire, is a founder of a Tea Party group in Indiana and Armstrong counties.
PA House Seats
Ross Township and West View are carved up into four PA legislative districts.
- District 16
Democrat incumbent Robert Matzie faces Republican nominee Kathleen Coder.
Coder served four years as Bellevue Council president. She is also the founder of Inta-Great, a company that serves as a catalyst for leadership development among private companies, churches, non-profit organizations and schools. Matzie was elected to the state house in 2008. Prior to his election he served as Mayor of Ambridge, and worked as a state senate staffer for 14 years.
- District 20
Democrat incumbent Adam Ravenstahl faces Constitution Party nominee James Barr. On his website, Barr states that he is a student of constitutional history and law, a direct support professional for mentally challenged adults, and former co-owner of the Diane Barr group day care. Ravenstahl won a special election in May 2010 to fill the remaining unexpired term of Don Walko.
- District 21
Democrat incumbent Dominic Costa, a former Pittsburgh Police chief, is unopposed.
- District 30
Democratic nominee David Tusick faces Republican Hal English, who was chosen as the nominee after incumbent Randy Vulakovich won a special election Aug. 7 to the state senate in the 40th district. According to his web site, Tusick founded Optimal, a Pittsburgh based advertising agency, while he was studying marketing and economics at Robert Morris University. English is an attorney and a Marine Corps veteran.
Among the key issues facing the Pennsylvania legislature:
PA Property Tax Reform
In his support of the passage of legalized gambling in Pennsylvania, former Gov. Ed Rendell promised that revenue from slots parlors and gaming tables would greatly reduce or in some cases eliminate property taxes. Years later, that promise remains unfulfilled with the average savings per household at $186 in 2011, according to data from the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations.
There is new legislation, albeit in limbo now, which would eliminate a school district’s ability to levy a property tax and replace that funding with an increase in sales and personal income taxes statewide.
The state house finance committee tabled the Property Tax Independence Act in June, but the issue is not likely going to go away.
Sponsored by Rep. Jim Cox, R-Berks, the measure would hike the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent statewide and raise the personal income tax rate from 3.07 percent to 4 percent. In Allegheny County, the sales tax would rise to 8 percent.
In addition, many goods and services currently exempt from the sales tax would be taxable under the bill, which aims to raise $10 billion to replace the revenue that would be lost by the elimination of school property taxes.
Liquor Store Privatization
Gov. Tom Corbett is trying to do what two of his Republican predecessors, over a span of 30 years, could not: privatize state stores so that private retailers can sell wine and liquor.
The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, failed to come up for a vote in the House in June but could be considered by the legislature later this fall.
"House Bill 11 is about divestiture. House Bill 11 is about the consumer. It is about reasonable prices and better selection and more convenience. It is about upgrading law enforcement," said Turzai when he introduced the measure last July.
"It is about moving from a public-sector dinosaur into the modern 21st century."
Only two states, Pennsylvania and Utah, have complete control of all aspects of wine and spirits distribution, according to a report that the governor's budget office commissioned.
Not everyone agrees that House Bill 11 is the way to go.
"The House Liquor Control Committee passed a version of HB 11, which would leave the Liquor Control Board intact, a major turnaround from Turzai’s original proposal to completely privatize liquor sales," states a story from 90.5 FM Pittsburgh Essential Public Radio.
The union that represents state liquor store managers has lobbied against the bill.Two Pennsylvania chapters of the United Food Commercial Workers, representing state store employees, also oppose the bill, according to the 90.5 radio story.
"The Independent State Store Union says that the bill’s provision to allow beer distributors to begin selling wine will cause the state store system to slowly diminish," according to the story.
The ISSU also opposes the bill.
See More on Patch
- Primary 2013: What Do You Know About the Candidates?
- Ross Resident, Engineer, Seeks Seat on North Hills School Board
- Primary 2013: Two Ross Commissioners Not Seeking Re-election, No New Candidates in West View
- Drozd Seeks Re-election to Allegheny County Council
- North Hills School Director Running for Allegheny County Council