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Baldwin-Whitehall Patch: 2012 Election Guide

Brush up on local candidates in time for Nov. 6.

Baldwin-Whitehall Patch: 2012 Election Guide

UPDATE: Libertarian Party Will Appear on PA Ballots (as will a Green Party entry for President/Vice President)

UPDATE: Read here for a list of polling places and times in Baldwin-Whitehall.

UPDATE: Here are the results of races in the  Pennsylvania Legislature that affect Baldwin-Whitehall residents. And here are results from federal/statewide races.

As we look ahead again to November's elections, the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch remains devoted to bringing you the information that you need about every race in town. Here's a rundown of some of the candidates and issues that we'll be covering as November draws near.

Erin Molchany vs. Chris Cratsley for PA House 22nd District

One of the biggest races in Baldwin-Whitehall in November will be between Democrat Erin Molchany and Republican Chris Cratsley, who will compete to represent Pennsylvania's 22nd House District, including all of Baldwin Township and parts of Whitehall Borough.

Molchany, of Pittsburgh's Mount Washington neighborhood, pulled off a bit of an upset by defeating former Baldwin-Whitehall School Board member Martin Michael Schmotzer in April's Democratic primary race. Cratsley, meanwhile, was uncontested in winning the Republican nomination. He lost to Schmotzer in a special election at the same time, however, to fill the once-vacant 22nd District seat.

Can a Republican possibly win  Pennsylvania's 22nd House District? Cratsley, of the Overbrook neighborhood, with far less name recognition than Molchany, will try to do just that.

D. Raja vs. Matthew Smith for PA Senate 37th District

The path for Republican D. Raja, of Mt. Lebanon, to the Pennsylvania Senate's 37th District seat, became harder when Democratic state Rep. Matthew H. Smith, also of Mt. Lebanon, announced in July that he would run against Raja in November.

The 37th District includes all of Whitehall.

Because of the state Democratic Party's special nomination procedure, which allows Democratic committee members to fill ballot vacancies, Smith, who currently serves the state's 42nd House District, will appear on the ballot opposite Raja.

The winner of the Raja-Smith election will fill the seat vacated by former Sen. John Pippy, who resigned on July 1.

No Democrat officially sought Pippy's seat during a spring primary. Former Democratic candidate Greg Parks, who was running as a write-in, dropped out of the race in June.

Raja won the district's Republican primary for the nomination. The software company CEO lost his 2011 bid to become Allegheny County Executive to Democrat Rich Fitzgerald. 

Tim Murphy vs. Lawrence Maggi for U.S. House 18th District of PA

Tim Murphy is seeking his sixth term as the representative of the  U.S. House's 18th District of Pennsylvania, which includes all of Whitehall.

Murphy, of Upper St. Clair Township, defeated Evan Feinberg in April's Republican primary.

Democrat Lawrence Maggi, a Washington County Commissioner from Buffalo Township, ran uncontested in April and now faces Murphy in November.

Mike Doyle vs. Hans Lessmann for U.S. House 14th District of PA

Incumbent Mike Doyle earned his party's nomination for the U.S. House's 14th District of Pennsylvania, which includes all of Baldwin Township and Baldwin Borough, when he beat out fellow Democrat Janis Brooks in April.

Doyle, of Forest Hills Borough, is serving in his ninth term in the U.S. Congress and has been the 14th District representative since 2003.

Republican Hans Lessmann, also of Forest Hills, ran uncontested in April and now faces Doyle in November. Lessmann has an optometry practice in Edgewood Borough.

Harry Readshaw Uncontested for PA House 36th District

Democrat Harry A. Readshaw, a funeral director from the Carrick neighborhood, has been the representative for  Pennsylvania's 36th House District, which includes parts of Baldwin and Whitehall boroughs, since 1995.

He is running uncontested in November.

William Kortz Uncontested for PA House 38th District

Democrat William C. Kortz II, a Dravosburg Borough resident and a veteran of the steel industry, has been the representative for  Pennsylvania's 38th House District, which includes parts of Baldwin Borough, since 2006.

He is running uncontested in November.

Jay Costa Uncontested for PA Senate 43rd District

Democrat Jay Costa, of Forest Hills, was elected to the state Senate in 1996 and has served four consecutive terms for Pennsylvania's 43rd District, which includes all of Baldwin Borough.

Before joining the Senate, he was a register of wills in Allegheny County, and for five years in the 1980s, he was the deputy sheriff of Allegheny County.

He is running uncontested in November.

*Baldwin Township's state Senate seat ( 42nd District) is not being contested this year. The current state senator for Baldwin Township is Wayne D. Fontana.

Key Local Issues

Property Tax Reform

Former Pennsylvania 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 right now, which would eliminate a school district's ability to levy a property tax, replacing that funding with an increase in sales and personal income taxes statewide.

The  state House Finance Committee tabled that Property Tax Independence Act months ago, but the issue is not likely to go away.

Sponsored by Rep. Jim Cox (R-Berks County), the measure would make the statewide sales tax at least 7 percent 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 state sales tax would be taxable under this new 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—House Bill 11—is sponsored by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Bradford Woods Borough).

"House Bill 11 is about divestiture," Turzai said. "(It) is about the consumer. It is about reasonable prices and better selection and more convenience. It is about upgrading law enforcement. It is about moving from a public sector dinosaur into the modern 21st century."

Only two U.S. states, Pennsylvania and Utah, have complete control of all aspects of wine and spirits distribution, according to  a report that Corbett'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 that 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, and two Pennsylvania chapters of the  United Food and Commercial Workers, representing state store employees, also oppose the bill, according to the 90.5 radio story.

"The  Independent State Store Union (ISSU) 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.

Marcellus Shale

Baldwin-Whitehall residents are paying close attention to this energy resource, which can be found throughout Pennsylvania, especially since South Hills Country Club has leased part of its land to Chesapeake Energy to allow high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing in Whitehall.

Marcellus Shale presents a large opportunity for Pennsylvanians to add jobs and revenue to the state, but hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is a controversial component of Marcellus Shale natural-gas drilling that has been linked to  dangerous levels of pollution.

The recent passing of a joint bill by the Pennsylvania Legislature that amends the state's Oil and Gas Act to allow drilling in all municipal zones—also known as  Act 13—trumps any "fracking" ban that Whitehall, Baldwin Borough or Baldwin Township could enact.

However, the  Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in July struck down local zoning provisions of Act 13 as unconstitutional. But that decision has since been appealed.

Because "fracking" near homes could adversely affect the property values of those homes, how difficult some local politicians make it for drillers to do business will go a long way toward determining those politicians' electability.

Read  more on local Marcellus Shale drilling here.

President Barack Obama vs. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

History

Pennsylvania has delivered its 20 electoral votes to the Democratic nominee for U.S. President in each of the past five elections, and if current polls hold steady, incumbent  Barack Obama will make it six in a row in November.

Obama has not taken Pennsylvania's support for granted and has made several trips to the western Pennsylvania area in the past several years, even going as far as choosing Pittsburgh to host the G-20 summit in the fall of 2009. In his most recent , the president lobbied for his $447-billion  American Jobs Act, or Obamacare, which continues to face an uphill battle in a Republican-controlled Congress.

The president has also sent what many consider to be his most potent weapon, his wife, to shore up support in the Pittsburgh area. First Lady Michelle Obama visited with service members of the  911th Airlift Wing and  171st Refueling Wing in April. Vice President  Joe Biden also visited Moon Township in May.

Mitt Romney is no stranger to the Pittsburgh region, either, even though some experts suggest that the Republican presidential nominee seems to place little importance on winning votes in Pennsylvania.

Romney visited Pittsburgh for a fundraiser in October 2011. 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 to $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 about one month later, criticizing the president for the nation's unemployment rate during a visit to a family-owned manufacturing plant in O'Hara Township.

Key Issue

The No. 1 issue for western Pennsylvania voters, as with many voters across the country, is jobs and the sluggish economic recovery.

Obama continues to campaign for the American Jobs Act, which his administration 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 of dollars into roads, rails, airports and waterways.

The president blames Congress for not doing enough.

Congress "hasn't acted fast enough," Obama told his supporters at a recent rally. "Congress," he said, "can't just sit on their hands."

Romney—the former Massachusetts governor—and other Republicans suggest that 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 website, Romney blames the president's policies for a lack of job growth.

"We can count the vast expansion of costly and cumbersome regulation of sectors of the economy, ranging from energy to finance to health care," Romney said. "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."

U.S. Senator for Pennsylvania: Bob Casey vs. Tom Smith

Incumbent Democrat Bob Casey of Scranton, Lackawanna County, faces a well-funded challenge from Republican Tom Smith of Shelocta Borough, Indiana County, in the race for one of Pennsylvania's two  U.S. Senate seats.

Casey, one of eight children of the late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey, is a former teacher and attorney. He won his Senate seat in 2006 after defeating incumbent Rick Santorum, a conservative Republican.

Prior to entering the Senate, Casey served two terms as  Pennsylvania's auditor general—from 1997 to 2005. Barred from seeking a third term as auditor general, Casey ran for and won the  state treasurer's seat in 2004.

Smith is a native of Armstrong County. He ran his family's farm in Elderton Borough and worked in a local mine after high school. He then later bought and operated a mine until 2010.

Smith began his political career as a Democrat and once won a seat on the Plumcreek Township Board of Supervisors. In 2010, however, the longtime conservative changed parties and helped to found a Tea Party group in Indiana and Armstrong counties.

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