Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Tough battle for Wagner's District 42 Senate seat -- PG article

Tough battle for Wagner's District 42 Senate seat The campaign has been heated. Diven and Fontana regularly trade shots at public forums and through their advertising campaigns. Mark Rauterkus, a former Democrat and Republican running as a Libertarian in this race, seems to take turns blasting his opponents.

That is a good recap. I'm able to put out my ideas -- and -- I'm willing to knock the lame ideas I see from both the opponents. I've been picking on both equally as hard. And, with luck, neither will slam me.
"He's an independent thinker who will do what he thinks is best for his district."

Bingo. That answer above scares me.

Our 42nd districe needs a senator -- not a city councilman-like, hand-holding-ish, get-your homestead exemption form-filler-outer, reactionary.

Pennsylvania needs a senator who will do what is best for the citizens of the commonwealth -- for the sake of general landscape. This contrast and thought came together within my closing statement on the debate that will be on TV on Sunday at 7 pm on WBGN. Watch for it. The other two gave their identical answer as expressed in the quote above.

We don't need a senator who is only about bringing home the pork. We've tried that style of local government -- and it has not been effective. The state "bailout" is less than it needed to be. The band-aid for transportation is going to fall off in less than two years. The economic development efforts are geared only for the management of decline.

We are broke. The system is broken. We can't be spending what isn't available. The debt -- thanks to past city council efforts it way too high. We can't elect special interest tax and spend career politicians and expect to flourish.

This election calls for a choice of a senator who is going to understand concepts of freedom, justice for all, liberties, -- and being an American in both a modern and classical sense.

Diven and Fontana have been so negative and miss-placed in their priorities in the campaign and in the past half-decade that neither should be rewarded.

This is a short term opportunity. May 17 is a special election to fill the vacant seat. If I win, trust me, they'll be back. Or, someone better will be back from the old parties in seemingly no time at all.

Putting a Libertarian in the PA Senate will send a message that the people of Pittsburgh know how to "think again." We are not satisfied with the same old same old.

Join with me. Wear a button. Come get my CD. Tune into TV 11 tonight at 6:30 pm for Talkback, as I'll be the guest. Tune in -- and tape -- the TV debate, 7 pm on Sunday evening at WBGN.

Spread the buzz.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tough battle for Wagner's District 42 Senate seat

Tuesday, May 03, 2005
By Ed Blazina, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Broken down to its lowest level, the political catfight to replace Jack Wagner in the state Senate is about opportunity.

The race, unfolding in mailboxes and on cable television in the South Hills, North Side, Downtown and western suburbs, features two Brookline residents: Democrat-turned-Republican state Rep. Michael Diven and Wayne Fontana, a Democrat who resigned from Allegheny County Council to join the race.

They are running in a special election to be held in conjunction with the May 17 primary for the 42nd District seat formerly held by Wagner, who was elected state auditor general in November.

For Diven, who changed parties for this election, the race is an opportunity to become part of the majority party in Harrisburg and disassociate himself from the frosty relationship he's had with Democratic leadership.

For Fontana, it's an opportunity to expand on the experience he had on County Council, where he built a reputation as one who strived to build consensus on difficult issues.

But the opportunities are bigger for the state Republican and Democratic parties, each of which could spend $750,000 to $1 million in the race.

On the GOP side, nothing would please the party more than taking another traditionally Democratic seat and continuing its march toward establishing a veto-proof majority in the Senate.

Democrats, on the other hand, look at the race as a chance to rid themselves of Diven, whom they view as a maverick who became a thorn in their side, and to protect what they consider some of their most prized turf.

Both camps concede this Senate seat, with more than a 2-1 Democratic registration advantage, is an unusual battle ground, but all of those opportunities make it attractive.

"If you would have told me five years ago we would be in here fighting to take over Jack Wagner's seat, I would have told you you were nuts," said Ray Zaborney, Diven's campaign manager assigned by GOP leadership in Harrisburg.

"Quite frankly, I don't think the Republican Party would be in here spending this kind of money if we didn't have a candidate like Michael Diven. We're doing it because Michael Diven is an independent candidate with a strong reputation in the community."

The GOP is betting Diven's name recognition and service record in the area will trump the registration numbers and give the party its first Senate seat in the city since the early 1970s.

Democrats are banking on Fontana to stop recent GOP successes before they become a disturbing trend. After Republicans took a seat in the Lehigh Valley in a special election April 5, they held a 30-18 advantage in the Senate. Four more seats would give the GOP the power to override any veto by Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.

"I think the Republicans were emboldened by their success in knocking off a veteran Democrat in Allen Kukovich in the fall," said Teresa Candori, press secretary for Senate Democratic leader Robert Mellow of Scranton, referring to the Westmoreland County Democrat's loss to Republican Bob Regola.

"We're not particularly worried right now. We have a good candidate. It's a long shot for them right now."

State Democrats are relying on the city's strong party organization to manage Fontana's campaign locally, but plenty of state money is funding the effort.

The campaign has been heated. Diven and Fontana regularly trade shots at public forums and through their advertising campaigns. Mark Rauterkus, a former Democrat and Republican running as a Libertarian in this race, seems to take turns blasting his opponents.

Diven, 35, previously worked for the late Allegheny County Commissioner Tom Foerster and served on Pittsburgh City Council before moving to his state House seat in 2001. He angered Democratic leaders by breaking ranks on several key issues, but despite concentrated efforts the party was unable to defeat him last year.

Early this year, Diven cozied up to GOP leaders and agreed to be the party's candidate for Wagner's former seat. Although he believes he could have held the House seat for many years, Diven said, he decided he could better serve constituents as a member of the majority party.

"I put job security aside in favor of making an impact," Diven said. "We're in a situation where we can't get our issues addressed because there's nobody to take them to the majority leadership."

Diven, a graduate of Duquesne University where he studied history and philosophy, said Republican leaders have assured him that if he wins he'll get an audience to push city issues.

Two of Diven's main issues involve creating a pool of state money to buy and sell tax-delinquent property and establishing a central government office building for city, county and school district personnel Downtown. Existing government buildings would be turned into additional Downtown housing.

Fontana, 55, is a real estate broker who previously worked a variety of jobs, including boilermaker and circulation representative at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He supports eliminating property taxes for schools with a combination of sales and income taxes, dedicated funding for mass transit and encouraging municipalities to reduce costs by merging services.

"If we want to bring jobs back, we have to be tax-friendly," Fontana said.

Rauterkus, a swimming teacher who lives on Pittsburgh's South Side, wants to establish a park district to oversee all park property and establish property assessment buffering, which would phase in an assessment increase over several years.

The tone of the campaign has been anything but friendly in recent weeks. Of course, Diven and Fontana each blame the other for "going negative" first. Most of the mailings and cable ads have been paid for through state party committees in Harrisburg.

Although the state Senate has no say in Allegheny County's property assessments, Fontana and Diven each have focused on the issue -- from different perspectives.

Diven criticized Fontana's role as chairman of Allegheny County Council's committee on property assessments and blamed him for property tax and assessment increases over the past six years. One recent mailing featured two unflattering photos of Fontana and said he has "led the charge to raise property taxes."

Diven used the same criticism in cable ads. His ads promoting his candidacy stress his experience and independence but never mention he's running as a Republican.

Fontana, in his own mailing, claims he took on the tough issue of assessments and sponsored bills to grant homestead exemptions and cap assessment increases for 2006. He takes credit for "leading the fight to protect Allegheny County families."

In his cable ads, Fontana has criticized Diven for voting to raise state income taxes and pension benefits for legislators. He also stresses he is the "only Democrat running."

Diven's party switch also is a focal point in the campaign. Former state Rep. Ralph Kaiser heads Democrats for Diven, which includes City Councilman Jim Motznik.

Fontana goes out of his way to say Diven now belongs to the same party as conservatives such as U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and claims he must have promised the GOP he would follow leadership's directions.

"Michael Diven is the same Michael Diven he was six months ago," said campaign manager Zaborney. "He's an independent thinker who will do what he thinks is best for his district."

(Ed Blazina can be reached at eblazina@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1470.)