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Races of local interest will share stage with the big ones

| Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, 12:36 a.m.

After months of television ads, mailings and robo calls, voters will hire their next political leaders when they take to the polls on Tuesday.

While all eyes are on the race for the White House between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, Alle-Kiski Valley area voters have a number of decisions to make to fill other federal and state offices.

The highest-profile races include the U.S. Senate contest between Democratic incumbent Bob Casey Jr., 52, of Scranton and Republican challenger Tom Smith, 65, of Plumcreek, Armstrong County.

Son of the late Gov. Robert P. Casey, Casey Jr. is a former state auditor general and treasurer who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2002. He defeated GOP Sen. Rick Santorum six years ago.

Smith, a former Democrat, owned a coal mining company that he sold two years ago. A millionaire who has largely financed his own campaign, he lives on the family farm.

In the races for Congress, the 12th Congressional District contest between Democrat incumbent Mark Critz, 50, of Johnstown and Republican challenger Keith Rothfus, 50, of Sewickley has been particularly volatile and tight. National Democratic and Republican political organizations have put millions of dollars into the contest, and former President Bill Clinton made an appearance on Critz's behalf.

Critz succeeded the late Rep. John Murtha, Pennsylvania's longest-serving congressman. Rothfus is a lawyer.

In the 14th Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle, 59, is being challenged by Republican Hans Lessmann, 52.

Both men are from Forest Hills. Doyle has been in office since 1995; Lessmann is an optometrist in Swissvale.

In the 3rd Congressional District, Democrat challenger Missa Eaton, 49, a former Penn State psychology professor from Sharon, is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Mike Kelly, 64, of Butler, owner of Mike Kelly Automotive.

Pa. Legislature races

At the state level, the 37th Senate District race between Democratic Rep. Matt Smith and Republican D. Raja will be on the ballot for Valley voters in Fawn, Frazer, Harmar, Indiana, Springdale Township, West Deer, Cheswick and Fox Chapel.

Both men are from Mt. Lebanon and running to fill a seat vacated by former Republican Sen. John Pippy.

A businessman, Raja, 46, mounted an unsuccessful campaign for Allegheny County executive.

Smith, 40, is a state representative in the 42nd Legislative District; he appears on the ballot unopposed for that office as well.

There are seven contested races for Valley area seats in the state House.

Two of the races stand out for how the challengers got on the ballot.

In the 54th District, Democrat Patrick Leyland ran a write-in campaign during the primary to challenge incumbent Republican Eli Evankovich.

Evankovich, 29, of Murrysville is running for a second term. Leyland, 35, of Allegheny Township is a former Kiski Area School Board member.

In the 55th District, Republican John Hauser was selected by his party to challenge incumbent Democrat Joe Petrarca.

Republicans in July chose Hauser, 33, an attorney from Latrobe, to be the party's candidate after primary winner John Palaika withdrew in June.

Petrarca, 51, has been in office since 1995 and succeeded his father, also Joseph Petrarca, who served from 1973 to 1994.

Three of the remaining five Valley area races will be familiar to voters, as they are rematches of contests from the election in 2010.

In the 25th District, Democratic Rep. Joe Markosek, 62, of Monroeville is again facing Republican Mike Doyle, 46, president of Plum Council. Markosek, a 30-year incumbent, defeated Doyle by 1,600 votes two years ago.

In the 33rd District, the race is a rematch between incumbent Democrat Frank Dermody and Republican Gerry Vaerewyck.

Dermody, 61, of Oakmont defeated Vaerewyck for an 11th term two years ago. In 2011, Vaerewyck, 50, won election as a West Deer supervisor.

In the 60th District, incumbent Republican Jeff Pyle of Ford City is being challenged again by Democrat Jo Ellen Bowman of Kiski. Pyle is seeking a fifth two-year term.

In the 30th District, voters will choose between Republican Hal English, 49, of Hampton and Democrat David Tusick, 26, of Fox Chapel.

Both political newcomers, they are vying for the open state House seat vacated by the election of former Rep. Randy Vulakovich to the state Senate.

English is an owner and lawyer in the firm H.A. English & Associates; Tusick is co-founder and a partner of the Optimal advertising agency.

In the 32nd District, incumbent Democrat Anthony DeLuca and Republican Lawrence Paladin Jr. will face off. DeLuca has been a member of the House since 1983.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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