N. Versailles pastor wants rematch with Doyle for 14th District House seat
By Patrick Cloonan
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 4:26 a.m.
As the filing begins for candidates in the May 20 primary, a repeat contest looms for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House from the 14th District.
The Rev. Janis C. Brooks, 64, of North Versailles Township, has announced that she will challenge incumbent Mike Doyle of Forest Hills in a rematch of their 2012 primary battle.
“The best way to campaign is to be effective in doing my job,” Doyle, who is seeking an 11th term, said on Tuesday.
“I have brought hundreds of millions of dollars to that district.”
Doyle said he “articulates the hopes and desires of the district every day in Washington.”
Brooks is pastor of the Church of Inclusion International Ministries, and founder of Citizens to Abolish Domestic Apartheid.
“I know what it is like to struggle, have my income dwindle, pay property taxes, to put children through college while on disability income, and be concerned about paying high utilities,” Brooks, who could not be reached for comment, wrote on her website.
In a district with a 3-1 ratio of Democrats to Republicans, there is no indication that any GOP candidate will run. Doyle defeated Dr. Hans F. Lessmann in the 2012 general election.
Doyle said seniority gives him the ability to do things that a new lawmaker couldn't.
“The region still has challenges and needs,” Doyle said. “They all deal around the economy and increasing employment and opportunity.”
If re-elected, Doyle could rise to a leadership position on a subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee dealing with telecommunications and the Internet.
“It is the premier authorizing committee on Congress,” Doyle said. “I've been on the committee for 14 years.”
In a way, he still is a rookie.
“We have a member of the committee who has been in Congress for 55 years,” Doyle said. “Our chairman has been in Congress 36 years.”
Doyle received national attention when the publication Roll Call speculated about his retirement and that of other Pennsylvania lawmakers.
“It was not based on any reality or any information that we were not considering running,” he said. “I think it got taken a bit out of context.”
Doyle said it was a “what if” story that took off from speculation about Hillary Clinton's possible run for president in 2016.
Tuesday was the first day for candidates to circulate and file nomination petitions for the primary. The deadline for filing with state election officials is March 11.
In Allegheny County, the elections division will accept only petitions for party committee seats.
“I enjoy representing the district I grew up in and I think there is a lot of work to be done,” said Doyle, 60, whose father and grandfather were steelworkers. He went to Penn State and had a small business and a council seat in Swissvale.
A quarter-century ago, he was chief of staff to Republican state Sen. Frank Pecora of Verona. They switched parties when reapportionment moved Pecora's district out of Allegheny County.
Doyle was elected to Congress in 1994 from the old 18th District, succeeding Penn Hills Republican Rick Santorum, who moved on to the Senate.
Beginning in 2003, Doyle's 14th District was redrawn to include Mon-Yough towns.
When the map was redrawn for 2012, the 14th was expanded out of Allegheny County to New Kensington and Arnold in WestmorelandCounty.
“It is basically 75 communities,” Doyle said. “And it is across the entire gamut. Some are older, some are doing quite well, some are struggling.”
Doyle said his contributions to an Energy Innovation Center in the former Connelly Trade School in Pittsburgh is among his achievements.
He said the center aims to help young people who aren't going to go to college to get training for work in advanced manufacturing and energy fields.
Another issue in the 14th is an aging infrastructure, “the locks and dams along the Monongahela River, roads and bridges and water and sewer systems that need to be upgraded,” Doyle said.
He said the cost of correcting storm sewer problems is “beyond the wherewithal of local government” and he seeks to make the federal government “a partner with the local communities (to) reduce the amount of water going into these systems.”
Brooks stands on 15 issues listed on her website, from income inequality and genetically modified foods to education and the economy.
“Additional policies must be developed that will assist American workers to compete globally without giving unfair advantage to foreign businesses,” Brooks said.
She favors “redevelopment of local communities, such as in Braddock ... to encourage vibrant economic growth.”
Doyle and his wife Susan have four children. Brooks has a daughter who is a medical researcher and a son who is a physicist and engineer.
Brooks' mother was a social worker. Her father held jobs as a craneman, a part-time North Versailles police officer and a school bus driver.
Brooks has a doctorate in public administration from the University of Pittsburgh and degrees from Clarion University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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