39th district challenger moves into Elizabeth campaign office
Family, friends and Democratic lawmakers past and present helped Lisa Stout-Bashioum open her 39th Legislative District campaign office on Saturday at 120 S. Third Ave. in Elizabeth.
It opened as well a lively race for a state House seat bridging the Mon-Yough, South Hills and Mid-Mon Valley regions.
“I want to live up to your expectations,” said Stout-Bashioum, 53, a Bentworth school director and mother of six challenging Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, and what she called “the entire Republican attack machine” in the fall election.
“We're running against a well-financed incumbent,” said House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Cheswick. “We will be well-financed, too.”
“It looks like the Democratic attack machine has already started,” Saccone responded.
“I'm a positive person,” Stout-Bashioum said. “I don't want to get ugly. I don't want to get down and dirty. But I don't want them to do that, either.”
Saccone said in May that he expected this campaign “to be much more civil” than his contests with David Levdansky, whom he unseated in 2010 and defeated again in 2012.
His latest foe is the daughter of retired state Sen. J. Barry Stout, D-Somerset Township, who recalled when her teacher asked students what their fathers did for a living.
“He types, he writes letters,” his daughter replied.
Stout was joined by his daughter's husband Bob, daughter Brynne, sons Josh, Same, Will and Ben and stepdaughter Kristy Andrulonis with her husband Jim and son Robbie. Stout-Bashioum's eldest son Jonathan was in Montana and unable to attend.
“It was solely her decision to run,” Stout said. “She is qualified and determined to support the people of the 39th.”
“I see an opportunity for a legacy to continue from the Stout family that has served this district for many years,” said Allegheny County Councilman Bob Macey, D-West Mifflin.
“Without Barry we wouldn't have the Mon/Fayette Expressway or the money we've had for roads and bridges,” said Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg.
“It is a candidate who supports public education,” said Elizabeth Forward school board president Philip Martell. “Mr. Saccone does not support public education.”
Saccone said on Saturday that the Democrats are lying about his record and insisted that the new state budget provides increased basic funding for local school districts.
“He also voted against transportation,” Stout-Bashioum said.
“I did not vote for the gas tax,” Saccone said, referring to the provision in Act 89 of 2013, the transportation finance act, to raise the cap on the Oil Company Franchise Tax, which could raise prices at the pump by 28 cents by 2018. “The Democrats did.”
Dermody said Saccone “has voted with the governor every single time on what is clearly a failed agenda.”
“I did not vote for Act 13 (of 2012, the oil and gas regulation), they did,” Saccone said.
Saccone voted no on the final version of Act 13 but so did all area Democrats except Rep. Marc J. Gergely, D-White Oak.
On the final version of Act 89, Saccone voted no as did Dermody and Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick.
Readshaw survived a May primary in the redrawn 36th District where he was forced to take on and defeat Rep. Erin Molchany, D-Brookline.
“It is more difficult to run against a fellow Democrat,” Readshaw said. “It is easier to show the differences in the general election.”
The redrawn 39th takes out the city of Clairton among other changes but Stout's successor Sen. Timothy Solobay, D-Canonsburg, thinks “it is a competitive district for Lisa.”
“With Tom Wolf running (as Democratic nominee for governor) and the support he is getting it will be interesting,” said Elizabeth Township commissioner and Democratic chairman Dr. Robert Rhoderick. “We have a lot of moderate Democrats who lean Republican. I don't think the turnout will be affected, but people tend to vote for the hometown candidate.”
“If Wolf is elected,” Stout-Bashioum said, “from the top down we can start to address the problems in Pennsylvania.”
She would support a Marcellus shale severance tax to “responsibly alleviate” the tax burden for property owners who pay thousands of dollars to school districts each year.
For 26 years Levdansky of neighboring Forward Township represented the 39th. Family matters were more important than another rematch with Saccone.
“Last year I spent a lot of time with my dad, who passed away in November,” Levdansky said. In February his mother broke a hip.
“She'll be 88 next month,” Levdansky said. In addition, he wanted to spend more time with his sons Josh, who will be 20 in a few weeks, and Tim, now 22, as well as a 36-year-old stepson from his former marriage.
When Stout-Bashioum called Levdansky last spring about running for his old seat, he told her, “If you're interested, go for it.”
Levdansky's former chief of staff Carol Burke said constituents told her that they do not get the service they used to get from her old boss.
“I have offered outstanding constituent service,” Saccone said. “I have a wall of thank you cards from people who used my office.”
Martell said Saccone again will take “boatloads of money from the gas and oil industries.” Saccone said Stout-Bashioum accepted a $5,000 contribution from the Pennsylvania State Education Association teachers union.
According to state records, Saccone has $40,266.83 in campaign funds after the latest reporting period, while Stout-Bashioum has $6,761.51 including the May 22 PSEA contribution.
Stout, now on the Redevelopment Authority of Washington County, had six years in the House and 34 in the Senate when he retired in 2010.
There is a difference between Stout-Bashioum and Levdansky, supporters said.
“Lisa is pro-life, pro-gun,” Rhoderick said.
“Put up a table at the (Washington County) gun show,” Finleyville Mayor Mike Kutsek told Stout-Bashioum. “Show them you are pro-gun.”
Organizations that deal with abortion and Second Amendment issues are more familiar with Saccone.
Stout-Bashioum was not endorsed by LifePAC, an anti-abortion political action committee, while Saccone was.
Planned Parenthood said it did not get a response from Stout-Bashioum regarding her stand on “safe, legal abortion” (Saccone was listed as opposing) and neither responded about “family planning and reproductive health.”
The National Rifle Association endorsed Saccone. Firearms Owners Against Crime listed Saccone but said there was “no suitable candidate” in the Democratic primary.
Kutsek is a longtime Stout family friend, during 26 years as mayor in Finleyville and 40 years until his retirement as a teacher at McClellan Elementary School in Pleasant Hills.
“Lisa's my girl,” Kutsek said. “(Sen. Stout) is the best man in all of Washington County. He built the Mon Valley.”
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.