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Political corruption a tough backdrop in Pennsylvania's 30th District

| Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012,
David Tusick, 26, a Democrat from Fox Chapel, is a candidate in the 30th District state House race.
Candidate Hal English, 49, a Republican from Hampton, is vying for the 30th state House seat.

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

Republican Hal English, 49, of Hampton and Democrat David Tusick, 26, of Fox Chapel face off in the Nov. 6 election in the 30th District. Both talked about encouraging jobs by lowering taxes on businesses.

English touted his experience in founding and running his law firm and said lower business taxes lead to jobs.

“It allows business owners to take that next step to hire employees,” said English, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve.

Tusick talked about founding an advertising firm and said he wants to lower the corporate income tax rate and to level the field for all businesses.

“Small businesses should get the same advantages of large companies,” Tusick said.

Vulakovich, a Republican, beat Democrat Sharon Brown in August in the 40th Senatorial District. Republican Jane Orie, who is serving prison time for using her state-paid staff for political gain, formerly represented the 40th. Former state Rep. Jeff Habay occupied the 30th House seat before his 2006 conviction for crimes similar to Orie's.

Those convictions are important pieces of the political landscape, experts said.

“In running in a district like that — where there's a history of corruption — candidates have to be very careful,” said Joseph DiSarro, political science professor at Washington & Jefferson College. “You not only have to argue policy but that your character is above reproach.

“It makes for a tough campaign.”

The hurdle wasn't lost on either candidate, both of whom support ideas such as shrinking the size of the Legislature.

Both also focused on education.

Tusick said state dollars should be moved out of cyber schools and back into brick-and-mortar public schools.

“I think we should be focusing on improving the school districts we have,” Tusick said. “I don't think cyber schools are right for Pennsylvania now. And if we're going to stick with having cyber schools, I think the teachers and the schools should have the same regulations (as traditional schools).”

English said state funding should prioritize grades K-12.

“Colleges need to be fiscally responsible whether it's bricks and mortar or professors' salaries. Education is of course critical, but if you have to allocate (tight money), I would tend to shift to the K-12 side,” English said.

“I would rather develop students in those critical years.”

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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