50th District candidates ready to move on from scandal
For the first time in 36 years, H. William DeWeese of Waynesburg will not be listed as a candidate for the 50th District of the state House, which includes Greene County and portions of Fayette and Washington counties.
Voters have a choice between Greene County Commission Chairwoman Pam Snyder, a Democrat, or Waynesburg Councilman Mark W. Fischer, a Republican.
Neither candidate speaks much about DeWeese, 62, the disgraced former Democrat Speaker of the House whose name was stripped from the ballot after he was convicted of corruption charges last spring.
DeWeese was elected in 1976 and resigned the day he was sentenced. He is serving a 2 1⁄2-to-5-year sentence in a state prison in Dauphin County.
Both candidates believe it's time to move forward.
“People are angry and fed up. Things need to change, and we need to go in a different direction,” said Fischer, who with his wife, Tammy, operates an antiques store in downtown Waynesburg.
Snyder, who is serving her ninth year as a county commissioner, worked for eight years as deputy district director for the late U.S. Rep. Frank Mascara of Washington County. She believes her experience and contacts with various governments and agencies will best serve the district.
Snyder, who unsuccessfully challenged DeWeese in the 2010 primary, said Democrats last summer approached her to run to fill DeWeese's position on the ballot.
“It's hard not to step up when you're asked. I was born and raised here and have spent my whole life serving this community,” Snyder said.
Although Fischer must overcome a more than 2-to-1 Democratic registration edge, he believes the atmosphere this political season makes it realistic.
“First, you have Obama's ‘war on coal' that people here are very angry over, and I've had a lot of people — lifelong Democrats — come up to me throughout the district and say they are just going to punch straight Republican this year,” Fischer said.
“Pam's got a legacy ... a history of big government. She is a partisan political player and will have a lot of debts to repay if she is sent to Harrisburg,” Fischer said.
As an example, he said, political patronage is the only reason the state liquor store system is still in place and has not been privatized.
“If I am elected, I will carry no baggage to Harrisburg and will truly serve the people of my district ... not the special interests that she is tied with,” he said.
Fischer noted that he has worked in government and in the private sector, while Snyder's entire career has revolved around government positions.
Snyder countered that her history in public service demonstrates she will not be obligated to any single organization or affiliation.
“I make my decisions based on what best serves the people in this district. I've always listened to all ideas with an open mind,” Snyder said.
She agreed with Fischer's view that the district's constituents are generally conservative but maintains that she is, too.
“The purpose of government is to protect the health, safety and welfare of people. Look at the impact of Sandy last week,” Snyder said. “Could you imagine the chaos that would have ensued if government was not there even to coordinate emergency efforts?
“My opponent believes government should have no role in these matters,” she said.
The 50th District includes all of Greene County; East Bethlehem and Centerville Borough in Washington County; and Brownsville, Masontown and Point Marion boroughs and German and Luzerne townships in Fayette County.
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.