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Redistricting spurs faceoff for Democratic state Reps. Molchany, Readshaw

| Monday, March 10, 2014, 10:57 p.m.

With a click of a button on the floor of the state House of Representatives, Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick, and Rep. Erin Molchany, D-Mt. Washington, made their differences known.

A $2.3 billion transportation funding bill was on the table on Nov. 21, propelled by uncapping a wholesale tax on gasoline. Support came from both sides of the aisle, yet opposition was widespread.

Molchany voted for the bill, Readshaw against it.

The two legislators are running against each other in the 36th District, which covers southern Pittsburgh neighborhoods, Mount Oliver and extends into Baldwin and Brentwood.

They face off as a result of newly redrawn district lines that put Molchany's address inside Readshaw's district, and moved her legislative seat to the growing Lehigh Valley. On May 20, voters will decide between two candidates at opposite ends of the Democratic spectrum: Molchany, an up-and-coming progressive, and Readshaw, a 10-term legislator with conservative leanings.

“With becoming a senior member, there's advantages,” he said. “Plus, all the knowledge and friendships you've built up over the years, you can use to help your constituents.”

Readshaw considers himself a fiscal conservative and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. The transportation bill, he said, was among the most significant votes the House took in years.

“I'm not for taxing the people unless there's no other alternative,” he said. “It just grieves me to do this to people.”

At 72, he partners in the third-generation family business, Readshaw Funeral Home on Brownsville Road.

He has backing from local labor unions, including the Allegheny Labor Council. Ralph Sicuro, vice president of Pittsburgh Fire Fighters IAFF Local No. 1, said the union intends to endorse Readshaw, who returns personal phone calls to constituents.

“We think it's very important to continue to support those who support us,” Sicuro said.

Molchany, 36, joined the House in 2013 following a career in nonprofit management, most recently as executive director of the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project, a nonprofit that promotes civic engagement and social networking. She owns a home in Mt. Washington.

She is active among progressive House Democrats. She co-sponsored equal-pay legislation with state Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia.

“While my record is short, I think that there's a clear contrast between my record of Democratic values based on my voting versus my opponent's,” Molchany said.

Molchany said the transportation vote was difficult, but she perceives benefits for Pittsburgh-area residents. Those who use the Port Authority 51 bus through Carrick, for example, would've had longer waits for service.

Molchany has support from elected officials including Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. Readshaw on Sunday won the Allegheny County Democratic Committee's endorsement.

“She really represents the future of what Pittsburgh is becoming,” Fitzgerald said, lamenting the matchup, which he blamed on partisan politics.

The lines are drawn by a five-person committee including House leadership from each caucus and a chairman, who was named by the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Steve Miskin, spokesman for the House GOP, said the relocation of Molchany's district across the state was based on the population shifts from west to east that occurred in the past 10 years.

The boundaries could give Readshaw an advantage: About 70 percent of the new district contains constituents he represents, according to Legislative Reapportionment Commission population data.

Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or mdaniels@tribweb.com.

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