Kasunic announces retirement from state Senate at end of term
State Sen. Richard A. Kasunic announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of his term.
Kasunic has served 32 years in the Pennsylvania General Assembly as a state representative and state senator.
In 1982, Kasunic was elected to the state House, representing the 52nd District. In 1994, he was elected to the state Senate in the 32nd District, replacing retiring state Sen. J. William Lincoln.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to represent the fine people of our area over the past three-plus decades,” Kasunic said. “This decision was honestly not an easy one, but after much soul-searching I decided that it is time to devote myself to spending quality time with my friends, and more importantly, my family, in this next chapter of my life.”
Kasunic said his biggest regret will be ending a longstanding relationship with his constituents. He said he worked to bring millions of dollars of state aid for water and sewage projects, education, and county economic-development agencies.
“I had a remarkable constituency that repeatedly put their faith and trust in me — and I worked hard to repay that confidence every day,” Kasunic said. “I was always aware that without earning their unwavering support, I could not have stayed in office. And I never once woke up in the morning not wanting to go to work.”
Kasunic serves as chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, an elected leadership position he has held since 2010. He served as the Democratic Policy Committee chairman from 1997 to 2010. At the end of his term, Kasunic will have served 18 of his 20-year Senate tenure as a member of the Senate Democratic leadership.
Among his legislative accomplishments, Kasunic rates procuring the funding and construction of the Mon-Fayette Expressway — Fayette County's first limited-access, four-lane highway — near the top of the list.
He also authored the Bituminous Coal Mine Safety Law, widely regarded as one of the best underground-coal mine safety laws in the nation.
Kasunic said he helped to obtain funding for construction of the Great Allegheny Passage from Ohiopyle to Connellsville and for the rehabilitation of the Southwest Pennsylvania Railroad short line from Connellsville to Smithfield. After the 2000 Census, he authored legislation to maintain Fayette County's status as a fourth-class county.
The lawmaker said that throughout his years in the General Assembly, he helped to secure funding for area hospitals, to make sure local colleges were equipped to provide high-quality education opportunities and to keep local volunteer fire companies operating.
An avid outdoorsman, Kasunic served as a leader on hunting and fishing issues. He was the Democratic chairman of the Senate Game & Fisheries Committee for multiple sessions. He spent his entire 32-year career in the General Assembly as a member of the Labor & Industry Committee.
Kasunic served on the Transportation Committee; the Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee; the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee; the Health & Welfare Committee; the Appropriations Committee; and the Rules & Executive Nominations Committee. He served as a caucus representative on the Board of Directors of PennVest; the Pennsylvania Hardwoods Development Council; the Pennsylvania Athletic Oversight Committee; the Joint State Government Commission; and the Joint Legislative Air & Water Pollution Control & Conservation Committee.
Locally, Kasunic volunteered as chairman for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Western Pennsylvania / West Virginia Chapter “Light the Night” walk, as well as the American Cancer Society “Relay for Life.” He serves or has served on the Pennsylvania State University/Fayette Campus Advisory Board; Fayette County Community Action Agency Board of Directors; Fay-Penn Economic Development Council; Fayette County Local Emergency Planning Committee; the Somerset County Economic Development Council; and the Highlands Hospital Board of Directors.
“It was all about being able to help somebody — and I loved every minute of it,” Kasunic said. “I've made many friendships and lasting relationships that I'll carry forward. It's been a fantastic 32 years.”
At least one candidate has announced he will seek Kasunic's seat.
Local businessman Pat Stefano several weeks ago said he is seeking the Republican nomination for the 32nd District seat.
On Thursday, in a news release, he commended Kasunic for his years of service.
Stefano is vice president of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Greater Connellsville and Morgantown chambers of commerce. He serves as a board member of the Fay-Penn Economic Development Council. He is a founding member of the “Buy Local” steering committee.
Stefano is a lifelong resident of Fayette County and the third generation to run the family's printing company, Stefano's Printing.