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3 seek Dem nod for 52nd seat

| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 12:31 a.m.
A.J. Boni
Brad Geyer, candidate for 52nd District seat

Three candidates will seek the Democratic nomination for state representative in the 52nd District in Tuesday's primary election. There are no candidates seeking the Republican nomination.

The post is held by state Rep. Deberah L. Kula, who is running for the Democratic nomination for senator in the 32nd District. Sen. Richard Kasunic will retire from the 32nd at the end of the year.

The three candidates vying for the Democratic nomination are A.J. Boni of Perry Township, Brad W. Geyer of Connellsville and Marigrace Butela of Dunbar Township.

A.J. Boni

Boni, 46, is a Perry Township supervisor and roadmaster. He cites the issues facing the district as jobs, infrastructure, unfunded mandates, Marcellus shale and property taxes.

To bring family-sustaining jobs to the district, Boni said diligent work with developers must be done to cut red tape to make it easier for companies to establish themselves in the industrial parks.

He said partnering with local governments and working together can reduce the costs of infrastructure.

“The days of being able to put in 200 feet of water line and picking up 20 residents are obsolete,” Boni said.

He said he is looking for cost-saving options, wants to fight against unfunded mandates in state government and deliver funding so it's not left on the taxpayers' tab.

As for Marcellus gas, Boni said property owners' rights must be kept while at the same time have the health, safety and welfare of the residents in mind. “We have a responsibility to the residents that we serve that the gas companies pay their fair share, but at the same time remove our minerals in a safe way without harming our waterways and our communities,” he said.

Boni added that the issue of reducing or eliminating real estate taxes will need to be addressed so area senior citizens do not have to worry about losing their homes.

When it comes to term limits, Boni said a public servant's term should ultimately be decided by the people. “I do not support term limits. I believe that is what Election Day is for.”

Boni said he is qualified for the seat because of his 14 years of experience as a supervisor, time he served as president of the Fayette County Association of Township Officials, and six-year member of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors Executive Board, which allowed him to represent 24 townships in Fayette County and take those needs to the state level. In addition, he has 30 years of experience and dedication as a volunteer firefighter and assistant fire chief.

“Being a boots-on-the-ground public servant and not raising taxes in 14 years as a supervisor in Perry Township makes me the best qualified for your next representative of the 52nd District,” he said.

A 1986 graduate of Frazier High School, Boni is a member of the Tri County Lodge 252, Perryopolis Sons & Daughters of America, Perry Township Volunteer Fire Department, Star Junction Fish & Game Club, National Rifle Association, Fayette County Firemen's Association, Western Pennsylvania Firemen's Association, Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, Perryopolis Lions Club, St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church, Local Government Advisory Committee and the National Road Heritage Corridor.

Boni and his wife Suzanne have one daughter.

Marigrace Butela

Butela, 55, has served as tax collector for Dunbar Township since 2002. She said her priorities will include tax reform, healthcare and a re-examination of the minimum wage.

“My main focus will be on fair and equitable tax reform, expanding Medicaid, tackling the minimum wage issue and providing more services to needy families and our seniors,” Butela said.

Butela said she believes residents are tired of the status quo among elected officials, and she vowed to push for changes that include cutting back on perks such as vehicles and pay raises.

“They (residents) are tired of reading about all the perks and raises our state officials vote themselves while they are living on a fixed income, often times struggling just to make it through another payday,” Butela said. “Raises should be based on performance, just like any other job.”

Butela said state officials should consider voting themselves a pay cut “and paying their fair share toward the rising cost of health care.”

Butela said as a state legislator she would like to find ways to help ease the real estate tax burden by helping to ensure that a larger percentage of gaming monies go directly to help offset real estate taxes as originally intended.

She will lobby for an extraction tax on the gas industry to help fund schools, which will help ease any tax increases in the future.

Butela's memberships include president of the Fayette County Tax Collectors' Association, the Pennsylvania State Tax Collectors Association, Clean Water Action, Isaac Walton League Henry Enstrom Chapter, Catholic Daughters, Moose Lodge No. 16 and the South Connellsville Rod & Gun Club.

Brad W. Geyer

Geyer, 32, amember of Connellsville city Council, is employed by the Private Industry Council.

A 2000 graduate of Connellsville Area High School and 2004 graduate of California University of Pennsylvania, Geyer said bringing jobs to the district is an issue he wants to tackle.

“We need to work with our business leaders and municipalities to help bring jobs to the area,” he said. “Let's find out what is needed — such as sewage, water, gas, high speed communications, etc. … and make sure we can provide those services. We need pad-ready sites for these developers.”

Geyer said he supports the elimination of real estate taxes, reducing the size of the legislature and the elimination of undocumented per diem vouchers.

“I've been a city councilman for over 10 years for the city of Connellsville, but I'm not just from Connellsville. I grew up in Bullskin Township,” said Geyer, who is president of the Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale and works in North Union Township. “This means I see the district as a whole and not just from one municipality or small area.”

Geyer said he has a proven track record of bringing elected officials together and working for a common goal, noting he is a founding member and organizer of the annual “G-Conferences” held every spring.

On the issue of term limits, Geyer said it's up to the voters to set the term limits.

Geyer is a member of the Geyer Performing Arts Center, Connellsville Lions Club, district officer for District 14-M, Elks Lodge No. 503, Moose Lodge No. 16, Fayette Young Professionals, King Solomon's Lodge No. 346, Knights of Columbus No. 948 and Fayette ARC.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or Staff writer Liz Zemba contributed to this report. She can be reached at lzemba or 412-601-2166.

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