3 Dems vie for chance to succeed Kula

| Friday, May 16, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Three candidates will seek the Democratic nomination for state representative in the 52nd District.

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

The three candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the House are A.J. Boni of Perry Township, Brad W. Geyer of Connellsville and Marigrace Butela of Dunbar Township. There are no candidates seeking the Republican nomination.

Boni, 45, said one of his priorities will be to find ways to expand public utilities, including water and sewage, that are lacking in many rural areas.

“The biggest, pressing thing in the 52nd is the failing infrastructure and the fact that everyone does not have public water,” Boni said.

Boni said he will work to attract new businesses and industry to the area, but not at the expense of the agricultural industry.

“We need a mix of growth while keeping our farm area available,” Boni said. “Without farms, we can't survive.”

Boni said he will draw on connections he has made with other elected officials during his 14 years as a township supervisor to keep apprised of residents' needs.

“Whatever needs to be done, they will have my ear,” Boni said. “The local elected officials are the boots on the ground, and whatever I can do at the state level, to battle unfunded mandates, or with securing infrastructure, water and bridges, I will be their voice.”

Geyer, 32, said jobs and infrastructure are on his priority list.

“We need to work with our business leaders and municipalities to bring jobs to the area,” Geyer 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.”

A native of Bullskin Township, Geyer said he has ties throughout the district, including those forged during service as a Connellsville councilman for 10 years and as president of the Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale.

“This means I see the district as a whole, and not just from one municipality, or small area,” Geyer said.

Geyer noted he has a proven record of bringing elected officials together to work toward a common goal, pointing to annual, multi-municipality “G-Conferences” he has supported since their beginning.

Butela, 55, said her priorities will include tax reform, health care 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 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 are tired of reading about all the perks and raises our state officials vote themselves while they are living on a fixed income, oftentimes struggling just to make it through another payday,” Butela said. “Raises should be based on performance, just like any other job.”

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

The 52nd District consists of parts of Fayette County, including the City of Connellsville, South Connellsville, Dawson, Dunbar Borough, Everson, Perryopolis and Vanderbilt, along with Bullskin, Connellsville, Lower Tyrone, Menallen, North Union, Perry, Saltlick, Upper Tyrone and Dunbar townships. In Westmoreland County, the district covers parts of the townships of East Huntingdon and Mt. Pleasant and the boroughs of Mt. Pleasant and Scottdale.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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