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Insurance agent seeks to unseat state Rep. Petrarca

| Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Brian Panichelle, Republican nominee for state representative of the 55th District.

An insurance agent has announced he will seek the Republican nomination to challenge a longtime state representative up for re-election in the 55th district.

Brian Panichelle, 40, said he believes state Rep. Joe Petrarca, a Democrat, has done well to support the district since 1994, but thinks it's time for a change.

“He's been there for (almost) 20 years, and his father (was in office) before him,” he said. “It's not a family business.”

Panichelle, who is owner of Ligonier-based BP Insurance, a part of Nationwide, said his focus on smart spending stems from his professional experience.

“Having run a business for the past 14-15 years, I'm familiar with having to budget or look for funding in creative ways,” he said.

Panichelle, a member of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce as well as the Tri-City Jaycees and Rotary clubs in Latrobe and Ligonier, serves as an elder at Manchester Reformed Presbyterian Church and teaches a class for homeschooled students at Westmoreland County Community College.

He lives in Latrobe with his wife, Heather, and six children.

Panichelle said that to properly use funds from state income tax, he plans to prioritize public safety, education and job creation.

“We need to make sure if we're paying those taxes, how can we put them to the most efficient use to support the things that are important?” he said.

Panichelle will likely run uncontested in the May 20 primary because the March 11 deadline for candidates to file nominating petitions has passed.

In Westmoreland County, the 55th district includes the city of Latrobe; the boroughs of Avonmore, Derry, East Vandergrift, New Alexandria, Oklahoma, Vandergrift, West Leechburg and Youngstown; the townships of Bell, Derry, Loyalhanna and Washington, as well as parts of Allegheny and Unity townships. It also includes Leechburg borough in Armstrong County.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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