3 hoping for chance to take over Orie seat
Two months after former state Sen. Jane Orie was sentenced to 2 1⁄2 to 10 years in prison, voters in the North Hills will go to the polls Tuesday to pick from three candidates to finish her term.
Democrat Sharon Brown, Republican state Rep. Randy Vulakovich and independent candidate Don Bindas are vying to fill Orie's term, which expires in 2014. Each candidate has different ideas about what problems face the Republican-leaning district and how to fix them.
Brown, 59, of McCandless, runs her own health-care consulting company and views herself as a moderate willing to cross party lines to get important legislation passed.
“We need to re-evaluate the priority in budgeting our resources. Yes, we have to live within a budget, but the priorities have been skewed toward business — oil and gas in particular,” Brown said.
“I'm concerned about the cuts to schools. As a result, schools are being forced to make up revenue and schools are increasing property taxes. Seniors on fixed incomes are trying to figure out how to pay these property taxes.”
Brown said the impact fee for Marcellus shale drilling should be increased, and there should be a fee assessed on the gas extracted that could pay for education. She said a strong regulatory system should be in place to monitor clean water and air.
Vulakovich, 62, of Shaler, a retired 26-year veteran of the Shaler police department, won election to the state House in 2006, replacing state Rep. Jeff Habay. Habay was convicted and sent to jail for using staffers to campaign on state time, as Orie was.
“I don't want people comparing me to Orie or Habay or vice versa,” Vulakovich said.
“With (the Habay election) I had a good reputation as a police officer and people were looking for some quiet time out of the media. I tried to return things to normal. I'll take the same approach here.”
Vulakovich said his top three issues are increasing transparency in government, passing balanced budgets and prioritizing spending so that all constituents' needs are addressed, and creating jobs within a business-friendly environment.
He said Marcellus shale drilling presents tremendous job opportunities but at the same time, drillers must protect the environment.
Bindas, 56, of Franklin Park, owns Don Bindas Motors in McCandless, and is running a write-in campaign as an independent candidate. He thinks many Republican voters are angry but don't want to vote for a Democrat.
“I think there's a lot of outrage over Jane Orie and people are looking for a protest vote,” Bindas said.
Bindas said his biggest priority would be setting up a North Hills transportation system — apart from the Port Authority — to run from McKnight Road to Zelienople.
The system could ship workers from the city to the North Hills and would enable residents to more easily get into the city for events or to go out to eat.
“The routes would be bid out like they do for garbage carriers,” Bindas said.
He also said people with public pensions should not be able to collect them until they're 65 and that schools should look for ways to save money through more online classes.
Allegheny County elections Director Mark Wolosik said turnout for special elections in the county is typically low, ranging from 13.4 percent in 2003 to 29.5 percent in 2001, when Orie won a special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Melissa Hart.
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.