Westmoreland County's 58th District pits hometown rivals
Longtime state Rep. R. Ted Harhai will square off against a political upstart in one of the few Democratic contests in Westmoreland County this spring.
Harhai of Monessen, a 17-year House veteran, faces John Scott Nestor, 25, a Monessen councilman, in the May 20 primary for the district covering parts of the Mon Valley and eastern Westmoreland County.
The winner likely will face Tom Logan, a Hempfield supervisor, who is unopposed for the Republican nomination.
“I believe I bring in a new face, a new voice for the constituents of the 58th District,” said Nestor, who took office as councilman in January. “I grew up poor. I know I'm working for the people.”
Nestor describes himself as “a Democrat with libertarian ideas.”
He said he supports eliminating income and property taxes and moving to a flat sales tax with no exclusions or deductions. And he'd like to cut the size of government by consolidating the Fish and Boat Commission with the Game Commission.
He said he favors putting more money into home-based nursing care and toward helping local governments remove dilapidated buildings.
“I understand the state is stuck for money, too, (but) it's hard to thrive when buildings can't even be demolished because local governments don't have the funding,” he said.
Nestor said he's funding his modest campaign himself, using about $3,000 to print campaign signs and door hangers. He said he didn't file a campaign finance report with the state because he didn't spend money in the first reporting period, or the first quarter of the year.
“My competitor, he's spent a lot more than that and continues to rake in more money and contributions, which is fine. But if you look at the contributions ... most are all from private business interests,” Nestor said.
Harhai raised $7,047 in the first quarter and carried over $67,701 from last year. After spending more than $11,000, he had $63,431 in cash on hand as of March 31, according to campaign filings.
“They're trying to make me spend money,” Harhai said.
He claims Nestor was put up to run against him by Monessen Mayor Lou Mavrakis, who holds a vendetta of unknown origin against Harhai.
“He just doesn't do anything for the people of Monessen anymore,” said Mavrakis, who defeated former Mayor Mary Jo White, a staffer to Harhai, last year and then removed his brother, John Harhai, as city administrator.
“If Ted Harhai could not help his legislative assistant and his brother with the (problems facing Monessen), then it's time to change,” Mavrakis said.
Harhai said he's putting up campaign signs, talking to voters and attending as many constituent events as he can.
“(People) want to see you, know who you are,” Harhai said. “They just want to know that you're reasonable and want to help them.”
Harhai said the biggest issues confronting the district are restoring funding to education and bringing more jobs to the region.
Gov. Tom Corbett's funding cuts to schools pushed more of the responsibility for financing education onto school districts, Harhai said. “I don't think that's fair,” he said. “It's been a big burden.”
Legislative Democrats have long taken issue with Corbett's cuts to K-12 funding and flat-funding of higher education. Corbett contends the bulk of cuts resulted from disappearing federal stimulus money.
Harhai said he'd like the state to use more incentives to get companies — especially from the manufacturing and coal sectors — to locate in the region and bring good-paying jobs.
“Coal is in 30 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. ... I think along with other renewable energies like gas and oil, they can work in tandem,” Harhai said.
The 58th District includes the cities of Monessen and Jeannette; Rostraver, Sewickley and South Huntingdon townships and parts of Hempfield and East Huntingdon townships; and Adamsburg, Arona, Madison, Mt. Pleasant, North Belle Vernon, Penn, Smithton, Sutersville and West Newton.
Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Add Kari Andren to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Casey, Coons become 32nd, 33rd senators to back nuclear deal with Iran
- Bishop’s ex-assistant in Venango charged with Lutheran synod thefts
- Potential suspension of Pennsylvania AG’s license unusual
- Conneaut Lake Park wants to sell some land
- State’s high court rules in favor of turnpike worker, will get another chance to prove his firing violated whistlebower laws
- Pennsylvania welfare employees targeted in crackdown
- Pa. Gov. Wolf: Big changes needed in troubled school district
- Pa. to kick off online registration
- Kane received sensitive emails on personal account
- Ex-LCB official Short to plead guilty to soliciting, concealing kickbacks from vendors