County GOP endorses Ward to replace Regola

Paul Peirce
| Sunday, Aug. 17, 2008

Westmoreland County Republicans on Saturday formally endorsed county Commissioner Kim Ward as the nominee in the 39th Senatorial District race to replace Sen. Robert Regola.

The party had to fill the slot that opened when Regola, a first-term Republican from Hempfield, abruptly dropped out of the race last week. Ward, 52, will oppose the Democratic nominee, Dr. Tony Bompiani, a Youngwood chiropractor and former Hempfield school director.

Ward, who is serving her first term as commissioner, said yesterday that a week ago, running another campaign "wasn't even on my mind."

However, she said the outpouring of support she received from family members and constituents after Regola's announcement persuaded her to seek the nomination.

"It's been a stressful, hectic week. But we're going to move on from here and work as hard as we can to win," Ward said.

In a brief speech to fellow party members moments after she was selected as the candidate, Ward said she didn't think her late entry into the race would adversely affect her campaign against Bompiani.

"Thank you for the confidence you have shown me. We have a lot of work to do. ... We have to pull up our boot straps and win this thing," Ward said.

Ward easily won the nomination by a vote of 117-6 among Republican committee members within the 39th Senatorial District. Latrobe committeeman Donald Benson Jr., an employee of Home Depot in Hempfield, also was nominated.

Regola suddenly pulled out of his re-election bid last week, saying he did not want to put his family through a difficult political campaign. In July, Regola was acquitted by a jury of perjury and a weapons charge in connection with the death of a teenage neighbor, Louis Farrell, who was found fatally shot in the woods behind his Hempfield home two years ago. The gun used was registered to Regola.

The death was ruled a suicide.

Breaking ground

If she is elected, Ward would become the county's first female state legislator.

"Like the Virginia Slims ad says, 'We've come a long way baby,' " Ward quipped.

Ward, who is married and the mother of three adult sons, is a former county Republican chairwoman and a former Hempfield supervisor. She managed the Western Pennsylvania re-election campaign of George W. Bush, managed the campaign of former Fayette County Commissioner Joe Hardy and has been on the state Republican committee.

During an interview yesterday after the vote at the Four Points by Sheraton in Hempfield, Ward said she believes voters will find stark contrasts between her and Bompiani.

"I've held public office for 6 12 years, and I've never voted to raise taxes. I live in Hempfield Township and pay property taxes there, and I can tell you that my school taxes (when Bompiani was on the board) were raised a lot more than one time," Ward said.

She said bringing accountability to state government and ethics also will be issues. She noted that during her term as a Hempfield supervisor she initiated a code of conduct for township employees and in her first eight months as minority commissioner "I've repeatedly fought to bring transparency to county government."

Bompiani says comparison unfair

When contacted yesterday about Ward's pronouncements, Bompiani, 54, said he's heard the same statements before.

"This is really unbelievable. She's using the exact words as her predecessor (Regola) was using," Bompiani said.

As for the tax issue, the former school board member defended his votes.

"You can't compare the two (running a school district versus a township). We get many unfunded state and federal mandates, like the township, but ours are directed toward challenged and needy children," Bompiani said.

He also noted that last fall Hempfield supervisors voted to raise the occupational privilege tax from $10 to $52 because the township needed the money because its fund balance was depleted.

"But she (Ward) didn't attend that meeting. You can't vote on issues if you don't attend the meetings," Bompiani said.

Bompiani said he agreed with Ward on one thing: that there are a lot of differences between the two. He said he hopes Ward agrees to debate him "and not just take the approximately $1 million we hear the Republicans will pour into this race to state her opinions in mailings and fliers."

Vying in a sprawling district

Ward said she plans to "continue fighting for taxpayers."

"I won't back down from fighting for the taxpayers and I won't be intimidated by those who want me to take a seat and keep quiet," she said.

Republican committeeman Larry Harrison of Penn Township believes committee members made the right choice.

"We know how hard she works, she has integrity and is honest. I think the public knows her, what she stands for, and they really like her and that's important," Harrison said.

The 39th District has a population of about 220,000 and stretches from Derry in the eastern portion of the county along the Route 30 corridor to Greensburg. It extends south to Rostraver and and in the west to North Huntingdon.

If Ward is elected, she would have to resign as commissioner. County judges would select her replacement.

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