Republican Camera Bartolotta ousts Tim Solobay from Senate
Standing at the podium at her election-night headquarters in the Mon Valley Country Club, Camera Bartolotta stepped back and paused, overwhelmed by her crushing victory over incumbent state Sen. Timothy Solobay.
“It's kind of hard to believe it happened. … But it feels good,” said Bartolotta, a Carroll Republican.
Bartolotta became the first woman elected in the 46th District, breaking a long stretch of Democratic representation. Prior to Solobay's election in the district four years ago, J. Barry Stout was a mainstay for 34 years.
Bartolotta said she enjoyed listening to, and talking with, district residents over the past 277 days.
“It's an unbelievable experience, and I will take it with me 24/7 when I represent those people.”
A widow raised by a single mom, Bartolotta said she learned her work ethic from her mother, Caren Chatham, who worked three jobs to support her children.
Bartolotta said special interests have controlled the district for too long.
“The results of today show the district not represented for you and me, for working people,” Bartolotta said.
“For too long, career politicians have not had our interest at heart. It's supposed to be public service, not self service.”
Bartolotta promised to work hard for district residents. She plans to conduct a series of town hall meetings in the spring.
“I'll be the loudest voice in Harrisburg for the 46th District,” Bartolotta said.
“Together, we can all make improvements. Together, we can all make a change. Together, we can all change the way Harrisburg looks at the 46th District.”
Looking back, forward
Speaking to The Valley Independent before her acceptance speech, Bartolotta said she was approached about a run for the House two years ago, but decided the timing wasn't right.
Asked by GOP leaders to reconsider, she decided nine months ago to jump into the race.
“I was tired of hearing myself complain and knowing southwestern Pennsylvania was being ignored,” Bartolotta said. “South of Canonsburg is like a whole different state.”
Bartolotta said communities in the 46th District – such as Monessen and Brownsville – “have been neglected for many years.”
“There are fewer and fewer opportunities in those communities,” Bartolotta said. “So much can be achieved in those communities.”
So she took her campaign to the people, knocking on more than 8,800 doors. Bartolotta said she met some interesting people and learned that issues that matter to district residents are different than those considered to be important in Harrisburg.
“They need a voice to voice those issues – in a loud way,” Bartolotta said with a laugh.
She said property tax relief, pensions and public education funding top those issues.
“All of our kids should have the opportunity to have the best education we can provide for them,” Bartolotta said.
She said pensions and public education funding are interlocked. While funding for education has been at an all-time high over the past two years, 60 cents of every dollar budgeted for education has been spent on what she called a failed pension program.
Bartolotta suggested a 401k pension plan could be at least a part of the solution. Costs continue to escalate under the state pension plan for retired public school educators, with an increasing amount of the budget falling on local school districts.
“They have to increase taxes to sustain a failing pensions plan,” Bartolotta said of local school boards.
“I'd like to see a property tax freeze for taxpayers 65 and older. Too many seniors are losing their homes because they can't afford rising taxes.”
Asked what she thought turned the election, Bartolotta said simply: “the truth.” She accused Solobay of voting himself pension and pay raises and collecting hefty per diems to pay for a home in Harrisburg.
Solobay failed to return numerous messages left on his cell phone seeking comment late Tuesday night.