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Mayor challenges incumbent in 52nd District race

| Wednesday, April 14, 2004

A longtime mayor is challenging the Democratic incumbent in the 52nd District, hoping voters in the April 27 primary will make him the party's nominee for a seat in the state House of Representatives.

The incumbent, state Rep. James Shaner, of 2031 University Drive, Dunbar Township, is hoping to hold off the challenge from Democrat Gerald D. Lucia, of 629 S. Geary St., Mt. Pleasant.

The winner is expected to face Republican William Earnesty in November. Earnesty is unopposed for his party's nomination.

Shaner, 67, is seeking a sixth term in the state House.

Lucia, 58, has served as mayor of Mt. Pleasant for more than 19 years.

A retired teacher, Shaner said property tax reform, basic education funding and better prescription drug funding for the elderly have been and will continue to be among his priorities.

Although a vote is expected soon on the governor's proposed gaming bill, which could legalize slot machines to provide property tax relief, Shaner said he hasn't decided whether he will support the legislation.

"It depends on what the final bill looks like," he said. "If it provides true property tax reform, I will vote for it."

As for basic education funding, Shaner said he recognizes that the state has not contributed its fair share of the cost.

"Right now we're only funding at a 34 percent level. We should, according to the state constitution, be at 50 percent," he said. "If we go to 50 percent, that would take the pressure off school districts and automatically provide property tax relief."

To make prescription drugs more affordable for Pennsylvania residents, Shaner said he favors having the state work directly with pharmaceutical companies to provide the lowest possible prices.

"If it can be done in Canada, we should be able to do it in Pennsylvania," he said.

Lucia works as the manager of Klocek Burial Vault Co. in Mt. Pleasant. In addition to serving as mayor, he has been the borough's fire chief for 14 years.

"I have always wanted to run for the House of Representatives," he said, "and with almost 20 years' experience in local government, I think I have learned the fundamentals to do a good job representing the 52nd District."

Lucia promised to work hard for his constituents.

"During the last budget crisis, the House wasn't even in session. You would think they would have been burning the midnight oil," he said.

If he's elected, Lucia said, his priorities will be economic development, transportation, and property tax and education funding reform.

"This region has a lot of job training programs in place, but no jobs to offer," he said. "I would work with Fay-Penn (Development Council), bring in experts from Harrisburg and work on incentives to bring businesses into the region."

The district's roadways are also a subject Lucia hopes to address.

"In 2003 there were 180 vehicle accidents on Route 119 from the Penn State campus to the Connellsville city line," he said. "I want to know why, and I want to work with PennDOT to see what can be done to improve not only Route 119, but all our roads."

The 52nd District encompasses the city of Connellsville; the boroughs of Mt. Pleasant, Scottdale, Vanderbilt, Dawson, Dunbar, Perryopolis, Everson and Newell; and the townships of Perry, North Union, Menallen, Jefferson, Franklin, Lower Tyrone, Upper Tyrone and Dunbar. The Bridgeport precinct in Mt. Pleasant Township and the Bessemer 2 precinct in East Huntingdon Township are also within the district.

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