Cranberry Patch: 2012 Election Guide
The candidates and issues most important to Cranberry area voters in 2012.
As we look ahead to the Nov. 6 election, Cranberry Patch is devoted to bringing you the information you need about every race in town. Here's our start on the candidates and issues we'll be covering as the general election draws near. Bookmark this page for updates.
President Barack Obama vs. former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney
Pennsylvania has delivered its 20 electoral votes to the Democratic nominee for President in the last five elections and, if current polls hold steady, Barack Obama will make it six in a row in November.
The president has not taken Pennsylvania’s support for granted. He has made several trips to Western Pennsylvania in the past several years, even going as far as choosing Pittsburgh to host the G-20 summit in fall 2009. In his most recent visit in October of 2011, the president lobbied for his $447 billion dollar American Jobs Act, which continues to face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Congress.
The president has also sent what many consider his most potent weapon, his wife, to shore up support in the Pittsburgh area. First Lady Michelle Obama visited with service members of the 911thAirlift Wing and 171st Refueling Wing in April. Vice President Joe Biden also visited the Moon Township base in May.
“I’d like to reduce the burden on middle-income taxpayers,” Romney said. “I’d like to see anyone making $200,000-$250,000 or less—which is 98 percent of Americans—save their money tax-free. No capital gains. It’ll make filing taxes a lot easier and people can save money for things they care about."
Romney was back in Pittsburgh a month later, criticizing the president for the nation’s unemployment rate during a visit to a family-owned manufacturing plant in O’Hara.
The No. 1 for Western Pennsylvania voters, as with many voters across the country, is jobs and the sluggish economic recovery.
Obama continues to campaign for the American Jobs Act, which the White House says will prevent up to 280,00 teacher layoffs, allow for the hiring of tens of thousands of police officers and firefighters, encourage the hiring of returning veterans and invest billions into roads, rails, airports and waterways.
He blames Congress for not doing enough. Congress “hasn’t acted fast enough,” the president told his supporters at a recent rally. “Congress,” he said, “can’t just sit on their hands.”
Romney and other Republicans suggest the Obama plan is nothing more than a payoff to Democratic constituent groups, particularly organized labor, which would benefit from federal grants to states to keep government workers on the payroll, as well as construction projects to be completed by union job crews.
On his campaign website, Romney blames the president’s policies for the lack of job growth.
“The vast expansion of costly and cumbersome regulation of sectors of the economy, ranging from energy to finance to health care. When the price of doing business in America rises, it does not come as a surprise that entrepreneurs and enterprises cut back, let employees go, and delay hiring,” Romney said.
Incumbent Democrat Bob Casey Jr. of Scranton, Lackawanna County, faces a well-funded challenge from Republican Tom Smith of Shelocta, Armstrong County in the race for one of Pennsylvania's two U.S. Senate seats.
Casey, a son of the late Gov. Robert Casey, won the seat in 2006 after defeating former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. Prior to entering the Senate, he served as state auditor general and treasurer.
Smith, a coal businessman and multimillionaire, is a founder of a Tea Party group in Indiana and Armstrong counties.
Seats in the Pennsylvania House and Senate are also up for grabs, with several key issues for the candidates to consider. Among them:
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly Vs. Newcomer Missa Eaton
The 2012 elections will be the first using new redistricting maps based on 2010 Census data.
Prior to redistricting, Cranberry was part of the 4th Congressional District led by Jason Altmire. Fellow Democratic incumbent Rep. Mark Critz defeated Altmire in the primary election after the 4th district was folded into one new 12th district, currently represented by Critz.
Critz, who Altmire has since endorsed, next faces Republican Keith Rothfus of Edgeworth.
A former Butler County council member who also once served on the Butler Area School Board, Kelly was first elected to the House in 2010. A married father of four, he owns a family car dealership in Butler.
PA Property Tax Reform
Gov. Ed Rendell promised that revenue from slots parlors and gaming tables would greatly reduce, or in some cases eliminate, property taxes. Years later, that promise remains unfulfilled, with the average savings per household at $186 in 2011, according to data from the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations.
There is new legislation, albeit in limbo right now, which would eliminate a school district’s ability to levy a property tax and replace that funding with an increase in sales and personal income taxes statewide.
The state house finance committee tabled the Property Tax Independence Act on Monday, but the issue is not likely going to go away.
Sponsored by Rep. Jim Cox, R-Berks, the measure would hike the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent statewide and raise the personal income tax rate from 3.07 to 4 percent. In Allegheny County, the sales tax would rise to 8 percent.
In addition, many goods and services currently exempt from the sales tax would be taxable under the bill, which aims to raise $10 billion dollars to replace the revenue that would be lost by the elimination of school property taxes.
Liquor Store Privatization
Gov. Tom Corbett is trying to do what two of his Republican predecessors, over a span of 30 years, could not—privatize state stores so that private retailers can sell wine and liquor.
The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, could come up for a vote in the House by week’s end. If approved, it would go on to the Senate for consideration in the fall.
"House Bill 11 is about divestiture. House Bill 11 is about the consumer. It is about reasonable prices and better selection and more convenience. It is about upgrading law enforcement," said Turzai when he first introduced the measure last July. "It is about moving from a public sector dinosaur into the modern 21st century."
Only two states, Pennsylvania and Utah, have complete control of all aspects of wine and spirits distribution, according to a report the governor's budget office commissioned.
Not everyone agrees House Bill 11 is the way to go.
"The House Liquor Control Committee passed a version of HB 11, which would leave the Liquor Control Board intact, a major turnaround from Turzai’s original proposal to completely privatize liquor sales," states a story from 90.5 FM Pittsburgh Essential Public Radio.
The union that represents state liquor store managers has lobbied against the bill; two Pennsylvania chapters of the United Food Commercial Workers, representing state store employees, also oppose the bill, the 90.5 radio story states.
"The Independent State Store Union says that the bill’s provision to allow beer distributors to begin selling wine will cause the state store system to slowly diminish," according to the story.
The ISSU also opposes the bill.
Metcalfe Seeks Eighth Term
Incumbent state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, will seek his eighth term representing the 12th Legislative District in the fall general election.
Barring a write-in campaign, he will not face a challenger in November.
After launching a last-minute write-in campaign to take on Metcalfe, Steve Smith, principal of Haine Middle School in the Seneca Valley School District, pulled himself out of the race after the April primary election.
No candidate had filed to run on the Democratic ballot, and Metcalfe had been unopposed on the Republican ballot before Smith announced his write-in campaign.
First elected in 1998, Metcalfe is the Republican majority chair on the House’s State Government committee, which—among other things—is responsible for legislative redistricting, lobbyist disclosure and campaign financing.
He is an advocate of taxpayer protection, protection of Second Amendment freedoms and ending teacher strikes, according to his website.
He also was sponsor of the Voter Identification Protection Act, which requires voters to present valid, non-expired photo identification before voting. The law was slated to go into effect for the November election. A decision by a Commonwealth Court judge in October put on hold on the law until after the general election
In 2007, Metcalfe founded the State Legislators for Legal Immigration. The coalition, made up of legislators from across the nation, seeks to end illegal immigration across the U.S. borders.
More recently, the representative clashed with Seneca Valley over property taxes. In January, he wrote a letter encouraging Corbett to reject Seneca Valley’s recent application to the state Department of Education for permission to raise property taxes.
In his letter, Metcalfe said school board members, school administrators and educators need to work together to “find alternatives to resolve budget issues rather than increasing the burden on taxpayers."
A Cranberry resident, Metcalfe, 49, served in the U.S. Army and attended Kansas State University. He worked in the private sector for more than 14 years and was formerly employed as a field engineer by Dade Behring, according to his biography on his website. In 2010, Metcalfe ran as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor. He came in third place in the Republican primary.
The 12th District covers Cranberry, Adams, Clinton, Forward, Jefferson, Middlesex and Penn townships and the boroughs of Callery, Connoquenessing, Evans City, Mars, Saxonburg, Seven Fields and Valencia.