Vote today

Published Tue Nov 08, 2016 2:00 AM EST

The big question in today’s election, of course, is whether the country will elect Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump as its next president.

The key for both of them will be Pennsylvania with its 20 votes in the Electoral College, and crucial to taking the commonwealth will be winning southwestern Pennsylvania, including Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

For years, Democratic presidential candidates could count on local residents to support their campaigns. But all of that changed in 2000 when Westmoreland County residents voted for George W. Bush over Al Gore. Residents there have voted for GOP candidates in every subsequent presidential election.

Voters in Fayette, Washington and Greene counties switched sides in the 2008 election supporting John McCain over Barack Obama. It was the first time Fayette County voters supported a Republican presidential candidate since they backed Richard Nixon back in 1972, when he was running against George McGovern.

All four counties supported Mitt Romney four years ago when he ran against Obama, and all four are expected to back Trump in today’s election. Trump will need to do even better than Romney did if he hopes to carry Pennsylvania.

Local voters also will have a big say in the U.S. Senate race where incumbent Republican Pat Toomey is facing a challenge from Democrat Katie McGinty. Toomey won all four local counties when he beat Democrat Joe Sestak back in 2010. However, he only won Greene County by 19 votes and Fayette County by 131 votes. He’ll need to do much better in those counties today to defeat McGinty, who’s expected to do very well in the Philadelphia area.

The Republican Party has also fielded legitimate candidates for the first time in ages in all five local legislative races on the ballot today. The races feature two open seats as Democrats Pete Daley and Ted Harhai decided not to seek re-election. Running in the 49th District to replace Daley are Democrat Alan Benyak and Republican Bud Cook and aiming to follow Harhai in the 58th District are Democrat Mary Popovich and Republican Justin Walsh.

Three incumbents are running, including Democrat Tim Mahoney in the 51st District, Democrat Pam Snyder in the 50th District and Republican Ryan Warner in the 52nd District. They’re being opposed respectively by Matt Cowling, Betsy McClure and Jim Mari.

Also on the ballot is a race in the 9th Congressional District between Republican Bill Shuster and Democrat Art Halvorson. Democrat Adam Sedlock is running a write-in campaign for the office.

The Herald-Standard’s editorial board endorsed candidates in a number of races. We’re not trying to tell you who to vote for as much as we’re trying to get you to think about whom you’re voting for or against. We tried to judge the candidates on their merits, and we hope you do the same.

Here’s a list of the candidates we endorsed:

n U.S. Senate, Toomey

n 9th Congressional District, Shuster.

n 49th Legislative District, Benyak.

n 50th Legislative District, Snyder.

n 51st Legislative District, Mahoney.

n 52nd Legislative District, Warner.

n 58th Legislative District, Walsh

We supported the referendum which basically extends the retirement age for state and county judges from the age 70 to 75.

It goes beyond saying that no matter which candidates you’re supporting you need to get out today and vote today. The candidates have been telling us for months what they think. Now it’s your turn to tell them what you think. 

US Senate

Published Fri Nov 04, 2016 3:29 PM EDT

It’s bad enough that the presidential election has been plagued by one of the most negative campaigns in the history of our country.

Adding to the misery has been the Pennsylvania race for the U.S. Senate between Republican incumbent Pat Toomey and his Democratic challenger Katie McGinty. Residents across the commonwealth have been subjected to an endless barrage of television ads, featuring all sorts of wild accusations and charges from both sides. With the race one the few contested Senate elections in the country, contributions have been pouring in from conservative and liberal groups in an effort to influence the outcome.

However, the ads have done very little to explain the candidates’ stands on the issues. And that’s a huge problem, considering that control of the U.S. Senate and the future of the country could hang in the balance.

The Herald-Standard Editorial tried to get down to the issues and ended up deeply divided in its endorsement.

Those opposed to Toomey, criticized him not taking any real stands on the difficult issues facing our country. For instance on climate change, Toomey said it’s real, unlike many of his Republican counterparts who say it’s a fraud. But he criticized the Paris Accords, which could ease the dangers of climate change.

It’s the same for Obamacare. Toomey says it’s a disaster but notes that the portability and pre-existing conditions should be saved as any part of a new plan. Of course, they were the two major signatures of Obamacare, which had been denied to consumers previously by health insurance firms.

It’s much the same with his refusal to hold hearings on the confirmation of Merrick Garland for the U.S. Supreme Court and his tip-toeing around whether or not he’ll vote for Donald Trump.

It’s all part of the same pattern. Toomey is trying to please both conservatives and liberals in Pennsylvania and is doing neither. The commonwealth needs someone who will take strong stands like McGinty who has made no bones about her support for Hillary Clinton, her backing of clean energy, her wanting to improve not repeal Obamacare and her opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United, which paved the way for the unprecedented spending in this campaign.

Those supporting Toomey pointed to his actions in regards to curbing opioid abuse, which has ravaged our area. They praised his work in passing legislation to prevent the abuse of Medicare beneficiaries going to multiple physicians and pharmacies to receive large quantities of opioids. He was also commended for advocating better drug treatment programs.

They noted that Toomey has been a friend to the coal industry and its workers, pointing to his support for the Miner’s Protection Act which would shore up the dwindling pension fund for retired coal miners and provide needed healthcare funds.

They added that Toomey has also been willing to work with Democrats, especially on gun control issues, even though it has cost him support among his fellow party members.

In the end, the endorsement came down to the fact that Toomey took the time to take part in an interview with the Herald-Standard, while McGinty turned down the same opportunity. But by turning us down, she was also turning you down. And we urge you to remember that when you go to the polls.

Toomey did take the time to inform area residents of his views on the issues. For that he received our endorsement, and we hope your vote in Tuesday’s election.

Toomey discusses healthcare, Second Amendment

By Patty Yauger pyauger@heraldstandard.com

Published 2:00 AM EST

The current U.S. Senate has 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats and one Independent Party member with 34 seats — 24 which are held by the GOP — up for grabs on Tuesday, including the one held by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey.

The race is considered a “toss up” as Toomey’s Democratic challenger, Katie McGinty, has kept pace with him throughout the election season.

Democrats must secure four or five seats to take control of the now-GOP led Senate.

McGinty, a former state and federal environmental policy official, and Toomey were invited to participate in a Herald-Standard-sponsored candidate forum, but declined due to their schedules.

Toomey agreed to take part in a telephone interview. McGinty declined a similar invitation.

Christopher Whitlatch, Mon Valley Alliance chief executive officer, offered the editorial board questions to Toomey.

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department has announced that premiums will skyrocket for residents in 2017, estimating increase of about 32 percent.

While his challenger seeks to give the government more control of health care, Toomey said he favors the abandonment of the Affordable Health Care Act, describing it as an “unmitigated disaster.”

“It is in a death spiral and collapsing as many of us knew it would,” he said. “The idea that you could keep your health insurance if you liked your health insurance was never true as they were disqualifying plans left and right.

“They said you could keep your doctor if you liked your doctor even though they knew these new health insurance plans they were forcing people into would reduce their choices of doctors.”

The program cannot be restructured, added Toomey, it must be repealed.

“You can’t fix this by tweaking it around the edges,” he said. “Government bureaucrats should not be making healthcare decisions. Those should be made by moms and dads sitting around the kitchen table making decisions for their own family.”

The solution, Toomey continued, would be to have a competitive marketplace where insurers would compete for consumer business.

“We should encourage affordability of plans and renewability of plans so no one worries about have a pre-existing condition.”

Second Amendment

This year, the National Rifle Association (NRA) downgraded Toomey from its highest “A” rating for those that staunchly support its policies, to a “C” rating.

While the NRA does not specify what votes or statement it uses to determine a rating, it did not support the gun background-check legislation introduced by Toomey and Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.

Toomey said his support of background checks to ensure guns are not being sold to violent criminals, those that have been diagnosed with severe mental illness or suspected terrorists, is not contradictory to the Second Amendment.

“I am a big believer in the Second Amendment,” he said. “I’m a gun owner and I take my son shooting.

“I will continue to defend the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, but at the same time, I will try to improve our background checks system so we can try to keep guns out of the hands of people that have no right to them.”

War on coal

With coal production waning, workers have watched their pension fund decline and health care benefits teeter.

Toomey said he has met with many coal miners during his tenure and finds it “heartbreaking” to listen to their stories about losing their jobs, their homes and their pride.

“They feel like their own government set out to destroy their career and they’re right,” he said. “(President) Barack Obama admitted he has engaged in a war on coal and unfortunately the president has been winning.

“This is horrendous to me and completely unjust.”

Toomey said that he has supported the Miner’s Protection Act that would move mining reclamation funds to shore up the pension and health care benefits.

As to coals’ role in the nation’s energy program, Toomey said he will continue to support its production.

“I think coal is a very essential part of our energy picture as it is domestic, completely reliable and extremely low cost,” he said. “We have a tremendous, existing infrastructure to use coal to develop reliable electricity.”

9th District

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Everett, must have thought he had it made when he defeated Art Halvorson in the Republican Primary Election last spring.

With no candidates running on the Democratic ticket in the 9th Congressional District, Shuster appeared to be a shoe-in for victory in the general election.

But things didn’t turn out that way. Art Halvorson won the Democratic Party’s nomination via the write-in route, beating Adam Sedlock by 39 votes. After months of thinking it over, Halvorson, a tea party conservative, decided to accept the nomination and take another shot at Shuster. However, Sedlock then decided to wage another write-in campaign, claiming he’s the only real Democrat on the ballot.

It remains to be seen whether Halvorson, a retired U.S. Coast Guard captain, can defeat Shuster, who is seeking his eighth term in Congress. After all, Shuster only beat Halvorson by 1,120 votes last spring. Then, there’s the question about what impact Sedlock, a Uniontown pyschologist, will have. It all boils down to what should be an very interesting Tuesday night for all three candidates.

They did appear together at a forum held last month at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus. As he did at a similar forum last spring, Halvorson spent much of his time lashing out at Shuster, focusing more on attacking the incumbent rather than spelling out the specifics of his various proposals.

Sedlock followed the Democratic Party line, espousing his support for Hillary Clinton, Obamacare and clean energy.

Shuster said he’s running on his record, noting that as chairman of the House Transportation Committee, he has worked with Democrats for passage of important highway and waterways measures.

The board did not look favorably on Halvorson’s candidacy, noting he’s much more of a right-wing ideologue than a Democrat and should have declined the party’s nomination. They said he appeared more concerned about his own political philosophy rather than the needs of residents in the district. The board was also disappointed that Halvorson knew nothing about the pension crisis facing retired members of the United Mine Workers. That was shocking since the problem has been reported about widely in the media.

Sedlock did a great job at the forum, showing a good grasp of the issues, especially for a newcomer to politics. He was well-spoken and articulate about his views. However, he didn’t offer many specifics on his ideas such as bullet trains and free-tuition for college students. While we couldn’t endorse him this election, we commend Sedlock for entering the race and providing the voters of the 9th Congressional District with an alternative to the conservative views of Shuster and Halvorson, both residents of Bedford County.

We did endorse Shuster, noting that he’s done a good job overall, especially for local residents with various water and sewage projects. We also commended him for reaching out to Democrats in getting important measures passed for the good of the country. Shuster’s conservative, but he’s not rigid. He’s shown time after time that he can break the political gridlock, which has paralyzed Congress. As such, Shuster deserves another two years in our nation’s capital.

The 9th Congressional District includes all of Fayette, Indiana, Bedford, Blair, Fulton and Franklin counties and portions of Greene, Washington, Westmoreland, Cambria, Huntingdon and Somerset counties. The salary for the position is $174,000.

52nd District H-S Editorial Board Endorsement 

Two years ago, Ryan Warner of Perryopolis became the first Fayette County Republican in recent years to win a race for the state Legislature. He surprised many by defeating Perry Township Supervisor A.J. Boni for the seat in the 52nd Legislative District.

Now, Warner is running for re-election and he’s being challenged by Democrat James Mari, the tax collector for North Union Township. They’re squaring off in next Tuesday’s general election

Warner is campaigning on his opposition to Gov. Tom Wolf’s spending plans, noting that state government must learn to live within its means. He contends that residents in the 52nd District simply can’t afford to pay any more in taxes.

Mari said he wants to help residents in the 52nd District, noting many of them are struggling. Mari said he believes his experience as a tax collector would prove beneficial as a state legislator.

The two participated in a forum last month at Penn State Fayette, the Eberly Campus, where they expressed their views on a variety of issues. They differed on the opioid crisis with Warner saying the main problem is with the supply of opioids. He added that methadone and suboxone shouldn’t be used to treat addicts, because that’s just substituting one drug for another.

Mari said parents and schools should educate their children about the dangers of drug use. He said he would work with police to combat drugs, and he supports long-term rehabilitation.

Warner was also outspoken about the need for pension reform, claiming that money that should go for the education of students is being used instead for retirement costs which are spiraling out of control. While Warner said he didn’t agree with everything that Donald Trump has said during the campaign, he vowed to support him in the presidential election. Mari said he’s undecided about which candidate he’ll support.

The board believed that Warner did much better at the forum than Mari. They noted that Warner was very informed about the issues and was articulate in expressing his views. The board was impressed in particular with Warner’s views on the opioid crisis, agreeing with him that methadone and subuxone aren’t long-term answers to the drug-addiction problem.

The board said Mari, on the other hand, gave short answers, failing to provide any details on his solutions to the state’s woes. Overall his performance was lackluster. He simply couldn’t compare to Warner, either in style or substance.

The board noted that Warner has come a long way in a short period of time. Since taking office two years ago, they said that he has embraced the job of a state legislator, becoming knowledgeable with all the statewide issues facing residents in the 52nd District.

For that reason, the board endorsed Warner for a second term in the state Legislature.

The 52nd District includes the city of Connellsville; Connellsville, Bullskin, Dunbar, Lower Tyrone, Menallen, North Union, Perry, Saltlick and Upper Tyrone townships; and Dawson, Dunbar, Everson, Perryopolis and Vanderbilt boroughs in Fayette County, along with portions of East Huntingdon Township and Scottdale Borough in Westmoreland County.

The salary for the position is $85,339

Voters consider sitting out this year’s election

Another View

History has shown that voter turnout in presidential election years dramatically exceeds all other polling events. The draw of big name presidential candidates is magnetic. The potential impact is irresistible.

But then, there is 2016. This year’s candidates have incited many would-be voters to respond: “I don’t like either candidate.” Or “who do I hate less?”

Ultimately, many of the malcontent electorate threatens to sit out this election.

Please don’t.

Don’t overlook the selection of representatives at various levels of government. Executive-branch bluster doesn’t mean the person in the Oval Office manages everything.

Political scientists tell us that the President has impact on international affairs and selecting Supreme Court candidates. They also tell us that the legislative branches manage the gritty meat and potatoes (local taxes, budgets, community public safety and basic spending and savings).

Choices abound for those who want to set the path for our future — and it is not merely candidates whose names end with Clinton or Trump.

If turnout drops, that leaves only the most motivated voters to decide down-ballot races. Those contests decide:

• Who controls the U.S. Senate? Democrats are expected to regain control, which would make Chuck Schumer majority leader (if he defeats Wendy Long) and could be good for New York state. The Senate will play a bigger role than usual next year because it will have to confirm at least one Supreme Court appointment and will try to decide the direction of tax code reforms, immigration policy, gun control and any proposed changes to Obamacare.

• What happens in the House? If Paul Ryan can keep the biggest GOP majority since WWII, he wants to tackle big long-term issues like Social Security, Medicare and welfare reform.

It would be a shame if voters choosing to sit out the election don’t look at those ballot lines. In their zeal to assure no monolithic overseer, the architects of American government granted the right to select leaders and doers at every level of government. The citizens’ challenge is to stay engaged when the most prominent of candidates raise disgust, disdain or even stone-cold hatred.

Before sitting out the entire 2016 General Election, consider the confidence the architects of this unique country had in citizens. The great ensurers of checks and balances set forth a bold plan that stole supreme power from a singular head of state.

There are national and state positions to be won that drive our future.

We urge you to think clearly here. We appeal to your common sense. We ask you to sweep emotion aside.

Evaluate with logic and commitment about the America you desire. Do not let those with the most zealous beliefs and support of those at the top of the ticket dictate where we will go next.

 The Syracuse Post-Standard

You decide

Voters going to the polls on Nov. 8 will face an array of decisions, ranging from deciding who will be our next president to picking who will represent us in the state Legislature.

They’ll also be asked to vote on a referendum, which seems clear on the face of it. But others are worried that what isn’t included in the question is even more important than the referendum itself.

Basically, voters will be asked if they want to extend the retirement age for local, county and state judges from 70 to 75. But that’s not exactly what’s on the referendum. The question on the ballot only asks voters if judges should retire at the age of 75.

It makes no mention of the retirement age being extended from 70 to 75, and that has some people worried that voters might vote for the referendum without understanding its full implication.

Some are even saying that Republican lawmakers came up with the wording in an attempt to keep Chief Justice Thomas Saylor on the bench. Saylor, a Republican, turns 70 in December and will have to retire unless the referendum is approved. Democrats outnumber Republicans on the bench by a 5-2 margin.

The controversy started after the state Legislature passed the referendum in two consecutive sessions as required of an amendment to the state constitution. Wording for the referendum was developed by state officials, and it was put on the ballot for the primary election last spring. However, Republican leaders in the state Legislature complained about the wording, saying it was too confusing. They came up with their own wording, but state officials said it was too late to change the referendum, so the original question remained on the ballot despite cautions that the results wouldn’t matter. A number of commonwealth residents cast their ballots on the referendum anyway, and it passed by a slim margin of 50.98 percent to 49.02 percent.

The revamped referendum was set to appear on the fall ballot, but it was then challenged in court by former state Supreme Court Justices Ronald D. Castille and Stephen Zappala Sr. and Philadelphia attorney Richard A. Sprague, all Democrats. They claimed the new wording failed to mention the retirement age was being extended from 70 to 75 and was designed by Republicans to trick voters into approving it.

However, the Supreme Court was deadlocked 3-3 on the challenge, assuring that voters would cast their ballots on the revamped referendum.

Since voters will be asked to give their opinion of the referendum, the Herald-Standard Editorial Board felt obligated to do likewise.

Some on the board felt that with all the money judges make, they might be loathe to step down on their own. After all, county judges make $176,572 a year, while state judges pull down salaries between $191,926 and $203,409. They also thought it was time for some older judges to retire and make way for younger judges who might be able to bring some new ideas and ways of doing things to the bench.

However, others on the board contended that forcing judges to retire at the age of 70 was a severe form of age discrimination. It’s worth noting that when the state constitution was passed in 1968, forcing judges to retire at 70, the average life expectancy in the United States was 66. Today it’s 82. Also, three judges on the U.S. Supreme Court are 78 or older.

The latter view prevailed among board members, so we’re urging people to vote yes on the referendum. Voters should realize that they’re extending the retirement age from 70 to 75, and in the end that’s the right thing to do for our judges who have served our commonwealth so well over the years.

51st District H-S Editorial Board Endorsement 

The race for the 51st District of the state House of Representatives is a classic showdown.

On the one side is veteran lawmaker, Tim Mahoney, D-South Union Township, who is seeking his sixth term in the state Legislature.

On the other side is a newcomer, Matthew Dowling, R-Uniontown, who is making his first run for public office.

Mahoney touts his record in office and his outreach efforts to help people in need of assistance in dealing with state government. Dowling said his experience as a small-business owner will help put him in good stead as a lawmaker.

During a forum held earlier this month with the two candidates, Mahoney appeared to have a good grasp of the issues, although for him, everything somehow tied into his favorite issue of school consolidation. Mahoney has come up with a plan to consolidate the administrations of the school districts in Fayette County. He said it would save taxpayers money as well as allowing more money to be spent on the education of students in the county.

Mahoney said that improving the county’s education system is crucial for the overall betterment of Fayette County’s economy, noting the county will continue to lose population until that happens.

Dowling said he believes the only way to improve the county’s school system is through pension reform. He said the spiraling cost of pensions is draining money that should be used for the education of the county’s students.

While they have their differences on the education issue and other various problems facing the commonwealth, both candidates have a proven track record of community service.

Mahoney sponsors annual senior and veterans information and health fairs and holiday food drives. He also contributes to annual Christmas dinners for the needy and college scholarships for one high school student in each school district within his legislative district.

Dowling founded the annual “Share the Spirit” event, which raises funds for local nonprofit agencies. The initiative is done in partnership with the Community Foundation of Fayette. He also served for a year as district governor for Rotary International.

There was strong support on the board for both candidates. Mahoney was praised for being accessible and for being independent, especially in standing up to Gov. Wolf on the budget last year.

Dowling was praised for his intelligence and hard work in becoming familiar with all the topics discussed at the forum. He also has seems to be working well with local Republican lawmakers, state Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Bullskin Township, and state Rep. Ryan Warner, R-Perryopolis. No matter the outcome of this election, he appears to have a bright future in politics at some level.

In the end, the board endorsed Mahoney, noting with his tenure on the job he’s better positioned than a newcomer like Dowling to help residents of the 51st District.

However, the endorsement came with a caveat that Mahoney should drop his plans for school consolidation unless he can find a way to make it happen quickly. He’s been working on the plan for several years without success. If this fight can’t be won, then it’s time to move on. There are other pressing problems that also need to be dealt with.

The 51st Legislative District includes the City of Uniontown, Georges, German, Henry Clay, Nicholson, South Union, Springfield, Springhill, Stewart and Wharton townships and Fairchance, Markleysburg, Ohiopyle, Point Marion and Smithfield boroughs in Fayette County along with Addison, Elk Lick, Lower Turkeyfoot, Summit and Upper Turkeyfoot townships and the boroughs of Addison, Confluence, Garrett, Meyersdale, Salisbury and Ursina, in Somerset County. The salary for the position is $85,339.

No free ride this election for state Rep. Pam Snyder

Two years ago, state Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Jefferson, had a free ride on her way to winning a second term in office.

Snyder, who represents the 50th Legislative District, had no challengers back then in either the primary or general election.

But that’s changed this year as Snyder is facing a spirited challenge from Republican Betsy Rohanna McClure, a newcomer to politics.

Snyder, who served for nine years as a Greene County commissioner prior to becoming a legislator, said she’s running on her record. During a forum held last month between the two candidates, Snyder said she’s been a big proponent of both the coal and natural gas industries, sponsoring enacted legislation requiring the state Department of Environmental Protection to receive approval from the state for the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions.

Snyder noted that she was one of four lawmakers named to a legislative task force charged with investigating the opioid prescription drug abuse in the state. She said the task force produced recommendations that are now being implemented statewide.

In addition, Snyder said she’s been an independent lawmaker, standing up to Gov. Wolf in the budget impasse last year. Snyder she was one of several Democrats who went against Wolf, which resulted in the budget being approved without his signature.

A nurse in the Trinity School District, McClure said she’s been a Republican all her life, Noting that she believes in less taxes and more freedom, McClure said she became involved in politics because of Obamacare, calling it an “intrusion.’’

During the forum, both candidates expressed concerns about the opioid crisis with them both agreeing that prevention has to start with young children and making them aware of the dangers of drugs.

However, they disagreed on most of the other issues discussed at the forum, including pension reform, per diems and property taxes.

The board was critical of McClure for advocating the rights of workers to not join unions while herself being a longtime member of the Pennsylvania State Education Association which is one of the most powerful unions in the commonwealth.

The board did agree that McClure was knowledgeable about the opioid crisis but said she didn’t seem to have a good overall grasp of the issues, especially compared to Snyder.

The board said Snyder has been an informed, independent lawmaker and has fought tenaciously for the residents of her district. In fact, some board members praised Snyder for being a “real public servant,’’ calling her one of the area’s finest legislators.

They said district voters would be doing a disservice to Snyder and themselves by casting their ballots for another candidate.

In the end, the board said that Snyder has a proven track record of getting things done for residents of the 50th Legislative District and endorsed her for a third term in Harrisburg.

The 50th Legislative District covers all of Greene County, East Bethlehem Township and Centerville in Washington County and Brownsville, Luzerne and Redstone townships and Brownsville and Masontown boroughs in Fayette County.

49th District H-S Editorial Board Endorsement 

For almost 45 years, Pete Daley was a fixture in Mon Valley politics.

Elected mayor of California in 1973 at the age of 22, Daley served in that post until being elected to the state House of Representatives in 1982. He went on to win 17 consecutive elections, representing the 49th Legislative District of the state House of Representatives.

But Daley announced earlier this year that he wouldn’t seek re-election, and two newcomers, Democrat Alan Benyak of Carroll Township and Republican Bud Cook of West Pike Run Township are running in next Tuesday’s election to replace him.

Both Benyak and Cook survived tough primary elections to win the nominations of their respective parties. Benyak outlasted five competitors while Cook defeated Melanie Patterson of Belle Vernon.

They bring different qualifications and backgrounds to the campaign. A Charleroi attorney, Benyak is the solicitor for Charleroi Borough and the Municipal Authority of Belle Vernon. While a member of the U.S. Army he was the recipient of several awards for his service, including the Meritorious Service Medal.

Cook is an e-marketing and promotions consultant for financial service professionals, attorneys, insurance companies and others. He has authored a marketing tool for the Mon Valley region entitled “Destination Points’’ to promote attractions, activities and assets in the district.

While Benyak and Cook agree on the major problems facing district residents such as opioid abuse, blight and education, they differed in their solutions to the woes. Among their disagreements were property taxes. Benyak said he supports a shift from property taxes to a 1 percent sales tax while Cook said he’s against that move because it would only be a tax shift.

Overall, the board was impressed with Cook’s energy and enthusiasm in seeking the seat. After losing to Daley two years ago, he came back stronger this time campaigning non-stop for the past year. However, Cook didn’t get into much specifics during the forum held last month with Benyak, telling those in attendance that they should check out his website for more answers. That wasn’t enough. Cook should have given more details to the questions posed at the forum.

Benyak, on the other hand, did give detailed information full of specifics. He was very knowledgeable about the issues and didn’t hesitate in sharing his views with the audience.

Benyak was also forthright in saying that he supports Hillary Clinton as the nation’s next president. Cook talked around this issue, refusing to say who he will vote for.

For all those reasons, the board endorses Benyak to replace Daley in Harrisburg.

The 40th Legislative district includes parts of Fayette and Washington counties. In Fayette County, it includes Franklin, Jefferson and Washington townships, along with Belle Vernon, Fayette City and Newell boroughs. In Washington County, the district includes Carroll, Fallowfield, North Bethlehem, West Bethlehem and West Pike Run townships, along with Allenport, Brownsville, Bentleyville, California, Charleroi, Coal Center, Cokeburg, Deemston, Donora, Dunlevy, Elco, Ellsworth, Long Branch, Marianna, New Eagle, North Charleroi, Roscoe, Speers, Stockdale, Twilight and West Brownsville boroughs.