Thursday, October 19, 2006

Real World Experience

Yesterday, the Democratic State Committee sent a mailing to voters in the 46th District attacking me. The mailing pointed out that I am single; that I am a renter; that I have sought this office twice before; and, referring to my career, stated that I "lack any real world experience" and "haven't done much of anything."

I hesitate to justify the mailing with a response. It distracts us from addressing the important issues of this campaign -- property tax reform, government reform, health care, job creation and several others.

But, as the mailing may have prompted some voters to seek out more information on the Internet -- and those folks may have found their way to this blog -- here are some of my thoughts:

First, I am proud of my professional career. In May 1998, I received a B.A. in journalism from New York University. After that, I moved home to Southwestern Pennsylvania to pursue my career:

-- From June 1998 to February 2000, I was a staff writer for the Observer-Reporter, the daily newspaper that serves Washington and Greene counties and parts of the South Hills of Pittsburgh. As is the case at most county-seat dailies in the United States, the staff writers at the O-R are both beat reporters and generalists -- so you provide news coverage of many different things. As a reporter, the communities in my beat included Peters Township, Canonsburg Borough, Cecil Township, North Strabane Township and North Franklin Township. I covered municipal meetings, school board meetings, community events, crime stories and human-interest stories. I also regularly contributed feature stories to the paper's Sunday "Region" section. If you look back through my clips, you will find several stories on the happenings of local veterans groups.

Some might find it notable that I was nominated by the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania for the "Best Spot News" article written in 1999 in a medium-sized daily newspaper in our region.

During my time at the O-R, I also was extremely proud to represent the newspaper for two weeks during a journalist exchange program in the Siberian Steel City of Novokuznetsk, Russia (located about 200 miles from the Chinese and Mongolian borders). While there, I interviewed a serial murderer at the city prision and spent a weekend in a forgotten fishing village on the Tom River. That village could only be reached by boat and had few modern conveniences. Seems to me that's "real world" experience.

-- In February 2000, I left the O-R and went to work for the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. I worked there as a "case investigator" (a researcher and technical writer) until June 2003. That's more than three years. The Hero Fund, founded in 1904 by Andrew Carnegie, is the Pittsburgh-based foundation that awards the Carnegie Medal to civilians all over the United States and Canada who risk their lives while saving the lives of others -- often from burning buildings, burning vehicles, drownings and during assaults. In all, I conducted investigations and wrote in-depth reports on approximately 100 such acts of heroism.

-- In 2000 and 2001, I worked a second job as a freelance writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I was their correspondent for Peters Township, Cecil Township and Canonsburg Borough -- writing news briefs for the daily Local section and full articles for the P-G's Sunday Washington section and SOUTH edition.

-- In June 2003, I left the Hero Fund to pursue a full-time career as an independent political and media consultant. In this role, I have been paid to work on political campaigns for judicial candidates in both Washington and Allegheny counties and for the Washington County Republican Party. While many denigrate work in politics, I believe my efforts have helped to strengthen the democratic process in our area. I've registered countless numbers of new voters, spread positive messages about many good candidates and have been a small part of the functioning of the electoral process in our democratic republic.

Second, I am proud of my campaigns for public office.

In 2002, I was the only person in the entire 46th District who had the tenacity to take on our district's longtime incumbent. With a budget of only about $10,000 and after a strong grassroots campaign, I received 45.5 percent of the vote -- a historic number for a Republican in this 2-1 Democratic district. I'm proud of that campaign and I'm proud of the trust so many voters placed in me. I'm thankful for my loyal supporters who helped me in that year.

In 2004, after another hard-fought grassroots campaign, we also came up a bit short -- receiving 47.1 percent of the vote. It wasn't the win we had hoped for -- but it was the closest State House race in Pennsylvania in which an incumbent was reelected (and the third closest statewide). I'm proud of this race, too, even if I was not elected. I'm proud of the efforts of all of the family members and friends who supported me. I'm proud of the important issues we raised. I'm proud our longtime incumbent began to do more voter outreach. And, again, I was thankful to have the support of an overwhelming number of voters from both major political parties.

But, regardless of the historic vote totals in these races, it was still simply important that we had actual competitive races in which issues were debated and voters were energized. We need more candidates to participate in the system -- especially young candidates! We need more incumbents to be challenged. We need more interest in our electoral process. Shame on the Democratic State Committee for attacking anyone for exercising their right to run for office.

Also, I need to note, part of my public service has included more than four years of service on McDonald Borough Council. In this role, I have helped to develop the borough's budgets, helped to direct our community's approach to public safety and promoted the borough as a good place for businesses to operate and families to live. Perhaps my proudest achievement thus far on borough council was spearheading the creation by ordinance of our Park & Recreation Board -- which has been doing an excellent job securing state grant funds for improvements in our town's parks.


Third, I object to the implication by the Democratic State Committee that there is something notable about being a single person or renting one's home. Obviously, the Democratic State Committee doesn't place value on all human beings -- regardless of their marital status and economic status. My hunch is that many single people and renters were offended by their attack -- as well as the loved ones of single people and renters.

Fourth, I want all of the voters of the 46th District to know that despite of this negative attack on me and my candidacy, neither I nor anyone associated with my campaign will respond in a similar fashion. I know these sorts of misleading negative attack mailings do nothing but hurt our democratic process -- they coarsen our public dialogue and keep people away from the polls.

I have heard it loud and clear from the voters all year long -- the people want an end to this politics as usual. It's time for NEW LEADERS to take their place in the halls of Pennsylvania's government -- leaders who will seek good and effective government and seek to bring integrity back into our political process. If I am elected to the State House on November 7, I hope I can help do just that.

No comments: