Means, Mustio, Raja spar in Peters

Published by Tim McNulty on .

From Janice Crompton at the main site:

Three Republican candidates with similar opinions but vastly different backgrounds debated in Peters on Tuesday in the race for the 37th state Senate District seat.

State Sen. John Pippy, R-Moon, is not seeking re-election, and the winner of the seat likely will be chosen during the April 24 primary election because no Democrats have filed.

The district includes the Pittsburgh International Airport corridor and parts of the South Hills (Bethel Park, Jefferson Hills, Mt. Lebanon, Pleasant Hills, South Fayette, South Park, Upper St. Clair and Whitehall) in Allegheny County, along with Peters in Washington County.

Sponsored by the Peters Township Republican Committee, the debate was televised and attended by about 50 people. It included D. Raja, 46, a business executive and former Mt. Lebanon commissioner; state Rep. Mark Mustio, R-Moon, 54, an insurance company president who represents the 44th Legislative District; and Sue Means, 60, a nurse from Bethel Park.

Though there were tense moments among them at times during the two-hour debate at the Peters Township Middle School, Mr. Raja and Mr. Mustio didn't touch much on their battle over the airwaves.

In a television ad that has been running since late last month, Mr. Mustio's campaign has accused Mr. Raja of outsourcing jobs to his native India and features an image of Mr. Raja with the Indian flag superimposed in the background.

During his opening statements in the debate, Mr. Raja said he came to America 25 years ago to attend the University of Pittsburgh and founded a successful software company in the spare bedroom of his Scott townhouse.

Today, Mr. Raja said his company is still based in Scott and employs 400 people, with 80 to 100 of those in India, and about 94 percent of the firm's money is spent locally.

Mr. Raja's campaign has an ad slamming Mr. Mustio for voting in favor of the 2005 pay raise and for taking taxpayer-funded per diems and other perks as a legislator.

During the debate, Mr. Mustio said he regretted voting for the pay raise and said he returned the money.

Mrs. Means kept her focus on what she sees as a bloated state government that needs to be kept on a strict spending diet.


Romney stands down

Published by James O'Toole on .

Mitt Romney says he can get the economy going again but don't tell that to the television ad reps across Pennsylvania.  The prospect of a hard-fought primary in the Keystone State warmed the hearts of local stations in line for the bonanza of Romney spending that jumped from state to primary state throughout the nomination battle.  But with Rick Santorum's surprise exit from the GOP field, the Romney forces have pulled their entire Pennsylvania ad buy, according to a Democratic figure who tracks ad buys.  By Tuesday, just before Mr. Santorum announced he had suspended his campaign, the Romney forces had reserved roughly $2.25 million in commercial time on the state's airwaves. 

Feinberg: $80K in cash

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Tim Murphy's GOP challenger Evan Feinberg has just $80,000 to spend less than two weeks before the April 24 primary. (We posted an overview on the race earlier today.)

Feinberg's pre-primary report shows he raised $71.961 since the start of the year, on top of the $40,000 he had on hand previously. The biggest check was $5,000 from anti-union supporters at the American Builders & Contractors and he continued to get funds from the CEO of Heritage Action, Michael Needham.

He looks to be advertising at some point, as his $31,015 in spending included a commercial shoot.

Murphy's report is not yet in but at last count he had more than $1 million in cash. He has already been on air in the race.

UPDATE: The Feinberg ad attacking Murphy on government debt launches Friday:


Murphy "deeply concerned" about SuperPACs

Published by Tim McNulty on .

A brief look below at Tim Murphy and Evan Feinberg meeting today with the P-G's editorial writers -- we'll have more in tomorrow's paper:

Facing a GOP challenger for the first time since taking joining Congress in 2002, U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy today defended himself against criticism from fellow Republican Evan Feinberg and complained about the new influence of SuperPACs on American politics.

Mr. Feinberg, 28, is a Peters native and former staffer to Republican Senators Tom Coburn and Rand Paul who moved back to the area last year to take on Mr. Murphy, whom he considers too moderate for the 18th District south of Pittsburgh. Voters there have voted Republican in the last three presidential contests and were early supporters of Pat Toomey in his unsuccessful challenge of then U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 primary.

"This is a very conservative Republican district. Congressman Murphy has been one of the most liberal Republicans in Washington D.C.," Mr. Feinberg said at a meeting with Post-Gazette editorial writers. "He continues to spend more and more money and funnel earmarks back to campaign contributors."

Mr. Murphy, 59, defended his votes on behalf of the steel, coal, nuclear and natural gas industries in southwestern Pennsylvania, which at times have put him on the same side as organized labor. That is a no-no in some conservative circles, but he said it was a fact of life in his district. In the 18th, "You have people who are coal miners and you have people who own coal companies. . . . You have people who are steelworkers and you have John Surma who runs US Steel. It's a wide group and one of the things I've always done is try to look at representing my constituency," he said.

National groups are helping Mr. Feinberg attempt to defeat Mr. Murphy in the April 24 primary including the tea party grassroots organizing effort FreedomWorks and the anti-incumbent group Campaign for Primary Accountability, a SuperPAC based in Houston. The PACs can not work directly with campaigns, but they are free of spending limits and can have anonymous donors, under the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision.

Mr. Murphy said the groups didn't understand issues in his district and called on Congress to review SuperPAC rules. "It's not appropriate to have individuals doing that kind of impact from outside the district. The votes should be from people in the district, so I am deeply concerned," he said.

Mr. Feinberg said the groups were attracted due to the same kind of concerns with Mr. Murphy's voting and spending records that drew him into the challenge. "You're never going to get money out of politics. You have to elect the right people to Congress who won't be corrupted by the money," he said.


Auditor General: Pay for bridges

Published by Karen Langley on .


Auditor General Jack Wagner convened a press conference this morning beneath the Mulberry Street Bridge in Harrisburg -- not, he warned reporters, a very good place to stand.

"The bridge we're standing under today has no weight limits," he said of the 103-year-old structure, the underside of which is covered with netting to protect passersby. "An 80,000 pound tractor trailer could could pass over the bridge and part of the bridge could fall."

Wagner used the venue to urge Gov. Tom Corbett and the Legislature to pass a comprehensive transportation and infrastructure bill this spring. Nearly 6,000 Pennsylvania bridges are classified as structurally deficient by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, he said.

"Just look at this structure," he said. "You see exposed steel and concrete that is crumbling."

A commission convened by Corbett to examine transportation infrastructure recommended in August that the state raise an additional $2.7 billion in annual transportation revenue through changes to a tax paid by fuel distributors and higher fees for vehicle registration and driver's license renewals. Corbett said during his budget address in February that he had developed possible solutions for transportation infrastructure that he plans to pursue with lawmakers.

Wagner has endorsed the idea of lifting a cap on the oil company franchise tax. He also said the government could find savings to pay for bridge work by changing the formula for funding charter and cyber-charter schools and paying for the state police out of the general fund, freeing money in the motor license fund.

"It's unusual for the auditor general to stand up and say we need more funding for something," he said. "But this is a real problem."